Sunday, May 30, 2010

Volta Region Day 2: You Could Just Be a Camel

We’re finally back in Accra after spending the weekend in the Volta region on the country’s eastern border with Togo. Last night’s digs were somewhat less than five-star, as our toilet gradually fell apart as the night went on and the room smelled inexplicably of must and urine.

This morning we had a chance conversation with a Ghanaian who told me his friends call him Kabila, because of his resemblance to the President of the DRC. He asked us our opinions of American culture, and more specifically, why we thought America was so powerful. I really had no good answer for the second one aside from military hegemony and economic superpower status. We talked of Ghanaian politics, and the consensus here is that, much like in the United States, there is too much apathy in the population. People don’t know their rights and don’t make demands of their government to deliver on the promises made during election season.

I told him that my biggest concern for Ghana after spending a few days here is sanitation. Not only the roadside toilets, but the refuse burning and the littering. I think it’s accepted only because there really is a lack of a well-developed garbage processing infrastructure here. Well-placed receptacles are few and far between and litter reigns. Not only does this detract from the immense tropical beauty of the country, it poses a very serious human health risk. Before coming here, I really didn’t expect this to strike me as emotionally as it has.

Other emotional moments have largely revolved around babies. Many women carry small children in a sort of backpack/satchel designed for this purpose, and the girls in our group tend to fawn over how cute they are, and they are cute indeed. However, my thoughts usually turn to the future of these children. They’re not going to be toted along by their mothers for long, and the Child Mortality Rate here is still far too high. Life expectancy is rising, but too slowly.

Finally, it seems nobody here is impatient or lazy. Things happen and delays occur, but there doesn’t seem to be the rage you’ll find on the streets of New York. I’ve always hated people that get outraged when a shop sells Pepsi but not Coke, and experiencing a culture like this is going to make that even harder to deal with when I get back home. Economically, everybody is producing and selling something. Small shops flank all the major roads, and women will come up to cars, busses, and taxis in traffic looking to sell anything from souvenirs to live crabs. Despite relative economic poverty here, everyone is trying to improve their lot. It’s very encouraging for the nation as a whole.

From our one-night hotel in Volta, we traveled to Volta Dam, and had lunch at a hotel which provided quite a beautiful overview of the Dam and the Lake. Hawks and Vultures flew overhead, enjoying the thermals provided by the intense heat and sunlight. I finally tried Guinness Malta, which is a non-alcoholic Malt beverage that tastes very smooth and very heavy.

IMG_0555 At Volta Dam

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