Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Denominators, Zig Zag and a Kundom.

Wednesday 21st August – Common Denominators.

If you have more than 3 beers of a night here a hangover the next day is inevitable. Still I never learn. Another tough haul out of bed, I staggered to the morning meeting reluctantly, especially as today was going to be a busy day. Teaching Maths and opening the Recycling Centre. It doesn’t sound like much but here that’s a lot here where the pace of life is significantly slower.

After the meeting and breakfast I went to the beach to plan a lesson on fractions from the Government text book. I spent the first 2 hours doing anything but plan my lesson. Reading, swimming in the sea, get a drink, anything but bloody fractions. I thought I left those days behind in Mr Amerik’s class room. I opened up the book on the table in a futile gesture to pretend to do work. Book open I preceeded to chat to Abby, a Canadian Journalist, for a couple of hours about everything and nothing, my procrastination skills are still strong. I’m sure all my past maths teahers would have laughed their head off if they could have seen me having to do fractions again. I think today is the answer to the question “But sir this is pointless! When am I ever going to need to know this?”

I managed to do my planning and head over to the school in time for the usual half hour wait that proceeds all these lessons. No matter how many times I try and explain that we start at 2pm they never start showing up until at least 2:30pm. That's 2pm Ghana time after all. Finally, about 2:45pm enough kids had showed up and we began. I taught them about numerators and denominators, reducing fractions, increasing fractions with at least 8/10 of the class getting all the questions right and the other 2/10 weren’t far behind. A decent success rate.

Lesson over Eben and I rushed over to the recycling centre as by now it was almost 4pm. Opening time. When we arrived the centre was under siege. Around 50 children all carrying several sacks of plastic each were jostling for position outside the centre. The children were pressed up so tightly against the door it was impossible to get through. It’s as if they thought we were hiding out inside the centre and would at any moment make a dramatic entrance by throwing open the door. We tried to maneuver the crowd in to a line and stop them pushing each other but to no real avail. In the end we had to push through the crowd to open the door before trying to rearrange the line which had again descended in to a mob. Every 5 minutes we had to try and return order as kids pushed, fell, cried and sneaked to try and get to the front of the queue. We carried on this way for an hour and a half, the crowd swelling all the time and pushing forwards, trapping in the centre. I felt like a UN Peacekeeper. It was getting too much. Even the Ghanaian Women (a force that could bring the whole of Syria to order in less than half and hour) couldn’t bring order to the line. We had to close. We had collected a couple of hundred kgs and turned away much more. It was an exhausting, busy and dirty afternoon. I headed for the beach to wash away the day.

The tide was high and the waves rolling in to the bay looked fun. I always seem to surf better after a tough day. Big turns, hard pumps, lots of speed and late take offs come with ease as the frustration and stress of the day seeps out in to the brine. It was a lot of fun. I  only came in as it was getting too dark to see the waves coming. I chatted to Zoe on the phone before I grabbed a dinner of Red Red (I am slightly addicted to it at the moment) and headed to the beach for a beer and 3 hours of surf movies.

Thursday 22nd August – Zig Zag.

Today’s morning meeting was rather quick as I didn’t have much to do today, no lessons to plan and or emails to write. I was off to Katakor with some pro surfers, writers and a photog from South African surf magazine Zig Zag. I walked down to the beach in time for the 10:30 meet, Peter wasn’t around yet as usual. He is on Ghanaian time after all. The pros sat on steps and leant against walls in broody poses, as if they expected a photographer to jump out at any moment to take moody profile shots of each of them. The photog was loading bag after bag of heavy, expensive gear in to the knackered orange mini bus we would be traveling in. The sliding door lay some distance away propped against a wall. At least there was no need to worry about air conditioning.

Peter finally arrived about 11 and announced it was time to go. We piled in to the van: Peter, 2 pro surfers, 2 Italian surfers, The photog, the editor (and writer for the trip) as well as 1 local teenager who had come to help the photog with all his stuff and look after the stuff on the beach.

The journey was just over an hour, despite it being only 12km away due to the bumpy dirt road. The trip is beautiful. Passing through the three or four small villages on the dirt track is accompanied by the sound of children chanting “O-bru-ni-how-are-you?” (Obruni means white man) while they chase the car and wave at the weird white men with their white logs on top of the car. Sometimes this chant is followed by a definitive shout of “I’M-FINE!”  saving you the trouble of replying at all and leaving you free to just smile and wave at the excited crowd of children like a royal on parade.

The guys were chatty and we spent most of the way down talking about surfing, Busua, Ghana and the photography business as the scenery changed from forest to rubber plantation and back to forest with only the occasional village breaking the sea of green. Peter was in high spirits, as always; laughing and joking with me intermittently before continuing to veer left and right to avoid potholes. We joke that the way to spot a Ghanaian drunk driver is to look for the car going straight. We arrived at midday. The surfers immediately tucked in to their packed lunches while the photog unloaded his mountain of gear, presumably worth more than Ghana’s annual GDP and the boards were passed down from the roof. When everyone was fed and loaded up we marched off in to the forest down in to one bay, back up in to the forest and then down in Katakor bay where the wooden huts of the small village spill down on to the beach. Peter and I wasted no time and immediately headed in to the waves, beginning the long paddle out to the take off.

