Tuesday, October 10, 2006

high heights, chilling sights, chocolate spread OD

Last thursday I went out to eat with a colleague at CDD. We went to Redd Lobster. Haha. Oh Ghana. Jay-Z came on friday for a concert, tickets were 600,000 cedis ($60). It was a big deal here, especially amongst the students on campus. I didn't go.

This past weekend we went to Cape Coast. We left Saturday around 7, taking a tro-tro to Kwame Nkrumah circle then to Kaneshie and there we caught a tro-tro for 25,000 cedis to Cape Coast. As much as I love tro-tros i have to admit that was a very uncomfy ride. First, let me explain the anatomy of a tro-tro. A tro-tro is a mini-bus which has been rigged with a number of seats. In the back, normally can sit four people across, three people in the rows in front and then the driver and two people in the passenger seat. But thats not all. All of the tro-tros have rigged extra seats into the aisleway, so that from window to window in every row it is full. Your aim, therefore, is to sit near a window, so you will have the most space and not get stuck between two people. Also, it is not fun to sit in the back seat because you receive all of the bumps. The space between rows is very minimal and is even cramped for short me. I have no reason to complain, however; i feel horrible for my Norweigan friend who is 5'10 and has to cram in the same space I can barely fit in. The trip to Cape Coast was particularly bad because A) there was a ton of traffic and the temperature has been steadily increasing so it is quite warm at 9 in the morning. B) the seat back wasn't comfortable at all. C) I was sitting on top of the wheel which made for little space for my legs. We got to Cape Coast and immediately hopped on a tro-tro to Kakum National Park. Kakum is the home of the tallest canopy walk in Africa (maybe I made this up?). Kakum is also the most touristy place I have been in Ghana. There were two gift shops, a restaurant, lovely decorations. It cost us 45,000cedis to go with a group of Ghanaian students to the canopy walk. There was one student who was hiking to the walk in heels. (Oh, Ghanaian females ;) )When we got to the walkway, the guide told us that we couldn't fall because there was rope netting all around the walkway, it was reinforced with metal and wood, but despite this information, a ton of the Ghanaian students (all women) refused to cross the canopy. It was like 100 feet up and there were seven separate walkways each separated by a viewing platform. It was really lovely. Kakum is a real rainforest and it was cool looking down on it. we didn't see any animals but there were a ton of butterflies. It was also fun to rock and bounce the walkway to freak out the Ghanaian students (oops, did I do that?). It was a cool experience, but it wasn't that great. It was kinda an over-rated tourist place, but whatever.

The people on the trip were me, Karen (Norweigan) and Ryan (Iowaian/Californian). Ryan is a "drama kid" and knows a bunch of songs and can sing really well, so we often entertained ourselves by singing the soundtrack to Rent and other musicals. This was also very entertaining to Ghanaians who laughed at us alot. Karen and I thought it would be a good idea to bring chocolate spread with us, since we wanted to be cheap and eat bread for lunch. Well, all i can say is i totally overdosed on choc spread. I think I don't want it ever again, haha. "you are invited" - Ghanaians say this when they would like you to enjoy their food with them. We kept saying this as we passed around the choc spread (haha...). We met a Polish guy at Kakum who had hitchhiked his way from Poland all the way through west Africa to Ghana and was intending on making his way to South Africa by boat to Argentina/Brazil, then to the US then to Canada in the next four years, all through hitchhiking. Can I just say, Europeans do crazy stuff.After lunch in Kakum we headed back to Cape Coast to stay the night. We checked into Sammo's guesthouse, which is highly acclaimed by the guide book and our friends, and I would say it is quite a nice place, for 30,000cedis each. However, as we were sitting talking with the fan on, the power went out all over cape coast at 6pm (we get screwed, we can never escape the power outages). So we went to the rooftop bar and talked about various topics ranging from God to gender roles to US foreign policy. We hit the sack, got chewed up by mosquitos and woke up the next morning at 6.

We ate breakfast across the street, banana pancakes and tea (yum!). Then we walked to Cape Coast Castle. This castle was built in 1653 by the swedes then taken over by the danes then taken over by the british. Its place in history, however, is with the trans-atlantic slave trade. While there it was easy to distance yourself from its dark past. it was a gorgeous building, architectually, overlooking the ocean and beautiful beaches. but then you remember, thousands and thousands of Africans passed through this castle en route to the west; some going onto their inevitable deaths at sea or to forced labor in South America, the Caribbean, and of course the US. The museum at Cape Coast was impressive: did you know that the US recieved the least number of slaves compared to South America and the Caribbean? The dungeons were the most powerful aspect of the tour. Imagine, so many people cramped into a tiny space, with hardly any ventilation, defecating, urinating, menestrating, vommiting, everything on each other, terrified of what was going to happen, beaten, shackled, starved. What is most unsettling was that my ancestors could have passed through this very castle, through the door of no return.

From here we headed to Elmina Castle, which was built by the portuguese in the 1400s and is the oldest european built structure south of the sahara. It too was part of the slave trade, but mostly by the hands of the portuguese and dutch. Here the governor of Elmina would stand on a platform, force all the female slaves out of their cells into the courtyard and choose which one he wanted to rape. If she became pregnant, she was allowed to stay in Elmina and her mulatto child was allowed to go to school. Elmina was bought by the british and was used during periods of rebellion as a prison for Africans. For example, you can look into the story of the Ashanti queen-mother Asantewa who encited war against the british to protect the sacred gold stool. She was kept here as well as the Ashanti king Prempeh. After the castle we headed back to Cape Coast and then back to Accra. The tro-tro was uncomfy once again, but I didnt care, I slept most of the way.


anna davis said...

You saw The Color Purple, right? Well when I read your blogs I almost feel like Celie when she was reading all the letters sent to her from Africa by her sister Nettie. Quite enjoyable!

P.S. I think you meant 'menstruate'

yani hyman said...

Wow Justine! I really feel like I'm there with you. Thanks so much I'm glad you havethis blog site!!! I've also been sharing with people at work and they keep asking if I've checked for more. Thanks again enjoy!

Ashley said...

You know whats crazy? To think that if your ancestors did pass through that castle...they would never have fathomed that future generations would return as you have.