Yesterday we visited two castles: the Elmina Castle and the Cape Coast Castle. This was much different than our carefree time at the resort and the Kakum Rainforest. The castles here were where they kept African slaves before sending them to various countries.
Elmina Castle was built by the Portuguese in 1482 as St. Georges Castle. First, it was established for trade, but it eventually became part of the Atlantic Slave Trade route. Eventually, it was taken over by the Dutch and then, in 1871, the British.
In the 17th century the castle was like a depot where slaves were bought or traded from local African chiefs. They were sold to Portuguese traders in exchange for goods. The slaves were held in the castle in absolutely horrible conditions. The cells they showed us had little to know ventilation and very little light. The slaves were separated by gender and were crammed into these tiny rooms where they were rarely fed or given water. They lived on top of each other in their own urine and feces. It was heartbreaking to hear the stories. I think it was the first time I actually heard some of the students be quiet and listen to every word the guide said.
We also visited Cape Coast Castle which was built by Swedish traders, later conquered by the English and used in the Atlantic Slave Trade. Eventually, in the early 1990's (Ghana gained its independence in 1957), the building was restored by the government with the help of funds from the United Nations Development Program. President Obama and Michelle Obama visited this castle on July 11, 2009.
While I was waiting on Geno at the Cape Coast Castle, a Ghanaian girl, about 16 came up to me and rubbed my arm. She said "You are so beautiful; your skin is so beautiful." I said to her "Your skin is beautiful, too." She did have the blackest, most beautiful skin; it was flawless. We stared at each other for awhile and she asked me if I would be her mother... well, I told her that I was too young and we laughed. She asked if she could have my pen for school so I gave it to her and then she followed me with her big metal bowl of plantains on her head out to the bus where we said goodbye. It was a very interesting moment in time.
Today, as we pulled away from the dock, the Ghanaians that had been selling us local products on the dock gathered and began playing their drums and waving the Ghanaian flag. We were all gathered on the back decks and we waved at them and cheered as we left. This particular port rarely gets a passenger ship and they seemed very glad to have us there for a few days. Now we are back on the sea headed to Cape Town, South Africa. On our way there, Archbishop Tutu will be giving a series of lectures and we are so excited. We are going to get there VERY early to get a seat!
-Today we crossed the Prime Meridian and the Equator at the same time. This means we were at 0 degrees latitude and 0 degrees longitude. We are now EMERALD SHELLBACKS (someone who has crossed the Prime Meridian and the Equator at the same time)
-After we leave each port we get together in small groups and discuss our thoughts and impressions about the country we just left. We are really starting to bond!