Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ghana - Street Views

As we traveled through the streets of Ghana, we saw typical views similar 
to Nigeria, Cameroon and other locations in West/Central Africa.   In fact, many of the pictures below are much like what we see every single day.  

In this part of the world, dirt roads are prevalent, except for the main city roads.    
Vendors sell their wares in local markets by the side of the streets. 

These are large yams - which are nothing like our sweet potatoes.   The yams are more starchy, similar to cassava.  The smoked and dried fish in the tray above are artfully arranged.  
It is easy to buy food here without getting out of the car.  TVs are obviously available too.  
In the hot, crowded streets, vendors come right up to our cars.  
They wear aprons to hold their money (and their cell phones).  
I am always amazed at how strong their necks must be.  
Children start working young to help out their families.  

I think it is incredible how well they balance things.  I have never seen a single tray drop off of any one's head.  However, if you look closely, they (almost) all have a rolled up rag on their head which does help with the balance.  I know this because I tried it.  I also know that I would last about 3 minutes before everything I was selling was rolling along the road.  
Hands and heads are full of things to sell.  

Fuzzy Dice, flags and bright colored items for your dashboards are plentiful.  

Most of the bread is baked daily and the pineapples here are so sweet.  

Occasionally multiple vendors will crowd the vehicles.  

This picture is blurry, but it shows the nonchalant way that the vendors stand 
and talk without worrying about the load they are carrying.  

Lots of jewelry options are available.  
Anyone need a tire or floor mat?  

I love the USA flag shirt (and orange pants)!    A fire is burning inside the white pail (on top of the tire) and a grill rack has been set on top to cook plantains.  Invention is the mother of necessity.  

MANY of the businesses reflect the religious beliefs of the owners.   About 75% of Ghana is Christian, with the remainder comprising of 17% Muslim, 5% traditionalist (tribal religion) and 3% other (or none).    Messiah Enterprises sells hardware.

This was one of my favorite store names.  Essgrace (His Grace) sells both wholesale and retail goods.  

 I really do love these signs - and the reminder of scripture, which are found in so many places.  
This one says, "The joy of the Lord is my Strength".  

 Sometimes, the store names reflect the wishes of the owners too.   
This one is a classic - "Get Rich Internet Cafe".      
Can anyone say 419??  

 Fresh Coconuts at this drive-by road stand. 

 Get your loaves and fishes here! 

 Eggs heating in the sun are abundant.  Eggs are rarely refrigerated in Africa (until they arrive at OUR house where they are cleaned, sanitized and refrigerated).   The white packets on the table are small rice bags.
 The Blood of Jesus Hardware store is above and they appear to have a good supply of tools.  

And the Blood of Jesus Sewing Centre has an impressive paint job. 

 Local fruits and vegetables are easy to locate.  

 Here is the "Jesus is Mine" vendor stand.  I am not sure what they are selling in the blue bags.

 In this area, they had their names painted over the top of the stand.  
There were about 30 of these lining the roads.  
"God's Power" sells gasoline.   There does seem to be some irony in that statement!  
The cute little boy was just playing alone with no adult in sight.  

 Fresh chickens are available here.  You might have to catch it first! 

Blackie's Enterprise sells shoes, belts and animal skins as well as some other unidentifiable items.   The man is dressed in a typical Ghanaian style - along with his basketball shorts. :) 

More animal skins are for sale at the side of the road right beside the insecticide sign.

And the last picture was taken back at our hotel in Ghana.   I was intrigued by these drums sitting in the middle of the hallway.    They even had good sound quality and I am sure that the other hotel guests appreciated our rhythm.  :) 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ghana - Coastal Views

The town of Cape Coast today is primarily a fishing port.  
 It is located in the south-central section of Ghana, right on the Gulf of Guinea.   

The small city has 170,000 residents.      
Crumbling colonial buildings still line the streets in the background.  
I was fascinated by these views. 
 The colors, the activity and the glance into everyday life in 
this small Ghanaian town was intriguing.  

And the fishing boats were so bright and cheerful, 
especially when they were also used for laundry.   

Cape Coast is the capital of the central region and one of the most historical cities in Ghana.  The city was founded by the people of Oguaa and later settled by the Portuguese.  After the Cape Coast Castle was built, the town grew around the castle.   The town became the center of the British Administration and capital of the Gold Coast from 1700 - 1877, when the capital was moved to Accra.   Ghana finally gained its independence from Britain in 1957.   Our steward in Lagos (Gabriel) is originally from Ghana.  He was in elementary school and remembers the parades and the people lining the street on Independence Day in 1957 - and talks about the pride they felt as Ghanaians to be fully independent. 

