90% not overtly racist

Yesterday the Sydney Morning Herald reported the results of an Australian study Challenging Racism: The Anti-Racism Research Project, that found that one in ten Australians are overtly racist, and one in ten do not agree with intercultural marriage. In NSW, the state with the most diversity, 46% of people thought that some ethnic groups should not be in the country, and singled out muslims and people of middle eastern origins. However young people (18 – 34) are less lilkely to hold this view – only 31% compared with 65% for over 65s.

It’s no surprise, in the curent political climate, that muslims and arabic people should be the focus of prejudice – the US has been leading the charge on this one at least since 9/11, and in Australia anglo perceptions of Lebanese in particular are fairly jaundiced. The Cronulla riots in 2005 probably represent the nadir of arabic-anglo intercultural relations in Australia. Since then, both communities involved have out a lot of effort into reconciliation, which makes these study results a bit more disappointing.

It was – kind of – a relief to see that Africans weren’t top of the We Don’t Like You List, after Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews’ verbal bashing of Sudanese around this time last year. I say ‘kind of’ because it’s not a list anyone should even be on. But I’m glad his inflammatory politicking didn’t pay off and nudge them (and his government!) into first place.

Placing the report findings in context, lead researcher Professor Kevin Dunn said that racism has waned over the years in Australia and that our figures were “low by international standards”. Oh, phew! He also pointed out that the NSW figures are probably higher because, with its greater cultural diversity, there is more potential for people to have negative cross-cutural encounters. This also means, of course, that there is also plenty of potential for positive encounters, and some people – the 64% who don’t think some people should go back where they came from, or even perhaps the 90% who are not “overtly racist” – are doing their best to build positive connections.

One such group is Australian African Network, of which I’m a member. Supporting intercultural relationships is something we all are passionate about because – especially if we have children – they’re a lifelong commitment.

I also want to give a plug to digital media organisation Information and Cultural Exchange who have a range of important projects which enable the voice of marginalised groups to be heard, such as Trouble Comes to Me, a short film about police harassment of arabic youth, and Changing Lives, a project engaging Arabic speaking young people with digital arts and empowering them to tell their stories. It’s through sharing stories, I firmly believe, that intercultural understanding can be built.

There are also interfaith groups such as Affinity Intercultural Foundation and Interfaith Sydney, which promote dialogue, shared services and collaboration. Check them out. I’m not a religious person so I haven’t looked much into the interfaith organisations yet, but I think we are travelling parallel streams on this issue. It’s pretty clear to me that religious intolerance and ignorance about other people’s faith are key to improving relations between ‘people of middle eastern appearance’ and just about everyone else.

Well, that’s about as much as I can say on the basis of a newspaper article, especially at this time of the morning. The report will be discussed at the 4Rs international conference – Rights, Reconciliation, Respect and Responsibility which starts today in Sydney, and the full findings, plus recommendations for improving intercultural relations, will be released early 2009.


The Ghana Awards

It’s customary in my culture to recognise transitions or achievements with awards. So I think it’s fitting to mark my transition from Ghana back to Australia with some special awards in a range of categories. Among other things, my awards point to the various consequences of poverty and under-development, the innovation and creativity that springs up in the face of adversity, and how what’s culturally acceptable in Ghana can be very confronting to a non-Ghanaian. I’m sorry, not all of them are nice. But some of them are.

I’ll start on a positive note.

The Golden Cocoa Pod for Sales Innovations goes to:
The young man selling thongs (flipflops) outside Korle Bu Hospital in Accra. The thongs, with light brown soles and fluoro … ummm …. thong bits …. were attached to a large cardboard box exactly the same colour as the soles, with the toe end sticking up over the top of the box so that from a distance, it looked like an exotic multi-eared head-dress. Eye-catching, colour-co-ordinated, lightweight and practical. Well done.

