Wednesday, 24 July 2013

One week on: My first weekend & the first Ghaniain Rugby Match.

I’ve now been in Ghana a week. Though it feels like longer. I’m slowly getting in to the swing of things from the more laid-back way of life, to the food and the friendly nature of the people here. I have started my volunteering this week which has made my day’s comparatively busy compared to last week. My surfing is even improving. Here are some selected extracts from my diary, which I write every night, in the book Choloe gave to me:

July 19th

I managed to wake earlier this morning (about 8:30am) after a pitiful 11hours of sleep. Each day we all end up extremely physically tired after the day’s surfing. Night life doesn’t go on late there despite there being nothing else really to do. A late night would be past 10pm.

Last nights power cut continued throughout the night making the fan intermittent. Busua at night is noisy. The sounds of music, conversation and children playing fill the dark night air. When the power goes it is like someone put the town on pause. All sound ceases making sleeping easier, if only the fan still worked. Sleeping in Africa is like a weird hallucinogenic experience. The sounds of the night and the heat combine to create disorientation and confusion when you awake. No night feels truly restful.

Breakfast was Banana pancakes served with black coffee (1 sugar), my own personal slice of African heaven.

The waves are meant to be bigger today so I grab my shortboard from behind my bed. Pack a bag and head to the beach. When I arrived the rumored big swell was nowhere to be seen. The tide evidently wasn’t big enough. I met Bjorn (a German) at the beach who informed me we would have to wait until 11:30 and the tide is high to surf. “If the tide is on time” he added, disbelieving that even the tide can be on time in this country. I passed a pleasant morning on the beach reading with Bryce (ridiculous name I know, but he is American) before heading in to the waves. My shortboard feels less stable than my fish (due to it having less volume) however, I manage to catch a few waves (mostly close-outs but a couple of nice ones). The waves are definitely bigger today 5 with the occational 6fter rolling through. Everyone else is catching bombs. I wish I had my fish under me. I catch one of the 6fters and get slammed shoulder first in to the bottom before being tossed around like a rag in a washing machine. When I surface I check my shoulder. No lasting damage. But I head in for lunch anyway (Chicken Sarni and Chips). I eat lunch with Bryce and the Swiss Guys (Michael and Lucas) and head back in on my fish for some more waves. We surfed another 2 sessions that afternoon before heading to dinner (Ghanaian fish and yam chips – to make the English boy feel at home).

We were meant to head to the nightclub in Takoradi (as it was a Friday night), however both Ebenezer and I are too tired so we head to the beach for my first Ghanaian Friday night. Friday Night in Busua is much like everywhere else. Party night. We headed to the Okerye Tree where a sound system blared out a mixture of Ghanaian and Western music. A tall stack of sticks were erected in  to a torch on the beach in front. We started drinking. Club is the beer of choice here – It is far superior to the other main offering, Star. Ebenezer had bought some lime gin in preperation which I began slugging, a little too liberally. The fire was lit and the local kids put on an impressive display of backflips, front flips and general acrobatics all conducted by a regimental Ebenezer “More show! More show!” before turning to the audience and commanding “Show the love! Show the love!” when we’d all applaud whoop and holler in appreciation. I stayed out late talking and drinking with the 2 Bjorns, The Swiss guys and Bryce. I stumbled back to my room at about 11:30 and collapsed in to bed. The room span. And in a dance as old as time I jumped up and sprinted for the toilet. Must have been something I ate…

July 21st

Today was one of those days. One of those days where nothing goes right. It started with a rush to the toilet first thing for my first dose of “African Belly”. I lay on the bed a while before packing a bag and heading to the meet Bryce and the Swiss guys for our trip to Axim. The journey was just over an hour and the scenery was beautiful. Lush forest gave way to fields of rubber tree, which in turn gave way to forest again.

