June 24, 2010

Congrats to Ghana in Quarter Finals--Just

So, Ghana made it through to the quarter finals, with much thanks to their goal keeper. If Kingston's not man of the match, then I'll eat my smock hat. 

Australians colloquially call their country: "The Lucky Country." Frankly, the Blackstars ought to adopt this title for their country and call themselves the lucky team since they were dependent on others to make it to the next stage of the world cup. I hope someone learns how to kick a goal during play between now and the USA match. 

Anyway, Ghanaians are incorrigible and it's been exciting, once again, to be here during a football tournament. 4 years ago the excitement was when Ghana beat the Czech Republic. Then there was the African Cup of Nations in Ghana, then in Angola...now the World Cup in South Africa. Either way, there is much "jubilating" when Ghana scores and advances through the competitions.

4 years ago I accidentally overstayed my visitor visa by a few days. I'd been so good at being on time up until then, but my date fell on a weekend and everything was football...I totally forgot. I remembered, however, on the morning of the day Ghana played Brazil. I decided that if I didn't face immigration before the game, I'd miss out on riding the high that had hit the whole country, and would quite likely face a depressed, grumpy office. I figured it was better to face the happy music, than the grumpy music. 

Flag wrapped around my head, flags painted on cheeks, Ghana T-shirt on, I approached and handed over what would have caused some issues any other day. But, it was football. Hopes were high. The woman stopped eating her rice during lunch time, no less, and promised to help me renew...not a problem. I was grateful.

Ghana did not beat Brazil, as you may know. Moral of the story: If you have to take care of difficult business, do it before the world looks like coming down from its high.

I love this post 10 Unusual Ways to Wear a Ghana Flag. If you wonder how this crazy country looks when it celebrates and supports its team, check that post out. Love th Pres's wife and also the Trio.
Here's an excerpt: 

"For those of you who are not president's wives, and have no hope of ever becoming one, I pity you. But do not despair. As long as you have a little bit of Reggae in you,  you could still do the shawl thing like Kwesi Selassie here and look all pseudo-"conscious" doing it too. "

June 19, 2010

Ghana v Australia Sat 19 Jun

So, it’s Ghana versus Australia in the World Cup in South Africa and my allegiances are torn. Kind of. I have family and friends at home in Australia reading this, and a whole lot of Ghanaians at home in Ghana reading this too, so I’m going for Spain! Ha! (Whispers: I really am going for Spain, unless Ghana gets to the next stage, or the one after that.)

When I go to the market, I overhear the male traders talking about how appalling Australia is and how “Ghana will score them!” And I cannot disagree based on the last game each team played. Australia look liked they showed up for cricket. Or badminton. Or Aussie Rules. Not football. Ghana look like they showed up to put fear in the hearts of the best of the South Americans. 

So, today, the Blackstars versus the Socceroos. I have no idea who’s going to kick whose behinds, but if history predicts the future, it’s going to be Africa United, all the way. Ironically, that dance the Blackstars players do when they score a goal, the one where they stand in the warrior pose and dance as they’re doing doggy paddling is called “The Kangaroo Dance” in Ghana—inspired by kangaroos. If anyone knows how that started, please comment! On the other hand, anything can happen in football. Maybe we’ll see the Aussies doing a dancing like stars. Who knows. 

Today I’m a Gozzie: Ghana Ozzie. Either way, I can’t lose! But I’m kind of really going for Ghana, in case you couldn’t tell. Australia wins half of everything else they play on the world stage; they don’t need to win this as well. That’s my logic, anyway.

Where’s my popcorn?!

Kangaroo photo by AndrĂ© Gustavo and Blackstars supporters by manbeastextraordinaire.

