Sunday, 11 December 2011

"So this is Christmas......."

As I reach my 100th Blog posting I also reach the end of the first phase of my time in Ghana. I am going home to England this week for Christmas and will return in January for another year in Nadowli. Therefore, for the next month, “Adrienne will not be in Africa” and this Blog will be taking a well earned rest!

On Friday, a Christmas Carol Service was held for some local schools in Nadowli Catholic Church. For the last fortnight we have been rehearsing with one school choir, teaching words and tunes of “O Come all ye Faithful” and “Little Drummer Boy”. They needed none of our help to learn a beautiful and very lively carol in Dagaare.

The start time was 9am and we expected to be sitting alone on the church steps for an hour or so waiting for everyone. None of it! The church was already full of children and teachers, practising songs, adjusting traditional colourful costumes, testing musical instruments and generally scurrying about. There was little room for performers let alone everyone else who wanted to see and hear what was happening. 

Very young children from the Kindergarten filled all available crevasses up near the altar and choir positions. They were moved back every few minutes but managed to spread forward again almost immediately. A small crib scene was positioned on a white cloth over a small table with a candle at the front beside an improvised Christmas tree. (The candle didn't set alight to the cloth. I watched it closely with my Health & Safety hat on. Old habits die hard!)

Eventually, we were ready to begin. The Director was late but we didn’t wait for her. She arrived a little dishevelled after half of the programme and only just managed to push her way through a very crowded side entrance.

All the singing I have heard here is at one volume….loud, and one tone……from the throat rather than the diaphragm. However, whoever sings does so with all their heart, soul and energy. This was definitely the case today. There was no holding back and the choristers loved it. Children, teachers and District officers read familiar Nativity passages from the Bible to a noisy congregation and the priest blessed us all at the end.
This was a lovely occasion and the only sign, in Nadowli, that Christmas is near. From what I can tell, apart from joyous church services, there will be little in the way of Christmas celebrations that would be recognised in the more developed countries around the world. However, in most of those, the real meaning of Christmas is drowned out by the manic consumerism that causes so much exhaustion, greed, relative poverty and emotional stress. The birth of Christ will certainly be celebrated here in Nadowli. Father Christmas and anyone else bearing gifts will pass by almost all the children in this part of the world. If they eat well they will be very lucky on Christmas Day.

I should like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has followed this blog throughout 2011. I have felt so privileged to be living in Ghana and your support has encouraged me to record the significant experiences and observations of my first year. I have loved writing the 100 postings to date and hope I shall reach 200 by the end of 2012 and my work here.  With your continued interest I shall be spurred on to write more. My Ghanaian friends have promised to teach me more about life for the people in the Upper West. I look forward to pounding my own Fufu and making TZ for a start. Watch this space for more details.

I hope you and your families all have a very merry Christmas and a happy and fulfilling year in 2012.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A Long Walk to Inclusion

“The International Day of Persons with Disability” fell on December 3rd which, unfortunately, clashed with “Farmers Day” in Ghana. Subsequently, we celebrated in style today alongside about 350 people either with a disability or supporting someone else. Ghana has a long way to go to being "Inclusive". Today they went a little further, but it is a long journey.

We gathered outside the Wa School for the Blind at 8am where pupils were dancing to the beat of a few loud drums and 2 or 3 very battered trumpets. (The musicians managed to keep playing for 4 hours non-stop!)  Buses and tros drew up and people were handed their crutches and helped into wheelchairs, many of which were transported on the roofs. Organisers arrived with T shirts and these were grabbed frantically and put on over other clothing. Placards were distributed and we were ready to go
We had had a few hours notice of this parade and were concerned about the distance to be covered. When we set off in the wrong direction we realised we were taking the long way round! This was to be a 7 kilometre walk in 35C heat…….and we walked 1km to get to the start. I can hear you protesting, ”but you are able bodied!”  Precisely! Most of these walkers wore flip flops and many had deformed feet that no shoe could contain. They supported themselves on wooden crutches or a single stick, neither were the best size for them. The blind students, some albino, were led by the deaf in many cases, sharing skills. Grandparents were supported by small family members. Old and young were there all having a wonderful time.

