Titania K

Archive for the ‘Frivolous Reveries’ Category

Where I live… Where I work…Ghanaian Vegetarians?

In Frivolous Reveries on September 17, 2009 at 5:58 pm

Abossey-Okai - Outside my window at the Bab Danjing Guesthouse

Aug. 31 – I moved out of the orphanage this morning into the Bab Danjing Guesthouse located in Abossey-Okai, a twenty minute walk from the New Times Corporation. In my room, I noticed there was blood smeared on the wall behind the bed and told the attendant downstairs.  “Could I have a sheet too, a bedspread to cover myself  while I sleep?” I asked. He handed me a sheet of linen hanging on a line outside, then sat back down in his chair making no reference to the foreign bodily fluid flung on my room’s wall like a Michael Jackson poster. I didn’t bother to hassle the old man since he already seemed unhinged from countless nights working the graveyard shift.

In Ghana when you leave your hotel room, you always drop your key off with an attendant “just in case something happens.” This means there is always some poor soul propped on a plastic picnic chair outside the hotel entrance waiting for someone to check in or out. It’s a lousy job, so I can understand why the fools running Bab Danjing consistently appear like sloppy beer-drinking hosts.

The place where the guesthouse is located, Abossey-Okai, is an oil-stained town that seems occupied by every mechanic in Accra. Roosters sound an alarm very morning at 6 am sharp, and if that doesn’t wake me up, a megaphone centered in the street just outside my window howls with an evangelical sermon at 6:30. Of course, the sermon is in Twi, so I can’t understand anything said except the ocassional Hallelujah, Amen and “five Cedis, one Cedi,” etc, etc.

Circle, Ghana - Where I work

I say I don’t eat meat and the waitress in front of me asks “Is egg okay?” and I stand there astounded. Vegetarianism isn’t a foreign concept in Ghana. The large number of rastafarians in this place whose faith prohibits them from touching meat or even salt  has saved me from deteriorating into a a starved statistic. I tell my guide Albert that I don’t eat meat, and he get’s it. “Why didn’t you tell me? I would have ordered something else.” But I didn’t want to be a bother. My plan was to just eat around any animal on my plate, play it cool and not come across as rude or spoiled to my host or server. Luckily, this peformance is unnecessary in this land. People get it. “I was a vegetarian for a while too,” Albert tells me. His uncle was HINDU, and Albert lived with him for awhile, so he didn’t eat meat. A Ghanaian Hindu? Who would have thought. I tell him about the industrialization of agriculture in the states, how animals are confined inside small barbed wire pens, how they’re pumped with antibiotics to fit their new environment, and how they’re slaughtered with machines to speed up the process and he grimaces. “That’s one thing aboiut Ghanaians – everything is local. They would never think of eating anything that they didn’t know where it came from,” he says. I tell him ahd I grown up here and knew who by and how the animals were killed, my diet may be different. But I still want to be responsible for as little harm as possible, so maybe not.

Food I’ll miss:

Groundnut Soup with plain rice or Fufu

Plain Rice with Palava Sauce or Vegetable Stew or Egg Garden Stew

Red red with Plaintains

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Homeless Migrants, HIV/AIDS, Child Prostitutes and Other Story Ideas from Ghana

In Frivolous Reveries on September 8, 2009 at 9:45 pm

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….

No this is Africa…no this is Africa…

In Frivolous Reveries on September 8, 2009 at 8:40 pm

The Crocodile Sanctuary, Ghana - Aug. 23

The Crocodile Sanctuary, Ghana - Aug. 23

The Crocodile Sanctuary, Ghana - Aug. 23

The Crocodile Sancutuary near Kakum National Forest was sortof a bust; this was the only croc I got to lay my eyes on, and it was pretty docile for my taste. More of a log than a man-eating beast. The restaurant at this place was pretty idyllic, even though the food was overpriced and the service was bland. I could tell the workers have had their fill of tourists and are pretty much over it.

