A Travellerspoint blog

December 2013

Our Christmas World

semi-overcast 8 °C

We are now in London and suffering culture and climate shock.
Every year since 1947 the people of Norway have gifted the British their finest tree as a thank-you for liberating them from the Nazis and we joined the throng in Trafalgar Square to witness the lighting ceremony. It was a moving, if slightly chilly, event.
Since leaving Ghana the temperature has dropped nearly 30 Celsius and we have been catapaulted 300 years into the future. Gone are the mud huts and the shoeless children. Gone too are the filthy streets, the smashed and abandoned vehicles and the frighteningly overloaded taxis…
But it has been a memorable journey. In years to come we will be still be saying, “Remember when the restaurant fell into the sea,” and “Remember the barrow boys of Sunyani waiting to pick up a fare.” Here they are known as ‘Yorkshire taxis’…
And remember when a scary warthog crept up behind you and I told you it was probably just a friendly Ghanaian guinea pig…
And what about the leaning Yam Barn of Larbanga donated by some well-meaning aid agency…
Or the very latest Ghanaian helicopter that we wanted to buy for the Canadian military because our government can’t afford to replace the sixty year old Sea Kings…
And then, in Morocco, there was this man who couldn’t see his donkey for the wood…
And the man who couldn’t see his goats for the tree…
Yes - It has certainly been a memorable journey for us and we hope, dear blog reader, that you have enjoyed the ride. Christmas is coming and it will soon be time for us to head home, but first a big thank you to everyone who made our journey possible and enjoyable.
Our thoughts are particularly with the Ghanaians. The country has changed little since Sheila first visited 40 years ago. There is electricity in larger conurbations, though many people can't afford more than a few lights, and when a development worker we met asked one of the rural chiefs what his people most needed he said they wanted electricity so they could watch English football on television..
Offshore oil is flowing in Ghana, and some people are getting rich. However, increased wealth leads to increased consumption which in turn leads to increased garbage. An international health advisor summed up life in Ghana to us as, “A documentary warning what the rest of the world will look like if we don’t drastically change our ways”.
So we left Ghana with a certain sadness because we have so many questions and absolutely no answers. Nevertheless, we wish them and you a very Merry Christmas from us and from Santa in Accra…
P.S. Don’t worry about the restaurant that fell into the sea – by the time we left the resort crews were already at work rebuilding it.

Posted by Hawkson 03:04 Archived in England Comments (7)

God Loves Ghana

sunny 32 °C

Foreign aid workers and development agencies are legion in Ghana, while numerous church organisations vie for the Ghanaians’ hearts and minds and pockets. Religion is a booming business here and spiritual organisations try to outdo each other with ever more elaborate buildings and increasingly spurious billboards offering salvation, redemption, power, and success. This Catholic church is just one of dozens of beautifully maintained religious edifices in Sunyani guaranteeing a pathway to heaven…
Opulent (and expensive) cathedrals, churches and chapels prevail in southern Ghana where parishioners are expected to donate 10% of their meagre salaries, (a small price to pay for a seat next to the Almighty), while the predominately Muslim northerners often worship in centuries old mud-walled mosques like this one in Larabanga…
Many of the church organisations, especially the Catholics, are also paid to run the schools on behalf of the government, (now where on earth did that go horribly wrong in the past?), but not all foreigners are here to make money. In 2006 Sheila helped to set up an environmental education project with Sunyani Polytechnic to address the enormous problem of waste disposal. Here we are with Samuel, Sheila’s Ghanaian counterpart…
Amanda Moore from Red Deer, Alberta, was with the first group of Vancouver Island University students to benefit from this program and she returned to Ghana determined to help. During the past few years she has spent time working with the authorities and aid agencies tracking down victims of sexual and labour exploitation and she is now working on an information package designed to prepare aid workers for life in Ghana. Since she has been living here Amanda has completed a masters degree and has fallen in love. Here she is with her boyfriend of more than 5 years, Jeremiah – a (soon-to-be) captain in the Ghanaian Infantry.
And here’s Amanda with her friend Sabina who is building a school near Sunyani…
Ghana has huge, seemingly insurmountable, problems of corruption, poverty, inadequate housing, decaying infrastructure and deadly roads, but it has countless thousands of wonderful churches and a seemingly similar number of fancy gas stations. The wealthier Ghanaians love their cars as much as their god but every journey needs to be accompanied by prayer. The potholed rutted roads are lethal as are many of the ancient deathtrap vehicles that drive them. However, ’tis an ill wind that blows no one some good, and young boys make a living by filling the biggest potholes with earth from the ditches and demanding payment from grateful motorists. Potholes like this are everywhere - even on busy main roads...…
As for the success of Sheila’s environmental education project – as you can see, Ghana has long and bumpy roads.

Posted by Hawkson 13:52 Archived in Ghana Comments (6)

A Ghanaian Folk Tale

The Wing that broke the restaurant’s back

sunny 32 °C

We’re spending our last few days in Ghana on the beach - a long weekend beneath a blazing sun; with coconut palms swaying in a warm tropical breeze and the swish of the waves rocking us gently to sleep under a starlit equatorial sky. What could be more idyllic – we thought?
We eat fresh fish and lobsters hooked straight from the ocean as we sit above the waves on the veranda of the oceanside restaurant at the Anomabo Luxury Beach Resort near Cape Coast and watch the world go by. But there is a dark side to this coast. This was the epicentre of the slave trade for three centuries when hundreds of thousands of slaves were shipped to the Americas and Caribbean from this 1482 Portuguese castle at Elmina…
International slave trading was eventually abolished in 1808 but not before millions of Africans had been transported to the New World from this and many other ports in West Africa. However, the chaotic harbour at Elmina today still looks like a painting from the 18th century when slavery was in its heyday…
The only concessions to modernity in these traditional wooden fishing boats are the smoky old engines and nylon nets, and Cape Coast’s dark sides today are the huge piles of garbage and discarded nets that clog the water and litter the beaches. Cleanliness may be next to Godliness but here on the Ghanaian coast the job of garbage and sewage disposal is left entirely to the sea. You can’t swim here – you can only go through the motions!

God is everywhere in Ghana and Ghanaians give their businesses religious epithets in the belief that it will make them successful. The ‘Steps to Christ Credit Union,’ ‘God Loves You Aluminum Company’, ‘Jesus Never Fails You Enterprises Ltd.’, and the ‘Apostles’ Café’, are just a few of the hundreds of examples we have seen. But the owners of our ‘luxury?’ resort didn’t take advantage of this ecclesiastical insurance policy, nor did they bargain on us coming to dinner. What happened? Just as we were finishing our chicken and chips Sheila accidentally dropped a wing on the floor. James, being the gentlemanly type, deftly picked it up and threw it over the veranda towards the sea.
Now this is where things started to go tragically wrong. The wind caught the wing and whipped it into an overhead lamp which promptly burst with a ‘bang’ and all the lights went out. We sat red-faced for a few seconds but when the lights came on we realised that no one had seen what happened, so we quickly paid the bill and giggled all the way back to our beachside chalet…

But then - catastrophe. As we opened our door we turned for a last look at the restaurant in the moonlight just in time to see the whole place collapse into the sea…
Yes, dear blog reader, while it may be difficult to believe, James’ thoughtless act might have precipitated the destruction of a fine restaurant. This is all that remains of the dining room…
We are leaving as soon as possible, (before anyone at the resort sees this) but we would encourage them to read Matthew 7 Verses 24-27 before rebuilding, and to rename the place “The Jesus Never Fails You Luxury Resort and Restaurant.”

Posted by Hawkson 05:30 Archived in Ghana Comments (7)

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