Archive for the 'Ghana' Category

Goodbye Ghana

Sunday, April 1st, 2007

You were a wonderful escape from Francophone Africa. You were half the price of any neighboring country. You were very friendly and helpful when I needed it, except when one of your people stole my iPod. But other than that, very friendly and helpful.

I’ll miss the nomadic salesmen in the towns: the shoe repair men that carry around wooden boxes of shoe repair stuff, and hit them with shining brushes, earning the nickname “town drummers”, and the seamsters who carry around hand-powered sewing machines who charge a modest US$0.20 to sew up a tear. I’ll miss the eager salespeople who walk through lines of cars in traffic with goods on their heads – anything could be there – water in bags, ice cream long since melted, meat pies, shower sponges, leather belts, Tampico (like Sunny D), sunglasses, basically whatever’s fresh off the cargo ships that month. I’ll miss all the good people I met, and I thank them for sharing their culture and time with me.

I won’t miss the cockroaches in my room the last week, or the power outages (which now occur for 12 hour spans every 60 hours) but that’s about it (need that computer!). Ghana gets most of its electricity from a hydroelectric dam on their large Lake Volta, but this year, water in the dam has been very low, so the whole country shares power, with certain places on and certain places off all the time.

It’s good news then that the rainy season is almost here. It rained for some hours last week, and it just started to pour again right now. Rain in Africa is great – when it rains, it really freaking pours! And not just for 10 minutes, but 3-4 hours! If you’re living as I did in Peace Corps in a room with a corrugated-zinc-rooved building, it’s loud! Louder than the generator which is running right outside my door right now! But the sound is strangely comforting too. The day after a heavy rain, things spring to life. Trees and plants start to flower. The ground which was cracked and dry yesterday has frogs croaking and seedlings growing from it today. All because of the saying which is so popular in Africa, “Water = Life.” Lots of people who can’t speak English can at least say this. Or maybe they’ll wear a t-shirt with it. And soon enough, maybe the electricity sharing schedule will be brought to a halt soon.

So, I’ll miss Ghana, but I recommend anyone to visit it. It’s probably the best place to start in Africa if you’re going to try Africa. It’s modern enough when you need it, traditional enough when you want it, and the missionaries really did a bang-up job here, so everyone here loves Jesus more than you would like to find unconditional happiness. (Consider “Christ Cares Bread Shop” or “Jesus Saves Cellphone Store” or “Unless God” [interpretted: we couldn’t be here unless God let us] or “Odo Rice, Motto: God gives us the power”, and this list could go on forever…) If you don’t love Jesus (or Allah, or God, or whatever) this much, or you aren’t ready to denounce evolution, you might have a couple uncomfortable/interesting conversations.

Tomorrow, to South Africa. Winter approaches. Good thing that I packed for all seasons! Bad thing that it made my bag really heavy.

What’s next?

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

The boat just didn’t pan out. Turns out all the boats traveling up and down the coasts of the States don’t usually make a turn out to West Africa. And the people here don’t know what sailboats are. To top it all, I met the cousin of the harbourmaster of the major port town in Ghana (Tema), and he assured me we could work something out, and then he disappeared. My boat has left without me.

So, I’ve got a plane ticket from Accra to Johannesburg, South Africa leaving on April 2, 2007 at 23h00. Johannesburg, for those of you who don’t know, has the distinction of being the most dangerous city in the world. Stopping at a red-light in Johannesburg is equivalent to asking a thief to steal your car. Stories abound about people fixing cars at intersections waiting for a victim to pull up. It is for this reason that I plan to be in Johannesburg for about 4 hours – I’ll zip from the airport straight to the train station, and take a comfortable sleeper train across the country to Cape Town. It’ll be a nice overnight ride, and I’ll be able to see a bit of the country. In Cape Town, I’ll begin investigations for taking a boat back to the States, and then I’ll take a sleeper bus up to Windhoek, Namibia. From there, it’ll be a 6 hour combi ride North to see my old friends, family, co-workers, and students.

15 days in Busua Beach

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

My idea was to spend some time on the beach, doing nothing more than enjoying the beach and doing some programming. I arrived and checked-in to Elizabeth’s Homestay, a place I had been to about 1 month before, and was given a warm welcome back.

Elizabeth’s is set up like a compound – there is a central courtyard around which many rooms for family members (most of which are full), and in the one building that has two levels, there are some extra rooms for guests to stay in. Downstairs, there is a small chemical shop (Ghanaian English for “pharmacy”). It is situated in the middle of a small village called Busua, and its about 200 yards from the beach.

