Monday, August 29, 2005

Accra, Take II

Tomorrow morning we're meeting Affie and going to Mr. Ayisi (Jefferson's uncle)'s house, to get our things together and get ready for the trip to Ireland (and home). So, although we don't leave until Wednesday evening, today was effectively our last day on our own in Ghana.

We've had a busy time since arriving in Accra, which you might have guessed from the lack of blogposts (despite the extraordinarily good internet access). On Wednesday we arrived in the afternoon and checked into what our guidebook said was a "clean, little guesthouse" but what turned out to be a dark, dingy, sketchy place with a toilet tank that leaked and flooded the floor (what little floor there was). There were also more mosquitoes than we've yet encountered in Ghana. Wednesday was therefore spent trying to find another hotel, which we went to first thing Thursday morning. This one cost us more than twice as much as the first, but was only marginally better (the toilet didn't leak). We stayed there until Sunday, when we moved to our present location - a wonderful, spacious hotel room (clean!) with A/C and a TV, costing less than the previous place! This one's not in the guidebook, so we're going to write the author. And that's been the tiresome adventure of hunting for affordable hotels in Accra.

Accra is not pretty. The buildings, the streets, the trees and plants... they all seem to be hiding behind a layer of smog and dirt and blinding sun (the air turned a subtle grey/beige). It was a rude awakening from our quaint and quiet Winneba. But Accra has some charm, and I'm starting to see it and even enjoy it. One thing is taking the public transportation. I remember thinking when I first arrived that Accra should have a subway system, but that was because we were only taking expensive taxis and we hadn't really learned the tro-tro system. I actually think it's fun to go to the tro-tro stops (and to know where they are!) and to listen to the tro-tro's destinations as they're yelled out by the 'conductor' (and to recognize what they're saying!) and to squeeze in with all the other people and to arrive at our destination having paid only 1,000 cedis each (11.5 US cents). It's fun in that satisfying way that solving a tricky math puzzle is fun, except you end up breathing a little more engine exhaust.

Some other things we've done this week: gone back to Legon and done more research, had lunch with the well-known Professor Kwesi Yankah (top specialist in Fante ethnography), and gone shopping and shopping and shopping (and walking and walking to get there). The highlight - who'd have guessed?? - was getting a full-body massage at the local "Beijing Clinic" (just me, not Jefferson). The masseuse wasn't Chinese but a hefty Ghanaian woman. It was by far a better massage than the one I got in Lijiang, China (my friends who were there remember my tears from that one)! And the masseuse did most of the massage with only one hand, sometimes while the other hand held her active cell phone. I swear the massage wasn't compromised one bit.

Finally, The Story of the T-shirt (it's kinda long and self-indulgent, really).

I have this plain-looking T-shirt that I bought a couple of years ago in San Francisco Chinatown. I had two of these shirts (they were pretty cheap, so I bought one as a future gift for someone). I never knew who to give it to, so I brought both of them to Ghana, planning to give both. I gave one to this guy who's staying at Affie's house in Koforidua, to thank him for fixing the zipper on Jefferson's old backpack and for fixing the zipper on my pair of jeans. So then I was left with the second, identical, shirt. I kept thinking that I'd meet someone along the way who I'd end up being friends with or who I'd end up working on my linguistics project with, and that I'd give them the shirt. But it never really happened, for one reason or another (I brought lots of other gifts, which I think are nicer or smaller, and so I gave all of those away first). So we came to Accra and I thought I'd just give the shirt to someone who looked like they really needed it. But there's something odd about just walking up to someone you don't know at all and giving them a shirt, right?

So. Today being our last day in Accra I took the shirt in my backpack when we went out. We'd been out most of the day and it was about 4:30pm and we were heading back to the hotel. We were walking through a busy intersection where yesterday two young 'white' boys (Iranian? Iraqi?) had followed us, begging and taking me by the elbow in such a way that they felt more like little nephews than kids who were begging. We didn't give them anything, though. Today as we were approaching the intersection I saw a taller, skinny girl, older than the boys (probably their sister), standing and begging. She didn't speak any English or Twi (and my Arabic is limited to three or four phrases), so I took out the shirt and pointed and it and pointed at her and gestured in a "What-do-you-think?" kind of way. Now you may have your own judgments about what and how to give and not to give to people who beg on street corners, but I have to tell you that this girl's smile completely lit up my little part of Accra and utterly made my day.

Time to leave on Ghana. Jefferson's blog does a much better job of wrapping up our trip than I could. It's been fun, yet frustrating; an escape, yet a constant challenge; and lengthy, yet over too soon. I think I'm a bit too absorbed in packing, etc., to really reflect. You can also expect at least one post after we get back to the US, as well as an announcement of our online Ghana photos page. So, stay tuned!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Lauren! I remember our massage in Lijing well and still sometimes speak of it! It was so funny (sorry to laugh at your pain) to come out of the massage place to find you in tears!!! Come on, the people were deaf so they couldn't hear your pain or complaints. That's funny!

Let me join in with everyone else in saying how much I have enjoyed your blog. Can't wait to talk to you!


12:46 PM, September 06, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm going to Ghana on the 26th for two weeks and would love to hear what you recommend, also the name of the hotel in Accra?
Please email me on
I'm a travel writer and need material for articles.
Ciao from karen
South Africa

2:47 AM, April 05, 2008  
Blogger MOH said...

Hey Accra visitors,,I would like to leave a comment on your memory pages here,,I lived in Ghana for three years in many places and had a big experience of Ghana stuffs and i think i must write a book about it,i live now in europe and i would like to go back to Ghana,it has left a big change in my life for what i have seen there from facilities and the life style,,but i think and hopefully not things are changing there since i left every thing was getting expensive police corruption (traffic)*** unless you have to avoid evening and morning times from 7am till 10am 4pm till 8pm always,i left Ghana in august 2008,,BOB MARLEY is exist in Ghana all the time with his stuff girls and massage OFFICES are helly great i agree with Lauren! i had it twice a week some times,its better than the chineese massage with those strong hands,,any way i was checking the Ghana news and saw your comments here and that took me to leave some thing for memory,,safe trips to africa and dont forgte the protection,with love M,A

2:36 AM, March 02, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The beggars are not Middle Eastern. They are refugees from Chad.


9:48 PM, July 02, 2011  
Blogger PocaCosa said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:37 AM, July 03, 2011  
Blogger Lauren Hall-Lew said...

Interesting, that makes sense! Thanks for the clarification. It's cool that people are still reading this blog, six years later. --Lauren

3:38 AM, July 03, 2011  

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