Four of us went to Ghana in September of 2015. The group consisted of Maryanne Ward, Susan Hirst, Louise Wilkinson and her 18 year-old granddaughter, Alexis. All of us but Alexis had been to Ghana before. We have written about the Leadership Workshops we did. This is about the experiences and fun we had there as tourists! We recommend it!!
|Alexis, Susan Hirst, Maryanne Ward, and Louise Wilkinson|
Ghana is, as usual, friendly, colorful, and chaotic. Because of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, there were very few visitors in Ghana last year. Although Ebola never reached Ghana, it still is influencing tourism this year, we were told. We were almost the only people in the hotels where we stayed in both Accra and Axim. Perhaps that’s why internet was unavailable which made contact with families at home much more difficult.
|Axim Beach Hotel with its wonderful ocean view and clean beach. It's a bit rough for swimming, but perfect for walking, enjoyiing sunsets, and just overall sheer beauty.|
However, there has been a tremendous improvement in the main road from Accra to Axim. Those bumps and potholes are mostly a thing of the past and the travel time has been cut almost by half! But the dirt roads in Axim have not improved and getting to the Axim Beach Hotel (with its beautiful beach and comfortable thatched-roof huts) was always a wildly bumpy adventure. So was the beach road we took to the Ankroba Beach Hotel. We were stopped by young men pulling in a long net - a boat’s catch, and Alexis was able to help them.
|Cottage at the Axim Beach Hotel. Comfortable, clean, safe, good food...:)|
|Pull, Lexy, pull!! The guys certainly appreciated the "help" of their American friend who just happpened on the scene as we drove the coast road from Axim to Ankobra. Fun!!|
We went to a Kundum festival in Nsein, a neighboring village. It was much smaller than the Kundum in Axim but the procession and dancing were again wonderful. The chief was carried on a palanquin on the heads of four men who were all dancing, and Alexis caught the attention of numerous handsome young men.
|Nsein Villagers marching to their Kundum Festival. Can you hear the drums?|
|The "Dignity Ladies" dancing in their colorful blue hats and beautiful dresses.The theme of the festival was "Women Empowerment"|
|Finally the Chief arrives in his palanquin, to the acclaim of his people, and with a small royal princess leading the way before him. We were honored to be invited to a private meeting with the Chief, just prior to the start of the festivities.|
The slave castle in Axim is 500 years old, as of this very year—2015! We took a tour there and learned about a hidden tunnel to the island of slave embarkation and about the commandant who fell to his death while watching the ocean for the ship carrying his fiancée into port. Involvement in the slave trade makes the castle a depressing place, but there are terrific views of Axim town and the colorful fleet of boats.
|The slave castle in Axim, built by the Portuguese in 1515, owned also by both the Dutch and the British, over its long history, and looking today much as it did then. We've been told the Dutch Embassy sees to its painting every so often.|
Sunday we dressed for church and walked through Apewosika, the east end of town extending from the hillside down to the sea. The hill is lined with wood and corrugated steel huts, many fish smokers, and women, children, chickens and goats. The children and some adults were greeting us with “obroni” meaning “white person,” and “Hello how are you I am fine” in one string of words.
|Typical Axim street scene while walking from the hotel to church|
|Mostly people are friendly, welcoming. Few "obronis" visit Axim, especially in the town center. T|
The Methodist Church was full of women dressed in bright print dresses and colorful headdresses or carefully done hair with weaves. The men look stunning in white or colorful shirts and pants and often wear shoes with long points. We tried to slip into the church but were spotted (we do stand out) and ushered to the front and after the sermon, Maryanne was called upon to speak. She is well-known here since she comes every year. She did a great job of speaking and pointing out people in the congregation who had helped with many of our education and sanitation efforts in town. Then the best part – the offering. Row by row people danced to the front of the church to put their offerings in the basket. There is such joy in the dancing. Of course when it was our turn we joined them – but we can’t move like they can despite the compelling music.
|Our friend, Miss Frances Polley, a retired math teacher, dances her faith at the Axim Methodist Church. |
We were invited to the King Awulae’s home for dinner. We were ushered into a dark living room with huge leather couches and a massive TV which was turned on for our entertainment, showing what must have been a Nigerian soap opera. After a time we were invited to a table and served a wonderful fish soup with rice. During this time Awulae had spoken to us only briefly which, it turns out, is customary here.
|Louise and Paramount Chief "King" Awulae Attibruskusi at her home near Seattle in 2011. He is the hereditary chief of Lower Axim and manages land and resources from Axim to Ivory Coast on behalf of his people. We were honored to have him in our midst here in NW Washington after his business trip to California. He serves on the Ghana National Petroleum Council, and in the past few months has launched a Foundation to support needy students.|
However after dinner we had an interesting conversation with King Awulae and Mr. Bentil, a Ghanaian and a good friend of ours. Awulae spoke vehemently against President Obama visiting and saying that Ghana and other African nations should legalize gay marriage. It is very much against their culture and the law. He spoke positively about women leaders and thinks they are not as corruptible as men. However, when they are corrupted, they can do more damage because people have trusted them. The corruption of 30 plus justices in their court has been the big public topic of discussion here. That is only about 10% of the justices, but Awulae is outraged that they could be corrupt when they are the keepers of justice for the people. The head of their court of justice is a woman. He didn’t seem to be blaming her, although he said she should take responsibility.
