26th November to 2nd December 2010
Some more interesting things were in store for me during this visit to Accra. One was my visit to Labadi beach. It is a public beach in Accra but the entry to the beach is regulated and they have put an entry fee. The beach is nothing special but it was an opportunity to chill out and enjoy the sea. As it was Sunday, it was bit crowded. First time I was entering on a public beach in a foreign country and the scene in front of me was the one never seen before on public beaches in India. It was the huge number of girls and women clad in minis and swimming suits, showing their bare skins. After some time however the eyes got used to it.
Most of the crowd was local youths with some Europeans, Chinese and Arabs (commonly stamped as Lebanese as majority of them are). They could be prominently spotted even from the distance amongst the majority black coloured crowd because of their very fair coloured skins.
Majority of the people were busy sitting at the beach side bars and enjoying their beers and kebabs. A part of the crowd had ventured in the waters and was enjoying the waves. Some were having surfing boards. Three of us went into the sea and enjoyed the waves while the remaining who were not enthusiastic enough to enter into the water had to take care of our clothes. When we came out of the water, we had a hard time finding a bathroom for shower but we did after some time. They were offering a bucket of water and bathrooms having no doors. Two people were going in one bathroom at a time and most of the people were bathing completely naked. I was feeling very awkward but then I entered one bathroom after the guys in that bathroom finished their bath, I started showering by keeping my underwear on. While I was showering, one person came in and stripped himself naked and started bathing, while doing that he was speaking with me very naturally and was asking me which country I was from etc. After a while, I think I got used to it and did not feel much awkward but still I can't imagine stripping myself naked in the public bathroom and having bath in presence of a complete stranger.
The evening was starting to set in and the sunlight started disappearing. We had beer and popcorns while they started to play loud music at one of the bars and it seemed that there was an open and wild party with all the drunk youth around. Some cheap looking heavy sized women came near us and tried to strike a conversation and pull some of us for the dancing. Many couples were engaged in the kissing and fondling in the open. While all this was happening, a family was still seating there. The husband and wife were engaged in the kissing while the two kids were seating there and eating their popcorns watching the wild dancing party. I have a no way of approving the behaviour of that couple taking their kids at a wild beach party and engaging themselves in sexually provocative acts in front of their very young kids. I felt frustrated that I had no way of expressing my concerns to them as it was none of my business to tell them how they should behave.
I had liked the way I have found Ghanaians were behaving publicly. The attitude towards sex is certainly far more open here compared to India and people easily engage in premarital sex. Advances towards opposite sex are also easily made and women are certainly not shy. In spite of all these, one thing which I always appreciate here, even in city like Accra, is that people never make a public display of their love. Rarely have I seen here couples walking together with even their hands clasped together. I like the fact that these people know what is to be done in private is not to be displayed publicly. It was a great disappointment after seeing this all. But I think now while writing about it, that it was surely an exception and it proves the rule.
Another such delirious place, which I visited during this visit to Accra, was Makola market. I was suggested by a number of people being an Obruni (white man in twi language), I should not venture much in the market and especially narrow lanes. I could not follow those advises, once I reached this frantic, crowded and exciting place. Makola is the biggest market place in Accra and it is the place where most of the local people go shopping for their daily needs. After reaching there, I saw many Chinese and Arab faces. I also spotted a south Indian couple with a small kid walking around the market doing window shopping and bargaining with the vegetable vendors. I could not laugh out loud in the public on those advises.
I had gone there in search of Guinea fowl traders in cities. (Guineafowl is a local poultry bird found in this region.) It was a very exciting experience to find the person which I had never met before in that crowded place. It was easy for him however, as I realized later, to identify a Solemiya (white man in Gurune language) like me to spot out from the crowd. The trader was a native of Bongo district and I had contacted him in advance through a farmer. The trader was happy to receive me and hear the greetings in his own native Gurune language. They enthusiastically provided me with the information I needed. I was also happy to see the end of the value chain of the guinea fowl trade and these sturdy and noisy birds from Bongo having made their way in cramped cages on the top of the tro to the shops in narrow those lanes of this part of Makola market. I shall write about this interesting journey of Guinea fowls and its value chains later sometime.
After finishing his interview, I roamed on the streets of the market. I felt as if I was in the central market areas of Pune (Mandai) or of Mumbai (Masjid Bandar) but the scene here was far different from the one which we see in India. Here the market was dominated by women. They were selling, moving around carrying heavy loads on their heads, and of course buying and bargaining. The goods that were available ranged from grocery items, plastic goods, clothes, vegetables etc. At one section there were all kinds of weird food items ranging from pig feet to snails and to a very horrible looking smoke dried fish. (We think of them as weird, but it is an important cheap protein source for the locals.) Since I no longer get put off by the smells of these things (many thanks to Bolgatanga market), I could move around easily without any feeling of disgust. The advise,which I think, I should not have followed but followed, was about not bringing the camera. I missed it very much.
Though the visits to these places in Accra were very enjoyable, I started to feel tired. It was partly because of the heat and humid air. I think it might also be partly because of the constant company of our group of Indian friends with whom I was moving around. It made me think that I should also remain alone for a while. Have I started to like my own company because of living alone in Bongo for a long time so? May be? But the underlining factor was that I felt tired of Accra this time and decided to cut my trip short. I had planned for many other excursions this time and it included the trip to the largest artificially created body of fresh water in the world, the Lake Volta. I just did not feel like moving somehow and came back to Bongo.
I have to specially mention here that they played a good Nigerian movie in the bus this time and it did not have any witchcraft nonsense in it. “Have my taste about the films changed or am I just adjusting myself to the local situation?” a serious question to think about.