Accra, Ghana: Land of Gold, Cocoa and Ant Hills

It was 12:42pm, and the air in the D-finger of the Lagos Airport was stale and musty, like the air you might find in a shadowy, backdoor staircase. The woman to my left was grumbling, audibly enough for me to turn my head, but not so loud as to wake the lightly snoring Saudi Arabian man to my right.

If he is wrong, we tear him to pieces! He offer himself as sacrifice and we tear him to pieces! We take off his belt and expose him. Ha!

The woman was referring to the Virgin Nigeria agent lumbering our way. It was over an hour after our scheduled departure, and until that point, not an agent was to be found. The 40-odd Accra-bound passengers had been lingering outside of an unmarked Gate 41, and while some of them didn’t seem to mind the idling, the woman to my left was determined to find out where our flight was. Thankfully, it was on the way.

I realized that it had been over two weeks since I had last flown – a lengthy duration for someone who normally bounces from city to city. In lieu of my traditional nap, I took the opportunity to ruminate on all that had happened during my previous two weeks in Nigeria.

How, on a balmy, traffic-typical afternoon in Lagos, my driver Shola was accosted by a street rascal targeting his tires with a rusty nail – Shola promptly socked him in the face, and we drove onward. How, after being asked to leave a supermarket twice, I went back two days later to sleuth all the prices onto my mobile phone. And how, over a two-day span, I was laughably stalked by Ginny, the relentlessly persistent prostitute.

Nigeria, what a riot.

A common blunder amongst us all is to lump the unknown together. To think of a place like Africa as a homogeneous, static continent- lions and tigers and poverty, oh my! I must confess that I can’t ignore this occasional tendency. After all, it’s much simpler to stereotype, right? A few hours in Ghana slapped some sense into me. Africa is a diverse, diverse, diverse place. Ghana and Nigeria are vastly different, and even now, after a few days in Accra, I must consciously force myself to reanalyze and recalculate my surroundings.

While Ghana means Warrior King, Accra’s city name is derived from the abundant anthills urban core. That’s right, folks, Accra, in a roundabout way, means ants. I haven’t seen any ant hills as of yet, but my eyes are prepared. Throughout the 18th century, Accra grew as a trade center, with gold, cocoa, and a variety of other commodities changing hands amongst the Portuguese, Swedish, Dutch, French, British and Danish. Fast forward a number of years, throw in a railway system, and Accra transformed from a fort-town into a modern city, now the administrative capital of Ghana. Today, Accra boasts infrastructure. Good schools, clean roads – Accra is a hubbub of progress.

Driving around the city, I am no longer aggressively besieged by howling hawkers – Hey, white man! – freed up from pushy selling and able to take deep breaths. Just yesterday I was sitting in the car, my bent elbow hanging outside the window, and I watched a chicken cross the road [insert joke here]. That made me happy. I continue to be amazed at the women with bulging bundles balanced on their heads. I surrendered to one of them and purchased some super glue for 60 cents, which I needed to repair the already-broken flip flops I had picked up in Ibadan.

My work, for the most part, is done, and since I don’t leave until Saturday evening, I have a few more moments of travel left, a few days to soak up some equatorial African rays, to see some sights, to reflect on the last month. Tomorrow I will be waking up early to visit the Cape Coast Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site roughly 3 hours outside of Accra. The fortification played a major role during the trans-Atlantic slave trade as the holding grounds for African slaves. The number of African-deported slaves is remarkable – estimates range from 12 to 25 million – and many of them channeled through West Africa, spent their final days on the African continent cramped up in the dungeons of the Cape Coast Castle.

Should be a busy day. Check in soon.

6 thoughts on “Accra, Ghana: Land of Gold, Cocoa and Ant Hills”

  1. Your last two pieces are really interesting and give us Mainland USA types a better sense of what Africa represents, at least about the countries you visited. Mom and I look forward to hearing of your safe return to Boston this Sunday.

  2. Hahaha Had a laugh with this post. Yes, Nigeria is a diverse and really weird place. I had fun with the signs (i.e the engrish, they try.) and the people. Ginny the prostitute seems familiar, probably the same Ginny that stalked my friend a while back when he came to the place. Keep it up and do post some pics!

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