Friday, 27 August 2010

Southern Ghana Tour- Day I

13-14 August 2010
All of us Indian VSO volunteers, decided to meet on the occasion of independence day. All of us are located at different locations and I think that it was one of the reason we had a great time meeting and spending time together. One more good thing was we knew each other very well while we were in India as we were together for the trainings and we were of same age group.
We three, Rose, Raj and me arrived in Accra early in the morning and almost at the same time. I and Rose travelled together from Bolgatanga whereas Raj came from Tamale. Journey was quite good as we had got seats of our choice by booked the tickets well in advance. The only problem we had on the bus were three loudly played movies showed on the television one after the other. Two were Ghanaian and one was Nigerian and all of them had the similar plots. Some ghost or evil spirit taking the form of woman and disturbing lives of some men by seducing them and then a pastor of some church solving this problem by destroying these spirits or making them leave the earthly world. We became free of these movies only when we reached Accra.
In Accra we stayed at the house of two Filipino volunteers, Rosario and Weng. These two very hospitable ladies made our first day easy by providing us a big breakfast.
We had decided to visit some places in Accra city. We first went to National Centre for Culture. Though its name includes the word Culture, it is actually a hub of small shops selling clothes and handicrafts from all over Ghana. The goods in the shops are expensive if one compares it with the prices at the source. e.g. Bolgatanga baskets which sell for approximately GHc 20.00 at Bolgatanga were being sold at GHc 35.00. But the traders were very friendly and very much open for bargaining. Of course we did not buy anything as all of us had lot of time to spend in the country before we return to our homes but we got a very good glimpse of traditional art and crafts of Ghana. We had a great fun while moving around the market as we interacted with sellers who could immediately recognise the Indian race in us. It was something which we enjoyed being identified correctly as at our respective places we are called as whites. I am saying Indian race and not Indians because people were calling us not only Indians but also as Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Malaysians. Following are some of the dialogues which I had with the sellers,
Dialogue 1
S: Hey India, Namaste, Bhai sahab.
Me: Namaste. Kaise hai?
S: Bahut achchha!
Dialogue 2
S: Are you from Malaysia?
Me: No I am from Sri Lanka.
S: Hey you have given me a shot.
Dialogue 3
S: Salaam Valekum
Me: Valekum Salaam
S: are you from Pakistan?
Me: No I am from India.
S: That is the same thing because India and Pakistan were one before British separated them. Akwaaba, Welcome to Ghana.
Me: Midaase, (thank you in the Twi language spoken in Accra.)
Dialogue 4
S: Namaste, I come from Delhi.
Me: I come from Islamabad so let's have a fight.
Dialogue 5.
S: Are you an army person?
Me: Do I look like a one?
S: Yes.
Me: Why do you think so? Do I have a very strong physique?
S: Yes.
Me: Thanks, I am taking it as a complement. Now let me go and join my friends.
One seller came after me after seeing my copper bracelet and started showing his collection of bracelets and explain me how Indians like copper and how wearing them is good for health. I told him that the one I was wearing is not from India but from Togo as I have been coming from that country as part of my Western Africa tour and I shall be buying it again only after the bracelet gets corroded so it would take a lot of time to come to him again. He got irritated because I certainly looked like anybody but a typical backpacker. He had to go away from me.
We then visited Nkrumah Mausoleum. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was the first president of Ghana and a pan Africanist. His burial grounds are surrounded by a memorial structure and a park. There is a small museum inside the park displaying his belongings and his photographs. There is one photograph of his visit to India and he is with our first prime minister Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru. When we visited the mausoleum, the queen of Swaziland (it is small African country near South Africa) and her official delegation were visiting the place and there were some folk dances performed for them.
Our next point of visit was Independence square and a stadium near it. There are two stadiums opposite to each other at the independence square. One is actually used for the sport and the another which is at the side of the beach is used for official programmes and processions. It has one impressive arc from which leaders of the nation give their speeches. I had a feeling of being in a communist country while moving around that stadium. The entire ground is paved and it seems sometimes people who want to learn driving enter into that ground by taking permission of the guard. The independence square monument is also an impressive structure but I could not neglect a pile of rubbish in the garden surrounding it.
Then we started for an Indian shop called Neha and had a hard time finding it as it is very obscure. We bought some stuff which we needed. From that place we went to a famous travel hub called Nkrumah Circle which is called as Circle for short and when you hear tro tro mates shouting for it, one hears only Circ Circ Circ or see a sign made by them showing a round. I could find the place where I could get the shorts and swimming trunk.
Afterwards we visited Nandhini and Mani's house. They come from Chennai and make a VSO couple. Mani first volunteered with VSO and Nandhini was his accompanying partner. Mani is a physiotherapist who now works with the local hospital. Nandhini is now volunteering with VSO and working for an organisation of the disabled. Mani told some hilarious stories about his experiences living in Rajasthan, Punjab and of course Ghana. Nandhini had prepared delicious Batatavada and Chai (Tea- Indian style) and it was a nice evening with lots of laughter.
In the evening we were returning to our place of stay in Adabraka area when one fat woman sitting near a shop started calling us, "hey foreigners, show me your passports. I am from police." It was dark and it was better not to wear the caps of spontaneity but those of caution so we just smiled at her but I would have liked following dialogue where her sentences are real but mine are the unexpressed ones.
W: Hey you look like foreigners, show me your passports.
M: If you are policewoman then you should also show us your ID card.
W: You are not Obruni. You look like Fulani. (Obruni is word used for white man in the southern part of Ghana. Fulani is a comparatively fair skinned nomadic tribe in Western Africa and their features have similarity with the Indian race. In Accra Fulani people are infamous for begging, pick pocketing and petty thefts.)
M: You can consider us as English speaking Fulanis. As we are Fulanis, we do not need to show you our passports because we are Ghanaians.

Stadium converted into parade ground near Independance square

National Centre for Culture or to be real Accra Handicraft shopping centre

Nkrumah Mausoleum
Independance Square
Sumptuous breakfast at Weng and Rosario's place

Chai and Batatawada at Nandhini and Mani's