Gulf of Guinea

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April 21st 2011
Published: April 21st 2011
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Thursday April 21st, 2011

Tema, Ghana in the Gulf of Guinea

Latitude 05 degrees 37 minutes’ north- Longitude 00 degrees 55 minutes’ east

Yesterday we were in the country of Togo. Also known as the Land of Voodoo, it is the birthplace and greatest stronghold of that particular practice of animal based beliefs. The market was filled with warthog teeth, porcupine skins and all manner of dried animal parts. It was hot, dirty and not all that pleasant. Also in abundance were street merchants pushing a wide variety of the usual cheap shirts, shoes and trinkets. Everywhere you looked you saw independent commerce in action. Women carry a complete kitchen on their heads and will prepare you a meal when asked. Long lines of trucks wait at the port, sometimes for several days, to load a cargo of goods to be transported into the interior. The ports of Lome’ in Togo and also today in Tema, Ghana are very busy. Thousands of containers are being loaded and many ships are sitting offshore, waiting their turn at the docks. Life in this region of West Africa is not easy, but everywhere you could sense that the people are working hard and love their independence. All trucks proudly display their national flags on the dashboard and the people wave and smile at the strangers. The streets were very crowded with all forms of traffic. Most of the people live in disheveled apartments with no air conditioning and only limited facilities. But, still they come into these cities looking for work and a better way of life. Traditional African village culture is still out there in the countryside and some people are still living a simple tribal life, but that lifestyle is waning. Very few cruise ships come to these ports and we are the first since last fall. Passengers have been hassled, harassed and one lady had her purse snatched. Yesterday one of the women was told that she was a racist because she did not buy anything. These gritty industrial ports along the west coast of Africa have been quite a contrast from the usual “exotic” ports we have visited. Mumbai was also billed as dangerous, someone did get pick pocketed while we were there, but India was different. It was crowded and dirty, but it was more scenic and tourism is a more developed part of their economy. I think what we are seeing in this part of Africa is a much purer glimpse of what the actual human struggle to survive looks like. Tourists are an afterthought, most people are just trying to feed themselves and provide for their families. The beaches are filled not with sunbathers and beach umbrellas, but instead have native fishing canoes. We saw over 40 people working together to pull in a fishing net which must have been 1000 feet long. The frustrated outburst of the street vendor was really just his way of expressing just how hard life is in these countries. We are considered to be rich tourists who have an easy, struggle-free life. Anyone who is stupid enough to wear expensive jewelry and carry their money in an easy to grab purse is advertising that they have more than they need and really want to make a donation. The news is filled with the political turmoil all across Northern Africa and also in the neighboring country of Ivory Coast. These people are tired of living under domination and want what they think everyone else already has. Travelers in this part of the world need a certain awareness of their surroundings and must keep both eyes wide open. As Jane says, this trip has been a life altering experience. We will be forever changed by the things we have seen.


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