Today’s post is 1420 words, 35 photos, an 7 minute read. Enjoy!
In March and April 2016, I had the pleasure of spending two weeks in Ghana, West Africa as a volunteer for ACDI-VOCA, a U.S. based non-governmental organization (NGO). I spent most of my tour working with farmers in a small village in central Ghana. I’ve written about those experiences in previous posts, to review them click here, here, and here.
The last two days of my stay in Ghana were in the capital city of Accra. This is also the headquarters for the Ghanaian office of ACDI-VOCA. I spent a few hours at the office reporting about my time with the farmers. Then I was on my own until the next day when I would head back to the U.S.
I was booked into the Royal Richester Hotel near the ACDI-VOCA offices. I asked at the front desk about a restaurant within walking distance that served pizza, or hamburgers, or something similar. The reason for my request was that my dining choices when I was in the village were limited. Everyday for ten days straight, I had the same thing for lunch – fried rice with a small piece of fried chicken. I was hankering for something different. The desk clerk offered a few choices and drew a map so I wouldn’t get lost as it would be getting dark when I returned. I can’t tell you how much I savored that meal, I relished every bite. On the way back to the hotel, I topped off my meal with a small dish of gelato.
During my walk to the restaurant, I explored the area. I was fascinated by the all signs at this intersection. They point to the Maths Academy, the American International School (a Christian-based K-12 school), ACDI-VOCA offices, and the World Cocoa Foundation, a non-profit to develop and maintain a thriving sustainable cocoa market.
I noted this sign to Hotel Obama. President Obama visited Ghana on his first international trip after taking office in 2009. During the time of my visit in 2016, he was in his last year of his presidency. I was often asked about him, even by strangers. I could tell that he was highly regarded by the people of Ghana.
Wisconsin International University College is a private college offering Bachelor, Master’s degrees and certificates in several fields. Why Wisconsin is in it’s name, I have no idea! Maybe because some of the founders attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison or they just liked the name. I found it interesting to connect with a familiar name so far away from home.
These neighborhood shops were a very common sight. They were like a variety store, selling candy, drinks, chips, bread, clothing, household cleaners, and etc. If someone ran out of a product, one of the shops likely carried it.
I walked past this garden center, the pots and stone were so beautiful. Greenery grows big in the tropics so large crockery is needed.
This woman was set up on the street with her sewing machine, no electricity needed. The old machine operated by cranking the handle, she was adept at keeping the needle going up and down and moving the fabric for even stitches. Her son was with her, he interpreted my ask for a photo into Twi, one of the common languages spoken in Ghana. I could tell the son was very proud of his mother and her sewing skills.
A little later, I came across these women sewing on the porch of their home. Looks like they were sewing dresses.
The Next Day
The next morning, I hired a guide to drive me to some of the sites in Accra. First, a little about the city. It’s located on the Gulf of Guinea on the Atlantic Ocean. Accra is the capital and the largest city in Ghana with a population in the greater metro area of nearly 5.5 million residents. The population of Ghana is about 32 million in country about the size of Oregon, the ninth largest state in the U.S.
We drove by the Ghana National Mosque that was under construction at the time of my visit. It opened in 2021 and is said to seat 15,000 people. About 20% of the population of Ghana identifies as adherents to Islam. Over 70% of Ghanians are members of various Christian religions. Muslims and Christians enjoy a cordial and peaceful relationship. I saw this first hand when I worked with the farmers. They did everything together except worship.
One of the first places the guide took me too was the Jamestown Lighthouse. It was built in 1931 and for a small fee visitors take the winding stairs to the top. It was quite a shocking sight to see what was below.
This is what I saw. A fishing village on this beach. An estimated 15,000 people live and work along the waterfront. There were schools, churches, a couple of mosques, living quarters made of scrap materials, and even a herd of cattle. I’ve never scene anything like this before.
My head was spinning after seeing this village from the highest point. Then my guide took me on a walk through the village. There were abandoned boats, boats under construction, boats in the water. Vendors were selling the catch of the day. There were fish entrails and lots of garbage strewn about. The smell at times was nauseating.
These are some of the poorest people in Accra and all of Ghana. But they were friendly to the old white guy with a camera. My guide, a young, tall, black man, stopped to talk with some of the villagers, they seemed to know and respect him. I did feel conspicuous during our time in the village but never felt that I was in danger.
We stopped by one of the schools, it was very primitive but the kids were like kids everywhere. They waved, smiled, and goofed off drawing laughter from their classmates and frowns from their teachers.
The guide told me that a lot of the fish is purchased by high-end restaurants and hotels.
Babies are born here, kids have free range of the place. The little kids were so cute and friendly. A little troop of kids followed me on my walk, staying with us until we reach the street above.
This was one of my favorite photos taken in the fishing village. This woman was sorting a large pile of onions. I’m guessing she bought them in bulk and sold them by the piece. Or she was working for someone else at what I’m suppose was very low wages.
Below the lighthouse is Fort James, aka as James Fort. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built by the British serving as a trading post for gold and slaves. After the slave trade ended, it served as a prison and is now a tourist site. I didn’t go inside.
Further up the beach from the fishing village was a lone boat and a few people. The building in the background is where the President of Ghana lives.
We stopped at Black Star Square, aka Independence Square, built after Ghana gained it’s independence from Great Britain in 1957. It is the site for independence celebrations, civic and military parades, and other large events. The statue in the second photo honors those soldiers who lost their lives in Ghana’s struggle for independence.
Later, we stopped at an arts and craft market located in the main shopping area of Accra. After parking the car, we walked by this church. I thought the large, red sign was a stark contrast to the serene, well-appointed building in the background. I wondered why concertina wire was necessary to keep people out, I thought churches functioned to invite people in.
I told the guide that I wanted to buy some Ghanaian fabric as a gift for my Traveling Partner. He took me to this store. It was hard to chose from all the colors and patterns. I found something she might like and also bought myself a colorful dashiki shirt at the same store.
Although my time in Accra was short, I saw and experienced a lot that I won’t forget, especially my time at Jamestown. It gave me a whole new understanding and appreciation for the black Africans that were enslaved and transported around the world to perform work for their masters. Their ancestors still struggle for economic, political, and personal freedoms from events that happened centuries ago. I think and believe we can do better.
For more information on traveling to Ghana click here. My Traveling Partner and I are planning a trip to Ghana next year. I can’t wait!
More postcards next week.
Until then, happy travels!