Journal entry – Aug. 28:
Tracking nomadic migrants who don’t have proper addresses or telephone numbers is hard. That’s what Arnaud, a teaching volunteer from France, and I have been up to since Tues, Aug. 24 for a Spectator article on Nigerien migrants living in Ghana. The more I try to track these people down, the more I wonder the real point of this scavenger hunt.
Locals say they’re nomads, fair-skinned people wearing headdresses and robes, who prefer hawking their children out on sidewalks to professionally beg than assimilating into society. “They like begging,” my editor said, and that’s how it appears. The mother and/or father sits visibly on the sidelines while the kids tackle pedestrians, begging for alms. But I wanted to get to the bottom of the story.
We talked to one man who calls himself Brahimin (sp.). He spoke some French and responded to some of our queries: Where are you from? Why did you leave Niger? Why did you migrate to Ghana? The answers were as expected: “No food or work,” ” No food,” “Hard here but better.” We haven’t seen the man since Tuesday, and there are still holes in his story that I need to fill for a proper article.
We may have gotten a lead today. After some prodding by me, Arnaud and some strange passer-by named Kwaku(sp.) one of the men near Obra Spot said he was a Nigerien Tuareg. Tuareg’s are nomadic Berbers by trade, who speak a rare Pre-Roman dialect. It’s rad that we’ve encountered a pastoral sub-culture, people who have moved freely for 2 thousand years unhindered by technological advances and other modern constraints. They’re sort of the Amish of the Sahara. If all of the people we’ve encountered are Tuareg’s, then they may like their vagrant lifestyle. They could care less if Ghanaians understand why they exist as they do. I’d love to follow them around for say three weeks, but I only have a few weeks left in this place. I want to wrap this story up so I can move on to an investigative expose on the HIV/AIDS thing in Africa. This was my original purpose and overall reason for coming to Africa: to gauge the actual potency of the phenomenon in this country. But everywhere I look I see another blaring social ailment that’s ripe for a great news piece:
- The massive abundance of unregulated motor vehicles spewing toxic, eye-burning pollutants in the atmosphere. The air in Accra is awful, polluted so badly that breathing too deeply becomes nauseating. The government could set a mandate that prevents these smog busters from entering the road, but that would mean that it would have to DO something. As it stands, most government agencies here are a waste of space, a bureaucratic stockpile of comfortable suits with nothing to do but argue about the quality of snacks in the lunchroom and the quantity of margarita servings . The get paid, so they don’t care.
- Disabled and mentally ill beggars – I witnessed a man publicly wash random mentally ill beggars he collected off the street, dress them in clothes he purchased from nearby, corner side shops, feed them, then transport them in a taxi to a local psychiatric facility he solely runs. With gloves on his hands, and a bucket of soap and water at his feet, he clipped the overgrown, rancid toenails of these strangers while a massive crowd of pedestrians gathered to witness this site. A cameraman and another dude was there as his helpers, I presume, but that was it. It was quite astonishing.
- Hello, Ghanaian Water Department! There are so many additives in the in the local water, local people are forced to purchase two to three bottles of the imported stuff everyday! I don’t get it.
- Trash, trash everywhere. Trash, trash in my hair. It’s pretty disgusting and it’s pretty much where malaria comes from. Open sidewalk irrigation systems and sewage lines where guys openly piss in and where loads of discarded junk are left to float in makes me want to gag. But I can’t escape it , unless I travel to the ministry buildings in Accra where everything appears nice and tidy.
- Child prostitutes age 9 to 15 in Cape Coast exploited by Euro-tourists and unscrupulous locals, etc, etc, etc….