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Work 4 Peace,Hold All Life Sacred,Eliminate Violence! I am on my mobile version of the door-to-door, going town-to-town holding readings/gatherings/discussions of my book "But What Can I Do?" This is my often neglected blog mostly about my travels since 9/11 as I engage in dialogue and actions. It is steaming with my opinions, insights, analyses toward that end of holding all life sacred, dismantling the empire and eliminating violence while creating the society we want ALL to thrive in

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Day 1 - Accra

My daughter’s lovely friend/chosen family Sam swiftly picks us out of the airport crowd & directs us to his idling car. We pile in and off we go: the plan is to first drop our things at the house where we’ll be spending the nite before we continue up the coast, then stop at a bank to change money, and finally off to find food.

We drive down streets whose traffic rivals l.a. freeways and whose drivers could be featured survivors in nascar events, much to my grandchild’s glee. Pedestrians contentedly mingle in and out, competing with scooters and taxis alike as more vendors earnestly hawk their wares heaped on top of heads held high, trying to sell us, as we zoom by or sit at the rare intersection, everything from glistening cold drinks to cellophane-packaged fried plantain chips to attractive soft brown chairs with finely woven backs and seats or the infrequent gleaming soccer ball. 

Although there is air conditioning in the car, we all protest the cold and opt for rolling down the windows to experience fully the fresh air, novelty and excitement of Accra’s streets, despite the thick diesel fumes and enduring heat. Sam turns off the boulevard and squeezes into the last space in front of the bank that shares the parking lot with a colossal church whose bulk and blaring opulence rivals those mega monster churches in the u.s. 

Sam, whose thinly disguised distain and deeper sorrow echoes my undeclared feelings, explains that Ghanaians just  l o v e  their churches. We witness a dazzling sea of incredibly colorful decked out joyful humanity rapidly escaping out of the huge double-doored mansion of a church. In the wake of striking vivid Ghanaian fabrics, vibrantly contrasting silks and lace, and formal suits, I am dismayed to spot little 4, 5, 6 year old girls tagging along in oppressive heels and tight lacy dresses. I witnessed the same high-heeled shoes deforming young church girls’ feet when traveling through Mexico.

Sam does not allow us to give him any U.S. dollars but instead hands over $387 cedis he has retrieved from his bank – Ghanaian money: 3.87 cedis for 1 u.s. dollar. Again, we are in a country where our money goes almost 4 times farther than all Ghanaians.

I know this unequal value of money criminally favoring foreigners is the reason most tourists and certainly every ex-pat are occupying space and exploiting resources of this country. I feel the familiar wave in my gut of nausea and disgust and knowledge of u.s.ofa. privilege, and reaffirm my commitment to consciously trying to minimize the empire within that I shoulder as naturally as babies balanced on mothers’ backs.

We head out for a mile or two until Sam turns off the main paved 2 lane thoroughfare and steers down the bumpiest road whose red dirt echoes that of the earth in Georgia, thru a community of various houses, store fronts, and lots empty except for the occasional little band of goats or wandering chickens. 

Here and there children also play along this dusty dirt path, racing bald tires or dribbling stones; women stroll along with babies on backs and/or bundles on heads; most men seem to walk individually or together in twos or threes unencumbered. 

Unfazed by the sporadic pedestrian, deep ruts, screeching turns, or brutal lurching of the jeep, Sam steadily approaches a newly built very modern building perched proudly on the corner and adorned in lovely shades of gold, brown, orange, and olive green, like the painted ladies in SF. The house is surrounded by a matching high solid cement wall with an ornate metal gate where a tall, thin man materializes when we are still a good 30 yards away, ready to slide open the gate as we get closer.

How he knew we were coming right at that moment, I don’t know. Sam didn’t call him and neither did we. It seems people in Ghana pay attention to things, see things, know things in ways I can’t explain. I’ve witnessed similar attentiveness, many decades ago when I first went to Baja California in Mexico – before it was overrun by u.s.ofa. people – and more recently a few years ago in Senegal.

Our rooms are quite luxurious with overhead ceiling fans, large firm beds with cotton sheets, and even a little mini refrigerator. The floors are smooth earth-toned marble tiles and there’s lots of beautiful glossy dark brown wood doors, window frames, and inlaid ceilings and walls. And off to the left, a full bathroom complete with sink, a tub with a shower, a flushing toilet with the required small swinging-cover garbage can – a delicate reminder for tourists to deposit toilet paper in the can and not the toilet bowl.

