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.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Ben's African Tales 11

14th December 2005
Goodday all. Put on yoour jump suits and poise by the open plane door.
Because you are about to desend into the gusty openess of Ben's African Adventures once more.
So what juice have I for you all to suckle on, well how about a piece of this........ I went with Afra the German girl who is in her last week before going back to Deutchsland to the fantastically named town of Bobikuma. All the towns in Ghana bar Cape Coast have very African names, which I think is surprising seeing that until 1957 Ghana or the Gold Coast as it was then called was a British colony. But Bobikuma is almost the exception to the rule as you have Bobikuma and then a hint of Englishness as the two smaller villages on either side of Bobikuma are called Upper Bobikuma and Lower Bobikuma. How quintessentially British I thought. We went there to visit two other volunteers who work in the local clinic. When we got there on the worlds slowest moving tro tro we discovered that an injection that one of the volunteers was in the process of stabbing into a babies arm exploded in her face and covered her with some gunk. It was harmless but her facial expression was fantastic and worth a thousand words. As we walked through Bobikuma it became apparant that we were being stalked by some small children. One in particular who would puff his chest out and perform muscle men poses as I waled by, I do tend to have the strangest effect on young children. Little Natasha who is our host sister decided to jump on me and hang from my neck the other night. I wouldnt have minded but she did a huge poo all down my arm. Lovely child!!!! I must thank you all for the lovely emails that you have been sending me of late. They are all very welcome and I appreciate the time that you have spent in reading my monotonous long entries. This week I was also given nearon a 100 exam papers to mark. I read through the new exam that Madm fatty fat fat Della had written and it is appalling. It is a comprehension test and the questions are all awful. The multiple choice answers are all muddles and to think this woman who wrote it is the head of English. She should be relocated to toilet bitch! When I do managed to get to the computer and use the internet I am always sitting next to a big sweaty Ghanian. What is their fasination with porn? They all look at it and write very lurid emails to people in Europe that they are trying to get visa's off. When I went to Swedru Secondary school the other day a man came into the staff room and was selling dvd's and cd's. When all the female staff had left top go and teach out of his bag came bundles of porn. Suddenly hundreds of males teachers filled the room and the man made a killing. Yesterday I went with Seth our SYTO representative in Swdru. He is a big beaming man with a borad smile that matche his shouldres. He looks like the sort of person you would want on your side in a fight. We went to the small village of Achianse to check out the building work and progress of Nynke the Dutch girls project. She raised much spondoolix when she was at home and has decided to buiild a school. Hope fully it will be finished by the time she leaves Ghana. The work has come on leaps and bounds and the roof strutts ere going in. It will be a grand class room when it is finished. I was very impressed to watch the workmen climb the ladders up to the roof with bricks balanced on their heads and a bag of cement on top of the bricks. But health and safety isnt a thing that they have here in Ghana. I love it. Watching people risk life and limb to built a school building. One even had a cowboy hat on which I though was very appropiate. I have been made a supervisior to the building work and basically have to be seen to inspect the work and look at the financial costa involved while Nynke is away. Basically I ponce around trying to look important and wearing a banada. The whole episode with the Canadian embassy and the doctors in Accra is finally drawing to a close. The results of Cara's post mortem are in but we are not allowed to find them out. It is all in the hands of the embassy now. I am glad she is safe and that she is being taken home tomorrow. I still feel numb about it and my heart goes out to her parents back in British Columbia. I have been contacted by her organisation and her mother would like to speak to me so I can tell her all of the things that we did together, as a group with other volunteers, the places we all went and all that we did for her after her tragic passing. Andy and I had to go to the police station again today and make a written statement each about the things that she ate when we went to the Volta Region. The police are so stupid out here. They didnt understand what spaghetti was and the officer in charge didnt know what the work spicy meant. They are sounthoughtful too, because as we sat there writing the photos of her taken by the police arrived and he put them on the desk in front of me. Its horrible to see it all again. I glowered at him until he put them in a draw and out of sight. Before the final results came through about Cara the doctor told us that he was 90% sure of the cause of death. It was an infection in ther bowel that had been there for a long time, laying their dormant and could have struck at anytime. When she was at home, or in the future, it could have even reared its ugly head ages ago, but just chose to choose this moment. It was a sort of toxic shock that took away our dear friend. I am not going to write about it anymore, my diary is full of my thoughst on the matter and I dont want to burden you all with the details. I have typed all that is straughtforward and an explanation as to how. But I am going to move on. Her memorial service is tomorrow and I am going to say a few words. It will be held at the school she taught at (Swedru seconadry school) and will be attended by all 1000 plus pupils and staff. I hope I can muster the words to bring justice to such a fantastic person. 