Monday, 7 September 2009

Early travels

We have been doing a bit of traveling since our brief stay in Accra. A group of six of us went to Mole National Park (pronounced Molay, you can imagine the imaginative jokes). We had to take a tro-tro on the worst roads in all of Ghana. We were being thrown about in the already overcrowded pathetic vehicle for a good four hours. All I can say it was a cultural experience.

The best story from our stay there apart from the safari walk and seeing elephants involved a baboon. Caroline went into our dorm room we were sharing with some American girls and was confused to see that her bikini was out and seemed to be smeared with peanut butter. None of us could understand what had happened until we were on the safari walk and one of the American girls was going on about how a baboon had come into our room and unwrapped her sandwiches and sweets and eaten them all and even had a go at her last peanut butter supplies. Mystery solved. I like to imagine the baboon holding up Caroline's polka dot bikini before smothering it in peanut butter.

Last week we went as a group to Bolgatanga up north near the border with Burkina Faso. Here we did exciting things such as stroking overfed crocodiles, eating, cultural dancing and drumming, visiting the projects of an amazing NGO called Afrikids, saw a goldmine and even a witch-camp.
Ghana had oil and gold and so really should be able to afford some tarmac roads between big towns. The impressive football stadium in Tamale was built by the Chinese in return for access to Ghana's oil. If the government had simply invested itself in oil, the money could be going into Ghana's economy. The same is happening with it's gold. We visited a little very poor village that is mining gold but cannot afford to process it further than gold dust and so the Chinese are building a factory and are going to employ locals and build a clinic. This is all very good stuff but once again the profits are going to be pumped straight into the Chinese economy, not Ghana's.

The witchcamp was also a bizarre cultural experience. It turns out that pretty much everyone in Ghana believes in witches, even my boss who has posters all over the office encouraging people to 'show compassion to women accused of witchcraft.' We had to bribe a chief of the main village first and all of us squeezed into his little hut. Peter, our African Tzedek correspondent for some reason decided it was necessary to tell this chief we didn't believe in witches, to which he replied something along the lines of, "If something does not exist, how can it have a name?" Although mutterings of 'vampires', 'unicorns' and 'Father Christmas' went around, we made the noise they make when something is understood - a much more enthusiastic pronunciation of uh-huh. Unfortunately we had a translator so we could not ask the witches our own questions and hear their responses. They have to 'admit' to being witches to be allowed to stay, but with threats of death or at least having their ears cut off in their own communities, their options are limited.

Cultural dancing was hilarious and some quality videos have been taken. There was an amazing little old lady who got on stage from the beginning and was a very enthusiastic dancer and ululater. Despite all twenty of us having to squeeze into a bus meant for ten, we had a great trip.

By Jess

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