Sunday, September 13, 2009

5 hours of Ghanaian roadside...life as art through the window screen

Whenever we make the westward drive down Ghana’s coast, I am reminded of one of my favourite childhood books – Where the Wild Things Are. Not because there are wild things (though certain things you see along that road could be considered quite wild), but because we pass through long stretches of thick rainforest. The wall of trees makes me feel like Max in the wolf costume, watching the imaginary forest grow, and I expect the huge yellow-eyed monsters to come lumbering through the branches…

I am always jolted back to reality when the forest is broken by a village, straddling the road, goats, chicken, children, women in rollers and men in ill-fitted suits… a slice of rural life, cut through by the rushing 4x4 we inhabit.



This weekend, after a presentation in Takoradi to the Oil and Gas sector (in my pseudo professional capacity), we headed further along the coast. Our destination: Lou Moon Lodge near Axim. It’s a wonderful oasis among the chaos that is Ghana. It’s run by a Belgian couple who have worked out perfectly how to take the best of the quaint village (using traditional thatch structures and local rock formations), and mix it with the sophistication and calm of a European spa. With no electricity in the area, they run all modern amenities completely on generator. They have also lucked out with a great little corner of Ghana’s mostly rough coastline. The 11 room hotel is built on a tiny, calm bay where you can swim without fear of the undercurrent sucking you along with it. Anyone visiting Ghana should make the 5 hour drive from the capital Accra – it’s worth the headaches in traffic and the increasing police roadblocks cum extortion points…

What always strikes me on these trips are the massive contrasts; the (not always peaceful) meeting of two worlds. The modern meets the ancient, the haves meet the have-nots, or more accurately, the haves pass swiftly by the have-nots on the roadside.




As we left the resort after 24 hours of pure rest and relaxation, I noticed a young guy from the sea side village next door, standing at the top of the unpaved hill. He was maneuvering himself to get cell phone coverage, which is intermittent at best... It dawned on me as we bumped along further in 4 wheel drive, that there is no electricity for miles. How do they charge mobile phones?? This is a village that is bathed only in moonlight from 6pm each evening. Where traditional drums are used for ceremonies and for calling villagers to attention. Yet he had a cellphone. Contrast! Ghana...

Below, a snapshot of the Ghana we drove through, to and from the resort.

Beautiful regal trees, tower above everything - remnants of the thick massive rainforest of the past...

But in some places, too much human waste is winning the battle against nature...

Sometimes the colours of the village are like a live painting - vibrant and beautiful and almost defying description.

There is always an array of snacks to buy - this lady sells roasted plantain and in the characterstic blue plastic bags - fante kenkey - a dish famous in the western and central regions - it is a firm maize porridge, fermented and wrapped in plantain leaves and then sold in the blue bags. No less than 100 ladies tout these pyramids along the coast.


Another fante kenkey seller, Ama Adoma, where we bought two bags on special request from a Ghanaian colleague back in Accra. (Many of the ladies name their stand after themselves, or a suitably hopeful religious quote).

Closer to Accra some strong armed boys sell yams.

At one of the tollbooths (which charge a mere 10 pesewas (equivalent to 10 cents US and seemingly hardly worth employing staff...), I saw this sign... WTF??!!! I can't even guess what the name is supposed to signify..HUNGBARK...?!!

I couldn't resist this one - it's an advertisement for a school... in case it's too blurry, it's called: Peculiar Child Academy. There was another one quite near it called Virgin Kids and Secondary School... How can they be sure? And why the word AND? Ghana does have it's mysteries...

All of this and so much more on a business trip/holiday weekend drive! I'm a lucky girl with the opportunity to see so much life around me to be in the place of others, observing, learning, growing...
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19 comments:

Robynn's Ravings said...

Hi Holli!

So glad you decided to drop by today and you are an incredibly moving writer. Your profile narrative was filled with such rich imagery. I have to follow you on your adventures there. You are someplace I will most likely never be. Thanks for bringing it to life.

Many blessings. :)

Odette said...