After warm welcomes from our hosts and dropping off our bags, we head out with Sam again. He takes us by a restaurant that offers pizza and sandwiches – we immediately nix that saying we didn’t leave the u.s., fly 10 hours and come to Ghana to eat pizza. We want ‘local’ food.

Sam is pleased after incredulity passes and he confirms we REALLY want Ghanaian food. He takes us to another place not too far away that serves food we’ve mostly only read about. We sit outside shaded under bright red umbrellas at tables covered with green, yellow and black cloths as we delight in eating bowls of light soup with fufu and banku and fish and chicken, and for the vegetarians, plates of red red, plantains, and chichinga – all for less than $5 a person with drinks and pineapple for dessert. 

Again, Sam does not allow us to pay.

Fully sated we head to the marketplace. Vendor after vendor line both sides of the expansive 4 land boulevard and booths make a double line on the sidewalk, proffering everything from cell phones to vegetables to mounds of shoes and stacks of clothes to smoked fish and mangoes to fabulous cloth and carved statues, furniture and bags of water or cold sugary drinks. 

Womyn, babies snuggled on their backs, little or not so little bodies wrapped tight in bright happy cloth, lace thru the crowds with huge bowls on their heads, some of them so tall I cannot see what is inside; others balance plates shaped like silver metal saucers on their heads piled seemingly precariously high with mountains of smoked fish or bananas or ice cold drinks. Men also weave in and out with belts suspended from their shoulders like pet snakes or pushing wheelbarrows loaded with coconuts and a sharp machete ready to slice off and puncture the top of the shell for thirty cents each.

In anticipation of tomorrow’s journey, we load up on mangos, yams and plantains along with a couple smoked fish and several large bottles of cold water.

Before heading back to the house, Sam drives us around Accra pointing out museums and small farms, additional markets and malls, and a large lake where wild tilapia are caught by local fishermen. In the states neither my daughter nor myself eat fish, especially farm-raised fish but here in Ghana we will get a taste of wild tilapia and end up indulging as much as we can!

My Ghanaian "AH-HA" moment...

At first it’s easy to believe I’ve landed in Accra, Ghana for as we file out the door of the huge plane, we are immediately enveloped in heat so thickly hot and sweet it feels like we’ve been embraced by a lover after she's run a marathon in July in Tucson.

Then, having to climb down a ramp of stairs, bounce across a softened tarmac to a waiting feebly air conditioned bus to be dropped off at the back doors of the terminal, we emerge into a bright cement building bustling with Ghanaian life.

Beautiful people whose amazing glowing rich warm dark dark dark chocolate skin enhance the bright colors that adorn their bodies, open faces with kind eyes and broad smiles, generously hand out bottles of water along with sincere welcomes.

It’s almost 2 weeks after xmas but jolly white santa’s still adorn walls and shelves and poles. We pass thru customs without a hitch and excitedly join the throngs striding out onto the sidewalk, past storefronts and thru street vendors hawking their wares and taxi drivers offering special rates as they pace in front of the terminal…

The very first thing I see is a u.s. military vehicle - full of white, u.s. soldiers.

Yes folks, a fuckin u.s.ofa. military vehicle in fuckin Ghana. 

Now we (the us) did not officially ever conquer Ghana – that was the Dutch and the Portuguese, the French (maybe not in that order) and lastly the English. 

I know you must be thinking slavery has been outlawed, so we’re not there anymore to capture humans, beat, rape and chain them, and then pack the survivors into ship galleys to send off to the u.s.

It is not until returning to the airport almost 2 weeks later that I make the real connection when I read the headlines: “US Mines $274 million in gold, pays Ghana $7 million.”

Now, just to be clearer, US doesn’t mine shit: US uses Ghanaians to do the dirty, dangerous, hard work of extracting gold from the Mother Earth. And pays them negligible wages.

I google gold and Ghana and read that Ghana has the 2nd largest gold reserves in the world. The ah-ha moment hits: therefore our military presence. 

It’s so unconscionable, this exploitation and genocide still raging as we continue to loot the richest continent in the world, making us filthy rich and most of the people on that continent extremely poor.