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Published: February 10th 2014
"Akwaaba" means "Welcome"! Welcome to Ghana, which was among my top-3 countries I wanted to visit and finally I made it! My visit didn't end very well since I got my notebook stolen (Acer Aspire One) and that's the reason it took me much longer to write the blog. I prefer not to go into the exact details of how it happened as it would make the blog too long. It happened during my last few hours before leaving the country. Thank God I had all my photos somewhere else though, so I didn't lose any picture.
The visit to Ghana started in the Netherlands, where I had to arrange my visa in The Hague at the Ghanian Embassy. I flew with TAP Portugal via Lisbon to Accra. During slavery many enslaved Africans in Curaçao came from Western Africa, including Ghana and that was one of the reasons why I always wanted to visit the country. And since 2006 I've been a fan of the Black Stars, Ghana's national football team. Besides, Ghana is politically stable, unlike some of its neighbouring countries. Muslims and Christians live in peace with each other, they celebrate each other's holidays and are friends of
each other. It was my third time in Africa after Egypt in 2004 and Morocco in 2005 so my first time in Africa south of the Sahara. This meant that I was pretty excited because I was going to visit a "new region" I never visited before. I was well received in Ghana and its people and felt very welcomed! Many people were happy when they hear that I'm coming from the Caribbean and they would say "welcome home"! People randomly came up to me and started talking, it happened a lot. Many want to become your "friend" but of course I didn't want to become friends with all of them. Sadly enough, many Ghanians dream of leaving Ghana for USA or Europe for better opportunities. Many times I had people making jokes and saying "take me to your country" etc. Ghana is not a rich country but it's rich in resources. There is poverty and you'll see it, but there is enough food. Now that I went to Ghana, once again I must say that most of us back home should be happy with what we have. The fact that you have a tap with running water is not
something to take for granted; it's a luxury as here many need to go outside to pump water and carry home! Ghana is unlike anything I've ever experienced before. It reminded me a lot of what I saw Cambodia and Vietnam. I heard from many that India is the same like Ghana, but worse (more busy, more chaos, more traffic, more people, more trash etc.) so this is a good training for when I go to India.
My visit in Ghana started in Accra
, the capital and largest city of Ghana with more than 2 million people.
Benjamin, my guide in Accra who I got to know through Couchsurfing via a friend of a friend, picked me up at the airport and drove me to the accommodation. During the first couple of hours of my first day in Accra I really needed to get used to the place. It's VERY busy, traffic, noise, vendors and lots of people selling stuff along the streets everywhere and a lot of trash, especially plastic and in some places there are open sewages along the streets which can be very gross. After the first day I adapted myself to the situation
but it's something I'd never like to experience on a daily basis. It was like a little "culture shock" and I know plenty of people who could never handle this.
First we went to the largest market in Accra, Katamantu Market. It's HUGE and chaotic but nice to see how locals make a living. Here I bought a jersey of the Ghanian football team. From here we walked towards James Town. This poor neighbourhood is located at the coast and is a fishermen neighbourhood. Walking through James Town you'll see women smoking fish and a lot of fishermen fixing their nets on the pier, kids playing in swimming in the water (some naked), women pounding fufu etc. It's a very relaxed atmosphere. Enslaved Africans were taken away from the harbour of James Town in the past and there is a small fort located nearby. We continued towards the lighthouse, built in 1871 by the British and from the top you have good views over the area. At night we went out with some other people in the area of Osu, where most foreigners stay.
The next day we didn't do too much. I woke up late and
we went to the Ningo Beach. Not quite like Curaçao, but it was ok. We didn't go in the water straight away as I found it a little bit dirty with a lot of pieces of plastic bags. We walked and went further east along the beach and there I went in the water. There were a lot of locals around and it was nice to play in the water with them, throwing a ball to each other. Later we went to Pokuase, which is a community where Benjamin grew up and the place I stayed two nights. All roads here are dirt roads and obviously there is a lot of dust around. I met several of Benjamin's friends and acquaintances here and it was nice to see how people live in such communities. The next day we visited the Independence Square and the Arch of Independence with the Black Star on top. Ghana got its independence in 1957 from the United Kingdom. Nearby we continued to Accra Arts & Crafts Center where a lot of things are locally made. Here I bought some small souvenirs and stayed quite long talking to some locals who make "djembe drums". They told
me about their drums and played me an "akwaaba" song (welcome song). They also taught me a little bit how to play. It was very interesting and I spent a lot of time there. Therefore I didn't have time to actually visit the "Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum", where the first president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, was buried. I just saw it from the walkside and took a picture.
In Accra I immediately tried local food. The first one was "waakye" (pronounced “waché”): it's rice, beans and waakyeba (a herb) cooked and mashed together, and it also has noodles, fish and a boiled egg! Another day I had banku with palmnut soup, okro and chicken. Banku is made corn flour and was very similar to "funchi" in Curaçao. I couldn't miss the "fufu" which is made from cassava. In Pokuase I paid a lady to cook us some good okro stew with akple, which is something very similar to banku. It was delicious and it has to be eaten with your hands, same goes for banku and fufu. Every restaurant you go to, they have water, handsoap, a bowl and a cloth on the table so everybody can wash their
hands before starting to eat. It's a great thing as the government has been investing into promoting washing of hands to prevent diseases.
All right, that's all for the first blog from Ghana. There will be two more coming!
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