A Travellerspoint blog

Ghana

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…
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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…
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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…
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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.
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And here’s Amanda with her friend Sabina who is building a school near Sunyani…
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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...…
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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?
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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…
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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…
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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!
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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…
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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…
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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)

In a Ghanaian Market

semi-overcast 32 °C

We dance effortlessly through life as we skip from supermarket to supermarket snapping up the finest products from every corner of the world and, during our short Canadian summer when the fields of our rocky isle reluctantly hand over their harvest, we head to the Saturday farmers’ market full of expectation. For us, the market is a novelty – we don’t need it: we want it. But here in Ghana the market is life and people rush to see what’s new…
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The market is the social event of the week; the time to meet friends; to replenish the larder; to find some material for a new dress…
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And it is the time for the people of the surrounding villages to come to town to make a little money…
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Life revolves around the market for many Ghanaians as it has done for centuries. It is a place of excitement and expectation; of hopes and dreams; a place where, god willing, a bargain can be struck to see you through another week…
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It’s hard work carrying heavy loads in the heat, the dust and the tropical rains, but that’s life here in Ghana…
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So, the next time you are peeved that the ferry fares have increased, that the power is off or the supermarket is out of fresh raspberries in the middle of January, spare a thought for these ladies carrying their wares to the market to make a few cents to feed the children…
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Posted by Hawkson 08:26 Archived in Ghana Comments (5)

Coming Down from Mole

sunny 32 °C

In her 1996 novel, ‘Coming Down from Wa’, Galiano islander Audrey Thomas wrote about life in northern Ghana and her story was brought to life for us when we followed her footsteps and headed south from Mole back to Sunyani. Of course there have been changes in Ghana since Thomas lived here for two years from 1966-1968. For example: the Chinese are building major highways linking the remote agrarian communities in the north to the more prosperous industrial conurbations in the south. Here is a short section of the hundreds of kilometres under construction – note the numerous cellphone and TV towers…
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There are also a number of hydro-electric power stations feeding power to the southern cities, but the cables pass right by the homes of most northern villagers without stopping…
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It is almost inconceivable to us that despite the enormous amounts of foreign aid that has poured into this country since independence more than 50 years ago little has changed for a large percentage of Ghanaians. As we take the road south from Mole we pass dozens of villages comprised entirely of thatched-roof mud huts where there is no sanitation, no electricity, the water still has to be fetched from the river or from a hand-pumped well and all cooking is done over an open fire,,,…
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If we didn’t know that these rural communities were authentic we could easily believe that we have wandered into a museum exhibit.…

While the idea of existing entirely without modern conveniences in a tiny mud hut may have an appeal for some people who are tired of keeping up with the Joneses, we doubt that many would relish living virtually penniless in conditions like this…
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Charcoal burning is one of the few economic activities in this region and sacks stand by the roadside awaiting collection…
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But charcoal production has left large swathes of the savannah woodlands with insufficient mature forests to shelter and support large wildlife. Wild animals of all kinds, including monkeys, are fair game for the villagers and poaching in the game reserve is rife, as is the practice of enticing the game to leave the protected areas by providing food. Young boys stand by the roadsides and wave dead animals at us as we pass in the hope that we will buy them for a few cents. The roadsides are littered with smashed and broken-down vehicles of all kinds. Weight is simply not a factor and goods are piled on trucks, buses and taxis until the chassis snaps, the axles break, the brakes burn out or the wheels simply fall off. Often the disabled vehicles are unloaded and abandoned in the ditch to be cannibalised and rot...
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Coming down from Mole isn’t a particularly pretty experience, but it sure is an eye-opener.

Posted by Hawkson 13:23 Archived in Ghana Comments (4)

All The President’s Men

The Elephants of Mole

semi-overcast 34 °C

Mole (pronounced Mo-leh) is a national park of nearly 5,000 square kilometres bordering Burkina Faso in the north of Ghana. We came for four days and were promised elephants, but first we met the President of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama, who just happened to be on an official visit at the same time as us. No photos of the President were allowed for security reasons but we sneaked some shots of his flambouyant entourage…
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We also saw many families of warthogs…
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Dozens of kob antelopes…
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Herds of waterbuck…
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And various kinds of monkeys, especially the baboons…
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So much of what we have witnessed in West Africa is simply beyond description. The sounds of the jungle, the exotic smells, and the humidity and heat, can only be truly appreciated up close and in person. The incredible taste of freshly picked tropical fruit is also an experience never enjoyed in northern climes. The pineapples and bananas are exquisite…
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We bought a paw-paw from this delightful lady in one of the villages close to the park and decided to eat it in the back garden of our villa to avoid attracting insects indoors. Within seconds we were surrounded by a troupe of ten baboons who clearly wanted a share of our bounty…
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James was having none of their mischief and shooed them away so they rushed to the poolside restaurant to snatch food from the unsuspecting diners. A great time was had by the baboons…

As for the elephants that we came to Mole to see…
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Every day for four days Christopher, our intrepid guide and big game hunter, enthusiastically showed us the tracks that the elephants had made during the night. Here is Christopher proudly carrying his ancient rifle (which he admits he has never fired).

Each morning when the air was clear and pleasantly cool we searched the forest for the promised pachyderms, but by midday the heat forced us into the hotel’s swimming pool. By late afternoon, tropical thunder clouds bubbled high above the forest’s canopy and rewarded us with beautiful sunsets and nature’s firework displays…
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And as the dying sun sank into the verdant sea we would scan the forest one last time for just a glimpse of an elephant. African elephants are big, really big – absolutely enormous in fact - and you can’t exactly miss them – but we did.

Posted by Hawkson 09:40 Archived in Ghana Tagged park national mole Comments (7)

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