We bade our fond farewells to Reverend Patrick and the volunteers as a large black all wheel drive pulled into the orphanage. Speaking of large and black, our driver, Samuel, is exactly that. He resembles Shannon Sharpe in both girth and facial features and speaks with a deep, thick Ghanian accent. He is much easier to understand than Shannon. Our tour guide is Yao, a slight Ashanti. It seems that his appellation derived from a naming ceremony in his village. At the key moment, his father was the recipient of a hotfoot from a mischievous nephew – hence Yao.
Our first destination was Elmina; a repeat visit to our previous weekend’s spot. Eschewing a second visit to the Elmina Castle,we requested a tour of the 70,000 person village. Yao was only too pleased to accommodate.
The town was the location of West Africa’s first harbour. Its lagoon and coastline were rocky and would prove to be a horror show for any potential invader. Much not to our surprise, the primary industry was fishing. A plethora of locally made boats lined the harbour, each one emblazoned with the favourite colours of the owner’s favourite football club, national flag, or selected verse from the bible. The berths extended for well over a kilometre; both sides of the harbour festooned with an assortment of sizes, shapes and colours. The scene resembled a Leroy Neiman oil painting.
Spain, South Africa or John 22:14,
the level of Christianity espoused by the fisherman was ubiquitous to the point that it would campaign to rename the town St. Petersburg.
There was however a residence near the harbour that gave rise to the possibility that even in this desolate corner of the world, Chabad has established a toehold.
The fishermen work long hours, six days a week. Tuesday is their day off since the priest who oversees Elmina respects the local deity found in the river (represented by the tortoise) and has determined that Tuesday is ‘Freedom from (and for) fish day’. Much of the spiritual decisions enacted by the priests are rooted in pragmatics and respect for the environment and values of the people. By having Tuesdays off, the fish replenish and the fishermen get to spend some quality time with the wife and kids.
It being Sunday, we dropped in on the local basilica to peer in on a service. It was presented in 2 parts. The Church wasn’t big enough to accommodate the entire Catholic population of the town, so those who had businesses to run attended Shachrit. A wedding was planned for Musaf. The collection of Sunday best was awe inspiring. The finery was a juxtaposition of traditional and modern duds. I was wearing a light T-shirt and shorts, sweating bullets. The men, dressed in suits and toga like wraps, the women in similar mix of traditional garb or contemporary fashion were crisp, unwrinkled and displayed a total absence of perspiration. I could have been on the cover of Modern Schlump, the locals could have posed for Vogue.
|Trying to Crash the Reception|
We toured another Fort that afternoon in Cape Coast, the original capital of Ghana, or Gold Coast as it was known in the day. It was called Fort Iago, but should have been called Fort Travesty. It had the same malevolent slave trade history of the fort at Elmina visited by us the previous weekend. A plaque stood where Barack and Michelle had visited four years earlier, but the same level of ghostly evil exuded from its bricks.
|Home Painted Courtesy Vodaphone|
Happy to return to the resort following our regional exploration, I noted to Ben, the owner, how much higher the tide was since our previous sojourn. Sitting on the sea wall that protected the premises, I watched the waves breaking as they approached the beach, spume flying up in front of me like the fountains at the Bellagio. This went on until one rogue wave decided it was not in the mood to be observed and gave me a head to toe salt/sea/sand bath, the extent of which I had not seen since being doubled up with laughter watching a very young Trevor receive the same Neptune treatment in both California and Florida. We’re even, Trev.
Part of the reason, according to Ben, for the increased water presence is the result of an ongoing sand dredging project which takes place in the middle of the night at points approximately one kilometre each side of the hotel. The operations are completely illegal; the sand is used for purposes of construction and remain unmonitored by the state. As the sand is dug up, the existing beach sand, aided by the waves and current, recedes to fill the newly created void, resulting in a deeper water trench which further increases the wave power. Contractors regularly bribe local officials and politicians to achieve their desired result. I believe that a 3% kickback was received by the Tremblay administration.
The evening entertainment was provided by a local band of percussionists and dancers.
They were fantastic. All went well until the end when they pulled each of us up and showed us a few basic steps. We then had to return to our seats one by one showing some stuff. Most headed back meekly. Yours truly chose to bust a few moves and spun his way back to the seats doing my impression of Whirling Dervish meets Ashanti. I was great and am now considering running for local office. The kickbacks that I will learn from the dancers and earn as a corrupt politician make the position irresistible.