Roadside Shops, Bonkwaso, Abesua and Dinner at the Kwartengs

April 6. After breakfast at Four Villages, we visit two remote, rural villages, Abasua and Bonkwaso, which Carol and I have visited several times with the Kipharts and, sometimes, with the Olopades.

The drive to Bonsakwo is about two hours. Traffic is heavy, which is not good for our schedule, but great for Phoebe and me, as it gives us a chance to try to photograph from the car. Besides the villages and the people we know, what I most think of when Ghana pops to mind is the miles of small roadside stands and stores that line the road, each distinctive in color, state of repair and purpose. I could spend days walking the streets to take time to photograph them, but there’s never time. So these shots I’ve picked almost at random from those I took are a poor substitute. Since they’re taken from the car, often in motion, they’re not what one could get, composing on foot. Still, in a sense, perhaps they give a more accurate picture of our experience. I’ve cut the number way back, but there are still a whole lot of them. But, hey, it’s my damn blog, so I get to put as many of them as I want in.

At Bankwoso, we were greeted by elders of the village, who formed a line to shake our hands and tell us that we were welcome, with a group from the village watching under a tent. We were thanked profusely for all that we’d done and, at the same time, there was a request for more, in this case, a computer. I was asked to speak and talked about how happy and honored we were to be there. I said that this was Carol and my sixth trip and so it felt like coming home to the many friends we’d made over the years. I told them that this was Phoebe’s first trip and that given the choice of any where in the world to go, she’d chosen Ghana. I told them that we’d come to Ghana, because of the Kiphart’s, who were responsible for most everything they’d thanked us for. After my short talk, we were treated to a short dance performance by some of the children. We gathered for obligatory photos and I gave away some Cubs championship hats, which were very popular. (I brought 18 caps along to further my principal goal of this trip—establishing a Cubs fan club in Ghana.)

At Abesua, we met with the chief and elders under the same tree that we’d met with him several times with the Kipharts. The Abesua chief was Dick’s favorite, simple, committed to his people and very effective. We had a ceremony that followed pretty much the same format as the Bonkweso ceremony, but with less fanfare. Afterwards we made a brief stop to see the computer lab that the Kiphart’s has donated and to see a couple classes of young kids. The chief was happy to pose with his new Cubs hat.

After Abesua, we did the drive home, again through heavy traffic, stopping for a late lunch at a sports bar across from the Four Villages. We made much better time than we would have, because Steven, our driver, created his own lane by pulling into the middle of the road and continually honking his horn. A bit harrowing, but effective. Back at the Four Villages, we howered and blogged, then were picked up for dinner by Daniel at 6:15 and taken to the lovely home of Daniel’s parents, Joe and Ida Kwarteng for dinner. Joe is a Ghanaian who attended The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, before moving back to Ghana and becoming the Dean of the Agricultural School at Cape Coast University.  Joe and his wife, Ida (who grew up half in Lebanon and half in California, and who met Joe at Ohio State,) have been very active in supporting farm schools in which young boys and girls can learn the skills necessary to farm successfully when they are older.  Ida is in the U.S. and unable to join us for dinner.

We are joined by Daniel and his girlfriend, Priscilla, who has cooked a delicious dinner for us, Joe Kwarteng, Jr and his girlfriend, Leila, and Dr. Annie, a very lively, Madagascar-born, Ukranian-trained doctor who’s work with infants and mothers we’ve seen each visit (and who, of course, was supported in her efforts by the Kipharts.) joe Jr, Leila, Priscilla and Annie are all doctors, so we’re prepared for medical emergencies ranging from ophthalmology to child birth. It is lovely having dinner in the Kwartengs’ house and there is lively discussion by the Ghanaians, mainly Joe and Annie, about what was wrong in Ghana and what needed to be done (largely involving and rewarding younger people for work) Much concern and grudging admiration of the Chinese was expressed and, though we didn’t actually discuss it, I have the sense that Joe may be a Trump supporter, because he thinks we need to be tough with the Chinese. But, I don’t mind, because now Joe is a Cubs fan.

