Category: West Africa


Ghana: Akomsombo

I spent most of my childhood believing that Nigeria shared a border with Ghana. This should give you a clue on how much Nigerians talk about Ghana, we seem to have a love and hate relationship. It is not uncommon to hear a Nigerian praise and berate Ghana in the same sentence; ‘There’s no power shortages in Ghana but I don’t see what’s so special about the place.’ I realised the importance attached to Ghana might be strongly due to the fact that Nigeria is surrounded by French-speaking countries and Ghana is our closest English-speaking neighbour in West Africa. With Ghana firmly set on the path to development and not having as much wahala as Nigeria is said to have, it has become the perfect holiday spot for Nigerians. Travelling to Ghana is way cheaper than travelling to Europe and packs almost as much fun.

Ghana is the first African country I actually travelled to! Imagine that I’ve been to several corners of the world but the only African country I knew was the one I was born in. This made my trip there even more interesting, I truly wanted to see what Ghana had to offer. I left for Accra on Christmas Eve with my mum and we planned everything through a tour agency which basically means everything was planned. We were really pissed that our first day in Accra, that is the day after we landed, we had to be up by 7 for the long bus ride to the Akosombo dam where we would catch an afternoon cruise on the Dodi Princess.

It probably took us an hour and a half to get to Akosombo from Accra and when we finally got there we had to wait a while before we got our tickets and boarded the ship. And while on the ship we had to wait even longer before things set up, apparently we were waiting for the food. It is a 2 hour cruise to Dodi island which is an island somewhere along the river. There were actually several islands scattered there. The journey to Dodi was pretty uneventful, I sat right in front of the live band on a table filled with Nigerians and hearing them talk politics bored me to tears. I spent a lot of time staring at the sea and enjoying the slight breeze secretly longing for us to reach our destination and for the journey to be over.

We did reach our destination, Dodi Island, but it wasn’t what I expected. The inhabitants of the island must have been expecting us because they came out to dance. The dances were uncoordinated but I guess they worked it because some of the other tourists got excited and started mimicking their dance. I walked a path on the island till I reached its end, there wasn’t much to see. Some braver tourists set out looking for the village, they didn’t know it was on the other side of the island. Apparently they walk days just to dance and entertain us tourists. Not only that, they also come to beg. On my journey into the island, a little boy not older than seven years came to hold my hand and I immediately pulled away. ‘Do you want anything?’ he asked and I shook my head and hurried away. Then I started feeling bad. After I had seen all the island had to offer, I sought out the boy and gave him 10 Ghanaian cedis. Another boy saw my action and followed me all the way to the ship but I didn’t have more to give. When I told my mother what had transpired she said; ‘Isn’t this Africa?’

Now it was the return journey that was really fun. It took 2 hours to get to Dodi island from where we boarded the ship and the journey back there was 2 hours. The fun started when the MC came up to the stage. He gave us a brief history of the ship, pointed out the various rivers that meet at the dam. He informed us that we could make requests to the band and then he said; ‘The Chinese and Indians on board want to sing a song for us.’ So he called on ‘the Chinese’ and a young couple came onto the stage. The wife did most of the talking, apparently her husband couldn’t speak much English, they were in Ghana for their honeymoon. She then proceed to sing a song that she said was about a beautiful jasmine. After her song, the MC joked he had heard ‘Nigeria’ in her song. Because the Indians were not ready to present their song, the MC asked Nigerians to come up. Immediately, three people came up on the stage vying for the microphone. In a few minutes they were organised and after a short speech they started singing. And then Nigerians took over everything, the singing went on for ages and lots of Nigerians got up and started dancing. When the MC signalled to end the singing, they stopped but things didn’t end there. A man took the opportunity to promote Nigeria, ‘Nigerians were voted the happiest people in the world’, and I thought aren’t those stats outdated? ‘Nigeria is the place where God resides’ and I’m like ‘Really?’

