Ben's Ghana Adventures

A collection of all the emails that I sent while I lived, worked and travelled around Ghana West Africa from October 10th 2005 to February 10th 2006. Sorry thers a lot but I had a bloody good time living the experiences! Check out to see all my African Photos.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Ben's African Tales 10

December 11th

All these blogs are the group emails that I write to everyone that I know. Then when I can I put them on to this blog.

Its that man again, reporting from Africa and a long long way from home.

Stop playing with next doors cat and read on dear fellows and fellowettes.

But first of all I have set up a web blog that contains all my memories of my African Adventure. If you fancy a sneaky look go to

After the upsetting and painful time we have had of late, I feel that I must change my tone and write of all the things that makes me love Africa so much. All the bizarre tales, journeys, adventures and weird people that I have met. Cara would want us to all carry on and have fun and therefore I will do so. So hers goes, this is Ben letting his fingers go mad and writing all that he can. Rock on Africa!!!!!

So then lets begin with the fun and unbridled filth that awaits your journey into the murky gloom of my travels. First of all I must tel you that my English exam has been scrapped. Yep the entire thing. Fatty, fat, fat Madam Della the head of English didnt understand it and it was apparantly too hard for the kids to do. So she stole it and is secretly trying to work out the questions using a dictionary herself. That annoyed me! So the exam has been written by a woman who is near illiterate and sleeps all day in the staff room, my goodness she is fat! So the kids will have an exam which a slighty glaxe cat could do with ease. How are they going to develop at this rate if all that we have taught them in the lessons building up to the exam and suddenyl taken out of the exam paper themselves.It is bloody ridiculous!

It is now back to the mundane chores of teaching English, marking homework and trying to teach surrealism to agriculture students. Bloody hell was that hard!! But in the end I managed to get them to think away from religion (they are brainwashed with the stuff) and get them to think in terms of the bizarre. But it was hard work doing so. They dont seem to have a mind of their own my class. They all have the collective same answer to everything! While I was teaching surrealism two chickens burst into my classroom and a Fulani herdsman appeared out of the palm trees and settled his cows on the football pitch, so that was a great way of explaining the subject to the kids. Although I made up the lesson and it is not in the carriculum at all.

The world cup draw was made and England avoided a clash with Ghana. All the Ghanians were secretly hoping for it but I know that they dreaded the thought of meeting the mighty 1966 winners!

Our plans had to be altered and so Andy and I didnt go to Kumasi as we planned last weekend. We are planning to go there and meet up with our orientation group soon. Before xmas at least. Oh talking of christmas, itis so strange being out here and seeing large inflatable father chirstmases and tinsel in shops. This is Africa, you just dont expect all that xmas rubbish everywhere. I suppose everywhere you go in the world you cannot escape the commercialism. Even here in West Africa, In tiny little dusty Kwanyaku where the mud huts and ciorrugated iron shacks are homes to many there are plastic xmas trees within. Its so strange to see it.

We have decided that we must eat in every place possible in Swedru. We have to sample all the local delicasies. Although I like fufu a lot I cannot abide the other two Ghanaian dishes of kenkey and banku. Banku is basically goo and is slimey and tastes of rotten fish. Kenkey is a weaired dough that also tastes of fish and is dipped in another kind of goo. Fufu on the other hand is a nice goo dough and is dipped into a nice palm nut sauce and is also served with rat and or goat. Rat actually isnt that bad. I saw some local kids playing in the street with a dead rat and the cheeky buggers tried to sell it to me, 'You buy white man'! I didnt buy it of course but I sure was tempted, its tail; looked very appertising!!!!