The atmosphere was fantastic and extremely good humoured on behalf of the organisers, police and the public, in transport that was held up for ages whilst we occupied long stretches of road. Those who found walking less of a challenge danced to the beat of the music the whole way and turned the entire event into a carnival. Some were given a lift for part of the journey.

I have been humbled so many times in the last 10 months, but this was the best example. For once these people were having “their” day. Disability is often seen as a curse in Africa. Disabled children can be ostracised by their own families from birth. Difference is neither welcomed nor tolerated in many communities. The parade was to raise the awareness of the public to the strengths, challenges and determination of disabled citizens of all ages. There can have been no doubt, along the streets of Wa, that today’s revellers and stoic walkers were making a very strong case to be included in all communities and that their inclusion could only be regarded as a benefit to everyone. As one placard read, “See what a person with a disability can teach you.” They taught me a lot today and the world would be a poorer place without the example they set here, in a country where life is tough enough.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Traditional and Recycled

This is the last episode in the travel tales from the October trip. 

In a village called Besease just outside Kumasi we found one of 10 remaining Traditional Asante Dwellings. These were built in the 18th and 19th Centuries and the last few are listed as World Heritage Sites. Most of these buildings were destroyed during the wars with the British. Whoops! They are surviving examples of the power and wealth of the Asante Kingdom, Kumasi being the capital. This one is a “Shrine House”.

The “Okomfo” would have lived here, a local priest who became possessed and acted as the medium for “Nyame” the omnipresent God in the Asante Traditional Religion. Nyame has sons represented by various natural features such as rivers and lakes. The goddess, Asaase Yaa represents the earth. Concoctions which have particular powers are mixed from water, clay, gold, beads and herbs which are pounded in a brass pan. These then have to reside in the shrine house for ritual purposes.

The shrine house has 4 buildings, one for the drummers, one for dancers, one for cooking and a closed room for the Okomfo. An important feature is a tree or forked post in which is wedged a calabash for sacrificial offerings. This is the altar of Nyame Dua the Sky God.

The caretaker insisted on wrapping this grass skirt around any woman who entered the site and then entreated you to take photos of him……..and me, for which he could then charge you! I imagine it works every time as the shock of being manhandled by this rather lecherous character is enough to make you pay him to let go!!

I have said before, that nothing is wasted here......except time! I just wanted to include a few quick snaps from one day of our trip in Kumasi. 
Here is a photo of my bed when I pulled the blankets back.....a ripped sheet perfectly pressed open just where you get into the bed.

A plastic coat hanger that someone has attempted to repair.

Also, an ingenious use for used water sachets. 

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Shifted !

The office will empty next week as most of the officers will be in Tamale. Evidently, every now and then some of them are called for interview. These meetings are not for new jobs but to enable people to progress up the Pay Scale. Pay should increase following a successful interview but this doesn’t always happen.  I remember travelling to Tamale in April. The bus journey for them will begin at 4am queuing for a ticket for the 6am departure from Wa. They should arrive at about 1pm having endured the dusty “washboard” roads for 7 hours. I hope they are all successful. Getting there is challenge enough, but some are preparing for the interviews too. I would be very interested to know how they are conducted and the questions posed.

Gemma and I have been relocated today! It came as a surprise this morning to be informed that we will be working from the Teachers’ Resource Centre instead of the District Offices. I have been saying for a while, but more vocally in the last week, that the District is not making the most of my skills and experience. Clearly, somebody was listening but this wasn’t quite what I had in mind!

Evidently, they think I shall be more accessible to teachers and headteachers in our own centre rather than in a shared cramped office. This is true, except I am supposed to be increasing the capacity of the District Office too. People there are understandably resistant to change. I am wondering whether they are sending me down the road out of their way. They would rather I was supporting schools than making them change from their well trodden ways! Interestingly, this has all happened in the absence of Madam Director!