For Optimism In Spite of Everything
Everywhere in Ghana you see small plywood cubicles, often no more than one metre square, usually painted some combination of yellow, red and green. The vendors at these cubicles sell lottery tickets. My Optimism Award goes to one such cubicle, spotted on the Sunyani Road on my way to Mensakrom, which was called Mappi Ventures. Venture is a word I associate with much grander enterprises. Anyone who can call a box that size a venture deserves full encouragement and recognition, especially in the current global economic climate. Unless it’s really a Tardis. May you get the winning ticket and a mansion on the Gold Coast (the Australian Gold Coast, that is).

For a Fantastic Place Name
I love words as you’ve probably guessed and I love the place names in Ghana. Kwadaso, Tanaso, Patasi, Odumasi, Abwakwa, Nkawkaw, Nsawam, Dansoman, Mamprobi, Akosombo, don’t they just role off the tongue? There were many competitors for this award but only one obvious finalist. Ododododidioo, in Accra, congratulations on your polysyllabic glory, and I apologise if I didn’t put in the right number of ‘do’s.

Scissors are featured on Yaa Ketewa's dress.
Scissor design


For Moving With The Times
If you have been following this blog you may have got a hint by now that Ghana is a good place to visit if you are a textileophile. Every day you can feast your eyes on an array of gorgeous fabrics: tie-dyed, wax (batik), block printed, woven, or embroidered in a multitude of colour combinations. One of the reasons the fabrics interest me is because they are not only beautiful, but many are full of meaning. Textiles in Ghana are on the front line of non-verbal communication. DadaK told me years ago that a woman could insult someone else in her household just by wearing a particular pattern, and that an adinkra symbol was banned as seditious at one time during the military Rawlings regime. Adinkra and Kente have been around a long time, but contemporary designers are still inspired by them and use them in new designs.

I asked Dr Esi Sutherland, a presenter at the Our Media Conference in Accra, if these days the power of adinkra was being eroded by modernity and western influence, and the symbols were becoming merely decorative. My family, for example, could identify only the best known and most commonly used, such as Gye Nyame, which is everywhere. She answered that it was true that was happening, but when it was really important, for example at a funeral, people knew what symbols to wear. (The conference itself included an adinkra symbol in its logo). She also said that new symbols were being invented all the time, although strictly speaking they weren’t adinkra. So perhaps obaapa, which I haven’t seen on any adinkra lists, comes into this category.

It was while in Accra for the conference that I saw the cloth that will be receiving the Golden Sewing Machine for proving to me that although times are changing, the power of textile symbolism is still strong in Ghana. The Award goes to the shirt I spotted from a traffic jam in Jamestown. The man wearing it was moving much faster than the traffic, and I only saw him from behind so I don’t have a photo. The cloth had a rusty red squiggly background that is popular in a lot of Ghanaian wax cloth, with dark blue circles framing the main icon: a computer mouse. This circling of images is also a common feature of Ghanaian cloth and is frequently used in uniforms, from school children to bank employees. The circled item is often a logo accompanied by text, e.g. the name of the school. But this shirt just had a computer mouse. No words. So until I see it again – if I ever do – it’s a mystery as to why it existed. But it does. And if the design were to persist, I wonder what meaning it would accumulate over coming centuries. I want that Tardis now!

Accra commercial architecture

Accra commercial architecture

Magnificent architecture
It appears to me that Ghanaian architects know no fear. They don’t fear asymmetry, unorthodox designs, unsupported flooring or even roofs the size of tennis courts. There is a lot of housing development going on in Ghana – much of it, I assume, funded by the money sent back by expatriates such as DadaK (I’m told it’s the third biggest earner for Ghana, after gold and cocoa). The part of Asuoyeboah where we lived was known as a new development and few buildings would have been more than twenty years old.

DadaK started building over fifteen years ago, I saw the foundations on my first visit to Ghana in 1993, so our place is rather conventionally laid out, but others in the area are far more flamboyant. Apart from all being made of concrete blocks and having lots fancy metal security grilles, they bear little in common other than size (they are built to accommodate large extended families) and a sense of adventure. It really looks like Ghanaian architects and home owners have jointly decided to play. Unusual shaped walls and verandahs frame eccentrically shaped spaces. It’s hard to tell what design influences inspire these fabulous buildings, they don’t seem particularly related to traditional designs or to earlier, more traditional housing. Perhaps it is the influence of expatriates who’ve travelled the world and come back with novel interpretations of what they’ve seen. Whatever. I love it. I want one.