As a guest at Elizabeth’s, you’re automatically a member of the family – a feature which worked out very well when I fell sick with malaria/food poisoning (see the post entitled “This is what we have.”), and which you can’t get at a guesthouse or hotel. The operation side of things is smooth. You wake up, walk out onto the 2nd floor veranda, order your pancakes and fresh fruit or omelette sandwich. You’re on your own for lunch, but for dinner they’ll prepare any kind of local dish, or even foreign dishes according to your specs (provided the ingredients are available). Fresh lobsters can be obtained at a relatively expensive price of US$6/pound (you wouldn’t come to Ghana just to eat lobster, would you?), and Elizabeth or her family members will boil it up for you.

Busua Beach is on the brink of becoming a tourist town, but it doesn’t have many tourists. Many hotels are there, and you can stay in any amount of luxury (or lack thereof) you want – prices go from US$4 for a room with a bed to US$80 for a room with everything you could possibly ask for). You can rent surf boards (a project recently set up by a returned Peace Corps volunteer from Bolivia) and kayaks, lie on the beach and soak up the rays, or swim out the 45 minutes (my pace) to the island (be careful of the sea urchins!). If the beach can’t hold your attention for more than a couple days, you can also spend your time interacting with the locals. There’s a junior seconary school (grades 7 – 10) you could get involved with (maybe after school activities?), seemingly regular football matches in the “park” or on the beach, and few local artists and artisans producing paintings, carvings, and postcards. Or, you can walk 20 minutes over the hill to Dixcove and check out one of Ghana’s slave castles (sadly currently being converted into a hotel).

Busua is also home to a few Westerners who’ve become disenchanted with the routine of daily life in their home countries, and it’s even got a Peace Corps volunteer, and they help make you feel a little more at home, make excellent conversation, and help provide a Western understanding of events and situations that you might have seen. For example, one night at around 3:00 am I woke up to people singing church songs. I asked Elizabeth in the morning, and she said they were praying. I asked one of the westerners, and he said that Elizabeth told him that some people pray at night because everyone else is asleep, which makes it easier for God to hear them. (No room for time zones in this explanation though…)

As the beach never could keep me entertained for too long, I swam in the mornings, got breakfast, and got to work doing some programming. A lovely French couple who own the Busua Inn let me work on their terrace which overlooked the beach. That was wonderful, until I got malaria/food-poisoning.

The next 6 days were spent being sick, a miserable time in paradise described in the post “This is what we have.” The Busua Inn people provided me with medicine and advice, Elizabeth had been a nurse for 20 years, the chemical shop was right downstairs, and my homestay family provided food three times a day at the hospital when I finally went, so I was well taken care of.

After recovery, I got back into the swing of things. I took more control of my eating, of my daily schedule (it seems routine is good for me), and continued doing computer work. I found an internet café in Anaji (just outside the large town Takoradi) that let me use my own laptop on their internet, so I spent three days there doing computer work. (If anyone’s arrived on this page by searching for this sort of thing like I tried, the name is Nalex internet café, and the mobile number of one of the employees, Jordan, is +233 24 332 9841, or if you’re already in Ghana, 024 332 9841).

I also met a South African, Allen, who told me a couple shocking things about his home country:
1. The whites in South Africa currently pay between 53 and 58% income tax. This functions as affirmative action for apartheid.
2. Since he and his wife have lived outside South Africa for around 10 years, their resident status has been revoked. This effectively means they can visit their home country, but not stay forever. If they want to renew their resident status, they’ve got to pay income tax on 40 hours per week at the minimum wage for all the years they haven’t been in-country. This amounts to around US$20,000.00 – not some small fee.
3. Taking a boat from Ghana to South Africa is indeed a pipe dream, and that’s the last time I needed to hear it.

I returned to Accra to with plans to visit a Peace Corps Namibia friend in Lomé, Togo, and to fly to South Africa on a promotional fare from South African Airways (US$471, Accra to Jo’burg!)

“This is what we have.”

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

5 straight days of diarrhea and weakness earned me two nights in the hospital.

After self-diagnosing malaria and taking the 3-day drug course, I was left without malaria, but feeling totally weak, starving, nauseous, with stomach pains and seemingly constant diarrhea. I went to the hospital and described my symptoms, and the doctor suggested that everything was a result of the malaria medication’s side-effects. He prescribed some vitamin B and glucose powder for energy, and sent me home.

Obtaining the proper drugs is an adventure. You go to a chemical store, show them the script, and pray they’ve got it. You yourself can’t even read the script (which has proven true for the 5 scripts I’ve gotten so far), so you’re basically at their mercy… you take and buy whatever they hand to you. That is, provided they hand something to you. Finding vitamin B required a visit to the hospital dispensary plus two more chemical shops in a nearby larger town. Finding glucose powder required a trip to an additional chemical shop which was open at its owner’s convenience.

