Final days in Ghana
Ghana has been preparing for it's first census in god knows how long. It's meant that thousands of literate staff nation wide have been hired & trained to go into homes and fill in the forms with all of the people present in the house. It's been advertised all over tv & radio explaining what it is and how it will work. Literacy isn't flash here so I understand they need to do something to assist people but what about truthfully answering questions in the presence of a stranger? The other thing I love about it, is that senior high school students have been kept home for the 2 weeks leading up to it, because of it! Why? They are too young to be been employed by the census board. I don't get it? Also, its been counted over 2 weeks!!! Doesn't that defeat the purpose of getting a snap shot of the country? All that aside, do you think anyone come to our house & interview us? Of course not! I was excited about it actually, cause it meant I would of been counted and I really wanted to see the questions they asked! Good work Ghana - that's going to produce some stella accurate results hey?!
Another illogical aspect of cape is the power outages. Power is cut on a regular basis, ie every tuesday and Thursday in asebu all through the day. During my last couple of weeks, it was off in the cape CBD all week during working hours. Consequently, my seamstress struggled to get my clothes made and I will not be coming home with s copy of my Central Press newspaper as printing was impossible. Elvis works all hours of the night leading into powerless days then sleeps during the day. Why on earth would you cut power at such an inconvenient time? Why not do it in the middle of the night? inconveniencing business in a not so efficient country probably isn't the brightest idea.
So the award for the thing that pisses me off the most in Ghana goes to..... The people who think it's alright to lie, cheat & steal from obroni's based on their skin colour! Clap, Clap, Clap, Clap, Clap, Clap!!!!!
Thursday was a classic. The tro driver told me I couldn't have my change because he didn't have any! Ummm dude I can see that your ash tray is full of change!!! After pointing this out he hesitantly gave me my change. Then I tried to buy phone credit, "1 cedis worth thanks", "that will be 1.5 cedis", "no it's not! You can't just tack a little tip on for yourself! Forget it!". Then my favourite goes to the old man in my second tro who told the driver to take his fare out of my change! Screw you old boy! What do I owe you! I wasn't even sitting next to him! Consequently I had to argue till I was black and blue to get my change while there was a load if yelling in Fante going on around me with everyone getting in on the debate and me not understanding anything. This also resulted in a lot of laughing from all of the other passengers which I'm assuming was directed at me. This isn't much fun! Finally I got my change and the old man turned round and was yelling at me in Fante, so I told him that god doesn't like people who steal and that god would punish him! These situations annoy me so much because everyone professes how good a Christian they are! Rubbish!!! You do not lie, cheat and steal from others. What makes this situation worse and why I take it so personally, is because they don't steal from each other. Street vendors don't lock up there goods at night, they are left on the street. You don't steal from your own, but a white person... Go your hardest!!! HYPOCRITES! It is so obvious too! It makes me sick. I had a candid chat about this with my host brother, Kenneth, and he agreed with me that ghanaians think it's ok to take from white people cause they assume we are all rich. The best bit though was that he said they think it's ok to break all of the commandments and teachings of the bible on Monday to Saturday, you just can't do it on Sunday - holy day. Kenneth did not agree with this though! He's 18 and a really bright kid who I've had several extremely honest and challenging chats about Ghana and the culture. He challenges the norm and can see the hypocrisy! I really hope his generation now tries to do something about it.
Friday was super hot and an awesome day with the kids at sports & backing kojo but as usual my day was tainted with illogical frustrating stuff! We Witnessed a car crash waiting for our tro as it was getting dark. All of a sudden there was an angry mob & people all over the road which doesn't have street lights. Dumb scary stuff! Hence we wanted to get out of there asap but couldn't. We had to bribe a taxi driver to take us, who then wanted to up the price, squeeze in extra passengers and drove like a retard! Then he wouldn't take us all the way home & the next taxi driver also tried to over charge us. 2 hrs later I got home! Rot in hell Ghana! God will punish u! (that has become my new favourite insult!).
My weekend was lovely after a few challenging days. We took the kids swimming again care of stephs parents, Elizabeth and Richard. This was part of their way of doing so something for the kids and a social way of getting to know them. It was a fun day which we followed up with a fancy dinner with Elvis at coconut grove to say thank you for having us and goodbye.
