Friday, September 16, 2011

Try-Umph Travels: Ghana

What can I say about Ghana? I had an amazing four days. I will admit that I found my first ten minutes overwhelming. I was dropped off just outside the port and there was a cluster of confusion. There were people from my trip trying to coordinate with one another, taxi drivers trying to get our attention, and vendors trying to show us their art, shirts, bracelets, and anything else they were selling. It was hot, the air was gritty, there were at least two people vying for my attention at once, I could taste the dust, and the smog from the trucks and cabs was oppressive. It was sensory overload and I was uncomfortable.
I’m almost ashamed to say this, but I went right back to the ship to regroup. I needed a game-plan because winging it wasn’t going to work. I joined a group of people going to visit Parliament so I got on another shuttle that took me to the city of Accra. When the shuttle stopped it felt like a set-up. A large group of tourists were dropped off and a large group of vendors were waiting. The vendors swooped in, introduced themselves, and asked for our names. While casually chatting, these vendors, these very friendly and smart vendors, have already threaded a bracelet with your name on it. Without even meaning to, you have just received your first Ghanian souvenir.

During the afternoon of the first day, three of us stumbled upon a restaurant.  That delicious discovery altered the course of our trip. We told others about it and eventually, groups of us were meeting at Ambar for dinner. During our last night in Ghana the owners told us that the restaurant wasn’t even officially open. They kept feeding us because we kept showing up! Ambar doesn’t officially open until October. If anyone visits Accra, Ghana, I highly recommend a visit to Ambar. They serve traditional Ghanian dishes like red-red and jollof, but even their other dishes, like the pepper chicken, are wonderful.
One of my favorite moments occurred while a small group of us visited The Arts Center. As vendors encouraged us to come to their shops, one particular guy asked if we would come to his shop so he could play the drums for us. When we arrived at the shop we were instructed to sit down. Six men grabbed drums, sat down in front of us, and started playing. It was incredible! Those men not only made those drums come alive, but the drummers came alive as well. It was evident that playing those drums brought them joy. They weren’t performing, they were presenting us with a personal gift by sharing a part of themselves with us.

My four days in Ghana was amazing and I know that it was because of the people. Everyone from the thirteen-year-old artist named Kwame who talked to me about graduating from middle school before he showed me his art, to Josephine and Gertrude, the owners of Ambar, who fed us simply because we showed up, to the men who shared their love of music will continue to travel on this journey with me. When I think of Ghana I will always remember the smiles, the laughter, and the joyful sound of those drums. Next stop, South Africa!

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