Anyway, we have the opportunity to spruce up the Teachers’ Centre and get the meagre resources in there out into schools being used by children. There are some enthusiastic new headteachers in the area who are rewarding to work with. This could be fun and lead to more progress than I have experienced up to now. The “small, small, slow, slow” could speed up!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Wild Wildlife

A short way out of Kumasi on the Accra road is a turning to a protected piece of virgin rainforest that boasts a wonderful wild collection of butterflies. During our visit to Kumasi we took a trip out to Bobiri Forest and as usual were the only visitors there. It was an idyllic spot and the people very welcoming. The guide took us for a walk through part of the forest to see some fantastic examples of native trees. I just wish I had paid more attention to their names!
This one has sharp thorns on its trunk while it is young and vulnerable. They drop off when it can look after itself.

There were more examples of huge trees with massive “buttress” roots that are used to make furniture amongst other purposes.  

One is called “The 3 sisters” as it has 3 main trunks.
We were also shown a tree that was originally grown for its bark which was taken off in sheets, soaked and hammered out and used as clothing.

On the way back to the beautiful Guest House/Centre we started to see more of the wide variety of butterflies. They were stunning and some very large. Taking photos was tricky, as you can imagine, but I persevered with a long lens and caught a few in focus.

This is a glorious setting and so so peaceful. I would love to stay a while and walk through the extensive area of trees and vegetation. They only have electricity for 3 hours a day which would encourage early nights and getting up with the sun at 5am.

The red sandy lane to get to Bobiri was one of the worst I have experienced in a car. I was amazed we didn’t leave the exhaust system in a huge hole. Another challenging journey for our driver but well worth the effort for us.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Training Daze

A big day for me today, my first opportunity to lead some training to ALL Primary and Junior High School headteachers at once….125 of them! I had the afternoon slot, 2 hours of it, following an expert on the teaching of Phonics, who arrived from Accra for the morning.

All schools had been presented with a “Phonic Flip Chart” in June and only two representatives today claimed to have used it in their schools. Albert had come to show them how to use it. The programme started at 9 am and by then the cleaners were just leaving. A couple of unlikely looking tech guys were trying to get a projector and a microphone working. Participants began to arrive and by 10.50 everyone was seated. Albert had begun his presentation at 10.15 and persevered through the movement of people, the testing of sound equipment and constant chatter. He deserved a medal!

The group of influential women, who organised the day, scurried around calling to each other, under everyone’s feet in the small and overcrowded hall. They all wore matching sponsor’s T shirts for which none of them were built. The Circuit Supervisors spent the entire day sorting out lists of participants and getting necessary signatures to enable the payment of T&T (Time and Travel). This is the money paid to each participant for attending and fuel for their motos. The highest priority for some people! The headteachers were trying hard to take an interest and learn something. There are no mid-morning coffee breaks here. Their endurance is to be applauded.

The morning was very busy and Albert did a great job with a lot of humour. Getting us into working groups was a challenge but after sometime the headteachers were focussed on their task. This involved extracting words from a list on a page of the flip chart and putting them in sentences. This was quite hard for some. We circulated around the groups pointing out all the exceptions to rules and helping out where necessary. The organisers were distributing lunch boxes of rice and chicken as Albert was winding up. By then people were ravenous and the final points would have been missed.

15 minutes was allowed for lunch, before our slot on the programme. We were assured of 1.5 hours but it was clear nobody was going to be able to sustain any concentration for even half that period. Rousing renditions of “Head, shoulders, knees & toes” woke everyone up and we were ready to begin. I now had an hour of usable time and the Circuit Supervisors were circulating around the hall dishing out money. You can imagine how much attention I was receiving. I had been cutting my material all morning as the time ebbed away and I was now making one important point about team-building instead of the original four. 3 activities had become one, without the use of Post-its and the whole presentation without the projector which was found to have a fault. (It was only as we were leaving, Gemma noticed that the tech guy hadn’t removed the lens cap!)

The organisers’ Chairwoman, in a badly fitting wig grabbed the microphone at the end and felt the need to shout unintelligibly down it for quite some time before breaking into song. Another woman wrestled it from her and announced the obligatory closing prayer. By then everyone was in the car park heading for their motos and home.

I learned a lot today. None of it was on an agenda. 

