Let loose on Ghana

Trip Start Mar 15, 2007
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Trip End May 15, 2007


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Monday, April 9, 2007

It was goodbye to Accra and last week as a began my 2 weeks backpacking with Amy. I had to physically peel the kids at New Life Orphanage off my legs in order to make a getaway, and I could only bring myself to leave by promising a return visit. Didn't really think that one through, but I'm already trying to figure out ways to extend my stay or return in the future.

Naomi and Cephus, the 'mum' and 'dad' at the orphanage are so incredibly devoted, and plan to expand the small institution to accomodate and educate the 80 or so children they support in the surrounding villages. The four story building, comprinsing both dormitaries and classrooms, will be completed by September 2007 and will depend on volunteers and donations to succeed. It takes some stretch of the imagination to envisage since it's currently a muddy building site, and in Ghana you can generally quadruple any time estimate someone gives you so I'm not going to book my flight just yet!

Despite mixed feelings about leaving right when I'm settled in nicely, I was so excited to get on the road. Even the four hour delays that are becoming routine as we move on don't do anything to dampen my spirits, and I'd underestimated the sheer sense of achievement in just navigating my way to the next destination.

We've moved inland to  Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti region and nearly as big as Accra itself. The inland landscape is much lusher than at the coast, and we had some time to enjoy the scenery from the coach before the rainclouds moved in. Just to add to the complicatinos, we had to change coach (our driver kept stopping to check the engine, and there was a dubious sign by the driver 'Overhauled engine, do not exceed 80km/h'!) but we made it our lodgings in one piece. The room cost just 110000 cedis for two nights, just about 5pounds, which is expensive by Ghanaian standards. It was worth it though, if only for the large expanse of matress and running(!) water.

On Sunday we tro-troed our way to the scenic Lake Bosumtwi, a perfectly circular meteorite crater surrounded by dense rainforest. We were rewarded for following a remote lakeside path when we stumbled upon a tiny village, where we Obrunis gave the locals a bit of a shock. One young girl took one look at our white skin and burst out crying, overwhelmed. We were invited into a family home, a collection of mud buildings with rudimentary palm roofs and doors cut into the cracked clay. We were proudly shown a week old baby, who was nestled in a mosquito net and smothered in blankets. The bible by tiny her head served as  a reminder of the appaling survival rate for infants born into such poverty here.

In the evening we experienced a different, equally typical- Ghanaian but more urban Kumasi. Amy and I were taken out by two brothers, and were probably the only Westerners to have ever set foot in the dimly lit chop bar, where the menu is traditional rice balls, fufu or banku with a soupy sauce. Low tables surrounded a central cooking area, where the food is ladled into large shallow dishes and eaten with fingers. The rate at which Ghanaians ball the doughy staple then throw it back is astuonding, and food is definately functional here rather than something to linger over. There's no chatting and we moved straight on to a 'spot bar' when we had finished.

By this point, the brothers had obviously decided who was going to pair with each of us, and obviously Michael, the older brother hung around me. He claimed to be 23, which is pretty clever given that his younger brother is 24! Towards the end of the evening he took my hand with a serious look and the command of 'Hannah, look into my eyes.' his chat-up line was somewhat forward as he moved straight in with a marriage proposal!

I think the declaration of undying love must have boosted my confidence, as when a young girl started to dance to some nearby music Amy and I shimmied up to join her.The locals clapped and cheered to see two crazy white women sticking their bums out in the middle of the street, but it felt great to be so uninhibited.

I'm getting used to being a bit of a circus act, and I'm evidently hilarious to all the Ghanaians. On sunday Amy and I drew crowds as we attempted to eat some small yellow-orange mangoes. The egg shaped fruit has very stringy flesh, and the roughage makes them impossible to eat. In theory, a small slit at the top allows the sweet puree to ooze out when sucked. To the amusement- and in one case disgust- of passers by, Amy and I hadn't quite mastered the technique and our sticky orange faces drew loud exclamations of 'MANGO,O,O!.'

On Sunday morning, we braved the labrynthine alleys of the famous Kejetia market, easily found by following the swarms of people and sellers spilling onto the street. Once inside the atmosphere was marginally calmer as the narrow walkways are enclosed by piles of goods on either side, reducing the scale of the market to the single tunnel extending in front of you. We initially found ourselves amongst the meats, but moved quickly away from the buzzing flies and sickly aroma surrounding the slabs of flesh, pig trotters and countless unidentifiables.
More appealling was the array of fresh fruit and veg, and the striking range of brightly coloured spices piled in straining sacks. Also aesthetically fantastic were the whipped mounds of groundnut paste (essentially peanut butter), a caramel coloured mousse being ladled between barrels like cake mix.

We were specifically looking for Kejetia's famous beads, and after some random wandering managed to locate the relevant area. The walls were dripping with hundreds of delicate strings, while chunkier beads were nestled in baskets. I was overwhelmed by choice, but managed to get a good selection of treasures for a very reasonable price, some of them intended as, er, gifts (I'm currently wearing them!) I'm hoping for plenty more oppotunties to spend my hard-earned cash, especially since 3days and nights has so far cost me less than 20 pounds.
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