Steph and my second to last day at the orphanage involved giving out a little bag of goodies to each child. Stephs mum brought loads of useful stuff for the kids, so the bags were filled with knickers, socks, koalas & kangaroos & a couple of lollies. One was also made for pursela & we went & found her in the community. She was thrilled to receive new things & lucky we found her cause her wounds were so infected! We dressed her wounds & had some quality time with her & the other children as the went through their bags showing us proudly what they had received.
Earlier that day Taylor & I came across a goat giving birth! While Taylor struggled to look at her, I was attempting to coach her through child birth - "PUSH, now breathe...". I thought it was pretty funny, the locals didn't. The locals told us that she was struggling to deliver because we were watching her so we should move on. We were standing a good 5m away, which I thought was reasonable so I said to them, "what? Are we embarrassing her? Is that her problem?", "YES!".
On the way home after dark we almost got in a serious car accident! I Screamed my head off as we turned into on coming traffic and two 4wds came flying at my passenger side door! Lucky all the cars came to a holt as stephs mum grabbed the drivers shoulders from behind and screamed stop and steph sat there frozen watching it all happen in slow motion as it came toward her as well. That one was close and scared the sh*t out of me. I was shaking and then cried from the shock in stephs dads arms while her mum said "3 more days girls! 3 more days!".
That evening Stephs parentals had dinner at our host families house & we also gave something small to all the family members to say thank you for having us. That was also really nice cause the gifts were somewhat personalized being related the moments that we'd shared with them or stuff that we knew that they liked. They were grateful and it was really nice showing off a calendar of Australian cities being able to show them where we come from.
My last day in cape coast was extremely disappointing and up there as one of the most challenging. As steph and I had breakfast we watched our 18 yr old host brother walk into our room. No one is meant to go in their. We sat there in shock since he's a good kid (it was kenneth, the one i raved about only days earlier...) and wondering what on earth he was doing? After a couple if minutes steph went it to find him with his hands in her handbag pulling money out of her purse! He then had the nerve to say he saw a mouse run in our room, which was impossible. COME ON!!! We came to realize later that he had even found our keys and unlocked the padlock which kept our passports and cards concealed! We were so disappointed. I then went to the Internet to do some work with taylor only to find out that his credit card had been hacked and $4200 was missing! Luckily the bank dealt with this. When I got home I had some rude boy call me and pretend he was Isaac, the orphan we sponsored for Uni, demanding money from me to buy books. I didn't believe for a second that it was isaac because of his rude disgusting demeanour so I asked him questions to try and catch him out as a fraud and of course he could not answer the questions. I lost it! "Your a lying cheating idiot who is dragging Elvis's good name through the mud trying to scam me!". After our wonderful morning, we had to go to the orphanage and say goodbye to the kids....
We held a craft activity with the kids to finish on a fun note. We coloured in these rows of paper people with all of our names on them and stuck them on the walls with this string of material flags. Then it was goodbye time. This was sooooo hard! All of us had little chats with our favourites (even though your not meant to have favourites) telling them what we hoped for them for their futures and got them all to promise that they'd try hard to get a good education and stay beautiful. There were tears all round. I was shocked to see how upset Elizabeth was (my alphabet project) cause she's usually quite a tough little cookie, but it showed me I'd made as much of an impression on her as she had on me. Tears from Ruth really got to me as I did Joshua avoiding me and being silly to try and avoid actually having to say goodbye. Beautiful little kojo just bounced around the orphanage oblivious to what was going. Christina, Margaret, Clement, Charity, John, Lord, Junior and Angelina all shut down and quietly wept while Samuel & Joseph balled their eyes out. I'm going to miss them all so much. Steph, taylor & i really struggled and seeing the kids cry made it ohh so worse. However, it was nice to know we were loved too.
The following day I drove to Accra with steph and her parents staying the night there ready to fly pit the next day. During that journey we got some interesting news....
In our house was grandpa, a 94yr old frail dying man. He was brought to the house to die and his bodily functions have kicked out. Poor 70 something year old grandma has to hand wash the soiled sheets every day. Anyway, on Monday morning i got up and I was certain he was dead. There'd been noises all through the night then the house was eerily quiet and empty in the morning and it smelt funny. However nothing was said about grandpas wellbeing, then on Wednesday morning, once we'd left the house for Accra, we got a text to say he'd passed. I swear it happened a couple of days earlier! Steph & I were disappointed we didn't get to go to a funeral!