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

End of the Season

Depending who you talk to, the Rainy Season is over and we are now in the Harmattan, or, there is still rain to come……”2 storms” according to our cleaner! There hasn’t been any rain since mid September, by the way. I think this is wishful thinking on behalf of the millet farmers who haven’t had enough and are panicking that there will be a shortage of millet to make “TZ”.
Everywhere is very dry and you feel that in your skin already. It pines for cocoa butter to soften it. My sheets dry in under 20 minutes on the line and my lips are so dry I now need Chapstick. The strong winds from the Sahara that signal the Harmattan season are not so obvious yet. However, there is a thin layer of dust over anything you leave untouched for a few hours. Apparently, there will be red mist everywhere when it really gets going and the days don’t seem bright enough.
The temperature should fall, particularly at night and I may need a blanket! Gracious, that will feel strange. I haven’t needed any covering at night since I arrived.
I am reliably informed that the red dust hangs in your hair and tastes gritty in your teeth. It gets everywhere too. I was sneezing and blowing my nose this morning and was informed by a colleague that this is not the beginning of a cold but the direct result of the Harmattan and all volunteers get it. How predictable am I! Thank heavens I shall miss a few weeks of it while I am home in England. By the end of January it will be over.
The animals are largely free to roam now and so the goats begin to call their mislaid kids incessantly and the pigs are back wallowing in the drainage water. Goodness knows what they will make of our new moat. Their haunches will never fit between the holding walls and if they do they will be wedged in tightly and permanently. I wonder if we can call the Fire Service to release them?

The discarded corn husks and remains of the farming is being razed to the ground and the long grass has these beautiful pink heads covering wide areas. It won’t be long until I have experienced all the weather and seasons that Ghana has to offer. Quite a variety! I shall pass through it all again before I leave.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

The Moat Tales

It is almost a week since the work on the house began and the builders increase in number daily. There is now a team of about 8 although I surmise some are just observing. They all contribute to the planning that seems to happen daily………..loudly and very early. It is clearly…one day at a time! The drainage channel around the house is quite a feat of engineering and each day brings a new surprise. Two water pipes have been perforated with shovels and pickaxe. Both have been mended in the pitch dark when the plumber got back from his day job. I'm glad this isn't my house.
We need to check with Alex daily whether we will be allowed water and more importantly whether we can put any water down the sink or other drainage outlets. Huge amounts of digging takes place each day by young men stripped to the waist and who obviously are no strangers to hard labour. They all look as though they work out 6 hours a day at the local gym, but none will have any idea what a gym is. Watching them has introduced a new form of entertainment to the household!! There is a high ridge of excavated soil between us and the rest of the world. I imagine the locals think we are building a barricade. It doesn’t look good for our community cohesion efforts.

Yesterday, we were told they were cementing the base of the gutter and we couldn’t eject any water from the house. Tricky, but we managed it.  I went out this morning to take some photos (unfortunately the "digging team" are not there but I'll try and snap them before they have completed their job!) and check what was happening and learned that the finished drain will stretch the whole way around the house. I haven’t worked out how the water will leave the “moat” and I don’t think they have either!

We have friends coming today to celebrate Gemma’s Birthday. They will struggle to make their way in. There is a narrow path to the main door that looks as though it should have a drawbridge. The rear door has the gutter running across it and anyone arriving there in the dark will surely fall in and drown.

There is a man outside with very fetching headgear. Origami from a cement bag! It protects his head from cement when carrying it on his head and cushions the bowl. It is a very good design and deserves to be on a catwalk somewhere

I just thought I'd include this shot I took yesterday on the way to the Spot to meet Ghanaian friends for a drink. I don't think the entire brood are in the picture, but this hen was surrounded by over 21 chicks! (They wouldn't stand still to allow me to count them. A little like Reception Class on a school trip! ) What a family.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Alternative Agenda

Progress, as far as work goes, is “slow slow”. However, that is the Ghanaian way of things. A conversation with a staff colleague outside the office may lead to a new contact or the news that something is happening of interest but about which I wasn’t informed. Lines of communication are very poor and nobody keeps a diary. Consequently, meetings and training are arranged with little or no notice so people don’t have time to forget! Letters and notification of training sessions are delivered by hand so there are always absentees who didn’t receive them in time. Frantic phone calls to boost attendance are normal. Similarly, meetings are cancelled and postponed with as little notice and no explanation. Nobody admits or accepts responsibility for any omissions, lapses in memory or mistakes.