Another Nigerian took the opportunity to crack a joke that I’m sure only Nigerians understood in its entirety even though he spoke pidgin English. In this manner, the journey back was made entertaining. At one point a woman asked to dedicate a song to her mother, the band played the quintessential song ‘Sweet Mother’. A few people came out to dance with the old mother and placed money on her forehead as we do. I believe that for the tourists of other nationalities, this was a glimpse of African culture. For most of the return journey, the people who danced on stage were either Ghanaians or Nigerians. Oh but there was this one Indian man who really danced and kept on dragging beautiful dark-skinned young women to dance with him. By the end of the cruise everyone knew him, ‘That Indian man really had fun. His wife too, they didn’t hesitate to enjoy themselves.’

On the entire journey back to Accra, there was a lot of discussion. As I said earlier, we travelled in a bus and our companions were fellow Nigerians. They were very impressed by the cruise and their experience of it so most of the journey was spent on talking about they ways in which Ghana was better than Nigeria. ‘When was the last time you saw this many oyibo in Nigeria?’ one woman asked. ‘Look at us here travelling with a tour guide. If someone wanted to go to a Nigerian airport saying they were a tour guide, they’d grow old and die there.’ another woman replied. ‘There are things to see in Nigeria but the problem is that Nigerians are crazy, Ghanaians have sense.’ And I guess I should cease and desist lest I air Nigeria’s dirty laundry ^^;

Eccentric Yoruba- Ghana, January 2011.

Originally posted at:  http://eccentricyoruba.dreamwidth.org/23422.html

For more information on Eccentric and her journey in Ghana please visit:  http://eccentricyoruba.dreamwidth.org/

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101 on how to take a car rapide


After an afternoon in cramped quarters, during which I am pretty sure one half of my body tanned a different color from the other half, I decided to write this update on how to take a car rapide on the Malika – Yeumbeul stretch. I promise that none of this is exaggerated.

#1 Try to take it from a major bus stop. This way, there is a higher chance that you will have your choice of seats which (depending on the time of the day and thus the position of the sun) should be on either side of the back of the car rapide and not further inside it towards the front. You should choose the back if you want to be able to get on and off without difficulty. The only downside to taking the bus at a major bus stop is that you cannot judge the drivers driving before getting on. But they all drive with ambitious illusions about the abilities of their bus. (Though some are less ambitious than others.)

#2 Have exact change. And this is only helpful if you know how much it costs to take the bus to where you are going. Ask around before you get to the bus stop. But I would advice just having lots of change. If you don’t have change, when you pay the bus assistant, look him in the eye and say exactly where you are going. Then they know that you expect change (if there is change to be gotten). If he doesn’t give you change right away or after he has collected money from everyone else, say “Apprenti! La monnaie”. Ask him long before you get to your destination.

#3 Make sure you are inside the car rapide. If you have no choice but to get on a full car rapide, make sure you are inside it! If you find that you are hanging off the outside (as I once did), bang on the car or ask for it to stop so you can get off. Wait till it has come to a complete stop. Do not risk your life by getting off before it stops. I currently question the state of 3 of my toes after an incident like that. I asked them to stop and was trying to get off cos I realized that otherwise, I would have to hang off the car rapide. They slowed down, but I didn’t wait till they came to a complete stop. Ouch!

#4 Once you get on, hold on to something or sit down. I should say that lots of gentlemen take the car rapide cos they always give up their seats if a woman is standing. In the back of the car rapides, there are benches on either side. There are usually 5 people to these benches even if it’s a tight squeeze. So if you get on, and the bench is covered, but there are only 4 people on one of them, feel free to sit down and wiggle your way onto the bench. Everyone will move. And anyways, they would all do the same in your situation.

With these tips, using the car rapide in Yeumbeul should be a breeze. J Be careful not to give a beggar your money thinking he is the bus assistant. Annika and I almost fell for that one. Oh and one more thing, remember to leave all sense of personal space at home.

Cheers,

Anita- Senegal, October 2010

There is no one, definitive black experience abroad.  People of African descent hail from places varied and far away from small town USA to Kingston Jamaica from Accra, Ghana to Panama City from Tanzania to Canada.  This blog seeks to be holding house and testament to this variety of perspectives and experiences.

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