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Where to begin in my overseas odyssey, I have no idea. As for what I’ve been up to  on this trip thus far, my journal has become a jumbled mess of misinformed dates filled with a fantastic swirl of sites and sounds. Here are my pictures and journal entries  from the last week, or weeks or…. I don’t know:

Cape Coast, Ghana - Aug. 22

Aug. 22 – Sarah and I ditched the orphanage for the weekend and hitched a ride on a rattling trotro for five Ghanaian Cedis, which is like three dollars, toward Cape Coast. Cape Coastis home to a  castle where the British held slaves during the trans-Atlantic slave trade before shipping them off to various countries in the western hemisphere. Today, the town is a mix of charred-out colonial buildings that now house curbside markets, corrugated metal roof shanties, beachside slums and palm trees. On the way to our hotel, a group of children waving live chickens followed us hollering “Obrone , give me one Cedi. Obrone give me one Cedi” before the manager ran them off. Our hotel, Sammo is a clean-cut , multicolored, modern sortof joint with a labyrinthine sortof feel. Shards of glass acted as barbed-wire protection against potentially crazed locals out to mob the many Euro-tourists lodged in its private rooms. The place is cool. It’s way more comfortable than the orphanage. We share a single room with one bed, a small-mirrored dresser and a bathroom with one toilet and a shower all to ourselves. It’s luxury.

Cape Coast, Ghana - Aug. 22 Yeah, the beach near Cape Coast Castle is this beautiful.

Cape Coast, Ghana - Aug. 22

Aug. 22 – Making friends in Ghana is easy, especially if you’re a tourist who looks like you can afford plaintains and other edible fare. I forget the name of the girl I’m posing next to in this picture, but she followed us for about half an hour, posing in most of our pictures. I admire her.

Cape Coast, Ghana - Aug. 22

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Cape Coast, Ghana - Aug. 22

Another cool kid at the Coast.

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Cape Coast, Ghana - Aug. 22

Cape Coast, Ghana - Aug. 22

Cape Coast, Ghana - Aug. 22

Aug. 22 – The strange thing about this place is how gorgeous it really is. It’s weird seeing parents take snapshots of their kids posing next to the female dungeon or inside the male prison cell, grinning all wide-eyed like they’re standing next to the mouse at Chuck-E’- Cheese. It made me feel gross with guilt posing next to the cannons or spectacular oceanview when I thought of the tremendous suffering that took place here. It’s like grinning beside a coffing, or a lynching.

Cape Coast, Ghana - Aug. 22

Cape Coast, Ghana - Aug. 22

Cape Coast, Ghana - Aug. 22

Fisherman at work near the castle.

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Day 2 of our weekend excursion:

Kakum National Forest, Ghana - Aug. 23

Kakum National Forest is Alice in Wonderland meets the Secret Garden magical.

Kakum Canopy Walkway, Ghana - Aug. 23

Aug. 23 – Yeah, I walked 125 feet above dense forest on a canopy held together with sticks and rope, just like Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and all I got was this one snapshot since my camera decided to give out mid-route.

Elmina, Ghana - Aug. 23

Aug. 23 – Driving to Elmina Castle the day after our Cape Coast venture was wild. Elmina’s another town in Ghana that houses a castle which once held slaves and now acts as a tourist attraction/historical museum. Traffic via unregulated, smog spewing vehicles is a regular scene in this country. There are no rules on the road, making crossing the street or even walking on the sidewalk a hazardous, ball-breaking task. But there’s something to be said about the beauty of a bustling storefront community in Ghana. I just won’t say it now.

Elmina, Ghana - Aug. 23

There’s the castle in the background. Elmina is another grand fishing town in Ghana – a great site.

Elmina, Ghana - Aug. 23

Elmina Castle, Ghana - Aug. 23

Elmina Castle, Ghana - Aug. 23

Elmina Castle's Door of No Return - Aug. 23

Elmina Castle's Door of No Return - Aug. 23

Through the Door of No Return countless slaves were led to boats bound for Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and numerous other destinations, never to return to Ghana again. It’s wild seeing the fishing boats outside of the door  and the wide open sea which must have seemed like a wicked uncharted territory to the numerous people who braved its shores, and survived. I’ll admit, I cried a little during the tour.

Elmina Castle, Ghana - Aug. 23

Elmina Castle, Ghana - Aug. 23

View of Elmina from the Castle's tower, Ghana - Aug. 23

Sabina, the shopkeeper in Cape Coast - Aug. 23
Aug. 23 – She’s a shrewd and vicious bargainer not afraid to use her mounting age as a weapon against potential hagglers like myself. She may be unrelenting with her prices, but Sabina’s goods are pretty great, and I spent a hearty amount on her handmade designs.