Archive for February, 2007

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.

Birthday text

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

A beautiful person is one with a free n happy mind, a successful person is one with a positive mind, a happy person is one with a loving mind, who is always grateful n appreciative of life, who wants to learn openly n truthfully and i see all this in u happy birthday enjoy ur day its all urs



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…

Friday Night

Saturday, February 17th, 2007

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

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

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

Monday, February 12th, 2007

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

Friday, February 9th, 2007

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.