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, January 27, 2006

Ben's African Adventure 15

Thursday 12th January 2006

Grease yourself up and prepare for the black run. Put on your go faster hat and look stern as it is concentration time again. Yes you have guessed it Ben is back with a new installment in his bizarre tales from the African continent. So put on your special pants are sit tight as I am taking you for a wild rollercoaste of a ride!!!! I write this email from Ghana's second largest city of Kumasi deep in the heart of the traditon and heritage laden region of the Ashanti. One of the only peoples to oppose British rule with staunch military resistance. Thereore that is the reason why there are a few garrisons and forts still remaining in the city to this day. I am staying here in the most basic of shoestring section gusethouses that you could ever imagine. Imageine cockroaches climbing the walls and bizarre crazy men in the room next to you? Well thats what I have got. I was woken by this tremendous banging on the wall this morning and it turnd out to be a crazy mans head!!! So let me update you on how I came to be ere in this rather bizarre situation. Well after spending 3 days in a small town called Nkoranza staying at the Dutch run hand in hand project looking after mentally handicapped kids where I didnt end up cooking for them biut just was told to play with them and makes beads etc which I really enjoyed we moved down to Kumasi where I am now. Nkoranza is a small dusty village in the Brong Afaro region in central Ghana. It took us 4 odd hours to get their from the hot dry climate of Tamale up in the north and now it is back to the wet humidity of the central and coastal regions. The sort of heat that every movement you make coveres you in sweat and at the end of the day makes you as stick as hell. But on the good side you can buy more fruit down here so I feasted on cocnuts and pineapples until I felt like popping. The han in hand project is a life saving programme for many unfortunate youngsters. As there is no national heealth scheme in this develoing country the handicapped are forced onto the streets to live as outcasts. Ghanians fear them and call them Dwarfs. As legend has it that Dwars and 'little people' live in the woods and will kidnap chiuldren and take them away for ten months to act as slaves before releasing them with a mental block! They do belive a load of old tripe these Ghanaians! I had many long chats to the dutch Doctor who ran the place. But in the end I know it sounds horrible but I had to escape as they kids who were all drugged up and therefore very steriods induced and bigger than me were manhandling me. This poor lass with autism could actually physically throw me off a chair and even though all she wanted was for me to stand behind her and rub her head she scared the life out of me. Also I was constantly covered in dribble and the kids would come to the small room that I ocupied and try and get in and whats more even try and open the shower door of the open air bucket shower when I was all soaped up!!!!!! But while I was in Nkoranza I did escape for a day and travel the short distance into the dense undergrowth to the Boabeng-Fiema monkey sanctuary. I hand fed this massive Mona monkey head male who just wandered up to me all proud and cheeky looking. He reached up and gently plucked the outsretched nut from my fingers tips. Then put it in his mouth and stood staring and chewing at me. The mona monkeys are rather inquisitive buggers but the Colubus monkeys with their massive plume like tails rarely leave the trees and justpiss on you from above. My goodness monkey piss stinks! There is this amaizing fungus that grows in the forest called the Strangle ficus. It is a parasitic root that growas around a tree slowly starngling the poor old tree to death. When the tree has died and rotted away all that remains it a sort of wooden cage that you can climb right up. I climed to the very top. I am really just a big kid out here climbing rocks in a place called Bongo and then trees in the forests. I am like peter Pan as I told the hippies who were travelling with us, I will never grow up. Then I stripped naked and ran around, only kidding!!! We explored the entire sanctuary and I just loved the fact that you are left alone to wander around at your own leisure with no hassle from kids or wardens who ask for money all the time. Everyone asks for money and other items. 'Obroni buy me mobile phone', 'Obroni give me money', or even more strange, 'Obroni give me your address and a visa'. OK then I will pull a compleated VISA out of my arse and give you one.!!!!! I hate the fact that now back down south I am called Obroni again. I really prefferred El Sana. There is a nice eastern mythical ring to that name. Obroni is said in such a fierce tone that it can be taken quite offensively. Especially when they call us 'Cos Obroni'. I am not sure what that means but it is a lyric from a folk song about Colnial rule so I think it is an insult or deerogetory in some way. But with all the peope shouting at me in Twi and Fante now rather than the Ewe or Ga languages of the northern regions I am at least able to understand a little of what is said to me. I can even insult people fluently in Fante. Rock on, Wo Ye Nam to you all!!!! (I just called you a fish!!!) So where was I before I went off on one about bloody Obroni chants and language. Oh yeah Boabeng-Fiema monkey sanctuary. So there I was exploring walking up these enchanting canopy