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Ghana: “Africa for Beginners”

February 4th, 2009
Sue going native with some of the kids.

Sue going native with some of the kids.

Gary here.  Below is the first installment of several trip reports from my wife, Sue, just back from Ghana, Africa.

* * * *
I stepped off the plane in Accra, Ghana (after being in the air for 16+ hours) and was immediately struck by the air pollution and oppressive humidity. January is Ghana’s cool season, but the air was thick and I wasn’t prepared for it. Needless to say, I started to sweat–I mean really sweat.
 
  Street market in capital city, Accra
 
Before I could say, “where am I,” we hit the Accra markets. And I’ve never been the same since. The markets are insanely chaotic. Just keep in mind that there are about 21 million people in Ghana, which is roughly the size of Oregon. And ten percent of those 21 million live in and around Accra. The number of Africans, taxis and tro-tros (imagine being smashed into a small van/can) is staggering.
 
But it wasn’t the chaos that threw me. It was the smells–an unhealthy mix of exhaust, burning garbage, sweat, fried yams and plantains, grilled bush meat (various rodents), fermenting gari (will explain later), and sundried Tilapia. Let’s just say the plantain chips I tried lost their appeal early on.
 

 

The women work harder than anyone

The women work harder than anyone

Did I tell you I was sweating? So I  grabbed a couple of handkerchiefs off a woman’s head and paid her 40 pesewas (roughly 40 cents). The “sweat rags” are sold all over Ghana. Despite the fact that most Ghanaians live without running water, they are very clean and conscientious about their appearance. Everyone carries a cloth to keep their face clean and sweat free. I quickly learned to follow suit.

 

I was happy to get out of the busy city of Accra to the more primitive village where I spent the rest of the trip. That night, I was lulled to sleep by the sound of bullfrogs and awakened by the loudest roosters I’ve ever heard. I’m usually not a morning person, but in Ghana all of the noises outside got me up and going pretty early.

 

Nice change from Accra/Mampong countryside

Nice change from Accra/Mampong countryside

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New friends in Mampong
New friends in Mampong

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Unlike most adults, the Ghanaian kids love to have their picture taken

Unlike most adults, the Ghanaian kids love to have their picture taken

 

 I quickly learned to fish murky water out of the well and give myself a spit bath. That will explain why I spent five hours in an African salon getting braids and extensions. It’s just too hard to wash your hair and it doesn’t get clean anyway in the dirty water. Believe it or not, I learned to relish my nightly well water ritual, despite all of the frogs, lizards, spiders and snakes. Travel trip: if you go to Africa, bring a sturdy pair of flip flops…

Lesson in the art of carrying water from the well

Lesson in the art of carrying water from the well

 

Washing clothes with the high school girls--not easy

Washing clothes with the high school girls--not easy

 Tomorrow I’ll post about the Demonstration School for the Deaf–the real reason for my trip to Africa.

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  • http://bradkeyes.wordpress.com bradk

    Sue,

    I’m way jealous. I want to go. Bad. What the hell were you doing there and why? Love the corn rows btw.

  • hobblecreekpossee

    nothing like a trip out of the old U.S. OF A. to put things back into perspective. cant wait to hear more about the trip i love exploring new places , even if through someone elce. thanks sue vince.

  • http://suncrestdug.wordpress.com dug

    sue for president. vote for sue.

  • Gordon

    Sue, this very intresting. could i find out more about accra. My heart pores out to those people. I would like to help. i never knew how lucky i was until i saw this. Sue, u are a very courageous person. Thanx for giving back. Gordon