Still weak the next day, I tried convincing myself that if I wanted to get better enough that I should just start acting like everything was fine, and go about my day like normal. I went to the beach, went for a few quick swims, and said hello to some friends. This delusion proved successful until lunchtime when I had to think about food again. My stomach felt like there was a monster inside, tearing at the walls, and daring me to try eating something. I tried bread. Diarrhea again. The place I’m staying has a small chemical shop downstairs, so my caretakers provided me with something like Immodium to stop the diarrhea. Immodium is great for the first 4 hours or so, but it turns out to actually harm you in the long run – it destroys the good bacteria in your intestines which reabsorb liquids, thus causing more diarrhea. But, at this point I was ready to try anything, so I took it and laid down to rest. 15 minutes later I was dry heaving, and knew it was time for the hospital. I took a large shot of glucose drink to make sure I’d be able to make it there, sent a child to bring a brother, and we were off to the hospital again.

The family I’m staying with (it’s a home-stay) has proved very helpful during this time. They cook for me and help me navigate local places and culture. It’s a lot different than staying at a hotel or a guesthouse. Its not just a place to sleep and eat, it’s also like a temporary family. They provided people to help carry me to the hospital and brought food to the hospital for me for two days (the hospital doesn’t have a kitchen), and made sure that I was generally taken care of. It was really the best possible situation other than being with my real family. If I was staying at a guesthouse or a hotel, there wouldn’t be these kind of family-like “services”, and I’d be left at the hospital hungry and confused.

Upon stumbling out of the taxi at the hospital, and wandering over to the check-in, I did the requisite weight, BP, and temperature checks. I described my symptoms to the nurse. She told me that my face was thin and she could see the dehydration just by looking at my eyes. “Have you seen yourself in a mirror recently?” she said. “I’m afraid of the mirror these days,” I replied. She told me that it was time to be admitted to the hospital ward and get some IVs going. I was delighted to hear that someone had a plan for my recovery.

Buildings in Ghana aren’t like buildings in the States, primarily because of the climate. In Ghana (at least along the coast here, around 4.5 degrees North latitude), it’s warm all the time. They don’t need heat. And if some of the rich want to use air conditioning, they only need it during the heat of the day. So buildings aren’t insulated, and walls are made mostly of concrete and painted. The climate also affects the way larger buildings are laid out. In the States, a hospital is a big building with many floors, everything under one roof. Here, hospitals are more “open air” buildings. There are rooms or a block of rooms under one roof, but you walk outside to go between the each room. There’s usually a canopy above the “sidewalk” for walking between the rooms. And walking from one group of rooms to another, you follow a canopy-covered path. So going between reception, the doctor’s offices, the main ward, the operating theatre, and maternity, you’re protected from the noon sun and a light rain.

Arriving at the ward, I handed my sickness description card to a nurse (from the previous nurse), and sat and waited. About 10 minutes later my bed was prepared and I had an IV started. Three minutes after that, I was feeling great. The stomach problems disappeared and I could feel my blood warming up.

I should say that until this point, I was really disoriented at the time, and my friend/brother (the son of the mother of the homestay) was really doing all the work. He stayed focused and told me “sit here” and “let’s go over here” and what to do. Without him, it would have been a really difficult time.

The nurses were really friendly (and cute) and the doctor was friendly too. It didn’t strike me as strange until the next day that everybody working there was very young. Some enquiries revealed that the oldest person in the ward was 25. The head nurse, around 40, left some short hours after I arrived, and didn’t return until the work week began again.

Dixcove hospital was one of two hospitals in the area, it turned out. Since it was closer (10 minutes taxi ride as opposed to an hour of “tro-tro”* hopping), I went there. The other hospital, I was to find out later, was comparitively much more expensive, but had many more resources and could provide “better” treatment.

[* A tro-tro is a privately driven minivan, usually in poor to decrepit shape, which follows a popular fixed route and stops to let people on and off. They’re cheap, convenient, ubiquitous, and not too unsafe (any vehicle in traffic faces the same problems here)]

As the darkness descended, the clouds let loose and we enjoyed a torrential downpour for about 15 minutes. This cooled the air to a fine temperature. One side-effect of being far in the bush however is that electricity is often on precarious grounds, and rain and wind are all that’s needed to upset the balance. The lights went off around 7 pm. A child cried. A nurse came in soon after with a kerosene hurricane lamp and searched for places to leave it. She settled on hooking it to a bed-end, leaning against a foam mattress. “Good move,” I thought. As she brought in the second lamp, she proudly proclaimed what I like to think of as the hospital’s motto: “Dixcove Hospital: This is What We Have!”