19th December 2005 An awful lot has happened since I last wrote and saved this email. It is now Monday after noon and it feels like time has stood still while we have done so much here in Africa. Last Thursday Cara's memorial service took place and it was an emotional event to say the least. Well over 600 people were all crammed into the furnace that was the Swerdu secondary school assembly hall. Pupils, teachers, host families, other volunteers and local dignitaries made up the crown. I had previously been to the headmaster of the school to speak about the arrangements for the service. But all that we requested for Cara was ignored. I asked for the religion to be toned down as Cara wasnt religious, But what do they do. Yes, you have guessed it they bring in a bloody evangelicxal preacher who shouted a lot down the microphone so much that his voice caused electrical feeddback. I was saying a few words and went to sit with the other volunteers down by the side, but in their infinite wisdom they made me sit up on the stage next to the portable pulpit with the 'dignitaries'. I hated it, I could feel all the eyes of the children burning into me thinking ' whitemans on stage'. The headmaster, I will give him his due gave two poinanty speeches, but many words were lost in translation and his pronounciation and thick African accent took away eny feeling in the words. When my turn came I rose and dont remember walking to the microphone. I just somehow got there. I look down at all the other volunteers faces. Cara's friend and saw them crying and looking at me in despair. I said what I had written and tried to live every word. To create a picture of Cara's smile through my words. I put in all the strength I had and power of speech to try and do her justice. But to me the sound of my voice sounded hollow and distant. As though I was shouting to myself from a long way off. But I had to speak. I had to say these words. The Ghanians dont understand, they never will. They are so wraopped up in religion athat they are void of all feeling. I did this not onloy for Cara but her friends who sat looking up at me. I said the words that they needed to hear. I tried to play the p[erfect Oscar winning role and deliver my lines like Olivier. I hope I did such a wonderful person justice. Her body is back at home now, her possessions safe with her family. Her funeral in Canada has taken place and she has been laid to rest. It feels as though none of this is real. There is nothiong tangible to touch or feel. Only the pain in peoples voices remain. But none of us will ever forget her. The next Day I went with Afra the German girl to Accra as she was going home on Saturday and didnt want to face a long tro tro ride alone. So I gallantly went with her. Also I was secretly keeping an eye on her as Cara's passing hit her badly but it hit her after a delay. We arrived in Accra and it was heaving. I hate the place. It stinks of shite and rubbish. The piles of faeces and junk piles the streets. Its all a capital city shouldnt be full of juxtapositions. Large shanty towns next to a blush bank and internet cafe. It looks so out of place and I dont plan to go there much more. The trouble is that Friday is market day and yopu cannot get out of Accra for love nor money. The roads are chockerblock and it took Seth our SYTO rep in the central region 5 hours just to get to the office. Sod that I thought and I bunked up in a large bed at the New Haven hostel with 3 German girls. Bloody German language all the time. I felt so ignorant about not speaking another language apart from pigin Spanish and a few swearwords in French. But as it turns out it was all right as we stayed up drinking sachet gin (really cheap and hits the spot) til 6am. Then all bundled into the bed. At oner pouint I rolled over and came face to face with Karolin's face and Yanna's feet. I woke with a start and then realised where I was!! Befora we started our marathon drinking session I went with Afra to the arts centre. A place that I never ever want to step foot in again. It is a reasonably priced place for tourists to buy masks and carvings and such African clobber. But you are hassled so much that I wanted to shout 'go away and piss off'. Every step you take forward another stall holder or man holding cloths tries to haggle with you. If your eye catches them then it game over. The pounce on you and try to get you to buy everything. You have to really haggle with them and push them down, they just assume all white people are rich and can sprout money out of their arse on command along with cats. If I am ever trying to explain something to a Ghanian and they havnt the foggiest what I am on about, then I just say to them 'there a cat coming out of your arse', normally they smile and nod at me. No one as cottoned on to this game I play yet. Eventually we escaped the arts centre and it felt like a load had been taken off your back and that you could breath again. Never again I said, knowing full well I probably will. So I left Accra with Nynke Smit the Dutch girl who had returned from travelling round the country. She told me all the places to go and things to see. I took notes. We are going up north for New Years and then will travel the entire country in January. Nynke flys home tomorrow and we have spent the last two days with her. As today was the grand opening of her school bulding that she along with the Amsterdam lawn tennis club raised money to build. She was over budget and it wouldnt get finished. The money had run out and the Ghanians have fleeced her for some of it. Not all are crooks but it sure feels like it. I donated a million cedi's. Yes a whole milliuons. Andy donated another million and we all clubbed together and now the money is there for the classroom to be compleated even though the unveiling ceremony was today and they dressed her up like a queen mother and draped her in gold and paraded her around town, with kids marching to drum beats and all the locals chiefs in attendance. A milluion cedis is about 66 pounds sterling. In truth I need the money and shouldnt really give iot away. But in reality how Can I stand there and see a school building that has had so much blood , sweat and tears just not be finished and rot. This building will help hundreds of children in the future and is a legacy for Nynke to leave behind. So who am I to begrudge that. I felt a pang of shame that I didnt raise about 2 grand to spent on a buliding. But you cannot do everything can you. I even luged all the cement from Swdru to Achianse and got covered in filth doing so, riding in the back of a van with a muslin bloker who needed to pray and made us pull over. It is my donation to help someone out who has cried over this project that is much more than just a project to her. It is her baby. It has now grown into an adult and wuill be finished next week. I still have to pop over on a weekly basis to oversee the masons work etc. I feel very important even though I know that I am not. The send off that the village gave her was fantastic. They paraded her, gave her presents. Made her danec (and me) and had tributes and speeches on a microphone that was far too loud and I had to move some kids away from the speakers in case they were deafenned. Thats all I can write now as I have written too much and will save the rest for another time. Lastly even though it doent feel festiv in all this heat I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a fantastic New Year. Take care all Ben x x x x


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