Funerals are a huge deal - held over 3 days. Day one is for the viewing, day two is a big mass then day three is a big party. They cost thousands of cedis to hold, which people don't have, so funerals take 1 - 3 months to organize as people save up/collect the cash. As for the clothes, they are fancy! Your best outfit! Red is worn for a very young person, black if they are under 70 and white if it's over 70. I've heard stories about school fees going towards funeral outfits. But then I've also heard about villages banning people from going to funerals if they haven't paid their school fees - I think this situation is rare though.
The day i left ghana was of course filled with drama. The hotel driver tried to charge me triple the amount the trip was worth which I managed to argue down. Then in the car he asked me how I'd enjoyed Accra and I told him I've spent my time in cape. "so what do you know about how much things cost in Accra? You argued that down so much - you should pay me more!" he said aggressively and rudely. This infuriated me! So, because I'm foreign I deserve to pay more - no buddy, I'll pay what it's worth. On getting out of the car he asked for a tip, I said to him "let me ask you something first sir. Do you go to church every week?" he looked at me blankly, "do you go to church every week?" "yes" he replied, "then tell me, which part of Thou Shall Not Steal do you not understand?". He scoffed at me and rolled his eyes, so out came my favourite line again.... "don't worry sir, god will punish you". He looked mortified and so did an obese white women with plaits in her hair as she walked past. She obviously hadn't been in Ghana long enough - she didn't appreciate what I'd said to the man, but hey, I didn't appreciate her plaits. White people can NOT, I repeat, can not, pull off plaited / braided hair! I can see your scalp - there's nothing attractive bout that.
Then in the airport, Russian men came and sat next to me and were being sleazy and foul. They then proceeded to count out $1500 US and hand it to me and ask me to come back to Russia with them. Well I wonder what you've been doing in Ghana for the past week? (prostitution and child prostitution are a huge problem in Accra). Men like this make me sick. This exploits women in the most personal and intimate way possible. I know that women choose this as a career, and I accept the sex industry when it's a choice, but I know it's not a choice in countries like this - it's out of desperation and by force. I hope those Russian men (and so many other men like him) catch some nasty disease and that their genitals fall off.
I'm writing this bit as i sit in the Dubai airport. I've had 2 hrs sleep & my body thinks it's 3am and I don't leave for 3 more hours. This sickly/drunk/exhausted feeling is a familiar hostie feeling but not a missed feeling. Mind you I don't look to bad... Now that I'm back around white people my tan looks awesome!!! It was odd actually coming off the plane, lots of white people again and 'civilization'. I thought I'd deal with the transition back ok but I think I will notice it big time. As I sat on a king sized bed next to steph with the aircon cranking and the plasma tv on in the fancy Accra hotel I felt awkward. One month ago I was inside photographing a villagers house which was one concrete room with no furniture which housed about 8 people. I turned to steph in the hotel and said, "what do you think that mother would do if she walked into this room right now? She wouldn't know what anything was would she?". We looked blankly at each other counting our blessings, yet I felt guilty. How can people have so much while others have so little. It's weird cause while your imerged in the poverty, it is confronting, yet it's do able. I'm sure that sounds odd, I don't know how to explain it. I've seen loads of poverty and it's sad, really sad and you think wow how can people live like this, but you cope with it. It's when I've gone back to my normal life that the guilts have kicked in. What would my kids think if they could see this airport right now, my house, my crap car, my fridge, my bathroom... My pov student lifestyle would be luxurious to them. My little home has more mod coms and is larger then the orphanage. I wish I could bring them with me.... The guilts and sadness are really kicking in now.
Ghana has thrown so much at me; poverty, child trafficking, child labour, death, exploitation, being the minority and religious extreme.... Having experienced all of these I appreciate the freedom and rights that my fair progressive country endows on me. Now, I know people will be scoffing at this last statement (people who obviously haven't been to the third world), and I know Australia has it's issues but in the scheme of things, these issues are nothing compared to other countries. Australia does have it's flaws, but at least we have a red hot crack at trying to prevent these things with laws in place rather then sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that these problems don't even exist.
Time for Thailand.....