Published: April 29th 2007April 29th 2007
For our last weekend, we headed to Accra to spend a couple of days relaxing and exploring and having really nice showers. Looking back at all of my blog entries, it may seem that I have an unnatural obsession with showering. Let me explain: the African version of me is neither clean nor fresh. Debbie put it to me perfectly as we were taking a very hot, stuffy taxi ride into Accra. She looked at my heavily perspiring, internally baking self and said thoughtfully 'Do you think it's possible to drown in your own sweat?' The answer to that would have to be a resounding yes. So, any possibility of clean, running water and I'm there.
The six newbies, myself, Debbie, Megan, Francesca, Cathy and Gareth headed out together and we've stayed at the Salvation Army Hostel. Cheap, clean and comfortable it seems like heaven. We spent a nice couple of days with them, eating out, shopping, hanging around in air conditioned supermarkets (funny how your definition of luxury changes)...Accra is a pretty amazing city when you compare it with other places we have seen in Ghana.
As with any capital city, the country's wealth is here. After four weeks on a refugee camp, Accra actually seemed very strange at first. By Western standards it's not a particuarly developed or modern place. But by Ghanaian standards? The people are well dressed, drive nice cars (lots of SUVs around) shop in expensive supermarkets, speak on the latest mobile phones. Comnpared with the refugees of Buduburam or even the people living in Cape Coast, this place is rich. It seems almost absurd to be in a supermarket looking at chocolates and Pringles when you've been working with people who wear torn clothes and have no money for hospital bills.
We wondered around the markets, spoke to some local people (I say spoke, it was actually more like they harassed us) Then, the highlight of Accra - we found a fantastic restaurant called Frankie's Hotel. There's a patisserie downstairs and when I saw it I felt like I'd found my mecca. Shelves packed with croissants, doughnuts, brownies, a large ice cream selection... a month of greasy spaghetti and egg sandwhiches makes you hungry for baked goods and I could hardly contain my excitement. But, and this a very big but, the downside to Accra, and indeed to Frankie's, is that it is very expensive...it's a very weird feeling spending 13,000 cedis on a croissant when you know that 40,000 could pay for a child's schooling for a year. One of the strongest impressions you get living on a refugee camp is the value of money. I wonder how long that feeling of guilt will last, and how quickly I'll slip back into my old Western ways when I get back home. Other volunteers say you try not to, but after a while you're right back where you were.
On Saturday night we went to a Ghanaian club. It was an experience! If I had to sum it up I would say 'meat market'. An awful expression to describe an awful place. We paid 40,000 to get in each, but noticed that young women wearing next to nothing were getting in for free. Once upstairs we headed towards the seating which was set our around a circular dancefloor, all chairs facing towards the floor. One whole wall was covered with a massive mirror. Very very scantily clad Ghanaian women were dancing in front of the mirror, gazing at themselves as they swayed, wiggled, and caressed themselves seductively. Middle aged white men with trucker style moustaches and the biggest mullets I have ever seen surrounded the dancefloor ogling the young beautiful women. After a while the mullet men got up the nerve (or got sufficiently drunk enough) to approach the women. The girls looked thrilled and danced raunchily with the sleazy men as though they were having the time of their lives. Watching this was very surreal. I thought these women were just after a good time and a rich Western boyfriend. Debbie and Megan said, to my dismay that they were prostitutes. That was why they got in for free, this was their working spot and they brought men to the club. Once back at the hotel, we checked the club out in the guidebook. And yes, apparently this place is a well known pick up point for 'hookers'. All I could think of was how sad that was, so many women with so few options, having to sell themselves to men who have lots of money, but next to no morals.
The next morning Megan, Cathy and Gareth went back to camp, and Francesca boarded a plane to Dubai. And then there were two. Saying goodbye is always hard, but I think we'll all stay in touch after sharing this experience together. I've met some fantastic people on this trip! Me and Debbie are meeting Sarina and Channing today for a last minute spot of exploring and souvenir shopping. And then later on tonight we're flying back to little ol' England. As I write this I'm feeling pretty strange about leaving. What a great experience this has been.