Saturday, July 29, 2017

Ghana 2017 - Day 9. A cushy tour of Accra

The care of our gracious hosts knows no limits, so today we are scheduled to go for a guided tour of Accra, for which I am late because I was trying to catch up with yesterday’s blog. I left my house with barely a cup of coffee, and thought that perhaps I could find some quick bite to eat at the Night Market. The students had the same idea, and they had found a place that would prepare an omelet sandwich for only 1.50 cedis (something like US$ 0.35), so all of us crowded around and ended having breakfast together.

Uncle Joe will once again be our guide, but this time we had a smaller bus, better suited for navigating the streets of Accra (but I think it needs to go to the mechanic, because it jerks something awful in first gear). We started the tour by driving through the part of town where many of the embassies are located; just like in Addis it is a very nice neighborhood where I would be very comfortable living. At the edge of this neighborhood there is a large mosque, which very much reminded me of Hagia Sophia in Istambul.

Afterward we drove through the area where the military has its headquarters, barracks, officers’ housing, and military airport. It is a very large area of the city they have reserved for themselves! The country has very good relations with its neighbors, but they are ready to spring into action if a group like Boko Haram were to attempt an incursion into Ghanaian territory. 

Next we went to visit the house where W.E.B. Du Bois. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with him, Du Bois was an American sociologist, poet, and Pan-Africanist whose writings were pivotal to the Civil Rights movement in the United States, and to the independence of Ghana and other African nations. Du Bois was one of the co-founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. Du Bois was a prolific author. His collection of essays, The Souls of Black Folk, was a seminal work in African-American literature. Haunted by American authorities for its communist ideology, Du Bois came to Accra at the invitation of President Kwame Nkrumah in 1960, became a Ghanaian citizen, and undertook the monumental task of editing the Encyclopedia Africana, to preserve the richness of African culture, until his death in 1963, at the age of 95. To our student Erica, who is majoring in African Studies, this visit was a dream come true.

We also visited the memorial to Kwame Nkrumah, first president of Ghana. I have described this memorial in day 2 of this blog, so I will limit myself to say that the curator believes that President Nkrumah was deposed by the military/police coup at the instigation of the CIA, because of his own communist sympathies. For the people of the country, however, he remains a beloved and visionary figure.

To balance the good with the not so great our tour took us through Lavender Hill, the tongue-in-cheek name given by the locals to the city dump. It is big, smelly, smokey, and distressingly close to the west edge of downtown. At some time it must have been in the outskirts, but now the city has grown around it, and for all practical purposes it is downtown. Like it happens in many old dumps, there are people that live on top of the refuse, in shacks made out of recovered materials, who eek out a living by recycling whatever they can. I am not sure why the city government has not closed the dump and installed a sanitary landfill elsewhere.

Our final hurrah was a visit to the handcrafts market, where the students got a chance to practice their haggling skills. I saw a pretty puzzle map of Africa for Ronnie, but am not sure I want to carry additional stuff with me and ended not buying it. I know I will regret it at a later time. I also met a very interesting guy, whose sales pitch started by asking where you were from. “Mexico”, I said. Then he started rattling the names of cities in Mexico to an extent that really amazed me. Then he claimed he knew the capital of every country in the world. “Really? OK, what about Argentina?” “Buenos Aires”, “Canada?” (I was sure he was going to say Toronto). “Ottawa”. Wow! “Sri Lanka?” “Colombo”. Hmm . . . ah, but I have a good one for him, “Madagascar?” “Antananarivo”. OK, I can see when I am beaten and had to give it to him my greatest respect as a master of geography!

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