We arrived at Axim beach resort, an upmarket retreat for westerners pearched on the side of the hill. The individual huts spilt down towards the shore. We left the boards on the taxi and went down to check out the waves. Closeouts. Rubbish. We walked down the empty beach, pausing to climb a fallen down palm tree and then walked on to an outcrop of rocks a mile down from the resort. We climbed to the top to admire the view. Standing there taking in the scenery when a huge wave hit the rocks soaking me and the camera. I quickly scrambled down and wiped it clean with my towel, but to no avail. Hopefully drying it out in my room will salvage it.

We walked back along the beach. My stomach hurting and completely gutted about the camera. We took the taxi in to town. Again no waves to speak of the swell wasn’t good enough. The guys got some food and we waited in the shade to eat it before heading back to Busua. I was glad to leave Axim. The streets stank from the foul waters that lay, unmoving in the gutters. It was busy and noisy. The sound of a funeral sermon (something more akin to a carnival) filled the town for all to hear. The heat was intense (despite it currently being winter here).

I forced down some chocolate pancakes when we returned to Busua and sat watching the waves break. Finally temptation got the better of me and I paddled out in to the line-up. I got some great waves, which lifted my soul. There is nothing like a good surf to wash away a bad day. 

When I got back in Ebenezer had left a sim card for me so I could finally ring home. 2 hours and 65 ceedis later (including a new sim card) I managed to call home. It was a relief to be able to speak to Zoe and Mum that evening. Home felt a little closer.

(My Ghanain number is 0541065084 if you want to get in contact).

July 23rd

I awoke late (some things never change) and headed straight for our daily 8:30am meeting. I was the first there but didn’t have long to wait before Julia and Ebenezer showed up. They want me to write a presentation to encourage the young kids here to use the recycling centre rather than throw their rubbish on the floor. Ebenezer gave me his laptop to write it and I got the basic information down quickly which I will show to them tomorrow. I went back to Sabina’s and grabbed some breakfast (omllete and sweet bread) before heading to the School with Ebenezer to talk to the headmaster about what we would be doing, After a brief conversation he gave his approval and then headed to the beach to have lunch with the Swiss guys before they headed off to Accra and then home. It was sad to see them go. They have been great characters to have around. I gave them my contact details and discussed future plans for a Scottish surf trip. Bryce was ill today so wasn’t around so Bjorn and I sat around reading and passing the time before my 2pm meet with Ebenezer to head over to the school and take my first sports lesson.

We had 11 kids turn up between the ages of 12 and 16. I had ambitiously decided to start with Rugby as Ebenezer said the kids loved learning new games. I was nervous. We started off with a game of British Bulldog which the kids got the hag of rather quickly and seemed to enjoy before I introduced a rugby ball to the equation and things got a little more complicated. Its really interesting seeing Ghanaian kids play with the rugby ball. They are a little unsure of what to do with it. They try to bounce it like a basketball, hit it like a volleyball and kick it like a football. The idea of rugby passing is a little alien to them. The passing drill quickly descended in to a game that resembled basketball and I decided to just try and play a game of touch Rugby with them instead as that is what they were yearning to do. It took a while before running forward and passing backwards became cemented in their heads (offside was completely out the window) but we passed an hour playing before everyone was tired and we decided to call it a day. A couple of kids said they really enjoyed it and wanted to play again sometime. I said we could next week. One had even seen a game of it on TV “

Why do they all push each other over all the time?” he asked.

 “That’s now you tackle.” I replied.

He looked baffled but accepted my answer.

Hot and sweaty I went off for a well earned surf. The waves were 3-4ft with very little wind. The waves got glassy. Butterflies and hummingbirds fluttered over the water as Bob Marley blarred out from one of the beach bars. It’s not a bad life really.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Black Stars and White Water.

We arrived in Accra a little after 5am. The flight had been short and virtually sleepless. The little sleep I did get was rudely interupted by a steward ramming the breakfast trolly in to my leg. Whatever happened to those do not disturb signs? During the decent in to Accra I strained out the window looking for any signs of what the city may be like. A few lights here, a few lights there. Nothing to distinguish it from any other city.