We spent time visiting the children formerly in the Heritage Home, catching up with them and seeing how they’d grown. Some are at Nsein High School and others at Manye Academy. It was wonderful to see how lovely and smart they had become. We took toys to a preschool, and visited the Apewosika elementary school where Ghana Together is sponsoring a number of students. The children were full of energy and joy, fascinated to see these white foreigners, and swamped the delighted Alexis.
|Philo, Peter, and Charlotte---our WHH senior high scholars. They sent a message that they needed scientific calculators for their classes, which we brought for them. They are thriving at Nsein SHS.|
|We are proud of Kingsley, who just graduated junior high, and received a scientific calculator to celebrate! Kingsley will attend a school for welding and fabrication, and maybe some automotive mechanics training. Ernestina also graduated JHS, but was with extended family in Accra during our visit. She also received a calculator as her graduation gift.|
|Some of the WHH Scholars with their mentor, Evans Arloo. They attend Manye Academy, and live in the dormitory there.|
|Lexy with students from Apewosika Village School. Ghana Together provides tuition for 50 students from this very impoverished neighborhood. The extended family must provide uniforms, shoes, underwear, exercise book, and pencil.|
|Lexy and Maryanne show the new learning materials to children at the Anglican Creche in Axim. The materials are a gift from Crossroads Preschool in Burlington, WA---THANKS!!! |
We visited the Axim Library with Mercy Ackah, the former Axim librarian who is now head of the region for the Ghana Library Authority. We have been sending books for the last several years to the Axim Library and it seems to be the only one of her five with any significant holding. While we were in Axim, 16 more boxes of books (about 2000 volumes) arrived, given by Americans, to the library. Thank you!!
|Mercy Ackah, Regional Library Director for Ghana Library Authority; Gaddiel Eyisson, Axim Public Library Director; and Maryanne|
We hung a picture of Tom Castor, Louise’s late husband, in the One Laptop Per Child computer room to honor his work renovating the small computers and lovingly teaching the children of Axim how to use them.
On our last night in Axim we went to a lovely resort at the end of the point east of Axim, Lou Moon. We were able to swim there (the lovely beach at the Axim Beach Hotel has an undertow and so swimming is not safe). We watched a spectacular sunset and had dinner there.
|Sunset with fishing canoes at Lou Moon Hotel/Restaurant---Wow!!|
We met Gifty Baaba Asmah in Takoradi for lunch. She is still working hard to improve Ghanaian life through her non-profit. She is currently collaborating with the University of Rhode Island on ways to recycle the plastic ever-present in the Ghanaian landscape. We spent the next few days at Kathryn Roe’s house near Cape Coast. Kathryn has a program to provide scholarships to poor students who pass their high school exams but otherwise would not be able to continue their education. It was a very comfortable house and we hardly noticed the 12-hour loss of electricity.
|A very nice lunch place in Takoradi with long-time friend Gifty.|
Some of us did the Canopy Walk in Kakum National Forest, toured the Cape Coast Castle and “petted” the crocodiles at Han’s Botel. And we were able to walk through the little village where Kathryn lives, Mpeasem.
|Children, children. Ghana's population is young! Ghana now provides tuition-free education through junior high school, but it's a challenge for many parents to provide the uniforms, etc. and the schools are crowded. But the difference is striking from our first visit, nine years ago.|
The people were friendly and children followed us everywhere. We bought bananas and took pictures. It is dirt and huts, chickens and goats, and seemingly a lot of family warmth and play.
|Typical family scene---Mom is a fish seller. Kids "help"!!|
|Kakum Forest Canopy Walk. A wonderful way to experience tropical Africa!|
We spent two days in Accra, taking in some key sights - Osu to shop, Kwame Nkrumah’s tomb and museum, a workshop for coffins in shapes related to the dead person’s activities (a truck, a pineapple, a camera) and the Makola market. We walked to the Cultural Arts Center and saw how much of the craft work is actually done. We had dinner with Frank Cudjoe and his family – Anita and children Sue and Leif. And we stayed at the Afia Hotel, which is charming, but has a tremendous amount of trash on the beach.
|Yes, these are coffins---made after the interests of the family member who has died and will be laid to rest in them. One of Ghana's interesting traditions!|
|Another coffin. No doubt the family member had a love of photography and cameras! He or she will be buried in this coffin, which probably closely matches the actual camera owned by the deceased.|
|We recommend the Afia Hotel in Accra as a great place to stay. But, this beach, near the hotel, highlights the huge challenge Ghana faces with keeping trash off the beaches and struggling with sanitation generally.|
The trip was wonderful. We spent a lot of time working hard and interacting with high school students, and were able to relax and enjoy some amazing places.
|Our all-time favorite photo, taken by Susan Hirst, photographer extraordinaire! The three children are "students" at the Anglican Creche. We LOVE the hairdo!!!|
So much pure fun with wonderful friends. We are grateful, especially for the wonderful care given us by the staffs of the various hotels, the many drivers who transported us safely---esp. Quamie Annan, to Kathryn Roe for her hospitality in Cape Coast, and to the friendly, welcoming people of Ghana!
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