Sunday, July 30, 2017

Ghana 2017 - Day 31. My last day

To mark my last day I took the long promised trip to Achimota Forest Reserve. First, with the ease of long experience, I took the trotro from the Nite Market to Achimota Police Station, turned left at the light, and walked down to the second light to the single entrance to Achimota Forest. Imagine my disappointment when I found out that the EcoPark is open only Monday through Saturday. Why would they close a park on Sundays, which is when families can go for a picnic. But wait. The forester asked me if I was going to the zoo, which was open. Yes, I was going to the zoo. Oh, in that case I could go in, and walk through the park to the zoo, about 25 minutes straight down the road. So the park was open, but not if your intention was to simply be in the park. Strange logic, but it is out of those small contradictions that we get to enjoy the zest of foreign cultures.

So I walked, and walked, and walked. True to my pledge I kept going straight, intent of finding the zoo, until I got to a sign that could be interpreted as “Zoo to the left”, or “Zoo to the right”. I trued to the left, and went deeper and deeper into the “forest” of scrub bushes, thinking that this would be a bad spot for meeting a lion or a warthog. It did allow me to see that the so-called forest reserve does not have any big trees, so in that regard the University Botanical Garden is much more a forest than this “forest reserve”. The poor Forestry Department.

I went back to the right side of the intersection, and a few minutes later came upon the small cabin that hosts the administration of the zoo. I solemnly paid my 20 cedis (Ghanaians pay 10 cedis), and followed the forester guide, together with a couple that had arrived by car a few minutes after me. It is a really tiny zoo, with a couple of monkey cages, two ostriches, two emus from Australia, a camel, two cibet cats, two tortoises, three antelopes, a dozen parrots, and three boas (alas, no mambas). The story is that these animals were relocated here after the zoo in downtown Accra was closed, a few years back, and that the big animals (elephants, lions, zebras, giraffes) were sent temporarily to Komasi Zoo, in southwestern Ghana, while the new zoo is built in the EcoPark. Since there is no evidence that even a shovelful of dirt has been dug, I suspect that the new zoo is never going to pass, and that the EcoPark will remain a name and nothing else. Achimota might have picnic potential for the inhabitants of Accra, but they are going to have to clean some of the brush to open picnic spaces and play structures. Always room to grow here in Ghana.

Being a USAC Visiting Professor was a top notch experience. Not only was I treated as a VIP (a treatment that, alas, I don’t get very often), but adapting my course to a new setting was a great learning experience. My class is an upper division GE, but it isfairly technical, so I have a good deal of experience cajoling my non-science students to learn something from it. But in a study-abroad setting it is very important that the students can see a connection between what they are learning and the dazzling kaleidoscope of a new culture, a new geography, and a different stage of social development. I had done my homework, of course, and knew quite a bit about Ghana’s accomplishments and challenges in the field of water development. I should have been quicker, however, in grasping opportunities for the students to see the issues we had been talking about in the new world surrounding them. Next time I will have to correspond with the local USAC team way in advance, to know what activities they have planned for outings and fieldtrips, and then research the places I will visit with the students to identify potential learning opportunities. In any case, I am now a devote adherent to the notion of study abroad in general, and to the USAC program in particular.

It is time to say goodbye to this charming country, and its likewise charming people. I will miss its colorful clothes, Gospel music, and interesting languages. I will miss, in a fashion, being accepted in the warm community of a trotro and the nasal call of the ticket taker as he tells the world that this particular trotro is heading for Accra-ccra-ccra-ccra. I will not miss mosquitoes, torrential equatorial rains, nor baobabs, for the simple reason that I never got to see one. I will certainly miss eating soup messily with my bare hand, and the half liter bottles of Club beer (or the lady at the Bush Canteen, who by now knows I always order a cold Pepsi from her). And I will miss my friends Abigail, Claudia, Shasha, Ama, Theo, Yunuss, and Edde. Not to worry, I now know the way so am sure that I will come back again someday.

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