Those are great signs - thanks for sharing them.
Do you think the children get graduation certificates confirming they've met all peculiarity requirements?
(There may be a deeper universal truth in there somewhere. ;) )

Being Brazen said...

Great photos. Ghanan sounds so very interesting. Though i think Africa in general is a really awesome and inspiring place. so much cultural diversity.

:)

Have a fab Monday!

The pale observer said...

Thanks ladies!! I will try to photograph and post many more of Ghana's quirky signs. There are so many!!!

Thanks for reading. Have a great Monday!! Real work for me today :(

Miss Footloose said...

Hi Holly,

How nice to see that route again through your eyes and remembering it all again. I even think we once stopped for lunch at the early beginnings of what is now the Lou Moon Lodge near Axim. They had a few wonderful lodges/huts at the time, but no electricity at all. It was the utmost in serenity. We wanted to come back, but never made it.

Love the signs, of course!

The pale observer said...

Hi MF! Thanks for commenting - yes I think the sights of Ghana come back to you, no matter how long you've been gone! Too bad you didn't see Lou Moon finished - it's quite amazing. The interior design is as close to how I would want to make my dream house as I've ever seen!!

La Belette Rouge said...

I am so delighted to discover your blog. Thank you for the lovely comment on mine. You are a fantastic photographer and writer.

I have experienced this kind of contrast of haves and have nots that you write of when I worked in the Dominican Republic and the contrast and disparity was almost too much to fully comprehend.

The pale observer said...

Thanks LBR! Funny your comment about photography - the ones in this post were taken by an iphone, mostly at 50km/ph out our car window!! But my hubby is a real photographer, and my header photos is courtesy of his great pics..

It is definitely difficult to come to terms with living as a have when faced with have nots everywhere...

Thanks for taking the time to comment! Please visit again!

Robin Dodd Photography said...

What a cool blog. Having adopted my girls from Ghana last year, I KNOW they will enjoy the pics!! I found you on Braja's comments.. isn't she amazing...?
Will have to catch up and read about your life!!

Robin

♥ Braja said...

Those school signs are a *little* too much :)))

The pale observer said...

@Robin - thanks for the words of encouragement - I love the word cool! Very interesting that you adopted your two daughters from Ghana. I'd love to know more about that. Did you come to Ghana? What was the process etc - but maybe I'll e-mail you...

Please do keep reading :)

@Braja - thanks for visiting too! The signs in Ghana are always over the top! I vow to take more pics and share them - I think most people wouldn't believe it :)

Miss Footloose said...

Watch out, some of the signs might get you arrested if you posted them on your blog ;)

GutsyWriter said...

I'm so glad we found each other's blogs. I used to live in Nigeria as a child and my parents were there for 17 yars of their young marriage. I love to see the photos and the red clay soil really does something to rekindle my memories. You have tons of stuff to "see" every day. Here in the developed world it's usually the same. Not that much adventure, unless you create it yourself.

Maya said...

What a wonderful surprise that was to find someone from Africa on my blog! I used to travel a lot (India, China, Europe), now I'm more of a homebody, but still love virtual traveling! I'll be back for sure!!

The pale observer said...

@Gutsy - thanks and I agree, it's great to have 'found' each other. I have recently decided to take more notice of what's around me and photograph as well as jot down, so I can share!!

@Maya - it was great to find your blog too! I think once we've traveled we all have the travel bug in us forever!!! :)

FullPlateMom said...

Thanks for posting. I'm going to link to your blog if I can, because I pass the Peculiar Child Academy (or at least a sign for it) each time I go out to the orphanage our daughter came from. I bust up laughing and none of the Ghanaians with me understand why. I try to explain but they don't seem to find it as funny as I do.

The pale observer said...

Hi FullPlateMom! - It's just one of those cultural things... in Osu there is a shop called Hilarious Business Services... no one thinks it's strange or funny!

William said...

Hi Holly, Thanks for the tip on Lou Moon, it looks fabulous! I shall be giving it a try.
You also write so well. I enjoy your perspective on Ghana and life. Bravo. William

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