Date: Early 2007
Context: Thekenyanexplorer went to Ghana with a team from uni on a 3 week trip to Ghana. Her team was focusing on some development work in energy and water. This is an email that was sent to her friends and family after the trip. The full story will be in a few separate consecutive blog entries.
We woke up at 6am to catch our 9am bus to Kumasi. There was a blackout, and I grabbed a shower in torch light. As soon as I had soaped myself the water ran out. I calmly dried myself and came to terms with the fact that for the rest of the day I would smell like a bar of soap. We took a cab to the train station, and it worried me that we were riding in slow traffic with our windows open. Later I was to find out that Accra is one of the safest capital cities in Africa. Pickpocketing is very unusual. In fact the guide book contrasted Accra to Nairobi. We got to the bus station at 7:30am forgetting to account for African timing of buses. The buses were running a little late. To be precise, the 5:30am bus left at 8am. The 7:30am bus left at 9am, and our 9am bus left at 11am. Luckily someone had brought some cards for a game called "apples to apples" and we killed some time playing that. I remember having to use a public toilet, and it cost me 7000 cedis (0.7 dollars.) The toilet was really clean and the cashier gave us toilet paper, and I started to wonder if Accra just might be slightly more advanced than Nairobi. The journey lasted five hours with a stop in a town somewhere in the middle. I tempted fate and had a meat pie at the stop. Luck was on my side, and I did not get a case of the bad diarrhoea or anything like that (excuse my french .) The scenery was beautiful and even though we were northwards bound the tropical climate of Ghana made all the towns look coastal. Everywhere I saw palm trees, coconut trees etc. The humidity got a bit less, but the heat was intense.
On the air conditioned bus we took I saw two video screens descend, and was very excited to realize that one of them worked. I was very pleased that they would be showing a Nigerian film. It was in true Nigerian counterfeit fashion. The beginning started with the whole beginning of 20th century fox films with roaring lion included. In place of the title "20th century fox" was "Dj productions." The movie even had an FBI warning to it about not pirating it. Heeeeee heeeeeee. So just as I am excited about watching "In love with a thief "(you have to love those self explanatory titles) the screen freezes, and thus ends our movie. Well they tried............
We arrived at the Kwame Nkrumah university of Science and Technology (KNUST ) school of medicine guest house which would be our home for the few days in Kumasi. The campus was lovely. The hostels were beautiful, and the grounds were really well kept. Getting off the bus was a bit of a hassle because as soon as the cab people saw foreigners they rushed to try and get our luggage into their cabs. Everyone was trying to get us into their cabs. Our group consisted of two Ghanaians (a guy and a girl), a British Indian guy, a Chinese American girl, a Polish American girl and our female American Professor who was quite africanized. She had been in the peace corps for five years. Lived and worked in Botswana as the bee keeping regional officer and high school teacher. Has lived and worked in 47 different countries. Strict vegetarian. Now an MIT professor. Me (who fitted in quite well since everyone thought I was Ghanaian – Ashanti to be precise. Amidst excited shouts of Browni (the generic Ghanaian word for white person) we finally managed to get to our hostel with all our bags. I was quite surprised that even in the chaos no one had tried to steal any of our bags. Ghana is unbelievably safe. We took a walk and looked at the lovely grounds. There was a tree with many bats, and one of our hosts told us the famous bat story. Some of the locals eat bats, but they are pretty tricky to eat. Once they are in the stew they keep on soaking up all the soup, and one has to continuously squeeze the flesh to get back their soup. All the trees were covered in dust since it is Harmattan season, and the winds blowing from the Sahara bring lots of dust into the country.
The next day we went to Suame Magazine which is Africa's largest jua kali area. Tens of thousands of local artisans work in the hot sun and one can find anything in Suame Magazine. Beds, car spare parts, heavy machinery etc. It is the largest artisan engineering cluster in Africa. We spent the day in one of the workshops getting parts for some of the agricultural machines we would be taking into the villages.