Out of Accra
We welcome a clean, cool, spacious hotel room with a firm mattress and private bath. The place even has English speaking CNN if we need a dose of bad news. Mainly, we have wi-fi. After lounging all day on Sunday, Monday we go to work.
Impossible gridlock in Accra invites opportunity for discussion with our taxi driver, Samuel, who is trying to bring us to the Benin Embassy.
I ask him, “What do you like about Accra?”
He stares ahead, rubs his chin, and then shakes his head. “Nothing.” We all laugh. He continues. “The traffic is terrible, and it embarrasses me when people beg for money.”
He asks lots of questions about the US, and is amazed at how large it is. He wants to know if we’ve been to Hollywood, and if it is a city, and did Michael Jackson really turn his skin white. He wondered about the Indians, and how many hours it took us to get to Ghana. He wants to know if we have a lot of black people, and where they live.
Again, I inquire. “Okay, tell me one thing that you like about Accra.”
He laughs. “I like getting out of Accra and going to Cape Coast.”
I’m not sure why, but we all keep laughing at this.
The burning air in Accra makes our eyes water. We finally arrive at the Benin Embassy, only to find that it has moved to the other side of town. Samuel doesn’t even flinch, and drives on. (We agree on a taxi price before getting into one, a necessary practice)
I can’t take it any longer. “Okay, the women. Do you like the women in Accra?”
Samuel lights up. “Oh yes! That’s why I left my father’s farm for a job in the city.” We do an “Obama fist bump.”
A one-legged beggar approaches us at a stop. I tell Samuel that I feel sorry for him.
“Don’t,” he says emphatically. “He still has one good leg, and a mind. He could work and we shouldn’t encourage begging.”
Finally, we find the Benin Embassy. He drops us off, because getting visas will be a long process. Mare and I fill out forms, and are told to come back at 2:00 for the visas. It is ten o’clock in the morning, so we head back to the central city, and take care of business such as finding a device to download photos on the computer, getting more money at the bank, and cooling off in our luxurious room.
Samuel takes us back to the Embassy, as he sits in his car outside of the hotel, and we get visas. He cannot believe that we have homeless people, and poverty in America. Mind you, nothing even close to the poverty in Ghana, but poor is poor.
Okay, time to get back to the reality of travelling. The next morning we squeeze into a “Lorry” (a minivan) loaded with sixteen people. The driver speeds all the way to the city of Ho, in the mountainous “Volta Region” of Ghana. The driver only stops once, because a man in the back of the van vomits. I realize that we all smell different when first entering the van, and then come out three hours later all smelling the same.
Soaked in sweat yet again, we cannot get a room in Ho. We grump at each other over a beer. I think about a lesson from the book, “Zen, and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” It says something like how any trip flows through stages, and getting grouchy is a normal stage. So, we get over our grumps, realizing that we need each other right now. Eventually, we squeeze six people into an economy size taxi, literally sitting sideways, and an elderly man next to me seems to read my mind, and says, “We manage.”
Mare and I realize that we love this. We’re made for this kind of travel. How many couples could claim that?
We’re heading for a little Village in the mountains, Amedzofe…where the sky is the limit, and only one hour away. (But it takes us two hours)