So for daring, creativity and joi de vivre, The Golden Sydney Opera House is awarded collectively to Ghanaian architects. The picture at left is actually I think an office block. It’s not one of my favourites but it may give you some idea of what I’m talking about. It’s on the road into Accra from Kumasi.

Now it gets a bit more serious.

Cultural Cringe
Australians know a lot about cultural cringe. We are famous for it. I hoped that perhaps it had died in the 80s, but ActionMan does it every time I say “no worries”. Which is quite often. So it’s sad to see other cultures cringing too. I didn’t really see a lot of hard evidence for actual cringe in Ghana – adopting ideas, music and fashion from other cultures probably doesn’t really count, so it wasn’t an award I was expecting to make. That all changed when I collapsed in front of the telly one night in Koforidua. The award for cultural cringe goes to the TV program: English for Educated Ghanaians. Okay, I concede that on the global political stage it may not have gone down well for Kofi Annan to say he was coming when he was going, or dropping when he was getting out of a vehicle … but really … is there a genuine consensus on the correct way to pronounce oven? Does it really matter? English is evolving in wonderful wild ways all over the globe. Let it flower!

The completely non-confronting sign for Afia Serwaa's braiding salon.

The sign for Afia Serwaa's salon.

Most confronting signage
Ghanaian barber signs have impressed foreigners so much that you can now buy them in galleries, but they are in fact only a small fraction of the many signs advertising a range of businesses, such as women’s hair salons, cold stores and herbal pharmacies. The work on the same principle as photographs of food in Chinatown food halls: what you see is what you get, i.e. rasta braids or pink pork trotters. All well and good, although being a squeamish obruni I could have done without the signs advertising cures for diarrohea which featured a person squatting over a little brown pile. However my award goes to the signs advertising (male) circumcision services at two clinics near Korle Bu Hospital. It’s a joint award because I couldn’t decide which should be the winner. The one picturing a child from the waist down was more bloody and featured a truly scary looking piece of equipment, but the other one gets marks for impact because it showed the whole baby and it was called “Holy Child Circumcision Centre”. Eeuuw.

Just to counteract the alarming pictures that may now have formed in your mind, I’ll make an award in another signage category: The winner of the Most Devout Street Sign Award beat off thousands of contenders, including Blood of Jesus Fashion and Divine Chemicals. For wit and devotion, it goes to Annointed Fingers Beauty and Braiding Salon (somewhere in Accra). Those fingers work miracles, see?

The Bodgey-Dodgey Award
There’s a sign board in Accra that always makes me smile when I see it: Abodwe Clinic. Written Twi, for obscure reasons presumably known only to students of linguistics, uses the letters “dw’” to indicate a “j” sound, so if you pronounce this word it sounds – more or less – like “a bodgey clinic”. The first time I saw it I only got a quick look, so I went off giggling, thinking it said “a dodgey clinic”. Bodgey and dodgey are not that far apart in meaning though, and the reason it makes me laugh is a sad one really. It’s because, as ActionMan pointed out soon after our arrival, so many things in Ghana are dodgey. Floor tiles that don’t match, toilet seats that refuse to stay fixed to the toilet, zippers that keep breaking, shops that look like they’d fall over if you leaned on them, creaky doors, power adapters that give you electric shocks and burn up your computer cables – the list goes on.

Mostly it’s a sign of poverty and lack of quality materials, although in the case of the floor tiles I think it’s just plain sloppiness. Then there’s the flood of cheap Chinese imports. Good for the Chinese economy, not so good for the people who have to use the products. You’ll note that most of the items I’ve listed are the accoutrements of a western, or developed lifestyle, and therefore they are mostly imported. There’s plenty of good quality stuff in Ghana – locally produced clothing and pottery spring to mind – but if you want to have a few mod cons, you suffer the consequences. And the consequences may be farther reaching than chronic irritation. In the Invisible Cure, author Helen Epstein alleges that women in a southern African country (I think it was Malawi, but can’t lay my hands on the book to check) turned to sex work when cheap imported clothing destroyed their employment prospects in the local textile industry. Hey, whatever happened to freedom of choice?