June 16, 2010

Spain v Switzerland & World Cup Ghana

I confess that I didn’t give much weight to Ghana before the first match, and boy was I proven wrong. And I gave a lot of weight to Australia—and boy was I proven wrong too. I don’t know if it’s overdosing on popcorn that fries your smart cells, but mine were seriously stupid before the World Cup began.
Then again, I bet that Spain, Brazil, Argentina or the USA will play in the final final. (I’m so confused about the use of the word “Final” in reference to these World Cup games). Obviously the first three don’t take too much smart cells to figure out, but the USA v England match proved my “dark horse” selection wasn’t so stupid. After their showing in South Africa last year, I couldn’t dismiss them. Come about 2018 they may be up there with the best of them.
I truly hope Ghana does not have to face the USA down the line in this tournament if they make it into the next round of finals—quarter finals? (So many bloody finals. Sorry for swearing.) Then again, I’d rather they face the USA than Spain. Ohh, I can’t wait for Spain’s match today. They are my favourites. It’s a Barcelona thing. I can’t wait to see if Spain faces off against Argentina. How are those Spanish Barcelona defenders going to handle Messi? With kid gloves you’d think…we’ll see if it comes to that.
And didn’t North Korea give a surprise performance against none other than Brazil? I mean, unknown quantity just put themselves on the beautiful game map. They may not have won, but they weren’t a walk over by any means.
While I love Africa and am overawed and moved by the support of all sections of South Africa for all the African teams, the Asian teams are looking good here in Africa. It’s not that surprising if you think back to the Korea/Japan tournament some years back. But I wasn’t expecting it in Africa.
As for Africa, I watched the Ivory Coast match yesterday and it really didn’t inspire, unfortunately. Don’t understand why Drogba was kept off until the last quarter. So far, Ghana is the only African team to have won their first group match. Let’s hope the second round of group matches brings more African victories.
“Come on Black Stars Ghana!”     
Oh, and Saturday: Ghana v Australia. Sheesh. (For new readers, I’m Australian and I live in Ghana—in case you’ve been eating too much popcorn too.)
I need some more popcorn—but we ran out of gas. There is no gas in Bolgatanga at all. We’ve had to eat food that doesn’t need heating or buy cooked food from town for a few days. I actually collected firewood to light a fire to make popcorn. I think that makes me a popcorn junkie. And a bit of a football junkie too. But I don’t smoke or drink—except tea. So, hey, pass the popcorn would ya! 

June 10, 2010

Ways to Travel Free Around the World

I recently wrote a couple of posts at Suite 101 that show you how you can travel for free around the world. Pretty much, anyway.

 In How to Travel Around the World for Free, three major ways of traveling free or reducing travel costs were suggested for budget travelers including couch surfing, volunteering, and how to hitch-hike or cut transport costs.

Here's an excerpt:

Volunteer for Free Around the World

One of the most reputable organizations in this field is WWOOF: World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. WWOOF “links people who want to volunteer on organic farms or smallholdings with people who are looking for volunteer help.” They have farms all over the world from New Zealand, to England and Italy, to name a few of the diverse locations in which travelers could spend time living for free.

The way it works is that “in return for volunteer help, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles.” Potential volunteers contact the farm or garden directly and arrange their placement with them, after paying a token registration fee to join the WWOOF network.

More Ways to Travel Around the World Free includes links to a few great organizations that help reduce your lodging costs to almost zero.

Here is an excerpt:

Lodge for Free With Servas

Servas is another organization that offers visiting travelers an opportunity to stay in someone else’s home for free around the world. Servas has been operating for 60 years and states on their site that “Servas is an international, non-governmental, multicultural peace association run by volunteers in over 100 countries. We operate through a network of Servas hosts around the world who are interested in opening their doors to travelers and of Servas travelers who want to get to know the heart of the countries they visit.”

I hope you enjoy reading both articles and get something positive from them, especially if you're planning your next round the world trip. 

June 6, 2010

More Top Travel Destinations via Bloggers

Focus: Lonely Planet author based in French Polynesia but covering everywhere from South America to Southeast Asia & more
My thoughts: Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous and inspiring. Shows that you don't need a fancy shmancy design to make a great impression--less is more.

Focus: The travel log of a bugger ...
My thoughts: A self-professed "Pom" (he said it!) working his way around Europe...eye-opening if that's your plan.

Focus: Travel and reading blog
My thoughts: If you want to visit the USA, then give this blog a whirl. B&B owners in Colorado creating a lovely blog with a focus on travel literature too.

Focus: Stories from their round the world honeymoon and other travel tips
My thoughts: This site is awesome and I love the recipes!

Focus: Cambodia (I guessed by the title! Grasshoppers anyone?) 

Focus: Food and travel writing by Zora O'Neill -- adventures in Astoria and beyond
My thoughts: Oh Jesus more food. A stunning Thesis theme again. lovely layout with lots of inspiring food-related content with a focus on Europe.

