The reason why I have not posted for the past couple days is simple: it would have meant acknowledging that my trip is ending and I’m heading back home to New York. My trip to Alaska last summer was my first month-long trip away from home in my life. I found it extremely difficult to readjust to everyday life coming back from that trip. The people you meet, the things you see; you get a bit spoiled when everything is new and exciting all of the time. Ghana really has become a home over the past month. I’m sad to leave this country that has been so good to me and my family. I’m sure I’ll find myself a little disappointed once my flight lands in New York about 26 hours from now (hopefully, but more on that later).
But before I have to deal with any of that baggage, let’s recap the past three days.
My mom, my dad, and I went on a little tour of the area around Kumasi, self-guided this time. There are three different villages on the same main road, each specializing in a particular type of traditional craft. We took a taxi out to the furthest one, Adanwomase, and then took tro-tros (basically rusted public transport vans that are falling apart) back towards Kumasi, stopping at the other villages.
Adanwomase specializes in kente cloth weaving. Every single man in town knows how to weave, so there are weaving stations set up beside every house, each making slightly different designs to sell in their stores on the main street. These men start as young as 10 years old, so they are truly masters of their craft, effortlessly manipulating the string into complex patterns without a single moment of hesitation. They use a combination of strings, foot pedals, and at least three different spools of fabric to make each strip of cloth. And I still don’t get exactly how it all works. Nevertheless, it’s a true wonder to watch.
Next, we headed on to the village of Ntonso, which supposedly is the center of adrinka stamping. This process involves special symbols carved from wood that are dipped in dye made from tree bark and pressed onto clothing to make intricate designs. Unfortunately, once we paid for the guided tour (about $3), we were told that there was only one guy who still made the cloth, and he only did it because tourists came around and wanted to see it. There wasn’t much to see and there was little enthusiasm in the craft making, so we left pretty quickly.
Traditional adrinka (left) and an example of Ghana’s never ending love for our president: Obamadrinka (right).
Our last stop was the small village of Ahwiaa. This village specializes in wood carvings. Because of a funeral occurring in the town that night, many of the carvers were off preparing for the occasion, so there wasn’t a whole lot of opportunity to watch people carve. But luckily, a few were carving, so we stayed and watched for 20 minutes. It was a little funny to learn that much of the wood they used for carving is imported from Brazil, but I guess Ghana is no stranger to globalization.
Another tro-tro ride and we were back in Kumasi. We got word that the gold mine in nearby Obuasi was closed to visitors, so we instead decided to head back to Accra a day earlier than originally planned.
Thursday and Friday (today)
Yesterday was mostly spent on a bus. I did long bus ride things like listen to my iPod, read my book (Kiterunner), and look out the window for long stretches of time. I think that particular six hours of my life needs little explanation on this blog. But six hours after we headed out from Kumasi on a nice coach bus (the luxury option of transport at $15), we arrived in Accra, the capital and the home of Kotoka International Airport.
After getting in last night, we stayed at a nice hotel right on the coastline, and then headed off to a different one today that would allow us to hang out for the entire day at their pool for a few bucks. Our flight isn’t until a little after 10pm tonight, and as my mom and I figured out when we stayed in Accra at the beginning of our trip, there’s not much to do in the capital. The museums are disappointing and pricy and there’s not much in the way of tourist attractions. Sitting by a pool was our best option to waste some time before our flight.
So here I am (see that devilishly handsome guy above? yeah, that’s me), sitting next to a pool, not quite feeling like I’m in Ghana, but instead, like I could be at a nice beach resort anywhere in the world. But it’s important to remember the real Ghana of the last 29 days. The harshness of daily life, the broken down roads, the inspiring amount of construction projects, the unbending spirit of the entrepreneurs I met, and of course, those great Ghanaian smiles.
In an hour or two, we’ll be off to the airport. The stress is building because we’re not quite sure if we are going to get on the airplane. We have standby tickets, and there’s only 8 seats open on the plane. With a little bit of luck, I’ll be sitting on Big Apple tarmac in about a day’s time, but there’s a decent chance I could be hanging out here for a day or two more.
But, despite the uncertainty, here’s my goodbye.
It’s been good Ghana. Maybe I won’t be back here for a while, but I’ll be sure to make it back to Africa soon. There’s no place where life seems so pure and simple as this lowercase “q” of a continent.
Note: I’ll be blogging some reflections on the trip, extra interviews, and random posts that I forgot to put up before retiring this blog for good, so don’t stop coming back just yet. I’ll be sure to let you know when everything is done.