Back to the Four Villages for blogging and sleep.

Elmina Castle and a Canopy Walk

April 5. April 5. Daniel drives us to visit to the famous Elmina Castle. We tour the castle, which housed slaves during the days of the slave trade.  Cape Coast Castle is one of about forty “slave castles”, or large commercial forts, built on the Gold Coast of West Africa (now Ghana) by European traders. It was originally built by the the Portuguese, then controlled by the Dutch for trade in gold, ivory and other goods, but later used in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The castle and its story are very grim, but necessary. Slaves were held there and treated grimly, before those who survived were loaded onto ships and sold in the Americas, especially the Caribbean. This “gate of no return” was the last stop before crossing the Atlantic Ocean. After the castle, we spend a little time looking at and photographing the bustling harbor, loaded with fishing boats.

And we saw other sights in the harbor, as well.Our next stop is Kakum National Park, which is on coast of southern Ghana. It protects an area of rainforest, home to endangered mammals such as forest elephants, bongo antelopes and primates like the Diana monkey. The park is rich in butterflies and birds, including African grey parrots and hornbills. We walk on the Canopy Walkway, suspended almost 100 feet above the ground, which provides treetop views of the forest.  The forest is hot and humid and the hike up and down was very challenging. I plan to do it again, though, when they install escalators.

We head for lunch by the sea at a lovely setting. Service was horribly slow, for no apparent reason, and the food was not very good.

From there we drive to Kumasi (about three hours) and check in to Four Villages Inn, a cozy B&B, which will be our home for the next four nights.  We are greeted by Charity Scott, the owner and hostess of the Four Villages, and her son, Frank.  This is our sixth time staying at the Four Villages, so it really is a homecoming.

We have a very good Chinese dinner with Daniel at one of his favorite restaurants, less than a 5-minute drive from the hotel. Back to blog, clean up and collapse.

A Very Special Well, Pineapples and the School for the Deaf

April 4. Today after breakfast in the concierge lounge, we drive approximately 1 1/2 hours passing through lines of stores and markets. All of these would make great photos, but it’s impossible to take them from the car. I take some intentionally blurry shots to try to convey the sense of passing through, but the are not successful. We stop to photograph another casket shop, his one featuring a large snake and a bird.

We visit our first local village, Okyerekwaa. Before going to the village, Daniel and I meet with the mayor of the village. Actually, she is the mayor of hundreds of small villages. Arriving at the village, we first walk a good distance to the spring where the village got its water before the well.

A large crowd has gathered in the village. The mayor and several other elders speak, expressing great gratitude for the well (but mentioning, as an aside, that they could use some toilets, too. One elder says that he would like a large portrait of me that they’d hang prominently in the town, which he suggests that they rename for us. When the plaque is uncovered, Phoebe learns that the well has been donated (yes, by us) in her honor. She is surprised and a bit overwhelmed. This may rank as one of the high points in a trip that is going to be jam-packed with highlights.

The well was dug by FASUL, an organization headed by Alex Eduful, one of the sons of the late Peter Eduful, the Ghanaian man who spearheaded all of the Kipharts efforts in Ghana and who became our friend. FASUL’s vision is supporting families in deprived communities to increase opportunities for their children’s future. Alex could not accompany us, because he is in Ghana finishing up his PhD, Oxford School of Geography and the Environment. His thesis, on urban geography, is looking at the urban transformation of (a neoliberal) Accra occasioned by the rise of increased foreign investments in shopping malls. But Alex has made sure that the details of our trip are in place, and four FASUL people will be with us on the trip.

We drive next to Mansokwa, a village in which the Kipharts built a school, which the village named for them, The Kiphart Community School. Our arrival creates a huge hubbub, with kids fighting for good positions in photos.