Peter and I joined the empty line up and were soon joined by one of the pros who took two waves before I could take one, flicking spray airborne with each huge turn he made. The waves were good. 5-6ft faces but with some interesting and difficult sections. The waves held all the way in to the beach a couple of hundred of meters away from the take off point. Over the 2 hours I caught 8 long right handers each accompanied with an exhausting paddle back out. The pros quickly disappeared and it was soon just Peter, The Editor and I left on the wave for over an hour. We were getting tired and Peter said we should head in. Time for one last wave. A 6fter rolled in and I was in right spot. I took it and rode it, turning and cutting back all the way in to the beach. I was stoked. It was the longest wave of my life. The pros weren’t so happy. I don’t think the waves were good enough for them and the photog didn’t get any good pictures. I didn’t care. I was tired, but I was happy.

The journey home was quiet. Peter and I were tired and the pros and the photog were disappointed. The editor never said anything anyway. The only sound was the occasional blast of chat from the Italians. We got back to Busua at 3:30pm. Starving, I grabbed a loaf of bread and some ground nut paste (Ghanaian peanut butter) and rang Eben. The Women’s group meeting had been cancelled but we would open the recycling centre at 4pm. I wolfed down my 1.5¢ sarni and headed over with Eben to the centre. When we turned the corner a sea of children were once again surrounding the centre. It was mayhem once again. It took us over 15minutes to open the door and move the crowd back and open the door. We weighed and paid for over an hour while yet again trying to organize the children in to a line as they pushed harder and harder to get to the front. We battled for a long time agian but had to shut the centre yet again. We would try again tomorrow.

Katakor point
I headed to the beach and washed off the grime in the surf. Tired from Katakor and hauling plastic. I surfed well and was glad I hadn’t looked a muppet in front of the pros – as if they cared. Just time for a quick dinner before I fell gratefully in to bed.

Baywatch eat your heart out.

Sunday 24th August – Kundom Come.       

Quite frankly the most incredible umbrella ever.
I spent a relaxing morning lying in and having a leisurely breakfast before I headed to the beach. I sat in the Okorye Tree listening to the Arsenal match and writing away for the best part of three hours (with a short interval due to the power out). When I had finished writing and Arsenal had finished triumphantly winning 3-1 away at Fulham. Babel and Simon showed up at the beach saying they were heading over to Dixcove for the Kudom. I decided to join them. The walk to Dixcove follows the narrow dirt track in between the fields over the hill past the fort and down in to Dixcove itself. The walk is pleasant and the road is busy with other pedestrian traffic traveling between the two towns. Walking with Simon takes a lot longer than it does with most. He is proficint in Fante and Twi and all the locals love him for it, chatting away to him until his language skills give out. When we got down in to Dixcove there was no sign of the promised festival procession though Simon quickly found out it had moved up towards the hospital. We walked up the hill towards where the festival supposedly was. On the outskirts of the town in the grounds of the hospital we found the festival.  People were crowded around in a circle. Small marquees broke up the crowd, each with a laminated sign tied to the top denoting the type of VIPs it contained: Tribal leaders, musicians, hospital staff, local government were all in attendance.

A Ghanaian comedy act.

The tribal leaders were the most colourfully dressed in their off the shoulder robes and their various different ornate staffs carved from wood and topped with a menagerie of animals: elephants, lions, warthogs, ant eaters…you name it. At first it appeared that nothing was happening. Then a microphone crackled in to life and various people began talking. Ghanaians love to talk. It's a national obsession. And if one person talks another has to as well. Each long speech was followed inevitably by another, longer one. The Kundom is a fund raiser for local causes. The long and varied speeches are spattered with dancing, music, comedy and entertainment to encourage people to donate money. A kind of un-televised Children in Need. This year they were raising money for the local hospital, hence the venue. As speeches ended, music started and dancers in masks and colourful costumes danced around in a conga line style, called Azunto. The leader was for some inexplicable reason was wearing rollerskates which were completely useless on the mix of grass and gravel which made up the parade ground. Next a comedy act. An old lady carrying a suitcase on her head and a huge bum was accompanied by a man dressed remarkably like Andre 3000, carrying a walking stick and acting like and old man. They walked in what was supposedly a comical old person style before a short kiss between them sent the crowd in to hysterics. I think Live at the Apollo might be a way off here. The comedy act left as quickly as they came (no mean feat when dressed like that). Next came the man who was paralysed from the waist down who came on with a comedy routine that ranged from slapstick tumbling to the contortionist acrobartics. He was eventually being paraded around on the shoulders of the locals while sitting in a metal bowl with his legs behind his head. Not before the locals had donated money to him. The grand finale, the Ghanaian fireworks if you will, was the climbing of the bamboo pole by the local children. The pole reached a full 20m in to the air and the crowd was excited but like fireworks at home there is always a wait. More speeches were made and auctions were done before the band was allowed to start up and the children ascended, showing off as they went. When they had started balancing on top of the pole on their stomachs with no hands Simon and I called it a day and headed back to Busua.

Finally we returned to Busua and went for a surf on my shortboard – more for the exercise than it being the best board for the day, which went surprisingly well. After all too short a time the sun went to hide behind the horizon, plunging us in to darkness. I went for dinner at Julidans and was joined by Jared (Saffer) and Messi (Swiss). We chatted over dinner. They were planning a trip to Katakor the next day in Jared’s van and I agreed to join them. Messi headed off to bed and Jared and I headed for a beer… Which turned in to 2…. Which turned in to 4……   

No health and safety forms here.

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