Beggars intensify activities

February 23rd, 2007 :: 5:23am

An article from the Daily Graphic (23rd of February 2007, p. 29), the most widely-read paper in Ghana.

   Offering alms to the needy is not compulsory. It is done out of generosity or sympathy to help ameliorate the suffering of the underprivileged in society.
   However, some unscrupulous individuals are abusing this moral responsibility of philanthropists. The consider begging as a full time vocation to make money. As a result, a lot more people are now resorting to begging as the easiest way out to amass wealth.
   Indeed, the Tamale metropolis is now inundated with beggars. The are becoming a nuisance to motorists at junctions and traffic lights.
   The virtually take over those areas, knocking at car doors and windscreens for attention. The are made up of all manner of people, the blind, the physically challenged, elderly, young men and women.
   Their modus operandi include the use of children and the wearing of worn out apparels to attract people’s sympathy.
   Sometimes they become aggressive in their over zealousness to the extent that they risk their lives and those of their young guides, especially when the green light is displayed, signifying motorists to move on.
   Majority of the beggars are concentrated at the central business district (CBD), near the central market, popularly called Beggar’s (Barimaansi) Lane.
   Their location is thus accessible to people who need them to give alms to. The alms is usually in the form of money, cow milk, cowries and other materials as requested by Mallams and soothsayers who are consulted for various reasons by those offering the alms.

Here comes the twist… [PC]

   According to one of the executive members of the Beggars Association in the metropolis, Afah Mahama Alhassan, “we had to relocate to the junctions and traffic lights to reach out to more people who cannot locate us”.
   He acknowledged that the practice was not the best, but said “we also need to survive and take care of our families, since some of us are bread winners in the family.”
   Afah Alhassan, who is blind and 55 years old, did not understand why some of them who had made so much money from their ‘trade’ should quit the job of begging since he claimed there was no other work for them to do.
   Enquiries by the Daily Graphic revealed that some of the beggars had built their own houses, acquired taxis, trucks and engage in other economic ventures through their ‘trade’ over the years.
   A 29-year-old cripple, Ramatu Fuseini, who is a seamstress, expressed grave concern over the menace of begging and urged physically challenged persons not to use their unfortunate situation to solicit sympathy from people.
   ”If you are blind or physically challenged, it does not mean you are stupid or incapable of earning a decent living for yourself and family,” she stated.
   Commenting on the issue, the Tamale Metropolitan Chief Executive, Mr Mohammed Amin Adam Anta, said the assembly was mapping out strategies to deal with the problem.
   He said the assembly would soon come up with appropriate measures to either relocate or settle the beggars at a central point.
   In the interim, Mr Anta siad the young boys and girls who served as guides to the beggars were being taken care of under a programme to enable them to go to school or learn a trade.
   The age-old practice of begging has come to stay with us. It, therefore, behoves the TAMA and all stakeholders to come together to find a lasting solution to the menace of begging on the roads.

Finding a boat from Ghana to Namibia, part 1

February 20th, 2007 :: 8:04pm

I’ve got this great idea to travel from Ghana to Namibia by boat. Any kind of boat. I expect it’s cheaper than traveling by air, and far safer than traveling overland. (Consider the countries D. R. C. and Sudan forming a land barrier between Northern and Southern Africa, and choose one to pass though…) So I went to Ghana’s major port town today, Tema, to see if I could get information on how to go about this.

My first place of call was a shipping company that a friend had recommended I check out. I talked with a gentleman about what I wanted to do, and he told me that his company didn’t ship anything in that direction, and also that he thought this sort of thing wasn’t allowed any longer. I persisted to get any information out of him, and he referred me to a few other shipping companies down the road.

After trying some other shipping companies, I finally found one that shipped goods directly from Ghana to South Africa. They received me well, but informed me that passengers were not allowed on their cargo vessels at all. I thought that if only I could talk to a ship’s captain that I could strike up a deal or something, but they weren’t ready to provide such information. They did seem to enjoy the adventurousness of boat travel though, so they referred me directly to the shipping company Maersk Line, which owns and operates its own cargo ships.

At Maersk Line, I talked with a gentleman and started to tell him that I wanted to travel south, and he immediately tried to shut me up and get me out the door. I quickly explained that planes were expensive, and that going overland would be putting myself in danger, and he warmed right up. Still, he had no idea of the possibility of such an adventure, but he referred me to the operations office of the company. Since it was around 5, I went home with a lead for next time.

I’m starting to realize that there are no sailing ships here, and the only boats are huge barges that store those large metal rectangular containers. In fact, a couple of enquires of “Where are the sail boats?” have been met with “What is a sailboat?” If this is really the case, I might need to look into other options…

Friday Night

February 17th, 2007 :: 12:14am

Another hot Friday night. You can feel the youthful energy – the music is loud late into the night, voices of roudy revelers fill the small concrete plaza which my room faces. Those who know me best will be able to answer this question correctly:

Q. What am I doing tonight? (Choose the best possible answer).
1. scouring the clubs for the hottest girl, and trying to get her to spend the night in my 8′x7′ “bachelor pad”
2. programming something on the computer
3. relaxing the night away with some new friends over some beers
4. hitting the streets to find some crack


And the correct answer, the most likely answer, is choice 2. It seems the activity I enjoy most is developing my relationship with Silver (my Powerbook). It also is a frustration alleviation mechanism, so if I get really worked up, that’s all I want to do.