After Mansokwa, we go with Daniel to the Winneba pineapple farm that he runs. The farm was started some five years ago by Daniel’s father, Joe Kwarteng, and our friend, Dick Kiphart, and covers thousands of acres of land.  In addition to pineapples, mangoes are grown on a small part of the land.  We see some of the 100 workers that the farm employs, but because it is afternoon, and very hot, there is not a lot of activity. They are building a new factory on the farm, which is funded by a government grant that they won and which will allow them to produce juice from the pineapples, which will greatly enhance profitability. We drive through the Assin Farm, which is also a part of the pineapple empire that Daniel manages. Altogether, the farms comprise over. acres, producing pineapples that are exported to Europe.

We drive to the Cape Coast School for the Deaf, where we meet the leaders of the school, as protoclo dictates, and then are treated to a dance performance by children from the school.  We are amazed at how the children are able to perform together and in time to the music, despite being unable to hear the music. the drumming, which allows the children to dance together, by feeling the vibrations, is amazing.Susanna Eduful, Alex’s wife, comes to meet us at the Deaf school and brings her two adorable 3-year old twins, Emanuel and Ezekiel, who the leader of the dancers manages to involve in drumming.At the school, we also visit the farm, where the kids are taught skills they can employ after they graduate. Farming is an industry in which being Deaf is not a significant problem.

Phoebe loves the dancing, but says that the highlight for her was communicating with some of the children through the sign she knows.

We drive to our hotel, the Ridge Royal Hotel, and after a very full day, we have drinks with Susanna Eduful, who is a magistrate, and then dinner at the hotel with Daniel. Best spaghetti and meatballs I’ve ever had.

Accra

April 3.

Well, we made it.

Phoebe’s whole family came out to the Atlanta airport to see her off. We’re early, so we spend a couple hours in the Delta Sky Club, where some casino is played

before flying from Atlanta through NY (JFK) where, of course, Phoebe was on Google Hangout with her whole family

to Accra, the capital of Ghana. Phoebe is introduced to the amenities of flying business class.

There’s probably no going back for her now. The flight over is long, an hour shorter than scheduled, though, 9 instead of 10 hours, but comfortable. We all watched Wonder with Julia Roberts, which was touching, if a bit predictable. I watched about a third of Loving Vincent, an interesting concept, but I tired of loving him after a while. And here’s a combo breakfast sunrise shortly before we land in Accra.

At the Accra airport we are met by our delightful friend, Daniel Kwarteng, a 25-year old Ghanaian who has a degree in business and runs the pineapple farm we will be visiting, that was started by Daniel’s father, Joe Kwarteng, and our close friend, Dick Kiphart.  Daniel has taken a week off of work at the farm in order to show us around during our trip to Ghana. He picks us up at the airport, with the comfortable SUV he’s rented, with driver, and we’re driven us to our hotel, the Movenpick, to rest after the long flight. We’ve booked a room for Daniel there, as well. The hotel is quite beautiful, with a lot of interesting artwork, but we’re way to early to get into our room, so we hang out on the concierge floor, hoping to get into our rooms soon.

After quite some time, we give up and take off for an African art gallery that Carol and I have been to several times. Fun to walk through the gallery, but we’re too tired and hot fully to enjoy it. The drive over gives Phoebe a look at Ghanaian street life, with women carrying baskets loaded with goods on their heads and all sorts of vendors approaching cars at stop lights (Daniel says that one could go out naked and by the time you arrive at work be fully dressed from everything that’s sold on the street).

After the gallery, we head to a nearby casket shop, which carves caskets designed to reflect the interests or occupation of the deceased. Here’s a crab for a fisherman.

By now, we’re almost ready for caskets ourselves, so we head back to the hotel, where after a bit more time on the concierge floor, we get into our room and completely crash.

Some three or so hours later, we awaken, feeling much closer to human. We call Daniel to tell him that we’re not up for riding twenty minutes to the nice restaurant he’s picked for us. He says, “no problem,” which is hie easygoing and helpful response to everything. Phoebe and I blog (by the way, Phoebe is having problems with the other address that I gave in my blog, so, if you want to follow her, please use https://phoebesafricaadventure.blogspot.com/.