Jetsetting Joyce: Melbourne
Focus: Melbourne, Australia!
My thoughts: Maybe my Nan got net savvy. She's a Joyce and she set up a travel agency in the 70s just for fun. Ok, as an Aussie, and having traveled to Melbourne a lot, this site is on the money too. And it looks great and easy to navigate. Oh god, food again. In fact, as I write I frowned at the screen and Godwin said, "Food?” Yes!

June 5, 2010

Impressions of Busua Beach, Ghana

Busua Beach lies in the Western Region, about half an hour past Takoradi if you’re coming from Accra or Cape Coast. I visited Busua with volunteer friends quite a few times over the years. It was our beach of choice for a while there.

Getting to Busua on public transport from Elmina was not too difficult. It was easy enough to stop a trotro from the main highway heading to Takoradi by simply standing on the side of the road and waving at all the Takoradi trotros whizzing by. Problem was I hated the front seat as it was akin to a death sentence should we have an accident. In retrospect, all seats are probably doomed if worse came to worse. Often, though, the front seats were the only ones left by the time we jumped in at Elmina.

The problem with trotros was that they belted along, overtaking on dangerous corners, and generally breaking all the rules most of the time. Worse if it was raining. But we did it anyway. We changed vehicles at Takoradi for a new one directly to Agona junction where we changed for a taxi to Busua.

The road to Busua from Agona was flanked by forest and palm trees. It reminded me of the mid-north coast of New South Wales - Coffs Harbour.

Frank the fruit salad man was one of my first impressions of Busua Beach. Middle aged and persistent as hell, he started hassling us to buy fresh fruit salad almost the moment we arrived at Alaska and intermittently throughout the day and the next morning. It’s hard to resist the lure of fresh fruit and coconut on the beach in Ghana. Frank did a decent trade.

The village was like most coastal villages in Ghana: multi-coloured, gelato-hued, single and double-storey concrete block buildings, shutters hanging, walls stained by dust and rusting in the salt air. A dusty road extended from a protected cove to the west, all the way east parallel to the beach. The beach was about 2 kms long and finished at a promontory upon which a couple of fancy looking round huts had been built.

Visitors and local children splashed in the wavers every hundred metres or so along the beach. It seemed to be one of the calmer beaches in Ghana—waves flatter than elsewhere.

Behind Alaska, where we lodged, sat African Rainbow, a fancy mult-storey lodge hosted by a lovely Canadian Ghanaian couple and their children, who oozed personality (whipping our butts at pool, for one thing). Busua Beach Resort was about half-way along – a sister to Elmina Beach Resort.

Alaska was a backpacker favourite: A hut with a bed, a fan and a net, 10 metres off the beach. The compound sat on a large thorny patch of grass dotted with about 10 round concrete huts with thatched roofs. Tiny windows let in fresh air and the sound of waves crashing. For ten bucks a night it was fine by me.

The first time I saw goats, sheep and chickens roaming along the beach I was quite amused. That happened at Busua.

On one occasion, when we wandered along the beach to a tiny shack staffed by a few rastas and a German girl, I discovered The Upsetters – dance hall reggae. I was hooked: raunchy, old fashioned funk mixed with reggae and what sounded something like the Charlston. I’d never heard this before. I made a ring with the little girls who’d followed us there and we danced around and around in the sand together.

All the kids from around the village of Busua converged on the beach, playing in the waves like seal pups and playing football in the sand like future black stars.

We spied an older couple strolling along the beach just as the sun was setting over the hill and ocean. They both had weathered faces and appeared to be perhaps Indian or African American—dreadlocks reaching their backsides tied in a scarf. They had a blanket wrapped around their shoulders and wore long flowing robes. It was such a picture of peace that we all just sat and stared. They came and sat on the table right behind us, facing the sea with the blanket still wrapped around their shoulders together.

Turned out they were our British-African neighbours from Elmina and we never knew.

We sat quietly having a drink and enjoying the waves crashing and goats and children running along the beach as the sun set.

June 3, 2010

Then and Now: A Morning in the Life

Sydney, Australia:

8 a.m. I dried my hair with a ten-speed salon dryer and rolled it into Velcro rollers for added oomph after taking a long, hot shower.  All made up, shoulder bag clasped under my arm, I marched out of the house dressed in a suit and high heels, clacking along the footpath to the bus stop. Neither the old lady walking her poodle nor the young man huffing along in the latest aero-dynamic jogging ensemble said hello when we passed each other. Rounding the corner, I approached the dozen passengers standing strategically, like pieces on a chess board, willing the bus to stop in front of them. When the bus finally arrived four minutes late, we each jostled for position, squeezing out all others ever so politely—using briefcases for leverage. No one made eye contact and no one acknowledged each other; only ‘weirdos’ said hello to strangers on the bus. 

