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 Adventures 17

Put on your very best Allan Quartermain khaki clothes, don your hunting cap and pick up the Elephant gun. Your going to need them as you desend into the jungle which is Ben's African Adventures. Hold on tight for were going on a canoe trip to Insanity and Back!
Welcome my readers who I know all go round my Mum's house and read this from the overhead projector that she has no doubt installed and guzzle gallons of her 'special' tea. Why is it special I hear you ask? Well when you come down with the exotic rashes you will know why.
But that is bescides the point and let me now return to my train of thought and tell you all about what has happened since I last wrote to all you lovely people at home and away.
I write this email from the filthy streets of Accra for I have left Swedru and Kwanyako and Doris' cooking for good. I have left the house where Nana parades around in his ceremonial towell saying 'apome' everytime he sees me. Foe now dear readers I have embarked on my own into the unknown on a magical journey that I have no Idea where it will end. Well the Volta Region actually! So after lugging my bags through the crowede, sweaty streets of the capital city I finally reached SYTO. Our organisation that all volunteers work through in Ghana. I deposited my bags there and navigated myself through the hustle and bustle avoiding the open sewers and draisn with athletic awe and gazelle like jumps. Really I should be given some sort of medal for being here almost 4 months and not falling down one of those drains. Many people I have seen take a tumble into the filth that festers in them.
Oh I have to tell you a little story that happened to a Dutch volunteer in the Western Rgion. Tina the boss of SYTO told me this between hysterical laughter and gasps for air. This Dutch lad went to the toilet in one of the pit toilets at his primary school. The pits are massive holes dug in the ground where all the faeces rots down. The hole os covered by board with a hole cut through them so you have somthing to aim at. Well he pulled his trousers down, squatted and heard a cracking sound. The next moment he was up to his neck in the very best poo that school kids can offer. Luckily the pit wasnt that full so he didnt drown. But the poor Dutch lad who is now known as the 'Brown Obroni' had to be rescued using sticks and rope. I chuckled when I heard that and now as a recult do not use the toilet in our school and do my business in bushes a I wave at the people balancing large pots of fruit on their heads!
But I digress. Let me get back to the story at hand. So here I am in Accra the filthyest, smellyiest hole in the world and the only reason I am here is so I can escape to the Volta Region tomorrow to see the things that I didnt see the last time I was there and go on the infamous Akosombo - Yeji ferry. This ferry is an old paddle steamers from the 1960's and 'apparantly' according to Mr. Offei at our schhol it has sunk 4 times in the last ten years! The same boat I replied, the very same he remarked. So the ferry is actually a resurecting boat. Wow a holy boat trip. As if religion is not too abundant already in this country. But this morning on the tro tro from Swedru to Accra as I settled down with a good book and had a whole 2 hours of uniterupted reading, it must have been a national preachers strike. Whatever it was for the first time in ages I wasnt subjected to Christianity on a plate with an apple shoved in its mouth!
It is quite an exciting time in Ghana at the moment as the nation is in football fever. The African Cup of Nations has kicked off and I have been watching many matches in locals bar where someone wheels a tv in from somehouse that they have probably stolen it from and the entire village gathers around it to watch the matches. May times have I been shoved to the front and made to sit in the pride of place spot because I am an Obroni and there fore must see the football. I was watching some of the group stage games and someone shouted 'who is he', I being a football fan piped up and told tis man who the player was, who he plays for and that being a goalkeeper he couldnt catch a cold let alone the crosses being flung into his box. From that moment on I have been Mr.Football and everyone asked me all sorts of questions and I have become a football messiah. But only in knowledge not unfortunately in skills and fancy feet.
All the blokes in our house (theres loads of them) all talk about football all the time, but as soon as the match comes on Ghana TV where the camera men are obviously drunk and the commentaors have as much knowledge of the games as the dead cat in the street the vanish. So if I watch football at Nana's house it is with Vida. Vida is Nana's wife and I call her to her amusement Mrs. Nana. She is 60 years of age and moved to London at 21 and still lives there. She comes back to Ghana every year to escape the British winter. Ergo she has a very good grasp of English and will be talking fluently in Fante to Sister Bea about her poor handling of her childs unbringsing and then will shout 'Shut it' to one of th kids making a racket in the hallway. I feel I must also explain about Sister Bea. Or the pison Dwarf as I lovingly call her. She is basically evil and smacks and abuses the kids in the house, so much so that I have stood up and placed myself between her and Anne one of the little girls in the house as she goes to hit her. Why does she hit her? Well probably because she is a black hearted eveil bint thats why!
Anyway I end up always watching football with Vida who loves to shout at the TV and call players 'Prats' and the greatest Ghanaian insyult a 'Nam', or in English a Fish! As I type this a huge roar has just gone up around the internet cafe for Ghana have just scopred against Senegal!