Let’s have a summary of the situation. I was in a room with 14 beds, 4 of which were occupied, but one guy died from head trauma, so he was moved to the morgue. Another guy got into a fight and got cut with a knife between his eyes, along his nose, on his upper lip, and across one side of his neck. He seemed to be recovering well though. There was also a boy of 12 or so who was recovering from “I don’t know” as he said. And there’s me, dehydrated and supposedly recovering from malaria. (Did I ever really have it, or was it just food-poisoning?) There’s no electricity, but there is a large generator, but no fuel (“its not an emergency” – true enough). Remember about the open-air construction – although all the doors and windows have screens on them, mosquitos still sneak in. No mosquito nets on the beds. Seems strange really – they tell you to sleep under a treated mosquito net, and then when you go to the hospital, they don’t use them. Also, there’s no running water. Nowhere near the place actually, but most hotels and guesthouses use a water pump into a well. (“This is what we have…”) This means that showers and toilet facilities are of the traditional nature – a bucket and a room for a shower, and a hole in the ground for your toilet.

The first night passed by in 2 hour blocks. I only remember hearing one mosquito the whole night. When I woke up the fourth time, I had finished a second IV and felt pretty good, except for my stomach. When my family arrived with breakfast, the tea went down easy, but it was all I could do to force a couple slices of toast down.

As the day went on, I became bored and decided to walk around. Now on my third IV, and still attached to the IV pole, I picked up the pole and walked towards the TV room. The nurses, doctor, and standers-by were quite taken aback by this – they weren’t used to people walking around with their IV pole. I explained that I wanted some exercise, and that the IV poles in the States have wheels to make this easier, and that it was fine. I got a tacit approval, and continued on to the TV. The looks I got were quite funny on the way. “What is that white man doing out of bed with that IV pole?” they were thinking. Some people even tried to stop me, threatening to tell a nurse or doctor. “Let them try!” I thought.

My “family” brought lunch and dinner, and each successive meal went down easier. My stomach was becoming familiar with digestion again. Shortly before dinner however, I noticed that my left hand (the one near the IV) was becoming swollen. I asked them to take out the IV, as my veins were soft and the IV was likely to have slipped out after the past 24 hours. “This is Africa. We don’t have another needle… this is what we have.” So I asked them to just take it out altogether, and I could start on some ORS (oral rehydration salts – basically electrolytes). This also made mobility easier.

The second night passed without incident, and I awoke the next morning feeling pretty good. Breakfast was still a little shaky, but the doctor discharged me, and I paid the bill:

Two nights in the hospital: 52,100 Ghanaian Cedis
3 IV bags: 30,200 Ghanaian Cedis
1 nausea injection: 9,600 Ghanaian Cedis
1 worm tablet: 3,000 Ghanaian Cedis
2 oral rehydration salts: 3,000 Ghanaian Cedis
Total: 97,900 Ghanaian Cedis = US$10.62 (not bad)

Three days later my stomach is feeling perfect again, and I’m back to work on the computer. Thinking back on that hospital, with its friendly people and cheerful motto, I realize that despite the limited resources, the people there really do make due with what they have, and patients do get better. Not only that, but where in the States can you stay at a hospital for two nights and pay US$11, whether you have health insurance or not? Granted, for more serious issues, like the guy with the construction accident – a corrugated iron sheet fell from above and cut into his brain, who was to be airlifted out to the country’s capital Accra – this hospital just wouldn’t do. But though unnerving at times (I’m older than everyone there, and they ran out of IV needles, and the power went out), I’d choose to go back there if I had the same problem. They handled my sickness with professionalism, concern, and friendliness, and most importantly provided quality health care.

Something is also to be said for these homestay kind of arrangements that are not to be found in the States. Without an adopted family, I’d have been pretty screwed. Three times a day they walked hot food on a 20 minute walk to me, let me knew they cared, and that things were going to get better. One person even stayed with me for most of the time in the hospital to make sure I got along OK. It seems to me that in the States, since we are always so busy, our culture has put more importance on working and money. The “family” services I enjoyed here in Ghana are just that – “services” in the States, and we pay dearly (much more than US$5/day) for that. Which one is better? Neither, they’re just different. I’m just glad I was taken care of!

Out of commission

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

For the record, malaria is not as fun as everyone makes it seem, and the drugs to cure it, though fast acting, come with their share of side-effects. Please consider me useless for a couple of days.

In terms of caring, I’m at the right place, and I’ve got a mother-like figure to care for me, so don’t go buying a plane ticket for a rescue operation or anything.