After blogging, we meet the person Daniel has gotten to come over to our hotel to change dollars into Ghanain cedis for us, 4.4 cedis to the dollar. We have some appetizers in the concierge club, than go down to the restaurant, which tonight features an excellent Indian buffet, which we all opt for. After dinner, we call it a ridiculously early evening at about 7:30, hoping to sleep well and not awaken too early in the morning, preparing for our first “real”day in Ghana.

Phoebe’s Trip.

April 2. This is Phoebe’s trip, two years in the planning.

Here’s a recent picture of Phoebe in the Peter Pan Jr. t-shirt, which she received when she played the role of Wendy in the production. A couple weeks before the show, we asked her how rehearsals were going. She said they had started to fly, which was fun, but tiring. I said, “Phoebe, if I’d known you could fly, I could have saved a fortune on plane tickets to Africa.” She replied, without skipping a beat, “Sorry, but it’s a fairly recent skill.”

We’ve told our grandchildren that as a thirteenth birthday present we’d take them any place in the world they choose to go. For their eleventh birthday present, we give them a book of possible places to travel. They are not limited to those places, but the book is a way to get their juices flowing.

For Phoebe, the book was superfluous, for two reasons. Her juices are always flowing. When she first heard that she could go anyplace in the world for her 13th birthday, Phoebe was eight years old. Her immediate reaction was, “I’ve got to get on Trip Advisor.” We still have no idea how she knew about Trip Advisor.

Phoebe is a serial entrepreneur. Among the businesses she runs (or has run) are mother’s helper, face painter, photographer at children’s parties, web designer and, my personal favorite, manager of 3/5 of a family band. Phoebe’s dad, Chris, is a musician, band leader and singer himself and, as part of their home schooling, has taught Zoe to play the ukulele and Phoebe the guitar. Chris plays the guitar, too, they all sing and they call themselves the 3/5 of a family band. Phoebe is the business manager and, in communicating with prospective clients, signs her name, “Phoebe Snell, Manager, 3/5 of a family band.” They are absolute dynamite and blow their audiences, often senior living facilities, away.

The second reason that the book was superfluous for Phoebe is that she already knew where she wanted to go—Ghana. She knew that Carol and I had traveled there five times with our dear friends, Dick and Susie Kiphart, visiting small rural villages in which the Kipharts had funded wells, schools and health clinics. Three times we were joined by our Nigerian doctor friends, Funmi and Sola Olopade, who run the global health program at the University of Chicago Medical School. Sola has been helpful in facilitating aspects of this trip for us.

Phoebe had seen photos and heard about those Ghana trips, and she wanted to see the places we’d been to, firsthand. “I’m more interested in culture and people than animals,” she explained, knowing that we had taken her sister, Zoe, on safari to South Africa and Malawi two years ago. We were delighted with Phoebe’s choice, but told her that, if she went to Africa, she had to see some animals, too. She agreed, and by her twelfth birthday, we’d settled on Botswana for the animal portion of our trip, and planned that with our travel agents (and friends), Jean and Ahdina Zunkel, who are based in Santa Fe, but consider the world their home. (If you’re thinking of taking a trip and need responsive, experienced, flexible and fun travel agents, try Jean and Ahdina, jean.zunkel@bjadventures.com.). Max, Phoebe and Zoe’s 5-year old brother, has informed us that for his 13th birthday trip he’d like to go someplace close “so he doesn’t have to get shots.”

For Phoebe’s 12th birthday, we gave her six books, which we sent at 2-month intervals, about the area to which we’ll be going. Included among the books are some blog books with descriptions and photos from the trips Carol and I have taken to Ghana. We think this preparatory reading will enhance Phoebe’s appreciation for, and enjoyment of, what she’ll be seeing.

Our trip to Ghana will be unique, because we’ve planned it through the friends we’ve made there and will be visiting many places that no tourist could get to. It’s a privilege and a thrill to be able to plan a trip in that way. We’re looking forward to seeing old friends and to experiencing Ghana anew, through Phoebe’s eyes.

Well, we’re about to head for the ATL airport, so think I’ll get this post up. See you soon, in Ghana.