Sunday, August 28, 2011
Written by Chad
This isn't just a post about three dudes visiting Ghana- it's also the gruesome account of seventeen lobsters being boiled alive by their hand for a single lunchtime meal. But more on that later. First, here's what our trip looked like:
We crossed the border from Togo into Aflao then proceeded to Accra, Kokrobite Beach, Cape Coast, Kakum Rainforest, Takoradi, Akwidaa, Kumasi, and then back to Burkina.
If Ghana has taught me anything, it's that I may need English rehab in 2012 before returning to the States. We've only been speaking French for 10 months, so I don't know why the transition was so awkward for us to talk in English to African people. Straight to the final hours of our week in Ghana, we kept accidentally greeting people with a Bonsoir or exiting taxis with a Merci. We considered carrying with us a "French jar"- the same concept as a "swear jar" but you throw in a penny each time you forget to speak English. We also said translations of French phrases that don't exist in English- for instance, wishing street peddlers better sales by saying "Good market!" (Bon marche).
The pace of our principal method of travel, the almighty tro-tro, resembled that of an asthmatic marathon runner. The vehicle would stop every few miles alongside these street peddlers for no apparent reason other than to delay our ultimate arrival. Occasionally a curbside man would present the prize of his morning hunt to us- a toddler-sized guinea-pig-looking creature that I'm guessing we're supposed to cook and eat. They're called "grasscutters" and definitely worth a google.
On other occasions, we would pull to the shoulder as merchant women would try hawking their wares from head bowls. There was one lady who grew frustrated that Luis and I weren't reacting to her local language sales pitch, so she yelled, "Lick my face!" which we later determined meant "Look at my face."
Our first destination was Accra, the capital city of Ghana. It's a vast, clean metropolis with all the modern chicness of the most happenin US cities. Words cannot express the rapturous emotional and spiritual experience of walking into a three-storey KFC on opening night. This was the universe's way of rewarding us for having suffered over 24 hours on the road. Here we belonged. And oh the anticipation as we waited in line, our hearts beating with blood soon to be filled with fast food chicken grease. As I stepped up to the cashier, she smiled as though we were old friends and in that moment an overwhelming appreciation for all of existence brought tears of joy to my eyes. Barely able to speak, I placed my order: "I'll have a chicken sandwich, please."
The cashier replied, "Here they are called 'chicken burgers,' sir."
"Oh, forgive me- one of those," I apologized as I received my tray. Ascending the stairs to eat our "burgers," we felt as though our souls were ascending as well- to a higher plane of deliciousness. As I gobbled down this palatable perfection, I wondered what could be better?
I'll tell you what would be better: going to Accra Mall and watching two Hollywood movies in a row. Thumbs up to "Horrible Bosses." The mall was the ying to our village life yang. Perusing the mall's Walmart-grade megastore "Game" balanced out our chi like some sort of Zen meditation. I gulped down some ginger beer and walked into a Mac Store where all the repressed memories of American gadgetry came rushing back in an instant. With wide eyes fixated on the glowing display, I spoke the product name like a kindergartener sounding out his first two-syllable word: "i. Pad." I wondered, in my ten-month absence just how far has American technology progressed. Flying cars?
That night we celebrated Doug's 23rd by pigging out on pizza at Mama Mia's followed by a night out on the town gambling. This means we went to a casino and watched Doug lose 4 dollars at a slot machine at which point he surrendered.
We fled the city just in the knick of time to hit up Big Milly's Backyard, an expat resort on Kokrobite Beach, where we would chill for two days. We never met the famed Big Milly (who we assumed would greet us with a bearhug, pinch our cheeks, and tell us we need to put some meat on our bones), but almost as good- we met dozens of Brits, Danes, Germans, Statesians, and more Brits. We would play cards and share stories with these people who liked to call us Yanks and there was much silliness.
Cape Coast happened next. Nearby Kakum National Forest exceeded expectations. My life in suburban Virginia hadn't yet exposed me to these rainforest thingies that everybody always wants to protect. As we walked atop some netted bridges that some Canadians built in the Eighties, the thought occurred that maybe it was me who needed protecting. From falling to my rainforesty death. Between vertigo-induced panic attacks, we listened for monkey calls, which according to our tourguide Ebenezer sound like the name of the park: "Kakum! Kakum! Kakum!" On our way down we saw a tiny yellow snake and a type of ant that allegedly can kill and devour an entire elephant. We also ate a cocoa fruit from which all chocolate is derived, though it tastes nothing like a Lindt truffle.
Continuing our westward trip all the way to Akwidaa Beach, we lodged at the Green Turtle. Had we visited a week later, we might have seen turtles laying eggs on the beach, but not this time. Tucked away on ten-kilometer "road" which might as well have been a minefield for all its craters, we held on for dear life. Here's a video of our tro-tro pogoing down the DMV's worst nightmare, trying its best not to lose a tail pipe:
It was in the seaside village Akwidaa that we murdered seventeen innocent lobsters and devoured their innards in a gluttonous frenzy. We paid slightly less than a buck per lobster. At some frou frou, ritzy bistro we might have had to dish out our paychecks for an entire two months to attain such quality dining.
After this pinnacle of gourmet dining, the next destination Kumasi had options such as "Baby Pee Eating Palace," but we didn't stop to ask what they have on tap.
After 13 days and 3 countries we returned to Burkina Faso, but before we left, Doug wrote the Ghana volunteers this dry-erase board note:
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