covered pathways with fantastically African names such as: Watupuao Trail, Ficus trail, Milksip tree trail, Kyeke trail and the bestt of all the Fetish trail. In Ghana traditional African religions or Pantheism as it is called is still worshipped and carried out. A person who is Christian or muslim but still for example believe in sacrifice for example is called a two headed crocodile. A crocodile because it is a scared animal and two headed because of the two beliefs. Fetish priests are rather odd balls really. They wear nike trainers and jeans by day but when the sun goes down they take off all there clothes, adorn themselves with goatskins and cover their faces and torso with dust and can put spells and curses on people, resurect the dead summon half bird half man creatures from th woods and scare away the evil Dwarfs who steal your children. At Boabeng - Fiema as the monkeys are sacred they are given a full coffin laden buriel. Thats if they find a body of a monkey. The fetish priest actually performs the livationa and last rights at the funeral. Whats more the fetish priests are buried along side the monkeys in the primate graveyard. One was 120 years of age! After I left Boabeng and headed back to Nkoranza the time has seemed to run away from me. I am now fastly approaching the start of the new school term where I will have to return to Kwanyaku and teach English again to a bunch of delinquents who believe that bloody Dwarfs will attack them if they are not carful. Oh I have actually seen one real Ghanaian midget and everyone gave him a really wide berth as he terrified all the locals. Poor sod. Today (12th Jan) I am back in Kumasi the second city. I decided to go to Lake Bosuntwi which is about an hours tro tro ride away from here and is a pain to get to as you have to first find the right tro tro in the bust;ling market with everyone shouting at you. Then when you get in a preacher gets on and goes on about God of all things, then you are mobbed by sellers with all sorts of good from toothpaste to pants balanced on their heads. Finally after all of that and they have crammed on 20 people too many you can set off. Then the sodding thing konks out on the roadside and you have to get out and bloody bump start it. Then a baby vomits on you and you are called Cos Obroni for the millionth time today. Well thats a typical tro tro ride. But hey they are still more fluent that London buses! So off to the lake I went and the route was like a scene from the closing sequence of the Italian job. We descended down rolling hills to this lake which lies in the basin surrounded in there hills that are just too small by a few meters or something to be mountains. The lake is beautiful and no boat is allowed to go on it as it is a scared lake. But if you carve a log and paddle out to fish for the famous telapia fish that live there that is ok. So the entire shore line is riddled with these carved logs on poles jutting out of the water. What is odd about frica and also enchanting at the same time is the number of beautiful juxtapositions that you find. This old rust heap of a jcb was half in half out of the lake covered in maritime debris, such as anchors. It was right next to a beuatiful view of the rollings hills and the lapping tide of the lake. Things like that amaize me. When somehting in Ghana is finished with or broken they just leave it where it is to rust and corrode away. That is also a big problem as litter is everywhere and ruins the land. I wish the government would nuy bins and dustcarts. They are trying to develop. They are also trying to create an ebvironment for tourists. But what tourist is going to come to Ghana when the place is covered in rubbish. People of all ages just for example suck all the water out of the sachets that they come in and then chuck it on the ground. The result is that the storm drains are overflowing with putrid rotting garbeg and the streets look like a riot has just occurred. I hate seeing rubbish and am constantly telling people to stop throwing it on the ground, but will they ever listen? I am just an unshaven Obroni what do I know! I swam in the lake which was really refreshing but I couldnt really enjoy it as I was thinking constantly about Billarzia all the time. Tis waterbound snail infection is supposedly not in this lake but really, if it is in the mighty Volta river and all the feeder rivers how can it not be here also. While I was swmiing I also noticed some massive fish and one came so close I tried to cathc the slippery bugger but alas he escaped! Finally I left the lake and up the winding road I wen in this very old rusty tro tro which was absolutely falling to pieces. The driver was a bloody lunatic to boot. All drivers in Ghana are madmen. They speed around blind bends and reckon they are safe if they just beep their horns. They beep their poxy horns all the sodding time. Why? No one rightly knows, they beep at people on the street, goats, cows, other cars and also most possibly trees. It just seems that they cannot travel ten feet without making a noise. Noise really is part of their culture. If the radio is on then it is up to full volume with the blearing spaekers making the voices sound distotred and inconprihensible. Late at night peolke will for no reason turn on bloody hip life music. Which I hasten to add I hate with a passion. I cannot stand their music. The drumming is cool and their is this traditional gord/calabash made guitar music that is really cool and almost spiritual. But the hip life which is a fusion