Beach Hunting

Its Easter week here in Accra, but you wouldn’t know it. For such a Christian nation its odd that so much of the Christian Traditions are not observed here, at least in the churches I work in. Its a downside to the non-denominational traditions (if indeed there are any). There will be no seasons of the church celebrated, like Lent, or Advent for that matter, they pass by unobserved except for the Big Days, like Easter and Christmas, and they just surprise us with little preparation. At Asbury-Dunwell, every Sunday is a celebration with more energy than most Easter services I’ve ever been to in the States. But then on the day of Easter, its even more high energy, if you can believe that. To a traditional liturgist like myself (who has somehow ended up in the contemporary church), I can’t seem to just jump into Easter, I have to prepare for it, and for me, that’s Lent.

What I miss most about this season is the change, the chants, the creeds, the solemn march toward Good Friday, as the services become darker and darker. And then on that Friday, leaving the darkened church to contemplate my fate. But there will be none of that in the churches we go to. I guess I could sneak over to the Catholic church, but the other part of me wants that feeling of worship in a community in which I am known, the “Cheers,” mentality if you will, where everybody knows my name.

Its been Ashesi’s spring break, and so while Suzanne has been away at a Computer Science Educators conference in the States, and Fox is MUNing (Model United Nations), its been “Camp Dad,” with Anna, that, and I’ve been grading mid-term papers. Mostly the papers are excellent, but their heavy use of cliché took some getting used to. When I was in school they taught us to avoid clichés like the plague. (a joke).

Last Sunday at Elim Church, I played with four of our youth who did the music for the early service. It was the first time our Anna has sang in a worship group, and I must say, she was wonderful. They all were. There is something about a group of young ladies (girls really) singing in unison that is so pure, so angelic. It was special for me because this was the last place I played before the accident, and the first place to do worship music since. Folks were so kind saying it was good to see me playing guitar, and all I could say was, “it was good to be seen playing guitar.”

After church we were supposed to go hear Michael Mozley preach at Asbury Dunwell Church, but we instead went searching for a new beach. This time going East, to Prampram, and New Ningo and let me just say, the search was not successful. Usually we would just go to Labadi Beach, the OK in-town one five minutes away, but the recent rains in Accra have washed out the gutters, and so the ocean is polluted with three months of trash and sewage. Even in the dry season, our friend Mary Kay, who is a water specialist here, won’t swim in these waters (when the water is blue because the gutters aren’t getting washed out regularly).

[We went to Comme Ci, which Anna tells me means good]

[but after we got there, she looks doubtful]

The nice beaches are West of Accra because the prevailing tides move everything East (read: all the raw sewage and trash). From the sky you can see this grey slick sweep East and eventually dissipate. So the western beaches are the nicer onces, but harder to get to because of traffic.

One of the problems of being in a place this long is that we’ve already found all the things we like, and so we go there, rarely go exploring anymore. But not today. We traveled East far enough to find blue water, but not to get away from the trash. And it wasn’t just the trash that ruined these beaches, though there was plenty, it was our unmet obruni cultural expectations. The coast of Ghana has such potential, and in this place, it looks like someone realized that and put a lot of effort into it in 2000, but since then its gotten run down. For example there are these concrete benches, but they either sit in the full sun because the trees that shaded them died, or are mostly buried by the sand. So we sit in plastic chairs, and the one Anna sits in has a broken leg, and when she leans over to swat at me for something I’ve said, her chair collapses.

[Nice pink & white trees…everywhere]

[Comme Ci does get points for having bathrooms, though it just drains into the sand below the E of MALE and the F, of FEMALE]

I think we could have handled the swimming among the submerged rocks, if it weren’t for the two feet of beach trash we had to walk through. I think we could have enjoyed just sitting and listening the waves crash, but we couldn’t hear them over the loud local music from two enormous speakers. And then there were the pink and white painted trees. Its hard to not see the lost potential of this place if a little care and effort were put into it. Or maybe there is, but we can’t see it through our obruni eyes.

[the beach at Prampram, note rusting hull of submerged merchant boat out about a 100 ft creating a “reef”]

Next, we tried the beach at Prampram, which the guide book said was as nice as any of the beaches along the coast. The trash was small, small, but it also was rocky. And then there we the fishing boats that lined it. Its clearly an impoverished fishing village, and we would be its only tourists, and for us to slip into our suits and play in the waves, well, it wouldn’t be right.

On the way back I asked Anna what makes a good beach, and she listed people, but not too many, sand, water, waves, safety, atmosphere and anonymity. Maybe she didn’t use those exact words, but its the last two that were missing. These places didn’t feel like a beach, a place to frolic in the waves and build sandcastles. They didn’t feel safe either, but then Labadi Beach never feels safe and we go there often. At Prampram, we stood out and if we had swam, people would of watched us play, that and then there is its poverty. How can we have fun when these who watch us live in such desperate situations? It almost feels like gloating, “don’t you wish you were me?”

So we drive back, dry swim suits on, and know that even though we didn’t go swimming, we did have an adventure, and that was enough.

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