Creeping in the dark hours

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

Oh troubled times! In an effort to obtain my iPod or its equivalent value, I made an appointment with the boy’s mother (whom I lent it to, and who now “can’t find it.”) The boy didn’t show. I had expected to receive the money from her and be finished with the issue, but instead I was met with fresh questions. During our conversation, the mother asked how Ben has been behaving lately, and she described how Ben has been asking her for money every day, as he is with his brother also. I described how he leaves the guesthouse in the morning, and doesn’t return until late at night. I said that when I needed help, I turned to my family, and so I had hoped that she might pay for the iPod that Ben has “lost.” She said the didn’t have enough money to pay for it, which was unlikely true, but she made it clear that she disapproved of his actions, and that she was finished accepting responsibility for him. He is 30 years old, after all. Apparently, this isn’t the first time he’s been in a lot of trouble. I told the mother that if I can’t get the money from her, then I’ll just go to the police, because I can’t just sit around and waste my time waiting for the thing to show up. She reluctantly agreed that that was the best way forward.

The next stop was the police station. I filled out a police report, and they asked me if I knew where he would be at any time so they could come and “pick” him. Since he usually slept at the guesthouse, I thought the middle of the night would be fine.

Later that night, Ben returned to the guesthouse around 11:00 PM, and I was alerted to this fact by a friend who was studying outside. Since he had come home, I decided to set my alarm for 3:45 and wait until then.

The alarm rang. I hadn’t really slept. I got dressed and crept out of the guesthouse, past the sleeping security guard. I walked down the road a little, and then jogged 5 minutes to the police station. I woke two officers who had been informed of the plan tonight, and they prepared promptly. We caught a taxi back to the guesthouse. One of the officers woke the security guard to inform him of what was happening. I showed the other officer where Ben’s room was.

The officer knocked on the door slowly, deliberately, forcefully. Ben opened the door in about 30 seconds. The officer told him “I want to see you.” He entered the room with Ben and closed the door, allowing Ben to put on some trousers and a shirt. When he was finished, they came out of the room, and we got back in the taxi.

The way back to the police station was marked by many rhetorical questions asked by the police, and one good point: why hadn’t Ben misplaced one of his things?

In the station, Ben looked at me and asked me if I had met his mother that day. I told him I did, and she told me to bring him here.

The police took his belt, and put him in the cell with several others. It was dark in there, and it looked pretty dirty. I’m glad I’m not there. I ran home and went back to bed.


Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Holy crap! I’m writing this post on my computer which is connected to the internet via a bluetooth connection to my mobile phone, which is using GPRS to transmit data over the cellphone network to the internet. You can do this in the States of course, but here in Ghana, not everyone has a DSL or cable connection to the internet… This connection will work anywhere my phone will, and the speed is about that of a 28.8 Kbps modem (remember those days?). The price? About ₡5 (≈ US$0.0005) per kilobyte. What does that mean? I can check my email using between 10 kilobytes (no mail) – 500 kilobytes (lots of mail, no photos attached), which costs between US$0.005 and US$0.27. Suck on that, T-Mobile!

Ownership of Personal Property in Ghana, 102

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Well, it seems I’ve fallen in with the wrong guy. Sharing really is done to a much larger degree here than in the States, but not any more than in Namibia where I was a Peace Corps Volunteer. Sharing of food is done, but invitations aren’t actually assumed by most people. It seems that the person who was telling me all this was telling me for his own personal benefit.

Case in point: I’ve been hanging with with a friendly guy here, and lending him a little money, to buy a beer or to clean his shoes, maybe about $7 in total (which might be 1 or 2 days work here), and I haven’t seen any of it back, which he says that “since we’re friends, you can just give me money.” He also subscribes to the Rastafarian view that “If I have it, and you don’t, we should share.” This is very convenient for him, because he always makes an effort to ensure that he doesn’t ever have anything to share.

But he really messed up when my iPod, which of course we were “sharing,” disappeared. He says he left it under his pillow one night, and now its gone. Two possible situations: he took it, or someone else took it. But either way, his big mistake was introducing me to his mother before it disappeared. And the fact that his younger brother is managing the guest house that I’m staying at. So I’ve got two strong connenctions to his family that will help me recover the money for the missing item.

He was considering going to a Juju person (sp?) (a “witch doctor” who can determine the whereabouts of the thing using traditional things – think medieval times with boiling pots and reading chicken bones which were thrown on the ground) to find it – maybe the person will tell him to look in his closet? Who knows.

Today’s the day that I get either the iPod back, or the money from the family. Failing that, the police will become involved.

Beggars intensify activities

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

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

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007

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…