Henrik has left us to go travelling with Sander from Holland and he really looks like beaker from the muppets! So they have gone off to Kumasi and then are going further up north. We are planning that for New Years. Imagine spending New Years eve at the strike of 12 in a national park, arid savanna surrounding you. I cannot wait. I hope to see wild elephants. As I write this the heavens have opened and the African downpours have started, the thunder actually shakes the room that I am in. It is most odd. So any way the enter key has decided not to work on this computer so this is the end of the pareagraphs and it now turns into one massive large blog. So anyway when I type emails I sometimes have to save them and complete them another day as the weather and the computer or lack or computer technology as I should put it prevents me from being able to use a normal proper and working internet connection. So I am now writing on the 11th December after coming back from a relaxing day at Greenland hotel. We all decided to escape the cries of 'obroni buy me a phone' and 'whiteman give me money', so we paid just over a pund to escape to Greenland hotel and sit by the pool. This in itself is a massive culture shock after we have been living in huts and having bucket showers with no running water. Only last week did we only have rain water to drink and now we had a menu to order from, it really makes you think about the massive gulf in wealth in this country. While we were all there just chilling out and getting very red in the sun all these Swedes turned up. Loads of them. So I got talking to a man who looked like a jolly old bear and as it turns out there is or was a huge Swedish television programme being made about sponsoring a Ghanain child through school and is being endorsed by many famous Swedish celebrities. Well they were so famous that I didnt recognise any of them but I reckon one must have been Mr. Ikea. Well they told us all about this television programme that they made and it was from a village 40 minutes from us in the middle of nowhere. The funny thing was that just before Henrik left us to go up north he heard about it and gate crashed the party and managed to get his grinning mug on live Swedush TV which made his mother at home faint! Continueing the Swedish theme the next volunteer to be joing us in the Agona district is a Swedish woman. WheN I say woman I mean 57 year olf grandmother! She is going to be put in a house near Henrik and he is not all too keen about that as he said that he met her on his orientation weekend in Gothenburg and she was a batty old cow!! Today I also saw my first wild vulture. they are massive. It swooped out of the sky and landed near me, took one look at myself and decided that I was harmless before tucking into some road kill goat. It was so big I thought that I could ride it all the way home.

Oh the enter key has decided to work now. SHere is a small story for you to enjoy. A volunteer in Kumasi (5 hours from us) went to the toilet outside his house and his toilet was a pit. Ghanian pit toilets are huge holes hug into the ground usually 7 feet or so deep. We they are covered in boards and have a hole so that yopu can deposit into them. Well this toilet was particularlly full and the floor boards old and worn. The poor sod squatted and well you have guessed it he ended up falling through and is no whone as the obroni who went for a poo swim. Luckily someone else went in just after and manged to get him out with a big stick. Even though it is a horrible story it still is bloody funny though.

Recently the little kids in our host house have decided that Andy and I are not monsters and are actually funny guys who can play with them and make them giggle. But this is also a bad thing as the little sods wont leave us alone now. Every morning at 5 am without fail our door has the uncoordinated knocking of a small child on it and the cries of pen. Luckily I have learn the fante for no and stop it and also hit Andy. I am now also fluent in Fante insults which are most strange. The best ones that I have found are to call a person a fish or a goat. These are used regularly when some drunk accosts you in the street which happens very regularly.

Tomorrow the 12th I am going wioth Afra the German girl who is in her last week and really doesnt want to go home to a town called Bobikuma. I have managed to get out of invigilating my schools exams and will go to this town to visit two volunteers that we know but havnt seen for ages as they work in a polio clinic. They have warned us that m,any a poor sole lives in there and that we need to be kind and compassionate. But the trouble is we also have to tell them about Cara's passing which I hope they havnt heard about from some randopm as news seems to spread fast around here. We want the news to come from a friendly person who actually knows them.

There are two British lasses Anna and Naomi who live in a tiny village called Afransi and have the most basic house/shack I have ever seen. They are the only ones to have a truly authentic mud hut experience. But they have also suffered from the Tembu fly and worms and have both had malarisa a couple of times leaving them with a trip and short stay at Swedru hospital which is the most basic medical facility that I have ever seen. It looks like some kid has rocked up and made the buildings from scraps of wood found on the beach and a rusty mechano set. Well they met one of the very sociable Germans in the street (note the scarcasm) he ran up to them and said 'have yop heard the news, which blond girl was it'. I am glad to say that apart from being called a fair few nasty names he got one hell of a slap to the mush. Next time I see him I may stamp on his septic foot where he trod on a spiny fish in the sea. I have never met some one who deserves a good bitch slap more!

The school starts its exams week tomorrow and them it is the Christmas holidays. No oine not even Francis the pot bellied headmaster knows when the kids return from holiday. I asked him and he just smiled did his belly wobbling laugh and told me 'January'. Thats the problem with Ghana no one tells you anything until the last moment or they dont tell you at all. Thomas our host brother who is also called Kwame is the worst for this. Ben come with me he will cry and them we will go to some randoms house and sit there while they talk in fante aboput something. Lat week he took me to some old mans house who we had seen drunk in the street and shouting many times at us. He seemsd scared to see Thomas arrive and seemed to shy away. He didnt even call me an obroni. I rteckon his drunken antics have got him in trouble with Nana. Nana is the closest thing they have to a mafia out here. What he says is the law. Although he is a lazy bugger and summoned Anna the 9 year old slave girl into his room to pass him a cup which was only a fes feet away! Thats when I saw Anna punch the cat, I think she was taking out her anger on the poor flea ridden moggy.