Cape Coast, Ghana: 3.30 a.m.

Cock-a-doodle-doo crows the damned rooster, no doubt chuffed to be a rooster. I hold my watch up to the moonlight. It's not bloody daylight for another two hours, I think, kicking the mosquito net over my feet.  In this pre-dawn darkness I hear the foot steps and the quiet murmurs of people trudging along the dirt track beside the house; the coolest time of the ‘day’, a good time to start work.

A chain of cock-a-doodle-doos suddenly echo around the neighbourhood like talking drums. In my half-sleep delirium I imagine the roosters crowing in my father’s voice: ‘Cockadoodle-twooooo more hours fellas, look at all those lazy buggers still sleeping,’ Damn roosters. I have visions of pinging them with the security man’s sling shot and fall asleep thinking the whole crowing at sunrise thing is a myth.

I awake again around six a.m. For a few minutes light creeps across the bedroom wall like an animal stalking its prey. And then, as if the chase is on, the sun shoots up and away, and light floods every surface.
We’re a ‘stone’s throw’ from the equator, as Ghanaians would say; one minute it’s dark, the next it’s light, every day, three-hundred and sixty-five days a year.

I sit up and notice that several new bites have appeared on my legs overnight even though I sleep under a net. Malarial bites are rumoured not to itch. These tiny red dots do not itch. I decide not to think about malaria now. Most Ghanaians have a fairly laissez faire attitude towards the whole thing. ‘Oh, it is just like catching a cold.’ Malaria shmalaria I think and get up and clip the mosquito net over my bed.

Geckoes scatter across the glass window slats when I pad into the kitchen. I cut off a couple of hunks of bread and toast them on a small fry-pan over an old gas stove with only two working burners.

Next, I take a ‘shower'. That is, I let a trickle of water drip over my body from a rusted shower head. There is no hot water. It is too hot for hot water anyway. So, first, I splash the trickle over my shoulders, chest and legs. Then I turn the tap off. I take a bar of soap and lather up all over, peering out the bathroom window at the dirt track where kids in uniform trudge by on their way to school.

If it’s one of the two days a week I wash my hair, I’ll use a bucket instead of the trickle (I’m tempted to grow dreadlocks). Then I turn the trickle on and do the shower hokey pokey – moving one body part after another under the drip, taking turns to wash the soap off. I have to remind myself not to swallow water from the tap – that’s just asking for trouble. I manage to use a tenth of a bucket of water during these washes, saving that which drips off me to throw over whichever vegetable Appiah is growing; now, it’s maize. My hair dries in ten minutes, curling into ringlets in the humidity. No more whiz-bang dryer or Velcro rollers for this obruni.

The sensation of squeaky clean skin, a luxury, lasts for the hour I potter about the house before stepping outside into the ninety-nine percent humidity.

 “Good morning/how are you?/I’m fine/thank you,” chorus the women and men, legs spread apart in the dirt, breaking rocks with rocks to earn a pittance of a living, when I walk out the front gate at eight-thirty.

“Good morning,” I reply, once more in awe of their cheerfulness in the face of endless, sweaty labor and no prospect of an easier life anytime soon. 

“Good morning,” greets the man walking past in suit and tie, swinging his briefcase, headed to an office in Elmina, probably.

“Good morning,” I reply.

“Fine,” smiles the lady carrying small pastries in a glass case on her head.

“Fine,” I reply, smiling. The baby wrapped on her back bounces in time to her footsteps, head lolling backwards. He’s fast asleep.

I stand at the junction in the morning glare and do “the hitchhiker,” pointing towards the Atlantic Ocean just over the rise. My aim is to get to the office by nine o’clock. I’m hopeful. You’ve got to be hopeful—there ain’t much else to latch onto when it comes to transport in Ghana.

A share taxi pulls over. I squeeze in the back seat next to two fat market ladies cradling baskets of smelly, silver fish on their laps.

“Good morning,” the three passengers and the driver greet me.

“Good morning,” I reply.

It’s fair to say that Ghanaians place great stock in greetings. A simple rule is to do so when you enter a room or a vehicle, and always return a greeting, wherever you are. 

Different lives. Different mornings.
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