Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Back in the saddle

I am back and I wow, I did a lot and learned a lot! I made it both ways with no jet lag. I didn't get frisked in Amsterdam like the young women behind me on the airplane. I feel I did what I went to do.

The photos I posted with no comments are as follow:

1 is a hotel room in Tamale owned by the Gariba's-some friends of Kate's.
2 Northern village. The houses which are round are owned by lower class people. The square ones are owned by people of higher status. They build them into a compound with a center "courtyard". The woman was headed to get some water from a well.
3 Nass's (Nash's) (a basket weaver who took us to his home) niece hanging out in their home while his sister was at work.
4 Inside Nass's home, basket weaving reeds.
5 At the Art Center in Bolega. Men were adding leather handles to the baskets making them into purses. This is one of my favorite photos that I took while in Ghana.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Leaving today

I'll see you all soon!


Friday, July 17, 2009

City Guinea Fowl, country guinea fowl

We went to Tamale. Said, "Tamily." It is a beautiful town, busy. Out of the food markets I've seen Tamale's looked like one my heart yearned to invade with my camera. Skulls of cows three wide sat on a table. At the other side sat two men perched on stools with HUGE hunks of meat and rustic knives. The meat was fresh and pink. As customers come they cut off a hunk for them. It was lovely.

Hundreds of storefronts much like the butcher's packed tightly along the streets edging pedestrians into the street. Cars slip by one another like a perfect musical composition. Among this appearance of chaos (as Kate says) there is great harmony and invention to make the chaos move things forward in its own way. I like this pace, I see it as artistic.

Kate keeps saying the hustlers. I laugh at her! She calls the sellers on the street hustlers and they are but not like Americans think of a hustler-well almost not. There is evidence of pushing goods in a directed (nearly unsavory) way, however, if you start asking the shopkeepers and street vendors questions they will go to any length to help you get what you want. They are sincere with you and really compassionate. It is worth having a problem in Ghana to see the depth of their hospitality! The best way I can say this is with a cheesy metaphor-Twi the local language is said in proverbs so I am just going with the flow.... If you scratch the surface, this is what you get, if you dig a little you plant something which quickly grows.

I want to share more about slavery. Something I could not articulate before has come forward so I will try here to explain. Culturally Ghanaians (I believe Nigerians, People from Togo-could be many other countries in Africa too) follow a practice of giving a child to a relative. They do this with the unspoken hope that this relative will send the child to school. However, they just believe this will happen and really have no clue where the child will go or what they will be asked to do (sell things in the market, etc). Because of this belief that this is the road to bettering your family at the same time they make their child vulnerable. I will explain that in a minute.

As an aside, there is a town North of Tamale where the people designed their homes with roofs that are shaped in a way that they will not burn. They did this because slave wranglers were going to towns, lighting homes on fire-thatched! The people would flee the house, be caught and sold. The artisans are quick to copy things. We all do this but if you say, "We want this to be exclusive" but somebody else says they like it and asks for it they give it, regardless of what they just said. Which takes me to the fact that these people are HIGHLY entrepreneurial. The factors of giving a child over and natural entrepreneurial nature gave way to slavery. Plus, port towns on the ocean made it possible for an export trade and it was the other countries who wanted these people. It is wrong, I am not trying to justify it but there is a fiber of understanding in me about how this didn't seem so foreign to the people here.

One of the opportunities Kate would like to venture into is helping children who are given to a relative for education and are instead sold into slavery. It is sex slavery. Kate told me of an article she read in the United States about how children as young as 6 would be sold. The American business men pay a lot to have sex with children this young. (ok, I feel sick-just trying to get you to understand there is real need here for income generating opportunities and educational resources.) In Tamale we are working with a group who makes batik, it is run by the Catholic Church. They find slaves and remove them, bringing them to Tamale, which is REALLY far from the coast (In Togo, Nigeria and perhaps Ghana) where they were found. It is cleaner and more organized there too(this is by my observations and from Dr. Gariba and his wife Neo's information they shared.) This group does not discriminate on religious belief, they take everybody.

There are more Muslims in the North. In the morning and the evening you can hear the loud speakers in the town announcing "A Call to Prayer." On the bus from Tamale somebody had a Muslim cell phone ringtone. It sounded similar to the call to prayer song I heard in the morning before boarding the bus.

