Published: March 3rd 2012February 29th 2012
Not likely given the traffic here.
The road from Tema to Accra is only 18 km, however, the traffic is so bad that it takes between 1.5-2 hours to get to the capital. The road is being widened; the Chinese have given money for infrastructure building in Ghana. But the project moves slowly, as much a product of corruption as it is limited resources. Tro-tros, pick up and drop off travelers along the way, a cheaper means of travel, and one we should have considered for this adventure had we known we would all be sitting in gridlock for as long as we are. A taxi didn't turn out to be the time saver we had expected. Sitting in our taxi, we move so slowly that our driver periodically turns the engine off to save gas. He pulls over and pees at the side of the road, right beside the car.
Along the road there are many unfinished buildings. They don't look like there has been any work done on them for a long while. No one can really afford to build a home in Ghana. Most of the population lives in one room shack like structures, some made from thin sheets of aluminum, others from
wood and clay. The lucky ones, usually the "beentos" (meaning they have been to other countries to live and have moved back to Ghana) are able to afford to build a more western home, however no one can do it all at once - it is done in stages. The entire family chips in, saving up enough money to progress the family home a bit further, one aspect of the construction project at a time. When they have enough money to pay for the foundation, they lay it and start saving up for the next step in the building process. The average home takes 15 years to build.
We pass many coffin stores that carry extraordinary coffins. Here in Ghana, your coffin is meant to be an illustration of your life. You select the coffin you hope to have used after you have passed away, usually a symbol of your profession or the like. If a musician, you will choose a guitar shaped coffin, if a teacher you may have a pencil. Ghanaian funerals are a big to-do, a huge party in which everyone is invited and it is one of the larger social events in the community, a
great place to meet people. It is commonplace to meet your future spouse at a funeral.
In the cultural center we begin talking with a small group of young men who are persistent with their attempts to sell us their souvenirs. Our friendly conversation evolves into a drumming lesson, which I imagine they hope will culminate in our buying their drums. Knowing said drums will not fit into our tiny cabins, we are more in it for the opportunity to make music with some locals. All around us are similar tiny shacks where people sell their wares. There are artisans working on their goods and others taking a break from laboring in the hot sun. Only a few paces away, in a large clearing, folks are playing soccer, surrounded by burning trash heaps.
Many of the people we meet have scarifications. Back during the times when tribesmen captured other natives to sell to the Europeans for slavery, each tribe would scar the faces of their people so that one would not inadvertantly capture and sell their own tribesmen. Each tribe’s facial scars were a bit different. Although this slave trade has long been over, the custom of scaring
their young still continues in some tribes. Not everyone does it now, but many, if not the majority of people we see have such scars on their faces, including young children. Although the custom is dying out, I do see a number of children, as young as 3 years old with the markings of his tribe etched into his cheeks.
On a trip up to the University of Ghana to meet up with friends of my colleague, we are afforded the opportunity to see a few dance classes – every college student, no matter what their major, is required to take either traditional dance or music. After the class is over, the national dance ensemble uses the space to practice their routines as well. On our way across campus we run into friends of our guide who serenade us with a traditional Ghanaian song.
There are more photos below