Valentine’s Day in Ghana

February 14th, 2007 :: 4:39pm

I just found out that day for lovers in Ghana is only 7 or 8 years old. There were lots of people wearing red, pink, or reddish orange, but only a few really seemed to use their outfits to showcase the holiday. I shared with a friend that Valentine’s Day was never really a big day for me because I never seemed to have a girlfriend on that date, and I wasn’t about to go find one just for the occasion. Of course there’s the stories about St. Valentine, but didn’t it become a holiday in America around 1950, as a result of greeting card companies’ efforts? Or is that just a rumor?

Ownership of Personal Property in Ghana, 101

February 12th, 2007 :: 11:40am

Personal property and ownership in Ghana have very
different meanings than they do in the West. A western person can easily understand Ghanaian “ownership” with these three easy steps:

1. I see it.
2. Now it’s mine too.
3. You must share.

This is applicable to anything Westerners might consider personal property. For example, if you are eating something, it would be rude in Ghana if you don’t offer your friends to “join” you, meaning, to eat your food along with you until it’s finished. This obviously causes the food on the plate to disappear faster than it would have if you were eating it by yourself. The rule commonly causes mouth-stuffing races as people struggle to fill up. If you made the mistake of buying just enough food for yourself, you’ll be going hungry tonight, or you’ll be making another trip to the food stand.

Second Home

February 9th, 2007 :: 10:13am

When you think of traveling through Africa, and trying to communicate with your family, what comes to mind? Maybe some dingy internet café – a hole-in-the-wall that has 5 computers smooshed together, all sharing a single modem line, with everybody except you downloading MP3s?

I thought I was being slightly ridiculous by taking my laptop all over Africa with me, but I found my second home here in Accra, called Busy Internet. This place is absolutely amazing, from an American standpoint. They’ve got around 120 terminals split between two rooms, a large space for their 4 X-Boxes, and even a room where you can bring in your laptop, sit at a desk, and plug directly into their internet connection. And regarding their internet connection, they’ve got redundant connections to lessen the down time, a fiber-optic cable to London, and another to the national phone company. Holy crap!

Needless to say, if I need to get anything computer-wise done, I can do it there.

Close the door

January 28th, 2007 :: 10:16am

I smell lots of ganja! Not because I’m smoking. I’m actually sitting in my 8×7′ room with the door slightly cracked. It seems the type of clientele this hotel attracts has things other than work on their minds. For example the 10 AM beer guy. Or the upwind Pan-African-supporting Rastafarian.

On My Own

January 28th, 2007 :: 8:30am

Yesterday Jess left and I started organizing all the computer work I have to do for GFW, WBP, and 晶. I was a little uneasy – what am I doing by myself just wandering around Africa? I tried to tell myself that I’m awesome for doing this, but there was a big part of me that says “Hey you slacker! Get back to work!”  The grass is always greener I suppose… After some emails to friends at home and some met on the way, I feel better about traveling. I’m not the only one, you know! There’s a bunch of people like this!

Washed some clothes that needed it, and boiled some water to kill all the junk growing in our towel.

I moved in to a single-occupancy room from the double Jess and I were sharing. Its about 8′ x 7′ square, with the bed taking up 40% of the room, the desk and chair taking up 15%, and the “closet” taking 10%, leaving an interesting maze that I’ve got to navigate through depending on what I’m doing – sleeping, computer stuff, or stretching.

On the way home from the internet café last night, I got stopped by an Indian and a Ghanaian. Both insisted that I was the richest of the three because I had dollars. I promptly informed them that while 1 dollar was more than 1 rupee or 1 cedi, what was important was how much we each had. That seemed enough to get off the topic for a while. The Indian has traveled here with a relative, a movie producer in India, who turned out to be quite a funny guy. He explained what he did as simply gambling. I had to push him to furthur define the role of producer, because at this point I was thinking of a guy sitting in a Los Vegas casino all day, so he did so by deciding to organize a book that I was going to “write.” He told me that I was the author of this book, and that I needed to say only a few sentences, and hire a translater who would then elaborate on that, hire a secretary to type everything the translater said, and hire someone to come up with a good title (he could provide this for $20,000) and some good illustrations ($30,000) for the cover. Then he’d put my name on the book, and try to sell it. So even though I wouldn’t have actually written the book, I organized and funded all the necessary pieces of it, and therefore I would have produced that book. And since you’re putting all this money up front without knowning how people will react to the book, its a lot like gambling. Makes sense now?