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Saturday, 5 March 2011

Exploring Accra

Oxford Street, Osu - quite quiet, for once, on a Sunday

Arriving back from Ethiopia, the temperature in Accra seemed even hotter than before, if that was even possible, and I spent most of the week in a jet-lagged haze. Waking up at 4.30 I would have about 2 hours' worth of buzzing energy...sadly not sustainable into work...and thus requiring a large quantity of caffeine, and then a larger quantity of sleep to get through each day.

This sleepiness and heat goes well with sitting around doing not very much, and this seems to be a favourite pastime. In the neighbourhood where we live, for example, there are security guards outside a few of the buildings. The walls around are high, with metal gates hiding the houses or offices for the most part, so it's hard to tell what's going on - if anything - behind. The guards, if they are indeed guards rather than men of ages ranging from between 20 to 60 just hanging out and playing cards, also seem engulfed in the sleepiness of the heat. It really is just too hot to move much. The greatest movements to be seen come from the occasional thrust of a playing card down in a winning move. Or the lizards, darting out from underneath a shrub and quickly skittering into hiding again across the grass.
A lizard out for a stroll

Only a few streets away the life of the city deafens every passer by. "The street is a roadway delineated on both sides by an open sewer. There are no sidewalks. Cars mingle with the crowds. Everything moves in concert - pedestrians, automobiles, bicycles, carts, cows and goats." So writes Kapuscinski describing Accra. In the late fifties and sixties. Apart from slightly fewer goats and cows to be seen, very little has changed as you walk down Oxford Street in Osu.

On Saturday afternoon Amanda and I venture out to explore Accra culture. We plan to visit the national museum and two galleries in the Asylum Down area of Accra, and take a taxi to the museum to get us over to that side of town. The museum is a two storey plastered building, where, if you wanted to perform Bikram yoga or take a free sauna, I can highly recommend as a place to spend some time. I have no photos of the inside of the museum, as it cost an extra two cedis for the privilege to take them, and apart from a few fragments of excavations and some samples of Ghanaian patterns there actually wasn't much to photograph. Oh, and my camera battery has run down, my 'universal charger' seems to be universally broken and my iphone isn't letting me download pictures to my PC. So no photos for this blog post - until I sort it out.

The most interesting part of the museum describes aspects of the slave trade, dating the history back to the first influx of travellers from Europe, and then more, Portuguese, Danes and English to name but three. Looking at the buildings where slaves were held, and also held before transportation out of Africa, I begin to understand that the castles and forts here in Accra, for example Osu castle, are remnants - and reminders - of this time.

Unfortunately the sleepiness of Accra appeared to have been infectious, and we missed out on both galleries as we were too late for one and the other was closed. We wandered through the main streets of Asylum Down towards the ringway road, instead looking at the exhibitions of local stallholders - very much awake and touting for business by the roadsides. You can buy anything by the road - eggs, bread, phone cards. We even spotted an enterprising young man selling massive, DJ-style headphones in among the plantain chip vendors. Everyone is out and about on Saturday travelling around in the tro-tro shared buses looking for a bargain or catching up.

We finished our walk at Champ's sports bar, evidently an ex-pat haven as we suddenly found ourselves watching Man U with a smattering of other white folks in this heavily air conditioned bar. The highlight of this day came following the match, though, when suddenly a silver haired woman approached our table, and asked, "Amanda and Jessica?". No, we're not wanted for any series of crimes here in Accra. Instead this turned out to be Brenda - better known in hash circles as Highland Fling - whom I had contacted by email the week before to figure out where the running (and beer) action was in Accra. "I thought, there are two white girls who look like they're new to town, so perhaps it could be Amanda and Jessica," Brenda tells us when she joins us for a drink. A retired teacher who has lived in Ghana for 38 years, Brenda is 'a character' alright.

Apparently Accra - which still has the open sewers mentioned above, by the way - is now 'too comfortable' as you can get everything. Plus the traffic is dreadful. Spending time with Brenda could be the best 'exhibition' of the day - we're learning about the culture, the people and the life with a beer to hand. Perfection.

We're off this weekend to join other hashers on a trip slightly up the coast to a beach-side hotel for more running, beer and talk with Brenda. I'm pretty sure she'll be featuring in posts to come!

1 comment:

  1. Good luck with the hashing. have you done it before? I would recommend escaping before The Circle gets going. Loved the photos of your road. Made me feel nostalgic...