a mixture of black, white, red

14 June 2007
Our third visit to the Volta Region.
We visited the Akosombo Dam, creator of the largest man-made lake in all the world. This dam was constructed in a brief three years by Italian engineers. The Lake is formed from the Black, White, and Red Volta Rivers coming from Togo, Benin, and Cote d’Ivoire. Volta in the local language means ‘rapids,’ now there is just a giant dam. The dam was built to be used for electricity and to create a source for fishing. The dam was huge and presented a great mark on the landscape of Ghana’s lush forests near the Volta Region. The dam provides all the power for Ghana, but currently there is an energy crisis. We have experienced this crisis with frequent black outs and power outages al across Ghana. We discovered why this is happening by viewing the extremely low water levels for the operation of the dam. Our guide told us that they are waiting for the rainy season to get into full swing to fill the Lake Volta and increase the power.
No pictures were allowed of the operational side of the dam, but here they are. After learning all about the dealings and history of the dam and how it works we walked back across the bridgeway and I noticed that there were less power lines heading to the north of Ghana and a great number headed to the Accra city center and southern Ghana. This seemed to be an all too common theme and yet again more evidence of the disparitites between North and South in Ghana. Kyle noted correctly that this was a great scar of development. The dam stopped up the rivers that now create the Lake Volta which covers one fourth of the country. It harnesses the water for electricity and development. It sits high and heavy on the once beautiful landscape on Ghana and screams of a continued practice of harmful ‘development.’

Seeing Lake Volta for the first time reminded me of an article that our professor showed to us about child labour in the fishing industry on lake Volta. The article was from the New York Times and followed the stories of families that could not eat and sold their children into labour for money with the promise of seeing their child once a year and being sent more money. Those promises rarely hold up and often the children are beaten, overworked, and never return home. The article covered the story of a young boy who worked on Lake Volta, fishing in the potentially dangerous waters with little sleep or rest, and a lot of work. Child labour is not beyond the ‘most developed’ country in Africa. It happens here, in the very eyes of development.

We headed over to the Volta Lake Hotel to have lunch. The hotel was a great Western hub catering to Obrunis (this is the correct spelling) and providing one of the most delicious meals yet. I forgot to take a picture before the meal, but here is the after picture of my ravaged plate. I was quite hungry by this time and the fillet of perch with a cocktail fruit drink and fresh fruit hit the spot.
Our bus driver was very tired this day since the day before the bus needed repair and there was trouble finding the part, he had been up since 5 am that day. He took a little nap.

Index of blog post series on Ghana.

weekend of the obruni

This past weekend is when we began our intense American weekend. This was when we did the most Obrooni things and par-took in the delights and desires of an Obrooni. When you think of everything that a visiting Obrooni might do, we did it. Every place where an Obrooni was most comfortable, we went.

We started out by going to the shopping mall. Yes, a shopping mall It didn’t contain much that was amazing, but it was close enough to home for most of the area Obroonis to shop there. The shopping mall was tucked away, hidden almost, in the opulent, lavish, private homes of the wealthy – and Obroonis. There was a liquor store, jewlery store, ice cream, fedex, small grocery store, some beauty salons, offices, and a very nice internet cafe. It was easy to tell that Obroonis from the area and those working in Ghana frequented the shopping mall. It was easy to tell that these Obroonis flocked there for their daily needs, but it so much easier to get what you need on the street. This is also where I saw my first ‘real’ parking lot in Ghana.

We did some shopping and haggling in the ‘Center for National Culture’ and headed back to the hostle to eat some lunch.
It was a big meager and a bit Obrooni of us, but still good. We ended the eating session with some FanChoco, it is a plastic pouch, like the water, of frozen chocolate milk – so good during a hot day. A few of us decided to go for a run for the first time in Ghana. So far the only people running that I have seen are either training for soccer or are late for something. As we ran the back streets behind our hostel, people called out, “Obrooni, what are you doing?” Children ran to the street and callled ‘Obrooni’ to us. The children lined the road clapping, cheering, and chanting, ‘Obrooni.’ It was almost as if I was in a high school cross country race again. The best was the taxis who honked at us to see if we wanted a ride. No, just some silly Obroonis who want their excerise. It must really make no sense to most Ghanaians since most of their daily lives and jobs are excerise. Here they can’t choose when to excercise or not, it is run or just stop.

We had heard of a great recommended restaurant called Afrikiko and decided to go there for dinner, since there was also music. But we arrived and all the lights were off, it looked quite shady so we headed to another recommended place called ‘Home Touch.’ On the way to Home Touch, our taxi passed the new, under-construction american embassy. It was so disgustingly huge and unnecessarily gigantic. The US has pulled it foreign aid from Ghana, so why does it seek such an imposing presence? The compund was massive, many storied almost like a hotel, multpile gates, and numerous secuirty cameras. I couldn’t believe the extent of the new embassy. We arrived and got a big table and at the start of the evening we were the only people in the place. We drank and ate goat and fufu in a light soup. I am not sure what light soup means because my soup was so hot that my lips and throat burned with goodness afterwards. Some of the girls in our group sang with the live band (quite Obrooni) and made fools of themselves, but it was a great time. When we were given our bill it was about 200,000 cedis too much and we thought we were getting jipped, but oh well.

We had the rest of the weekend plus Friday off since we were traveling to the far eastern region of Volta on Sunday. We woke up early, for some reason unknown to me, for breakfast on Friday because some of the girls were picking up dresses made in Osu and some of the other girls were getting their hair braided. Most people returned to their beds to regain some lost sleep – which I hear is impossible to do, but I did likewise. I slept for a really long time and did some more reading, finishing The Village of Waiting. We then met up with hte group at Frankie’s to go out and Francis joined us. We first went to Epo’s bar with Francis and met and had some drinks. While we were there a big volunteer group from England arrived and we chatted it up. I talked to a girl who was stationed in a very rural village in the north of Ghana and found out that each person was stationed far off in a different area. The English people, with their beautiful accents, were headed to a nightclub called ‘Bliss,’ so we decided to tag along. It seems that no one, no taxi driver or otherwise, knows of Bliss or where it is. Finally we found a taxi driver who knew the place and headed there. We arrived and were treated to the most Western style bar and club that I have seen yet. It was full of Obroonis – American and English – no wonder no one had heard of the place.

Saturday we all slept in after the night of clubbing. I missed breakfast since I slept too late. Most of us stayed in our rooms sleeping, reading, or just hanging out. I didn’t emerge until 2pm and didn’t eat until very late. We all went in waves to the internet cafe and talked in the courtyard about our experiences in Ghana so far. What an Obrooni weekend – in style, food, company, experience, and habit. We ended up having a great Ghanaian meal at Cez Arfique, but otherwise so Obrooni.

Index of blog post series on Ghana.