between hip hop and rap and r and b is just plain and simply a load of old bollocks and I cannot abide by it. So the plan from now on is to leave Kumasi in two days time after I have exhausted all that the city has to offer me. Travel by bus this time not tro tro the 5 hours journey to Accra the capital. Visit our organisations HQ there. Then travel back the two hours to Agona Swedru before cathcing a local tro tro back to Kwanyaku to arrive mid day on Sunday to avoid going to the all singing all dancing extravaganza that is a Ghanaian church. Where they make you go and assume that as you are white you can donate 100,000 cedis to their roof appeal at will. I cannot stand the fact that religion is thrust upon you all the time. Please keep your beliefs to your self. I don not mind what religion you are but please do not try and convert me everytime I get into a tro tro or you speak to me. 'What are you' they always ask. Hewnrik used to get into great arguments with people about his athiesm. Thats why I find it funny and ironic that his host father was a pastor! I suppose I better start planning some English lessons for when I get back. Or maybe I could just wing it and do more Shakespeare with them. I like doing it as it really confuses Madam Della the head of English who only speaks Twi! I also when I get back will be oin sole charge of the school Athletics teams. That means more outings to schools where hopefully the obroni doesnt know wht he is doing chant will not rear its ugly head again. The strangest part will be after all this school holidays travelling where I have done so bloody much will be to go back to the school routine of waking at 5. Going running with the kids. Breakfast, 7.30 am lessons. Then nothing til after lunch where I teach English to the giggling girls thenafter school sports. I reckon I will teach them all how to play full contatc banned in Britain bulldog! A good old rough and tumble wont hurt them (famous last words). I mean if theycan cane kids viciously and very ferociously then I can do rough games with them, cant I? Well I will give it a go and if it gets too violent then I can always make them all do laps! At firts the kids at school didnt listen to me when I was taking them for sports. They spoke in Fante answred me back and tried to bully me. But I made them do loads of laps, shouted at them and made them do punishment press ups and burpees. Then they really hated me. But suddenly they loved me when I did races with them and discovered that even though some are built like powerhouses and some like gazelles I was the fastest over 100meters. When htye saw that the white man could run they really liked me. Then they loved me when played in their practice football games and did all the exericses, warmups and cross country runs with them. But it still didnt stoip them kicking seven bells of s*#t out of me when the staff at our school paued the kids. I still cannot bend my toe fully!!!! Well I think that I have gone off the subject far too much in this email and just let my fingers run away from me. Oh well Its all memories that I am expressing. Oh we went to this placed called Kuntand assi and the locals couldnt understand why I giggled at the name. Some swear words never leave Britain fully. I can get away with quite a lot when I speak to Ghanaians. Sometimes a drunk Ghanaian inebriated on palmn wine and apestishi and stinking to high heaven will accost you in the street. They willdemand to know where you come from, can you get them a VISA and worst of all accuse you personally for the slave trade if they find out that you are British. So mostly I tell people that I am an Aussie. When I drukard is shouting in your face you can call them the following words to their face and htye havnt the slightest inkilng that they are derogetory. Well you can tell them to any Ghanaian and other foreign volunteer to be prtfectly honest. But I wont be so crude as to list all these words (but I must confess that piss lips is my favourite), I am so naughty! Well that just about brings me up to date with all I have done. Or rather all I can think of as I have forgotten to bring my diary with me to this ramshackle internet cafe. Tomorrow I am exploring the bustling streets of Kumasi and Africa's biggest Market. Majetia market. It is a scary and daunting task to prowl around the stalls and many a person has never returned!!!!! I also want to check out this small historical museum and try and find the sacred sword that yes if you believe it is imbedded in a stone somewhere in the hectic city. As legend has it if the sword is removed then the Asantehene (King of Ashanti) and the Ashanti region will crumble and fall. The whole place is full of history and legend and I want to lose mysefl within it for a day. Then back to school. But I am going back to the Volta region to meet the hippies that I travelled with who no doubt will paint my face again and put glitter o me while I sleep. For we are going on the Yeji - Akosombo ferry that supposedly takes 36 hours. But in realtiy has sunk a few times and ran out of fuel and drifted for a few days. I will pay the minimum fare and sleep on deck. So til we meet again my darling readers I bid you a fond farewell. Until we meet again, who knows where, who knows when. Take care and be happy African love Ben the travelling sensation and crazy 'El Sana'! P.S. Henny hows Goran? Guess who we saw? Bloody Jackie in Paga. She looked white and pale and was annoying still ha ha!!!!


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