So there I am watching football with Mrs. Nana and she turns to me and says 'I like sport, but my favourite is wrestling'. I immediatle ythougfht of all that American showboating Hulk Hogan stuff that I used to watch as a kid, but no she mean British wrestling. As it transpires Mrs. Nana is a huge fan of Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and Mick McManus. She is a rather large lady and I cannot get the image of her putting Nana in to a headlock before they go to bed!
When the Ghana verses Nigeria match was televised I watched it with all the teachers and the groundstaff in the school. They were going beserk and shouting all sorts of obscenities at the TV. But the things they were calling the igerian players beggers belief. Before Nigeria scored the teachers were all callingthe Nigerian team things such as and I quote: 'Pirates, ruffians, wife beaters, criminals, petty thieves, unholy fools andthe Crooks of West Africa'. So thers nothing like having good relations with your neighbours then! In the end Ghana lost and if they play like that in the world cup they will be a laughing stock.
I mentioned the girls in our house. Well I better explain what role they play for they are not related to Nana. They are slaves girls. House maidens who the family will gladly keep them home from school to do their washing, scrub the floor and sweet the house every morning at 5am. The poor lasses are basically treated like skum and are forced to sleep in a crobner. That is why I take extra care to bring them food, sweets and give them xmas gifts and also random things like pens for school and most of my medical kit. I hate to see them get smacked, but if I say to Nana not to allow it, it is interfering with traditional and culture and I have been warned not to interfere for I am a Westerner who has no ideas of Africa! I respect that their are cultural differences but the beating of children is somthing that I am prepared to step accross the line to stop. Already I have told all the teachers that caning is wrong and my goodness do they whack them hard! I said why not give them productive punishments like litter picking and cutting the grass with their cutlasses that they bring to school, but the teachers I think like to smack a kid or two. I thik it makes them feel big and manly!
Let me get away from that rether horrible subject that makes me bite my tongue when I see it. Let me tell you about all the other good and cool things that have happened and all the surreal things that makes Africa so enchanting.
The school had a leaving presentation for us. there was a poster put up outside the staff room which aid that all staff should attend a meeting at 1.16pm!! Yes 1.16 not quarter past but 16 minutes past precisely and the theme of the meeting is to say goodbye to 'our white comrades'. Wow I am a comrade, I feel like I should be marching with a communist flag. Comrade Ben, ttheres a certain ring to that. But again I digress. The presentation was basically a load of speeches. The headmaster mubled some thanks to us then all the teachhers stodd up and said a few words for us. The PE department or Edmund stood up and said some really nice thankyous to me and Vincet who is not only a teacher but our neighbour said some really moving thanskyous to both of us for teaching at the school and giving up our western lifestyle to come and lives with the toils of Africa. They even presented us with a African shirt each. Mine is lovely although about 100 times to big for me, but lovely none the less. The African cannot comprehend the size small. So instead I get extra large. I wore this shirt for the rest of the day and I looked like a total prat. But the teachers loved it and the kids thought I was 'beautiful' as they kept calling me. Then just as I thought the presentation was oover and I could go back to teaching they prayed for our souls!
My last lesson in English I taught an entire lesson on Irony using the peoms of Siegfried Sassoon, but alas it went right over the kids heads. So I thougt I would teach something much more simple and something that they could understand. So I had a ponder and decided that I would teach them Limericks. But it was a disaster. No kid in the class can grasp the concept of rhyme. They can get the basics such as bat rhymes with cat. But thats it. They try to rhyme words that are so different that I want to pull out my hair, which I hasten to add Sister Doris after cooking her shitto put in plats! I look lovely!
Hers something funny. Nana has concubines, I am not kidding because I met one of them. This lady came up to me and intriduced herself to me as Nana's mate. Not mate in the friend form but in the animal mating ritual form! I just smiled and waved as I do to all weierd and wonderful people I meet, including the painted man in the street who was covered from head to toe in white emulsion so that he could be white like me. I told him that it was unsafe and then decided to make a run for it as he could grab me at any moment and smear paint all down my falling apart sun bleached clothes.
Now that schoo, is properly back underway and the kids have all decided that they really should return the PE work which I have been doing has doubled. Every morning at 4.30 am I meet Edmund the sports master at the school and he blows his whistle repeatedly until the kids come out of the dorms and enbark on a long run with us. But this one morning last week gone. The kids all made a run for it and hid in the class rooms. Some even barracaded themselves into their rooms. The result was that Edmund got a bucket of water and througfh it through the window resulting in screams. This he did to both male and female dorms. He is a really small man, much smaller than me and to see him run and shoulder barge a barracaded door and bounce off was very amusing. The runs that we did or rather I did as Edmunds ran to the end of town and then stopped while I had to run to a placed called Amenkowah and then run back are along the most uneven rioads that I have ever set my feet on. My poor plates of meat are knackered now!