The animals in our house are horrible little buggers, all under fed and flea infested. The cats try and invade my bag with which I chase them out shouting at them. There is an adorable dog who lives outside but is covered in big ticks so I avoid it like the plague. But that dog had two little puppies which we called trouble and strife and I am training them to beg. Its not working but I can make them wet themselves with excitement when they see me. Apart from the actual pets there is a selection of goats but I havn't a clue who owns them and many chickens. The bloody cockrel every morning at about 4 decides to have a warm up practice voice session right outside my windowq. I will be glad when we eat the poxy thing. Well I have eaten rat so chicken would make a nice change for once.

There are little cows in Africa except for the nomadic Fulani herdsmen who wander the landscape and get driven off people land by angry farmers with guns (its true it was in the daily graphic). So milk does not exist here at all. What I would do for a real cup of tea with real milk in it. Also a lump of cheese I cannot remember the last time I tasted cheese. It was so long ago that I cannot remember what it even looks like.

I have to stop writing about cheese, I am getting cravings thats bad when you are as remote as me. The other things I miss are coffee and music. In Ghana all it is is something called Hip life. A fusion of hip hop and high life which to my ears is blooy horrible and makes me pine for some good face melting rock. My cd's were in the bag which was stolen so music is a real rarity now. I used to borrow Cara's mp3 player but now I cant so I just seem to sing to myself all the time.

The Ghanians always want me to sing. They just come up to me and demand that I spontaneously cobust into a song and dance routine. Luckily I have maneged to memries the lyrics to Pulps common people and that really confuses them. The other thing that really confuses all Ghanians is the fact that my photos contain lots of peple in them. They cannot work out that these people are friends and not family members. Also I have a photo of me bungy jumping and they no matter how much explaining will never understand the concept of that.

Today for the umpteenth time I was called an American. That really pisses me off when people assume I am one of them. I dont mind if they ask me am I Australian. I have even been asked while I was in Accra was I an Italian! I even dont get offended when I was asked only last week if I was a German. But an American, come on do I look obese to you!! The German comment reallt confused me and through me off my step. I was asked this even though my bag has a big union jack embroided badge sewn onto it. They just all assume we are not who we are. Which in truth we are not the people we are at home when we travel. I had a strange feeling about that. When you travel to a places thousaands of miles away from home and meet all new people who know nothing about you. You could tell them anything really. You can also change and act differently. Which I think we all do in a way when we go somewhere far and new. Although I have found that I do tend to get on my high horse with some Ghanians, especially my kids in my General Arts Ebglish class. We had a discussion on sexism and they are all fools. They believe that a woman will not and never should be allowed to be president of Ghana. This is because the bible says that men are the greater of the two. So they have this written into their bloody national constitution. The fools, they have no concept of equality and moving woith the times. In many aspects it wqill take them an awful lot more than what they are doing to become more that just a developing country.

Religion seems to be the bain of my life while I travel in Africa. It dictates everyhting. The radio (national radio) is hijacked by god on sundays and there is nothing on any station except the wonderful news brings bbc world service but gospel and preaching. Some of the preachers out here are so violent, they scream at each other and everytime you board a bus or a tro tro they pray before you can set off. Sometimes a preacher will preach at you all the way home. This happened to me from Sccra to Swdru. For two whole hours he shouted and it seemed like it was aimed at my general direction. It is also all in Fante or Twi, which is almost a gobbdegook language. Some of them clkutch the bible aloft and parise him with lots of theatrical hallejahs and stuiff like it. It is all very silly to me really. Sometimes they even try and sell magical medicines and show you the most gruesome pictures of people with fantastic African illnesses, such as eliphantitis and tembu fly infestation. I was even on a tro tro co ing back from the Volta REgion with my legs crushed up against the seat in front and suddenyl on jumped a man painted white with AIDS IS BAD written on his chest with red inlk. Scary chap to say the least. He tried to get money off me but I was quite foreful in scaring the bugger off. I was playing the gallnat gentleman and protecting Afra and Anna at the time!! What is strange is that I am bigger than many Ghanians. At home I feel like a midget but out here I puff my chest out and scare the life out of many of them. Especially when I shouted at the random who tried to accost me and take my wristband off me while I was having a slash down an alley in the dirty back slums of Swedru.

I keep on mentioning tro-tros, but I don’t think my descriptions so far do them justice. I need to get some sort of definition down so here goes. Quoting from the Bradt guide:

If anybody is aware of a more precise definition of a tro-tro than ‘pretty much any passenger vehicle that isn’t a bus or a taxi’, then they are welcome to let me know.

So then all I realise I have written far far too much for anyone of you to read this. If you have got this far I take my hat off to you and we will have a beer together when I return in February. If you havnt I dont bloody blame you.

Take care all, and remember be happy.



x x x


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