I didn't see this lady clothed in a black abaya until after I took the picture.  
She seemed like a surreal part of the landscape. 

The fishermen cast their nets in the same waters
 where slave ships used to sail.  
We enjoyed watching the children swim.  
Some of them wore clothing...and some of them did not.
They were having fun trying to ride the surf on a piece of wood. 

The people in this area of the world are full of creativity 
and ingenuity, created by necessity.    

Locals enjoy the sea breezes, sunshine and plentiful beaches. 

Driving through this small town was both a melancholy peek into the past 
and a peaceful glance at the day-to-day life in Ghana.   

Friday, September 25, 2015

Ghana - Cape Coast Castle

Akwaaba means "Welcome" in Ghana.
It seemed to be an ironic statement to see posted on the wall
as we entered a structure forever haunted by ghosts of the past.    

The Cape Coast Castle is one of the most culturally 
significant spots in Ghana, and possibly all of Africa. 

Cape Coast was once the largest slave-trading center in West Africa.  
The Cape Coast Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.   It was originally built in 1653 as a wooden structure by the Swedish Africa Company.   The purpose was to have a presence and a market area in order to handle trades of timber and gold between the locals and the Swedes. 

The castle was later rebuilt in stone and seized by the Danish in 1660. 

The building passed through the hands of the Dutch, and even a local Fetu chief at some point, before being conquered by the British in 1664.  
The castle and the surrounding areas were part of the European struggle for domination of the major sea ports along the Atlantic coast of Africa.  

By 1700, the fort had been transformed into a castle and also
 served as the headquarters of the British colonial governor. 

During this same time, slaves had become a valuable commodity and they became the principal "product" traded in Cape Coast.   Due to this, many changes were made to the Cape Coast Castle.  
Cannons were added as a means of defense from those 
who might attack from the sea.  
The slave trade was very lucrative and many European nations flocked to Cape Coast in order to get a foothold into the business.  It was very competitive and this led to conflict. 

One of the smaller cannons was on display. 
  The patina was beautifully aged.
The huge iron cannon balls were plentiful in the courtyard.  

One of the alterations made to the Castle was the addition of large underground dungeons that could hold as many as a thousand slaves awaiting export.   There were three separate male dungeons with no air vents for circulation.  
The conditions in the dungeons were appalling, with 300+ slaves in each room, and no space to lie down.  The floor was littered with human waste, making it now several inches higher than it was when originally built.  Many of the prisoners became sick with malaria and yellow fever and approximately 20% died while waiting in the cells.   The average stay ranged from 2 to 6 months.

There were only two smaller dungeons for women, as they were less valuable as slaves to be sold.   Their main purpose was to breed additional slaves and work as domestic servants.   Each room held 200+ women, who were poorly treated as well.  

Slavery was not new to Africa, nor anywhere else in the world for that matter.   However, the sheer number of individuals taken from central and western Africa had a profound impact on the history of that continent - as well as the continents to which they were taken.   It is estimated that over THREE million slaves passed through this building alone.   The slaves were captured and sold from African chiefs to the Europeans for the goods they had to offer.  
The cells were used for punitive means, but also as a signal to the other prisoners.  The ones who challenged authority were left here with no food, no water and no ventilation.  
No one came out of the cell alive. 

Conditions did not improve for the slaves that were 
led down this corridor out to the waiting ships.  
Each one passed through the "Door of No Return" as they 
were led like cattle onto the ramps.  

This door was the last threshold for the captives on African soil.  

It was sobering to stand at this spot and imagine the 
harrowing experiences for those sold into slavery.  

For a few who did return - and for MANY families who came to pay tributes later, the "Door of Return" was open to them - located on the opposite side of the same door from earlier.  

Unfortunately, once the slaves entered the ships, the journey was just beginning as they were transported through the Middle Passage to the Americas.  

The voyage lasted several months, with conditions even worse than the dungeons.  
Many of the captives died on the journey from malnutrition and disease.  

Those that reached the Americas faced a life of slavery. 

  While many came to the US, many more were shipped to the Caribbean and to South America.  Yet almost all began their journeys in the slave castles on the Ghanaian coast.  

Totally, over 12 million slaves were shipped out of Africa to supply labor to the New World.  Several million died along the way.   It stands as one of the greatest migrations, although forced, of humans ever in history.  

This sign was in the courtyard and is well stated. 
 "May humanity never again perpetrate such injustice against humanity." 

This was a visit that we will always remember.