Oh I actually for the first time the other day read the list of side effects on my malaris capsules. I am on one a day Doxycyline or what ever it is called, but it has the side effect that bleaches your skin!!!! I discovered that while I was at the 'Big Tree' in Akin Oda, well it is actually just outside Akim Oda in the Eastern Region. This tree is supposedly the Biggest tree in West Africa. But I dont know if that means tallest or widest gerth! I think I have seen bigger qwhen I was in the Volta Region but who am I to differ. The sign says 'Big Tree' and big as it is I still wasnt very impressed at all.
I left the host family today but have to return at some point before I go home. Doris took it upon herslef to get Andy and I more of her African shirts made and therefore qwe have to return to collect them. But as I was leaving Thomas or Kwame to give him his Ghanaian name gave me the worst posing picture I have ever seen of him legs crossed with a cheeky grin and asked me to show this to all the females I know at home to find him a 'white wife'! All the Ghanaians are trying to snag a wife or husband in Britain, Germany or other counrties. Evertime I go into an internet cafe the person next to me is writing an explicit email to an American called Bob pretending to be a woman. Only recently the Daily Graphic Ghana's most prestigious and shite newspaper reported that a Ghanaian man went to prison for pretending to be a woman and swindling some gullable fat yank out of fifteen grand. Serves him right I say. But it maeks the internets runs really slowly as the server cannot cope with all the porn that they download to use as their msn pictures! Even Thomas our host brother does it and he even showed mw a letter which he recieved from some yank with photos of him in differing stages of undress and the final pictures was man hood aloft in hand. Thomas didnt even see anything wrong in this as I tried to explain that it was a little bit suspect to say the least. While Thomas grinned inanely at me with the picture of a naked man in his hand a little voice started shouting 'Ben, Ben., Ben' through the window. Richard after alomsot 4 months has decided to speak and shouts at me all the time, but he is scared of Andy or any other Obronis who come to Kwanyako. There is not an awful lot of volunteers left here, except the new Canadians and Dutch people who have just rocked up. So at the moment I am or was seeing as I have left the British Ambassador to Swedru.
The new l;ot I met in town on Wednesday night and it was like a Jacakanory session as they were all gathered around me while I told travelling stories of where to go i Ghana. They were rather upset when I tld them that I was leaving and then suddenyl out of nowhere I was given leaving beer after beer after Gin after beer. I got back to Kwanyako rather tipsy and called Bea a poison Dwarf to her face. But her English is not that good and just smiles and said 'theres no dinner", Bea doesnt bother to even attempt to feed me. Doris loves to cook and wont let me do anything in the kitchin except make some tea. So I feasted on street meat and probably got more worms from that! That night I couldnt go into the room which I sleep because Nana was taking council with the elders of the village in their and they had filled every available space with chairs. Two hours they spoke about important things. Then suddenly all hell broke lose and shouting galore erupted. Nana being the big boss that he is silenced everyone with a huge booming cry of 'Ten asse' or sit down as it translates. In the end they were all booted out of the room and I went back to sleep. But not for long as I must have just nodded off when I was woken by let more shouting. Whats the matter this time I thought, but it wasnt arguments it was poxy preaching. A local preacher had decided to come to Kwanyako to visit and pay homage to Nana and also bless the house. Of course this cannot be done quiently and has to be done in the loudest voice that a human throat can summon up. They preacher walked around the house a few times with what seemed to be minyons by his side. Eventually the shouting died down and he went into Nana's room where he probably went into a trance or something!
The next morning I was grumpy due to a lovely hangover and lack of sleep. So when I was teaching my General Arts class who are all sweins and badly behaved sods. I decided that maybe as it was my last lesson with them that I woulodnt give them the swwets which I had bpught for them all. But the eagle eyed kiddies spotted them and all hell broke lose. The nearest kids scrambled accross the bests and a stampede followed as they triesd to get to the bag in my hands. I thought I was going to be mobbed so in a flash I lobbed the entire lots spinning into the air. They went absolutely mental scrambling around the floor trying to get to them. I left them to it and then conmtinued to write something that they couldnt understand on the board.
Well thats about all thats happened. Theres lots more but I think I have written far too much and really need to reply to some of the emails which I heve been sent rather than just write a lot of old bollocks about the odd things that happen to me here in Ghana. Talking of odd things I saw a woman with a green face! Yes a face that was bright green. I tried to get a closer look but she scared me as she looked like Mr. Frog from the wind in the willows illigitimate child!
Well I do have to go no as two German girls who I had no idea where still in Ghana have just come in and poked me. Now I have been informed that I am off for drinks.
Cheerio my dears, keep on trucking


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