It was a nice journey to Tamale and Boglatanga where we found a family who makes baskets. They took us to their house. It WAS AWESOME!!!! Nass-said Nash is the oldest boy at home in this house and he is working to keep his sisters in school.

We've met some wonderful people. Tamale is well known for Guinea fowl(like Cornish Game Hen). I ate a lions share while I was there. We stayed at the hotel of Dr and Mrs. Gariba. We also hitched a ride from them to Tamale. I took photos with their son Jeema and played Jeopardy on the ride up with their daughter Aiyasha. This joyful family was wonderful company-I really hope I see them again. I took pictures of their hotel which will hopefully make the cut for their website! -Opportunity is everywhere.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Weekend Edition

The weekend was action packed. Photos from the Rain forest from the "Canopy walk"-you will see me on a rope bridge, Moree, The ocean.

We toured a slave holding castles prior to leaving Elmina. We did not have time for a tour so we started asking this gentleman about the castle and he said he would take us on an abbreviated tour, to me this translated to a private tour! We learned a lot and things there were dire. It makes me nearly ill to think of what we learned so I am not excited to share the info about it. The one fact I can share is out of this one castle came 12,000,000 slaves. The chances of them living through their first 6 months at the castle tells the story of the potential of millions of people who died prior to leaving the castle making the full potential at this one location well above 12,000,000.

The men carrying our luggage were headed to Kate's land. The roads were so muddy that we could not pass by taxi so we walked. The men were so kind to carry our things. We had our laptops, heavy beads we'd purchased and more than we needed scrunched in those bags-poor guys!

Taxi cab photo too. They are smelly little buggers! DIESEL, I tell you it is toxic here with this Diesel-no filters they drive cars until they beg for mercy and then they still drive them.

Elmina Castle is the white building you see in the photo of the city. This is the slave trade port location.

The boats are in the harbor for fishing, mostly Tilapia. Smoked tilapia is everywhere for sale in Ghana.


Friday, July 10, 2009

More photos

Photos School children, Rainy day photo, pot holes, House where we are staying most of the time, cat.

One more funny fact. These people are entrepreneurs! Kids were on a road filling pot holes and waiting with shovels to get money for doing so!

Small town living and large city life

2nd photo...
We went to several towns this day but this village Abompe was very special. We met with two women pictured here. We are trying to find a way for them to make a lucrative business with the rock from the ground under their village. They are hopeful to find a way to make a business for themselves. We brought the kids suckers and they went wild! It was really cute. Kids came running from everywhere. Kids even went to get other kids and brought back their siblings, etc. Ursula, a friend of Kate's went with us. She teased the kids and made it very fun. I cannot speak their language which is called Twi said "Tree". They also speak English in Ghana but I can tell they are more comfortable speaking Twi.

I got up from our meeting with the women to take a photo. The kids figured out I was taking pictures and ran to get in front of the camera, waving their arms and jumping up and down. I told them to wait and I would photograph them. I took some photos and more kids would come. After I took a bunch I realized they might not know I can see the picture right away. I told them to come and I turned the camera around. They went wild. It was really fun and as I type this their untouched nature brings tears to my eyes. The are very beautiful children.

1st photo
This is Ursula to the right, Kate sits across from her. They are talking to the artisans.

So you can see, I am very little help in the communication process. My strength is choosing product. We've visited four shops/situations where the product has been well beyond my expectation and the people we have dealt with exceptional and they are working with the poor as artisans. Kate, Ursula and I make fun of each other for getting too into the buying. Actually, it is generally Kate and Ursula laughing at me because I get into this process. Trust me when I say I have served Kate well in the buying portion of this trip. Choosing quantities, saying no to akwardly chested female statue made from wood. They laugh and say, "Americans wouldn't buy that?" Then I tell them, "Not our target customer." Then they laugh harder.

What I've seen
I've encountered a shepherd herding his cows backward down the highway. I feel grateful Kate took me to the country yesterday because I had a constant diesel sore throat. WOW, pollution from cars is no joke here. 10 goats running single file on a path next to the highway. Chickens and their babies running around together.

Accra looks a bit like a constant State Fair. Cars parked tightly on grassy areas wherever they can. Booths everywhere with things for sale. People in the middle of the streets selling products, giant, heavy baskets, boxes, wooden pieces on their head. These people are strong and determined. I don't think Kate and I lack for finding ambition and talent from Ghana. I suspect Kate knew this.

