Our day trip to Accra

October 8 2012
I will stop counting days now.
Kasoa, Gh.
I had a very restful sleep last night, even though I slept late. I couldn’t help it; the internet connection was impressively fast that I just had to start uploading photos to my fb so my family and friends could see what I was seeing here. It might have been that the credit (I almost say ‘load,’ Filipino lingo style) was enough only until midnight.
I think we lost power several times yesterday. We did not have running water as well.  I have gotten used to this. I have accepted it as a fact of life here, and as I always say: it is what it is. I get why both the power and the pipe are turned off intermittently: W says it is to distribute both to everyone because the resource is scarce. I thought that was an elegant concept, but one that can work only in a community with patient people. They say Ghana is one of the more progressive countries here in West Africa (or in Africa for that matter)—rich and peaceful. If the situation here is already like this, I cannot even begin to imagine how impoverished the other African countries are, especially those that are land-locked and are just arid.
Yesterday we went on a day trip to Accra, the capital city of Ghana. I would have wanted to attend church with D, one of our helpers who has the same religion as I do, but she left before I woke up. Apparently their church service starts at 730 and ends at 1030. It’s almost like attending Christmas Eve and Easter masses. I have been told as well that church here is different from ours. I think across the board (this includes Orthodox quite incredibly) they have communal worship that involve a lot of dancing and singing—stuff that I am not a fan of. I have not seen a church here in Kasoa that has the typical edifice of what I know as a church. I saw one in Accra and it was Methodist.  I said to D that one of these Sundays I will go with her. She got excited.
So anyway, we rode a tro-tro to the Kasoa junction again (a route that is becoming familiar to me now), crossed the busy intersection and rode another tro-tro to a bustling market area in Accra. From there we rode a taxi to the lighthouse in Jamestown. Jamestown is an old part of Accra. It is seaside that has seen its better days. The lighthouse is still being used according to our local (and self-appointed, to our slight deprecation) guide. Across it on the side of the street is a green building that was a hotel in its more glorious days. Surrounding it is an area of such poverty it breaks my heart. It was still oddly enough, beautiful.  I think the fishing community is still operating though I personally would not buy fish taken from the water. Like, think Manila Bay.
We went up the lighthouse for 10 cedis (5 dollars) split among us three. The caretaker wanted 5 for each; our guidebook says you can sometimes pay 1.20 but that the caretaker is said to ask for 5. She did, she actually did. Our self-appointed guide went up with us, pointing out certain factoids about the surrounding area. It irked me when, as we were about to go down the winding stairs, he demanded that we give him 5 cedis for being our guide. We said we never asked for his help. He said ok well how about for taking your picture? We said it still would not have cost 5 cedis to take a f*** (I actually didn’t say this nice word) photo. He said well I still want it. So f *** damn brazen of him! I said can we discuss this downstairs. He said no. I stared at his bloodshot eyes, saw that his arms were crossed and his body blocking the stairs. I knew at this point that there was no point in arguing with him. Worse case scenario is that there would be a punch exchanged and three bodies being pushed down the stairs to their death. Okay so that was wild. But he was so unyielding that I decided to just accede to him. He said you can give me whatever comes from your generosity so I can eat. Gave him 1 cedi and said that was it. That is from our generosity and asserted ourselves down the stairs. Argh. While I would sincerely like to believe that people are naturally good-hearted, people like him color my lenses jade.