I have been fortunate enough this week to be able to deliver some training to a Circuit of Headteachers, numbering about 18. I attended their previous meeting and we agreed that they needed guidance on “Monitoring & Evaluation”. We gathered slowly over a period of an hour, under the shade of an Acacia tree whilst the schools in the vicinity continued with their lessons very quietly. They must have been warned!
My session was received well and the headteachers were grateful for the evidence sheet I gave each of them to use back in school. Other items on the agenda followed, including a pep talk by the Director to encourage them to inspire their teachers. There was the inevitable discussion about “Welfare”, which is on all agendas for all meetings of all groups from the Education, and I imagine any other, department. This one focussed on the cost of hiring the store of Education Office plastic chairs for funerals. As I have said before, funerals are the main focus of discussion at meetings and there have been numerous funerals in the area this week. The final contribution was from the Circuit Supervisor who reminded Heads that the practice of making pupils bring large bundles of sticks to school as a punishment (presumably for them to burn as fuel) was “Child Labour” and must stop!

Throughout this I was entranced by a headteacher in the centre of the group who had arrived over an hour late, sporting a head full of fluorescent green curlers! She had a few things to contribute during the time she was awake. The orderly rows of chairs didn’t last long as people frequently moved out of the sun to a shadier spot. Nobody sits in the sun here and are vigilant in ensuring we don’t either. It was like musical chairs around the tree.

I was just beginning to lose the will to live after some long time listening to the “Chair Hiring” discussion, when I noticed large clouds of smoke behind a school. There is a lot of burning going on currently around the town and most of it is deliberate to raze long grass and the remains of maize and other plants after harvesting. Out of a classroom came an older Primary School boy, who reached up into a tree and broke off a sizeable branch. He went over to the fire which had really taken hold by now and proficiently put out the flames with deft strokes of the branch. He calmly walked back into the classroom and within a few minutes the smoke ceased to exist. I wondered how this would have been managed at schools in UK. I have said previously, childhood here is a preparation for the responsibilities of adulthood. Children learn how to wield sharp tools safely, respect and use resources sparingly and take early responsibility for their siblings, environment and home. They may have very little time to play but this is the life they know and we can learn much from it.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Happy Snapping

During my travels in the south last month, I took Jeny to Kakum National Park and around the canopy walk on her birthday. This was another re-visit for me but one I particularly enjoyed for a number of reasons.  We joined a group who had gathered at the entrance. They were not hard to spot as they wore clothes of identical fabric. This was an outing from a Catholic community in Kumasi, men, women and children. They were very excited and most seemed to enjoy the experience. At the end of the walkway above the trees a photographer captures each person’s image and you can view them and buy one back at the visitors’ centre.

When we arrived the queue of these identically clad visitors was significant and we watched them with interest. They all bought their photo, unsurprisingly, as I imagine most Ghanaians don’t have many pictures of themselves. As it got to our turn to view the images, a woman turned to Jeny and said, “The mother of this small girl only gave her 1 Cedi, so we told the man you will pay the rest!” “The rest” was another 1.50 Cedi. She walked away so quickly, and we were so stunned that there was nothing left to do other than pay it! It is assumed all white people are rich here. Protestations are useless. We are too well fed and must have money to have got here.

Later on in the week, a small girl came up to us as we left the “Last Bath” site and, when we enquired, agreed to be photographed. A smile was too much to ask and only when we had snapped this shot did she put out her hand and demanded gruffly “1 Cedi”. Quite an entrepreneur! She could go far but the smile would help. I'm sure good use was made of the fee.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Building blocks

It’s all happening here. The landlord has decided to finish building the house! Our organisation have just paid him the next 2 years’ rent……all at once, so he has the funds to complete the job after volunteers have been living here for the last 2 years. Currently, his son is perched perilously on scaffolding plastering the gable end. The scaffolding is hand made like most things here. It can be adapted to suit any height and some is made of teak wood. I never fail to be amazed by Ghanaians’ ingenuity with limited materials and machinery.