Respect is regarded highly in this culture. Especially with elders. At Abompe when dealing with the kids they "Listened to me." At the market today the people mobbed me and pushed and poked at me to come and look at their booth. It was hard for me.

Ghana is a cash based society. This means they pre-pay for everything.

-Cell phone minutes
-Electricity, you run out it shuts off
-You cannot afford to buy a house outright so you start having one built and stop when you have no more money. It might take a family 20 years to build a house. So consequently there are raw house structures all over the place. If I didn't have someone to ask I might deduce this is a place that is growing rapidly because of the development all around. The only thing which is strange to me is these homes are very large, equal to an American suburban home-maybe 2,000 sq ft and why don't they go for a smaller floor plan so they can finish sooner. I am speculating that the cinder blocks are inexpensive but it is the finishing that is costly because this is where most homes are stuck in the process.

I will leave you with this...I was riding through a smaller city and there is a product called "Blue Band". It looks like the equivalent to peanut butter. Blue Band's add boasts "70% fat spread."

Me Dasse (Thank you) for reading!


Obama, Michael Jackson.....Big topics in Ghana

I am in Ghana, I am having fun and also working hard. As is to be expected in a country such as this, things move slowly. However, I feel we’ve made a lot of contacts and also purchased a lot of product to sell. The purpose for my journey is to find good people who make ‘goods’ and want to change their life from good to better.

Cultural ditties- I will journal a bit about my experience and the inner workings of Ghana each time I blog.

The Cows Come Home…

Not the cows but the goats and chickens. Each day the chickens and goats go find food at the neighbor’s, at the park and out on the highways. Then at night each and every night they return to their owner’s house and sleep in their designated spot.

My Ghanaian alarm clock is a nervous dog apparently he has had too much time in his tiny, very hot kennel. Much like when Tom and I stayed in Italy and we would awaken courtesy of the neighbor’s rooster. His voice box had been ‘altered’ and now he sounded like a sick clanging bell. Like the rooster I’ve become used to my crowing dog and can sleep right through his cries and pleads.

My Arrival….
It was dark upon my arrival. A man named Prince, along with Kate picked me up from the airport. Customs is a four part process. An Italian on the plane said it is long and toilsome. I didn’t find this. It was quick and I saw him get through as quickly as me. The thing I noticed is to hang back a bit and watch what the person before me was doing. Then be prepared with your documents.

The house where we are staying is quite far from Accra. It is a gated community and I am sleeping in a bed exported from America. The air moves constantly here so opening a window to sleep is fine and the ceiling fan does the rest. It is very humid, as I type my palms sick to the computer a little. It is rainy and very damp today. I am surprised to find last night I needed a small sweater.

Today I would live the life of every class in Ghana. I was carried by a driver in a car which is brand new, whose owner is wealthy. I traveled in a car owned by a rare person of middle class and I rode the Tro-tro. This is public transit in the form of a VW bus styled vehicle. It seems much larger fitting 16 people and is made by Toyota. The side door slides and this is where the “money taker” sits with his arm out pointing as the van passes letting those waiting know where he is headed while at the same time using his arm to hold the door closed, the latch is broken. “Ashongman, Tema and Accra,” the people wait to see his signal from the roadside as the buses pass, hoping this one goes to their destination.

Waiting for the Tro-tro behind us by 20 feet was a table holding palm oil. Big, recycled jugs of great variety stand on the table. They hold red liquid which looks like tomato juice. People are behind this in a building, one stretched long on a table resting in the shade.

We board the bus squeezing into the very back. Kate says back to me, “be careful not to get cut even though you have your tetanus shot.” My eyes survey the many rough metal edges, trying to avoid them.

I move forward beyond a woman and plop next to Kate. The breeze through the van is ample. Two young men sit in front of us. The money taker calls on them to pay. The road we are traveling is lined with shops. Opportunity seeking booths line the streets in front of the shops. They sell everything from food fufu, whole cooked fish and chips, balls of sweet dough, to toilet paper.

Just before an underpass (above looks like a freeway) on the embankment there are animals, goats, cows and eating the long grass.

*President Obama will be in Ghana tomorrow. Thus, a topic of high interest in Ghana at the moment.