When I finally made it through immigration, baggage (all unscathed), customs and then bag check I was ushered towards the taxis. I needed to get accross the city to the bus station to Takaradi to meet Ebenezer. The guide book warns about being ripped of for taxis and to always go for atleast half the price they ask for. But when the produced the laminated list of prices I was tired had no fight and just wanted to get out of Accra and on to the bus. I paid the 40 Ceedis and a further 10 for carrying my baggage all of 10 yards. I couldn't care less. The drive was over an hour through the already growing Accra traffic with the driver's phone ringing about every 10 yards blaring our Peter Andre's Mysterious Girl... Worth all of the 40 ceedis alone. I made it on the first (and much more reasonably priced) bus of the day.

"What time do we leave?" I asked.

"When we are full."

TIA after all.
Busau beach

One thing that is hard to get used to is the constant friendliness of the people here. When I got on the bus I sat next to a young man called Joshua. He was 24, a marketing graduante and expecting his first baby any day. We chatted for a lot of the wait before we set off; he invited me to his house in Accra, his Grandparents in Takaradi and his Girlfriends also in Takaradi, he stopped short of proposing though. When we got underway around 7:30 a preacher started giving a sermon compete with hyms (in a mixture of Twi and English).

"What is going on?" I asked Joshua

"He is giving a sermon and then he will sell some drugs." Came the reply.

An unusual combination. The drugs the preacher was selling were claimed to cure Strokes, Asthma, Diahorrea and Women's pains (Whether this was just Women's pains in general or any specific area I do not know... I was afraid to ask). I managed to grab a few hours sleep and when I awoke the stern busy streets of Accra were replaced with lush trees and the ocean. I relaxed a little. I managed to meet Ebenezer off the bus mainly thanks to Joshua. We rammed my bags in the taxi and made our way to Busua (pronounced Booswa - Imagine a South African trying to say Bonsoir with a really bad cold).
The Okerye Tree

I dumped my stuff at the house and then Ebenezer took me round to meet basically the whole village. Ebenezer is part of Busua's royal family (technically a prince) but he doesn't like my suggestion that I call him William. We chat all the way round about football (he is a Liverpool fan - takes all sorts I soppose) to what I will  be doing when I will be there. He says I need to take a week to adjust and relax and start my volunteering next week. Which sounds like a good idea to me. He also point out that I need to slow down my speach and pronounce my name clearer - Ant Tony rather than my current An' ney (mum would be proud). I get a surf in in the evening though I am definately still finding my feet and then have beers on the beach in the evening. I stuble back to the guest house at 11pm and have to wake my Ghanian Mum, Sabina to let me in as the door is locked (a good first impression).

The next morning I wake late. Tired and hungover. I pop and Alka Seltza in my mouth and open a bag of water with my teeth before heading to breakfast (omlette and sweet Ghanian Bread). Ebenezer said he would take me around the School I will be volunteering at doing sports coaching at but with no sign of him I hit the waves. Basua beach is a fast steep beach beak where the waves rise and crash in to the shallower water. It is mainly only good at high tide so surfing has to be planned around the tides. The rest of the time I spend with fellow travellers such as Bryce, The Swiss Guys, Matthias from Austria or with Ebenezer and the others at the Okerye tree restaurant in the shade looking out over the beach.

A local catches a wave

Ebenezer found me in the afternoon where we went to look at the School (though they had now finished for the day and the Headmaster and teachers were involved in an intense game of Ghanian draughts, the rules of which escaped me) so we walked along the beach to see the catched of the day. A huge Swordfish lay on the beach that the deep sea fisherman brought in. It must have been 8ft at least. Then a quick evening surf followed by G&Ts with an unlikely group of American, Australian, Austrian and German's. We ended up in stiches at the end of the night after discussing national steroeotypes

Yesterday after our morning surf we went up to Dixcove (the next village) to have a look of the slave fort. Enterance was 3 ceedis and was accompanied by a tour from the guide. The place was moving and beautiful at the same time. A british man is currently building a resort in front of the fort... Back in british hands again...

Dixcove Fort

That's all I have time to write. I'm going to be late for my dinner (6:30 every night). I hope to update you all soon. Love to all.