Sunday, August 26, 2007

Using sign in Accra

One of the observations I've made whilein Ghana is that if you are a person who lives in Ghana that has any kind of disablity you really have limited choices in your life.

One experience had me have encounter with a deaf man. He was actually not begging but as I was leaving my hotel for the airport he was a local who helped me carry my stuff out. i had notice that he was deaf early when i was waiting. After he carried my stuff, I signed to him, thank you , in my limited ASL I signed that I knew a littel and I signed my name and he told me his (Albert)(I think ) and chatted just some niceties He lit right up and I actally wanted to talk to him more but was wisked into the cab. Later , I kept thinking about if Albert has anyone who communicates with him in his language on a regular basis. He wasn't exactly treated kindly by the taxi driver, who he seemed to know Albert.

I had forgotten to tip Albert, so as I was dropped at a hotel closer to the airport, I gave the taxi driver a tip to give to Albert , showed the drive how to say Thank you in sign and had the driver practice the sign. Whether, the taxi driver actually gives Albert the tip, I don't know, but maybe the driver will use at least the sign with him.

Returning to Seattle

As I arrived back in Seattle, one of my first culture shock moments was when I went through customs. I was walking down the steps into the a large room where you have to stand in line to talk to the customs agent.

The customs room in Seatac airport is a large room with metal "switch back" maze that you wait in line to talk to the customs agent. I must have had the most giddiest smile on my face as I stepped into the room. Finally a place where I knew the rules. No one was pushing to get to the front. Everyone stood an 'apprioprate" distance from each other It was just a bit of heaven.
(*Won't that be pretty scarey if the gates of heaven really did look like customs? YIkes.)

it's funny how my perspective on the rooms was very different this time verses when i returned from my trip from Nicaragua a couple of years ago. When I had gone through it before, found it crowded, slow, and full of way too many people. Now i found great comfort in the order and the organized maze.

Although my body was in the US, my behavior , at least for a moment, was back in AFrica. As I got up to the front of the line and I dutifully stood with my toes touching the neon line waiting for the customs agent to wave me in, a couple was walking over from another line. They walked in front of me and went to the next agent when it was my turn! With out realizing it, I started making it known that I was next and they were cutting and I was definitely next and blah blah blah. The women behind me who was 'appropriately' standing her distance said, to me rather quietly and "properly" You know they were told by the customs agents they could come in front. I said, Oh,,,,,. Ok.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Right now, I'm in the Accra airport waiting for my plane. I fly to Amsterdam and then off to Seattle! Hurray!

I feel good about leaving. It's been an interesting and amazing trip. I can't specifically say what I've learned from it yet, or how it'll manifest itself in my life. I do know I'm taking a little of Africa home with me (and I just don't mean the African dust that is on EVERYTHING) and I'm leaving a little of myself here. I guess it's like that when you travel to a different culture.

See you all soon!!

Monday, August 20, 2007

traveling as a tourist.

This past week, I've been traveling as a tourist. I have to say, it's not as fun to me as when I was living in and experiencing Pokuase and the people there. Being a tourist, I feel like although I"m seeing Ghana, I'm not really getting to know it. It feel a few feet away, where as when I am in Pokuase, I feel like I'm really experiencing the real Ghana.

My plan was to travel up to Tamale and then over to Mole to see some wild life. Unfortunately , I messed up with the bus schedules and couldn't get up there in time and still have time make it back to Pokuase and Accra for my flight.

Even with that, I have to say I loved Cape Coast and returning to Kumasi for a second visit. I made it up to the Aburi regio and back to Pokuase to see some friends. It just wasn't meant to be. I"ll have to go back to see Tamale and MOle next time.

See you all soon!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Elmina Castle.

Today I had the opportunity to visit Elmina Castle. It was one of the 50 places where Africans forced to leave Ghana as slaves. It's dungeons held 100's of people at a time. It's horrific the way they were treated. They were basically treated like animals, staying in the dark dungeons for up to 2 months before they were put on ships for the Americas and the West Indies.

Walking through the tunnels that lead to the ships, although they were cleaned, still smelled of the suffering and the death that occurred. The vision of wailing and frightened women and terrified men was easy to feel and hear.

Above the dungeons, are both the church and the owner's quarters. There were many peep holes looking down into the dungeuon and the court yard to view the people held captive (as they were walking into church)

A large amount of Africans that were enslaved came from the Ashanti region of Africa, and Northern Ghana. They were also from Burkina Faso and Togo. They were captured and made to walk for months to get to the Coast of Ghana. Many , many died before they reached the coast and many died as they stayed in the castles. They were shackled and chained.

I can only imagine the fear of this experience. To be taken away from what you know, be beated and raped, if you were a women, to force to walk hundreds of miles to the coast. Once you get to the castle, which is huge and very different from any african dwelling, made to be in a dark, smelly room, where people are speaking different dialects of African and having guards bark commands at you in a strange language. People are force to deficate where they have to sleep and eat,crammed in a 'cell' about 15 feet by 2o feet with 100 to 150 people.very little ventilation.

What was it like to wait in those dungeons? You don't know what's going to happen. Do you think life is over? Do you wonder if you'll ever go back? It must have been terrifying beyond belief. To witness, the death and suffering of others must have been unreal.

Finally,one day you are forced to go through a long tunnel, through a 4 foot tall, 2 feet wide 'gate' onto a small boat that lead to a big ship. These folks were in land people. I'm sure just the oceans surf was terrifying.

Knowing just a bit more of the African slave experience, makes me even more respectful and admirable the strength of the African spirit.

On sale at the Elimina Castle you can buy a t-shirt that says Never Forget.

I first heard that saying when I was at the Holocaust museum in DC.
The treatment of African slaves in history should never be forgotten,so history doesn't repeat itself with any group of people.

Joy Family Lodge.

One of the most over all experiences I've had with my stay in Pokuse has been the guest house I stayed in while in Pokuse. It's call the Joy Family Lodge, which is about a 10 minute walk to Pokuse and has easy access to Accra. It's not in the hussle and bussle of Accra, just on the very outside. It was the haven we need when Pokuse and Accra was too much.

It's owned by a very hard working man named Ohene Bonsu, We called him, Mr Bonsu. He's very welcoming and had enormous integry as a businessman and as a citizen of hte world.

The staff is very friendly. They helped us feel comfortable. They answered every quesiton we had about ghanian life and helped us find whatever they needed.

Every night I ordered chicken and fries with red sauce. I thought the red sauce was a simple tomato paste with onions and cayenne pepper. The last day, Veronica, let me watch her make the red sauce. Wow I was wrong. It was an hour process to chop tomatoes onion,blend it with anise and cayenne and curry. It had fresh tuna and shrimp buillon (boil?). and just other things. I wrote down the recipe, so I can make it when I get home.

If you ever get to Ghana, I hope you can make it to Joy
family lodge. They are very special.


Yesterday, I left Pokuse for the Cape Coast. It was hard to say goodbye to everyone. My last work day was spent taking pictures of the wells.

There are 5 wells in Pokuse. Four that work and one, the oldest is broken.
3 of the 4 working ones are run by electricity and one is run by solar electricity. They say the water is safe to drink, but no one really does, because of the salt. They are not dug very deep, only 30 feet or so. People also get their non drinking water from the river, which looks more like still water to me.

One of the most interesting wells, was the one by the mosque. It was on the outside wall of the mosque. Not to far away from the well is a place for people to wash their feet before they go into the mosque to pray.

Most people buy drinking water, either in large 1 liter bottles (80 cents.) or they buy them in plastic square bags. ( 4 cents. )