This is part of a larger project that includes digging a drainage channel around the house to cope with heavy rain pouring off the roof and the waste water from the house. All through this rainy season, water has been eroding the base of the outside walls and threatening the stability of the building. Now the rains have finished (far too soon, according to the millet farmers!) the work can begin.

I was planning a nice quiet Sunday with a lie in until at least 7.30. I think it was around 5.50am when loud voices (Ghanaians only seem to have loud on their volume controls) boomed through my louvre windows in animated Dagaare. This was clearly a planning meeting. Piles of clay bricks were delivered soon afterwards with a lot of puffing and blowing. There was banging on the walls, the lifting of raised manholes and shouting from one end of the house to the other. I gave up the thought of a lie in and got up. By the time I was dressed they had gone!

Later on, some of the children came to draw in the veranda. They are very well trained at home, not to wear shoes indoors. This pair of tiny sandals was left outside our door. Apropos my previous blog post, everything here is worn right to the end of its life. 

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Big Market Day

Kejetia Market is supposedly the largest open air market in West Africa. It is in Ghana's second city, Kumasi and is certainly huge and extremely busy. We negotiated everything to pass from one side to the other. People carrying anything you can think of and stalls selling more. Carcasses of fresh meat are “chopped” right next to women selling tiny packages of “Dolly Blue” and Tescos own brand shower gel. Fabrics in all colours and patterns hanging up for us to admire, beside farming implements. A young woman passed us with armfuls of pristine plastic carrier bags for sale from Lidl, Morrisons and other well known UK outlets.
It was all fascinating and naturally, I delved in my bag for my camera. This is the only shot I got....and it doesn't even show the market......before I was yelled at by a group of locals nearby. You would have thought I’d produced a pistol!

Evidently, Photography is a complete no-no here. The fact that it was a distance shot made no difference. They knew I could zoom in and identify anyone! I got to wondering if the whole place was full of international criminals. I appreciate that many Africans do not want their image captured and I always ask if I am taking closer pictures. However, I thought this was a little extreme. Does anyone recognise this man?

Second hand clothes and shoes are everywhere in mountains on the pavements and hanging on railings. The items discarded in collection bags on doorsteps in Europe, USA and other wealthier places are of much better quality than new clothes available here. We see people walking around in T shirts with inappropriate slogans they probably cannot translate and some from places they could never hope to visit. There are thriving businesses involved in washing, pressing and displaying this clothing for sale. Although the sight of it all shames me, I’m glad so many of our rejects have another life and am sure in the second existence they are worn for much longer until they fall apart.

We didn’t buy anything in Kejetia Market. It was all too hectic and there wasn’t really anything I needed. The sights, sounds and smells were enough. Thousands of people must live there and I wondered what it was like at night. Does it ever sleep?

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Cape Coast

Cape Coast castle was built by the British and from 1790 was one of the largest slave holding sites in the world, similar in many dreadful ways to St George’s Castle at Elmina. The dungeons were just as dark and airless and inadequate for the numbers entombed in them. They are both painted white and shine beautifully in the sunshine under an azure blue sky. All that didn’t feel right really.

Cape Coast has a Palaver Hall where bartering for slaves took place. I imagine the atmosphere in there was very much a “Palaver” and most distressing at the time. It is now an art gallery! Both castles have a “Gate of no Return” where slaves were pushed through to waiting ships to transport them thousands of miles across oceans. From one hell hole to another….. a floating one. Many of the slaves were traded for alcohol and guns with  the British by Ashanti tribes people.

When the guide opened the gate we found ourselves in the middle of a thriving fishing community. Nets were being mended and boats prepared for their next trip. A hive of activity in a newer more positive world.

 The difference between the two fortresses is that at Cape Coast the large wooden door has been renamed “The Gate of Return” after the remains of 2 slaves, Samuel Carson from USA and Crystal from Jamaica were  returned through this gate in 1998 for re-burial at Assim Manso, the site of the slaves last bath in Ghana, on the road to Kumasi.

