Travel Journal

Accra - September 17-19 - Welcome to Ghana

(Saturday 22 September 2007) by Karin
You all better hope that there is electricity for the next hour. Logging in only took 20 minutes. Sure hope I have enough time to update a few days. But here I go.....
On Monday after breakfast (delicious pineapple) we drove to the bank were we changed our Euros into Cedis. I now have an enormous pack of bills in exchange for 2. We then went to the SYTO offices were we met our Big Black Momma (Tina) who gave us some more info regarding the program before we headed for the beach. During the ride we got a good view of the city. On the side of the road all kinds of little improvised huts and women carrying enormous baskets with peanuts, fruit, water or whatever else you can imagine on their heads, a bike parked in the middle of the road with the owner asleep next to it and all cars trying to avoid it, etc. La beach, also known as Labadi Beach Pleasure, is almost 8 km east of central Accra. In addition to the beach, which is reasonably safe for swimming, if you are a good swimmer as the current is really strong, there are some outdoor bars (too early for me) and some restaurants. Lots of trash on the beach and in the water but on this part they try, unsuccessfully, to keep it clean. We enjoyed the African sun, a walk on the beach and we had some lunch. Service was slow, incredibly frustratingly slow and I still cannot believe how spicy a pizza can be. I managed to eat one piece and ordered french fries, a safer bet. I'm still on fire :-(. Welcome to Ghana. They did serve delicious fresh pineapple juice but it seemed to me that they only had 5 glasses. As soon as someone finished its juice the glass would disappear and someone else would get some. Quite funny.
Started my first book (Twilight) and couldn't put it down so that's how the rest of my day was spent..... reading. We all got phone cards on our way back to the hostel so for those of you who are interested, I am reachable again: +233-24-530 5272
Tuesday pick-up was supposed to be at nine but we are in Ghana now. Nine can just as well be 9:30, 10:00 or even later. Back to the SYTO offices where Big Black Momma talked to us about Ghana related matters: host family and cross culture where the talk of the day. We were also taught the most important rule of etiquette: it is highly insulting to use your left hand to pass or receive something or when shaking hands. Your left hand is the 'dirty' hand. You can use it to slap someone in the face that touches you inappropriately }-). You'd be amazed at how often you use your left hand, even if you are right handed. You got to constantly think about it. Also discovered what KVIP toilet means: Kumasi Ventilated Improved Pit toilet..... :-D a big name for a hole in the ground. Something I already suspected.
Another wait for the bus and off to the market we went. Hundreds of stalls and vendors line the pavements with their wares: handkerchiefs, flat ireons, hair extensions, cooking utensils, bars of soaps. The food vendors have some of the most fascinating displays - smoked fish, mountains of bread, painstakingly arranged piles of tomatoes, roast plantain and piles of sweets, toffees and gum. You quickly get used to being called 'Oburoni' (from the horizon) wherever you go and by everyone. Another often heard phrase is 'welcome to Ghana'. We followed Charles, our leader, who went through the market in a very fast pace to avoid any of us being bothered too much. Another 'fried potatoes' lunch accompanied by pineapple juice. The only 'non-spicy' 'safe' food on the menu.
The arts and crafts market followed where we got half an hour to walk around. A place I will have to go back to. So many beautiful things, so hard to keep my money in my pockets. Accra is pretty expensive already. Just got some fun 'music' instrument and bargained fro a much lower price. That is actually fun and even more when you succeed. After drop-off at the hostel we discovered how right the reputation of Ghana as the friendliest country in West Africa is. When asking the way today at one of the little roadside shops, the owner abandoned her customers to walk us almost all the way to our destination. Customers will have to wait and they do so without complaining. I don't think anyone at home will be this patient. We then looked for a place to eat and had dinner at the 'BusStop'. A non-spicy, non-cheesy vegetable pizza accompanied by pineapple juice. yummmmiiiiieeee. The biggest hazard as a pedestrian here is making sure you do not step off the curb into a ditch or sewer or another hazard that will cause an ankle sprain. When crossing streets you better look out for tro-tro's and taxis being driven like Formula One race cars and beeping car horns seem to be a national sport. All through the day, whenever I had a minute, I was seen with my book. I finished it and asked Danielle not to give me the sequel. Once I start I want to know the end.......
The next morning we spent at the SYTO offices again for some more Ghana related info. Health tid-bits, malaria, HIV, etc. Then we got info about the 10 provinces, places to visit there and how to get there.
Lunch near SYTO office consisted of....... no, not french fries again but a big plate of yummie veggies accompanied by .... you guessed it..... I'm hooked on the pineapple juice and I'm not the only one. A rest before we started our dance lesson which was great fun. We learned the fume-fume dance. pa-pa-pa-boele-boele-boele-stamp-stamp-clap..... Not sure any of us will be able to recreate but we sure had fun. The drum lesson that followed was equally fun and much easier. Looking forward to Drum and Dance week. After another rest which I spent reading the sequel to Twilight, New Moon, which I asked for anyway we went to a nightclub before going to a reggae party on the beach where the men were mostly stoned and the few women around were prostitutes. Got loads of phone numbers from men but at some point it got really annoying. They wouldn't leave us alone. Seems like they are bees and we are definitely honey. Did see the best breakdancing ever though.

  • Welcome to Ghana ... by Rathod Sudhir

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