But back to Ghana. With so much to choose from it was difficult to decide where the award should go. I’d initially thought of awarding it to the handle on the bathroom door at the place we stayed in Koforidua. Or rather, to the door itself because there was no handle, as I discovered when I pulled the door closed behind me and got trapped inside. But it really couldn’t compete with the locked door in Mensakrom, behind which several children at first played and laughed, then started to cry and scream when no-one was able to open it and let them out. It took a good half hour and a few different people trying, before anyone was able to turn the key. Congratulations, Mensakrom lock, the Golden Annoia (the Discworld Goddess of things that get stuck in drawers) is yours!

For Most Disgusting Locality
Okay, in a land of pit toilets and minimal – if any – sewerage, there are many contenders for this award, but as a beach-loving Australian, I feel I have no alternative but to present the Golden Toilet Brush to Korle Lagoon and immediate environs, including the beach. Korle Lagoon could be a gorgeous place, but apparently all Accra’s sewerage ends up there, and an abattoir drains into it, and who knows what else. I couldn’t go past without covering my nose and mouth. The first time I saw it I nearly wept, it seemed sacrilege to so abuse a waterfront. Perhaps it’s worse at the moment because they are dredging it to open it up to the sea, or so I was told. They are also building a new bridge there. I have seen some indication online that an ecological restoration project is underway, so maybe this is just the bit where it gets worse before getting better. I hope so. I hope one day the water is clear and clean, and people go there to enjoy waterside parklands and promenades. 

Most beaches in Accra double as toilets and this, combined with the plastic flotsam and jetsam and the dirty outflow from the lagoon, makes the neighbouring beach look and smell like a rubbish dump. Before you get too upset about the toilet function, bear in mind that people living in the area may have no other choice, and in fact it might be the most hygenic option for residents of a slum district where toilets of any kind may be rare, and those that are there are probably not very clean. A recent New Internationalist revealed that Ghana is one of the countries in the world with the least access to sanitation.

So that’s almost it for the Ghana Awards. Let’s end on a lighter note.

For Most Death-Defying Restroom
Okay, restroom is not a word you’d ever hear used in Ghana. Ghanaians don’t appear to really get into euphemisms for bodily functions. If you want to urinate, you say so. And if you need to go to the loo, use the ladies or powder your nose, you have to make it quite clear what kind of facility you need, because urination and defecation are generally kept separate in Ghana. I think this separation is a good idea, and my opinion is confirmed by the New Internationalist’s special toilet issue (see link above), but when push comes to shove, it’s a bit embarrassing having to disclose to a complete stranger (e.g. a waiter in a restaurant) exactly which facility you need.  I like to think of myself as a relaxed, broadminded kind of a person, but I had to learn not to squirm when asking fot the nearest urinal or – if I needed to do, you know, that other thing, an actual toilet.

Every traveller to third world countries has a range of scary toilet stories to tell, and we nearly all bear the emotional scars of excreta-related illness. ActionMan is still battling the runs as I write. But my award goes not to bacteria-infested pits but to a very clean urinal in Bolgatanga that brought a whole new meaning to the concept of long drop. Horizontal void. The roofless wooden shack housing the ladies urinal at Bolga market was balanced over an open drain about two metres deep. I entered the – er, cubicle – to find that it only had half a floor. Usually such places have a narrow hole and you can place your feet either side. This had a one metre gap in the floor which no human being could possibly straddle. If, as many women in Ghana do, you can wee standing up, it wasn’t really an obstacle to relief. I think. But otherwise it’s a bit scary for anyone with balance problems or a fear of heights. And I paid five pesewas for that!