We visited this village, a second time for me, to see the graves, the river and to imagine the horrors, including the noise of bellowing slave drivers and clanking of heavy shackles. Richard showed us around. He claimed his English was not good enough, but with constant encouragement he succeeded in giving us detailed information in a way that demonstrated his deep feelings about the injustice surrounding the treatment of his ancestors. We learnt a lot and so did he. His confidence took a huge boost as did his pocket in tips of reward.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Life's a Beach

KoSa was such a calm place to relax in. This isn’t a particularly busy beach but there was enough life on it to keep me interested whilst I sat with my chilled hibiscus juice just watching. The lizards only appear when it is very warm and dry. Some are quite large and in true Ghanaian colours.  There were plenty that scurried around the outside of the decked, open air restaurant and across the floors, quite unperturbed by human traffic.

Some thatching repairs were being carried out on the resort huts. They had a good store of palm leaves that served that purpose perfectly.
Fishing boats under sail and being paddled, furiously, went out to sea and back in fairly regularly. One spent a long time trying to back up onto the beach just along from the resort between reefs of sharp rocks. The men used ropes to anchor the front whilst the boat spun around. They were jumping off into the sea and then climbing back on. It all looked rather perilous but they clearly knew what they were doing from generations of experience. Finally they were successful. Notice the bonfire in the foreground…….built for Jeny’s Birthday celebration by local boys but not lit while we were there due to rain each evening!!! We hoped somebody enjoyed it after we had left.

There were some wonderful hand hewn fishing boats along the coast all with a religious reference to their name and some very small and manned by one or two. This couple were returning home having “put their family boat to bed”.
I am grateful to the fishermen who must have been successful in their quest as we enjoyed some fantastic fresh grilled red snapper and lobster in the evenings.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Coconut Boys

The location of KoSa Beach Resort is fairly idyllic. Sandy beach, palm trees and some good strong Gulf of Guinea waves. There is a lovely bay between rocks where it is safe to swim, or, wave jump in lovely water of a reasonable temperature! Also there are people and stray sheep walking past to give it all added interest.

We were rather fascinated by the “Coconut Boys”. These youngsters came along each morning with a cutlass searching to determine the tree with the most likely harvest. Their age tended to gauge how high they could climb to reach the coconut crop at the top. The teenagers could manage about 10 metres! After throwing some down onto the sand they trimmed them and lopped the top off one before presenting it to you for the princely sum of 20p. Delicious and was worth it for the entertainment as well as the refreshment.

A group of young people were having a great time playing volley ball one afternoon as we strolled along the beach. Spotting cameras, they were very keen to have a group photo taken. We discovered these boys were refugees from Cote d’Ivoire staying in a nearby UNICEF camp. They seemed extremely positive about their future and wanted to receive a copy of the photo by email. I’m sure their accommodation was hardly luxurious and their situation at least difficult, but they appeared happy and delighted to talk to us, exchanging email addresses. I am now struggling with my French to translate the messages. 

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

A Day in Elmina

The last time I visited Elmina was a Tuesday, which is the fishermen’s day off. The boats were in the harbour but very quiet and the market was deserted. This time was quite different. First of all we paid another visit to the castle. The guide was very thorough and I learned more than I did previously about the slave trade, the horrific journeys and incarceration in the bowels of these castles along the coast of Ghana. It is impossible to imagine the conditions and how anyone survived the long walks shackled together in searing temperatures with little and extremely poor sustenance.
 Nobody was released from this cell. Nobody came out alive. Some slaves walked from the north of Ghana, endured everything and died here before transportation on the ships.

The fishing community was very much alive. It all looked chaotic but evidently there are clear systems for selling fish and the atmosphere seemed similar to the Stock Exchange! The fish were quite plentiful and of a wide variety. I had never seen so many brightly painted but weathered boats. Some people sat on the bridge cheering the fishermen home as they passed underneath.

We walked around the town of Elmina to see what else happened there. A Spot was bursting at the seams due to the televising of the Manchester Football Derby. Huge cheers went up with each goal and supporters came running out onto the street shouting their jubilation. Most Ghanaians support a Premiership team but will never see them play live. Children were everywhere asking us to take photos just to see themselves on a tiny camera screen. I did wonder how many had ever seen their own image!