Beaches and slavery

Trip Start Jun 23, 2006
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Trip End Jul 17, 2006


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Flag of Ghana  ,
Monday, July 10, 2006

I am back to the world of electricity and the internet. I spent the last four days in paradise. The beaches here really are gorgeous. Fine white sand with palm trees lining the beach. I had a six hour bus ride to Takoradi from Kumasi. It was nice enough. There was a TV on it. We watched a three part Nigerian movie. I have been exposed to Nigerian movies in Lesotho through my Nigerian friends and after about 15 minutes, I usually walk out of the room because the acting is so bad. I couldn't do that this time. The volume was so loud that I couldn't even drown it out with my mp3 player. I then had a 30 minute taxi ride to some place else. There I changed taxis again. Waiting for this taxi to Butre was the worst and only bad taxi experience I have had thus far. I have been really lucky. I haven't had to wait longer than 10 minutes for any form of transportation. I didn't know that public transportation in Africa could be so efficient!!! For this taxi, I had to wait two hours for it to leave, which is reasonable since only about 100 people live in the village I was going to. When we finally were ready to leave, it took 45 minutes for the taxi to start. The battery was in the middle of the van right next to the seats...no where near the engine. Wires were hanging out everywhere. Once the taxi started, you could take the key out of the ignition and it would still run. I have seen some pretty bad taxis in Lesotho, but this one definetly goes at the top. After arriving at the village, I had to take a canoe ride across the lagoon and then I finally arrived at my lodge. About 3kms away, is a village that has become a beach tourist destination. but this is the only lodge at this village. There were only 4-8 people at the guesthouse on any given night I was there. The food was excellent. I had fresh shrimp, casssava fish, and baracuda fish that was caught right in front of my eyes by the villagers there. It was fascinating to see how these subsistence fishermen catch their fish. The staff was really friendly. I had a great time. Unfortuneatly, it was overcast most of the time. I know my mother will not believe me, but I did not go swimming the whole time I was there. I went for a run on the beach the first morning i was there and then proceeded to come down with a cold. So I decided not to swim and risk getting even more sick. But don't worry, I will be back at a beach in a few days, so I will swim no matter what!!

I have had the following conversation with almost every Ghanian I have met:

Ghanian: How old are you?
Erica: 27
G: Are you married?
E: No
G: Do you have a boyfriend?
E: No
G: Have you born any children?
E: No
G: How can such a beautiful woman like yourself not have a man?
E: I don't know....it is nice to be alone sometimes.
G: You are old enough to get married.
E: I know.
G: Do you sleep with women?
E: (the answer depends on my mood)

I have had this conversation with four year olds and forty year olds. In Lesotho, when I have this conversation, it is the men trying to figure out if they can become my husband. Here, there is nothing like that. It is just curiousity and confusion that i am not married. I feel old....All of the travelers I have met are 21 or 22. I didn't think being in your late 20s would make one feel so much older than those in their early 20s but it seems so obvious with those I have encountered on my travels.

When I was visiting Amanda in Togo, she had a copy of Roots by Alex Haley. I had never read it so I asked if i could take it. I started reading it on the beach in Butre and finished it there yesterday. There was something so eerie and poignant about reading that book here in Ghana. I unintentionally chose a 'good' location to start reading it as directly behind the village are the remnants of an old British slave fort. Even though the African part of Roots takes place in Gambia, it didn't matter that I was in Ghana reading it. I could picture the slave capture and journey to the west so easily. i would stop reading every once and a while and look out at the fishing canoes, which are the same style that have been used for centuries, and just imagined slaves coming from the fort above me and taking those fishermen's canoes out to the ships in the ocean waiting for them. I don't know why I had never read the book before, but it is amazing. I cried the last 10 pages of it...it was much more emotional reading it here than i think it would have been back in the US.

I am in Cape Coast now. Cape Coast was the British administrative capital for the Gulf of Guinea for 100 years. There is a castle/fort here, a UNESCO world heritage sight. It was built in 1653 by the Swedish and changed hands for 150 years before becoming British. This was one of the main forts in Ghana where slaves were held before going to the new world. I toured the castle an hour ago. We went into the dungeons where slaves were held. There were 1500 slaves there at any one time. The holding quarters were big rooms with one or two 'windows', about 1 foot by 1 foot, for light and ventilation. The slaves were kept there for about 6 weeks before leaving on the ships. They were never allowed out and the rooms served as their bedroom, dining room, and bathroom. Appalling conditions....Tomorrow I am going to the other main slave fort in Ghana. Supposedly, that one is better than the one here in terms of tourism and history...and I thought this one was pretty atrocious.

I only have 10 minutes left and I want to get a couple of pictures put on...Will write more tomorrow hopefully.
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