So much has happened, is happening in Ghana that is completely unrelated to my accident and I thought it was high time I wrote about something else, its that “not being defined by it” part of this new life.
Cup of Nations
[our house, half painted]
First of all, everywhere you look, Ghana is gearing up for the “Africa Cup of Nations,” called CAN 2008, witch starts in 30 days, almost enough time to finish updating or building four huge stadiums to host the football (soccer) games. Ghana is excited to show off its prosperity, and looking better than it possibly is. Like cleaning house before company arrives, the AMA is “sacking the sellers” and tearing down the shanty wood and tin buildings that dot the city. Government buildings, businesses and even homes, like ours, are getting a fresh coat of paint. Roads are being repaired, and new shops are opening. But not everything will stay shiny new, its Harmatton.
Haramattan, is an annual event, when for several months, the wind blows off of the Sahara, instead of the ocean, bringing with it dust, much dust. The sky is overcast, and the night air is still, and every day, every flat surface is covered with a thin layer of dust. We still remember last year, during load shedding the hot, dark, windless nights, sweating under the mosquito nets all night. But this year there are few light outs and we are sleeping in AC (a luxury). The air isn’t the only thing that gets dusty, so does the water, making our water filters work harder, and bathing a little scary.
[what the water looks like right out of the tap]
This time is also the annual “stranding of the pilgrims,” when Muslims flock into Accra from the north hoping to fly to Mecca, as one of the five pillars of their faith called the Hajj. Last year some 499 pilgrims came and were stranded when the organizational committee “lost” the money. This year, in addition to last year’s 499, an additional 2200 payed in and showed up showed up, creating an instant refugee camp of more than 3000 about a half mile from the airport. Apparently, this year, the Hajj committee was out bid when the plane it had contracted, got a better offer from London, leaving local Hajj officials looking upward and scratching their heads. The government issued the following statement:
“In spite of positive assurances by the organizers of this year’s hajj to prospective pilgrims traveling to Mecca, government has learnt with great concern that the operation has been bedeviled with major problems.”
[Flying stand-by the side of the road]
Even as a Christian I feel for the stranded pilgrims that had paid $2300, each. $2300 is a life savings, when you consider the average pay in Ghana can be a dollar a day, and the middle class security job about $100/month, it could take 100% of at least two years salary for this venture.
But this year the story ends well, on Monday night after 11 days camped out at near the airport, we saw the last of the pilgrims fly over in a Nigerian plane, a 747 seating 505 people. Wow, 505 seats, normally the 747 seats 467, so I guess its more of a flying TroTro, but at least the are on their way.
Its a Ghanaian Christmas tradition, the “hamper,” a basket filled with foodstuffs, like a 20 lbs bag of rice, a can of coke, a 3 place setting of dishes, a tin of biscuits, maybe a bottle of palm oil, and a can of tuna. Imported provisions, delivered in a imported wicker basket and covered with cellophane, imported. It has got to be an old British thing. The strange part is the cost, $50 and people’s willingness to spend that kind of money for maybe $10 worth of provisions and a basket. Its really sad that they import them, considering some of the coolest baskets are made here in northern Ghana, and they import these clumsy brittle Chinese ones.
Last year we got two hampers, one from a childhood friend here filled with chocolate items in a nice basket we still use, and one from Ashesi, containing several enormous frozen chickens and 50 lbs of rice in a cardboard box. So far we are not hamper-ed in our Christmas efforts, but if we so choose, we will have to move fast, people are snapping them up.
Our middle daughter Grace flew in from Japan on Sunday for Christmas. Its great to be back together as a family again, and I think that each of us now realizes how much we missed being together.
[Anna greets Grace at airport after 33 hours of transit]