This was the photo that cost 1 cedi to take

If you look closely somewhere in the off center is a man taking a bath

The Sea View Hotel
We then proceeded to Ussher Town on our feet. We were to have a walking tour. We passed by Fort James and Fort Ussher, but did not enter either. What amazes me no end is that almost none of the streets are named! They only had squares and plazas, and maybe buildings and monuments to mark places. Anyway, so we went on to the Craft Market. As soon as we entered at least 5 vendors came up to us – some of them trying to vend leather, jewelry and drums, and some of them just curious about where we were from. The man I spoke to asked where I was from. I said the Philippines (I used to say the States, but that felt unreal so I’ve been referring to the Philippines as where I’m originally from; as an aside this dilemma also came up during my job interviews. They would ask where I was from and I’d say Philippines. They would say, no we know that but where are you from in the US? I would hesitantly say, um Danville in Pennsylvania? And that felt even a lot weirder. Among all the dwellings I have inhabited, Danville would not be where I am from). Anyway, later he asked how the weather was where I was from. I said where am I from? If you know where I am from I will answer your question. He looked at me with shame, not being able to remember my answer to his question like 1 minute ago. I cracked up with a smile and said it’s fine I’m from the Philippines and it’s also warm there. Then he taught me a cool fact: that you can tell who are from the North of Ghana by a scar across between their nose bridge and their left cheek. Apparently at a young age the elders in the community would make this mark to display their heritage. Some tribes have it across their temples. Some have it on their chests.
Street fare

U and L

I thought it was cute that they were fixing a pink bike
The craftwork at the market were all so stunning. I wanted to take home a sample of each. Again, it was a good thing I did not bring enough money. It was a good excuse. When one vendor took my arm (and held it) to say that he would give me a good price and asked why I looked afraid, I said I’m not afraid but please let go of my arm I don’t feel comfortable. He let go of my arm and of the idea that he was going to sell me something when I said that I did not have money, like seriously.
After this we took a taxi to Hotel Paloma that had a restaurant that served all kinds of food, including some local fare. I had the Banku Okro with tilapia (banku I think is mashed cassava and corn with salt; okro I think is okra stew).  I prayed to God that the tilapia didn’t come from Jamestown.  Then we had ice cream to end our lunch. Lip-smacking.
Anticipating!

Okro stew in the center, baku on the right and a basin of water with soap on the left (as one is supposed to eat this with their hands)
Next we went to the Accra Mall, which by far is the most modern place I have ever been to and which feels very familiar and almost homey. Shoprite, the grocery that sells mostly Western brands, was a godsend. For one I found cheese (Laughingcow), wine (bought sweet white wine from South Africa), shaver (yahoo!) and hand sanitizer (a must). We did not stay long. I was debating whether to buy Cadbury or just buy local at one of the sari-sari stores across our home. I opted for the latter. And interestingly enough I saw and heard 4 Filipinos in the grocery!
We rode the taxi all the way to our home base, which did not really cost us that much. I guess we could have bargained for more but I think we were all just exhausted to argue.
After dinner at home I offered wine to our helpers. D said she didn’t drink alcohol. She asked if it was good for the body. I said as long as you take it in moderation it is okay. She asked if I was sure. Next thing you knew she was requesting for more. Cute.
This morning I thought I was going to have my Lesson and Culture lesson #2, so I crammed learning the body parts.
It turns out, my teacher could not stay this morning so he was going to come back in the afternoon. Which left me with plenty of time to clean up that disordered corner in the house with a million cosmic dust and lizards and to organize the medical equipment. I figured that if I left the task to our helpers it would not be done (I suggested it on Friday, nothing was done for 2 days). So I started to obsessively clean up everything. Took the broom and dusted away. Sorted out the medicines, first aid equipment, surgical equipment and gloves from one another. D gladly helped me out. And now yay, everything’s clean.
I have finally changed the light bulbs in our living room and dining room. I don’t care that I paid for them. I cannot stand a dim room. It makes me feel gloomy. And once I buy more paintings I will put them up on our wall (and take them down when I leave). If this is going to be my home for a month, I will make it feel like one.
Tonight we finally had running water, and so after 2 full days of not showering I seized the chance to do so even if it meant doing it bucket style. As the faucet was disgorging fresh water, I thanked the Lord for each drop. Although I came here already valuing water, it has not had so much meaning until now.
We like knowing what is to happen with small surprises. But sometimes we must endure or create gross shocks that stretch us till we grow or break.”- Marge Piercy
I am growing, and it is a dizzying feeling.

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