Sunday, February 20, 2011

Accra and Aburi

Ghana Day 2/3

This was my first overnight excursion without Karissa and I went into it not knowing anybody. Needless to say, I was a little nervous. When I got to the meeting place in the morning there were indeed some familiar faces. Two other Bentley kids were on the trip along with some other girls I had met once or twice. After our initial meeting I was more comfortable and ready for the 4 hour (minimum) bus ride to Accra, the capital of Ghana.

A few minutes into our bus ride, after our guide gave us some trivial information about Takoradi, I was ready to sleep. Lucky for me, I can sleep pretty much on command in a moving vehicle, so I passed out and didn’t wake up till we were almost in the city. When I did finally come out of my slumber I opened my eyes to a city much different from Takoradi. The streets were jammed with cars, and people. There seemed to be four lanes of cars all just trying to squeeze around and between each other, fighting to be at the head of the traffic. And the people, there were people walking through the streets, between each row of cars, on the sidewalks and the middle dividers, with baskets of various items n their heads. Some people carried bowls with water in them. This water isn’t in bottles like we drink, instead it is in plastic bags. People cut off the corner and drink water from plastic bags. Some people has chips, some had other snacks. Some were piled high on peoples’ heads and others were in huge shallow bowls. I still can’t understand how they learn to walk with all this stuff on their heads and they do it so naturally, paying no attention to it as if they have forgotten that it’s there.

We stopped for lunch when we arrived in Accra. “Ghanaian” food. Chicken, rice, plantains, and fish, this would be the extent of our meals for the next 4 days on this trip and my other one. I think the Semester at Sea sponsored trips try hard to make sure we have the Americanized version of the food so that we don’t get sick or complain about it. After lunch we got back on the bus for our tour of the city. We drove by the soccer stadium, and went to the Memorial of Ghana’s first president, and we went to the where W.E.B Dubois lived and is buried and then we went to an open market.

The market was quite an experience. The second the people selling goods spotted us it was like we were wearing signs that said ATM. We fought through them and went to exchange money and then to a small shop on the side of the market. There, we met Colin Powell (that’s what he called himself). He told us that he could name every capital in the US and to test him. I told him that I wouldn’t know if he was right wrong. He said to stick with him and he would take care of us. So he walked us to his “brother’s” shop. And as we walked we gathered a following of people trying to sell stuff. I called my Mom and my Uncle suckers when we were in Turkey and they gave in to buying rugs, well the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree (in either case, because Karissa and I BOTH were totally suckered on the first day but that’s a whole other story). All of a sudden I was surrounded by men trying to sell me bracelets. It was claustrophobic. “How much you give me for these?” well, the point wasn’t how much was I willing to pay, the fact of the matter is that I didn’t even want them at all! Eventually I gave in. I handed the 15 Cedi (Ghanaian currency) over to one of the guys and took my 5 bracelets. When it was finally time to go, we pushed through the merchants lined outside our bus and when we finally got on the bus it was like the safe zone. Such a relief. We went back to the hotel for dinner and an early morning trip to the botanical gardens and then back to the ship. The botanical gardens were pretty cool. Not much to write about them but we saw some nice trees.

All together this was honestly not the best trip I’ve done I don’t really like feeling like a tourist and although it is usually unavoidable especially in Ghana where people with light skin stick out like sore thumbs, I felt like all we did in were typical tourist things. The one activity that could have been somewhat normal for people who live in Accra was going to the market place but being swarmed harassed and probably taken advantage of with pricing just made it as much of a tourist activity as going to the museums. But on our drive back to the ship we passed by tons of different towns and one town we must have passed through right about the time that school got out. The older kids were walking down the road with their backpacks and held onto the hands of the younger kids. Parents were outside waiting for their kids to get home and playing games in front of their houses with the ones that were home. I realized that at the end of the day, our lifestyles are completely different but most of us are on the same path. Just trying to make ends meet and doing everything they can to take care of their families. I guess we really are all one tribe if you look at it like that.

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