July 9th

Leaving Accra

ghana-cedi After breakfast, Gunadiish and Christian lugged our bags into a vehicle, helped us to buy phone cards and exchange money. The nearest bank told me that only the main office in central Accra will cash travelers checks. Unfortunately, that was just too far away. I headed instead for the nearest ATM.

Having tested my new Visa check card by making a purchase in the US, this was an interesting time to learn that my card has a different pin number than my husband’s with whom I share the account. Mine I do not know. Nothing could be done about it today, nor will there be an opportunity this week. With the vehicle loaded up as tightly as the night before (minus Gunadiish who wished us luck and said the seatbelts in this vehicle were working) we set off on a three hour journey toward the Volta Region… to a village with no banks or ATM’s. With a small bit of money on me, I’m not in too much trouble but I’ll need to sort this out by next weekend.

The Sights

After more than an hour of driving through similar scenery, Christian informed us that we were still in part of Accra. This city might not build upward, with a few multi-story exceptions, but it sure has built out. Structures lining the streets are typically one story, one room shops consisting of three walls and one open side. Behind those are people’s homes.

The landscape from Accra to Have

Most of life takes place out of doors for all to see. No matter where I looked on any street, people were working, selling or buying. Several blocks of outdoor chop shops employed men who hammered every part off the old vehicles on the street. The soot and oil coated steel parts were then categorized and sold by different vendors throughout the car part district. Furniture, food, windows, mirrors, bicycles, anything you could ever want was set up in one shop or another. An hour of driving still had not exhaust the number of vendors. When we did finally get to the more rural areas, farmers worked in the fields, girls carried many mangos or bundles of cassava root as thick as my calf on their heads and men stacked clay blocks to dry in the sun. Although I can’t tell if the new building construction is moving forward or has been abandoned, overall, everybody was hard at work doing something.

The Law of the Land

police As we rounded a military compound, we came upon a road block with red, white and blue painted car tires and a movable bamboo fence. The police pulled over five cars in a row, ours included. Christian got out and showed his license and was led behind the vehicle for some time. When he finally returned, he wouldn’t speak.

After minutes of silence, Christian finally erupted with “Ahhh. Corruption!” I asked what he meant and he struggled for a calm voice. The police had taken Christian’s personal money, which is apparently a common occurrence. I couldn’t understand all he said as the wind screamed through my hair in the back seat, but I’m pretty sure a recent and very large shipment of cocaine had been recovered and then lost by the police. It seems they might now be using the guise of recovering it to harangue drivers for money. Christian thinks the public displeasure with this type of corruption will be reflected in December’s election. Having just heard about Kenya’s latest battle with corruption, I hope Ghana’s outcome will be far better.

My Arrival in Have

Have's RC Church

Christian pulled up to a sign for Have’s Roman Catholic Church among the lush green trees at the foot of a mountain. We were to wait in front of the dusky colored building for someone to help with my bags. A few uniformed school children ran between the distant trees and a black hen was busy scratching in the dirt to my right. Foliage lined both sides of the street blocking any distant view. When nobody came immediately, we all got out of the vehicle. Having been been packed thigh to thigh in this heat and, after hitting many of the deep crevasses on a road nearly washed out from recent rain, we were quite ready to stand and stretch our damp, sore bodies upright.

Christian’s patience was wearing thin but his disposition remained jovial. He was running late with our unexpected police detour and still had to drop off the others a half hour away. While waiting, he took the opportunity to relieve himself. Upon his return from the other side of the road, he looked at his watch, shook his head, chuckled and said, “You’re on black man’s time now.” Having been warned that events in Africa happen later than planned, we all had a good laugh.

Time is on My Side

Christian’s comment reminded me of a quote Shana from VV shared from Kenya that reflects a similar philosophy. “White men have all the watches but black men have all the time.” I am so ready to have that kind of time. I vaguely remember, many moons ago, learning much more when moving slowly than when constantly rushing to accomplish many tasks. These past few years have been consumed with projects great and small but I’m ready to reclaim some inner peace.

Case in point… Observing my surroundings, I stooped down to show the others the “Touch Me Not” plant. Having first seen it at my previous home in Rensselaerville, NY, I ran my finger down the center spine of the leaves. Each small frond slowly recoiled and closed along the stem in response. The end result was an organism that looked like a pile of inedible twigs (below right) rather than a healthy, leafy plant (below left). It was something I would have missed had I not been stationary. (Follow the link to see the “Touch Me Not” or Mimosa pudica in action.)

Touch Me Not plant