Goodbye Ghana. Sigh

That’s a sigh of sadness from me, and a sigh of intense relief from ActionMan. He’s been ready to leave for several weeks, but I could happily stay for several more. Or could happily have stayed, for we are now at home. I’d drafted and hoped to post this before we left, but banks and technology, and then jetlag conspired against me, so at the time of writing, we’ve been back in Australia for a week.

Traffic jam on Kuamsi-Accra road

Traffic jam on Kuamsi-Accra road

On Saturday two weeks ago we farewelled the Kumasi family and boarded a bus for Accra, where we spent a couple of days waiting for a bank transfer to go through to my Visa card, and the connection to come back on at the local internet cafe, before paying off all financial obligations and boarding a flight back home.

It was a tearful farewell. I always cry at goodbyes and I think that separating from relatives who you may not see again for many years is a damn good reason to cry. Nana also cried a lot, while giving me her blessing and thanks. We had formed a strong bond, in spite of the language barrier, over the three months we had been there. Little Boahemma from across the road cried almost as much as we did. Serwaa looked very serious, Abrantie gave me a very looong hug, Treasure clung to me all morning and then waved cheerfully from the taxi that collected them all for church.

ActionMan said “it’s weird, I don’t feel sad at all”. He was a little bothered that he wasn’t sad about parting from his family. “That’s okay”, I said. “You don’t have to. Everyone feels differently about saying goodbye”. He felt no such guilt about saying goodbye to Ghana as a whole, however, and could barely disguise his glee as we passed each milestone leading to our final departure.

If he really loved soccer, or perhaps was a few years younger, he would probably have enjoyed the trip more, but after the excitement wore off and we settled into a routine, he thought it was too boring – just like being at home but without all the things that make Australia more fun. He missed high speed broadband, friends, Turkish kebabs, real showers and skateparks. If people want my recommendation, three months in a third world country is too long for a teenage boy, unless he likes soccer, is Christian, and it would help to have an interest in museums and arts and crafts. It would probably also help if your relatives lived near a beach that was clean enough to swim at; I’ve heard many of the beaches are very beautiful, but made the mistake of not going to any of them. It got to a point where neither of us could face another long bus or trotro journey, so we’ll have to save that for next time.

I have heard him admit to people that parts of the holiday were fun (like sitting on the crocodile, building the dog kennel, winning most of his arm-wrestling contests, playing with his bow and arrow, conducting experiments with water and boiling wax, winding people up), and he was really very patient in those final weeks when all he wanted was for me to re-book our tickets, and all I wanted was a bit more time.

I was rarely homesick, mostly enjoyed the food, and wanted to do more sightseeing, spend more time with new friends, learn tie and dye, perhaps even do some interviews with researchers I met at the Boabeng Monkey sanctuary, or the community activists at Our Media, or the Kuapa Kokoo fair trade cocoa farmers. But domestic commitments took over and left no time and we were, after all, in Ghana to build family relationships so I don’t regret that. It would have been nice to have more time for all those things … next time.

I do believe that ActionMan and I became closer as a result of going to Ghana. For four months we have been together almost all the time and we mostly got on well. The trip gave us some space to be together without the usual domestic tensions and stresses of work and school. I know I was his buffer against culture shock. Although it was a challenge at times, I’ve manged to listen to him fairly patiently about the things that bothered or upset him, let him try out new things, and spent a lot of money on the phone so he could keep in touch with friends back home. Having so much family around, and not having to cook or clean or work relieved a lot of the stress of single parenting, and I’ve returned to Oz feeling more relaxed, and even enthusiastic about the backlog of work that awaited me here.

I have pages of notes about things we did, saw, ate, laughed about, that I wasn’t able to blog about while in Ghana, and perhaps I will post those stories later on, or perhaps I will just have to tell stories at dinner parties. We are no longer in Ghana and life back in Australia is already moving at a fast pace, so it could be that I’ll want to blog about the present, not the past. But I did want to leave you with some last impressions.

There was the anarchic traffic jam we had to sit through on our seven hour bus trip (normally four-five hour) from Kumasi to Accra, where all the south-bound vehicles, including a semi-trailer decided to fill up the north bound lane.

There was my quest for ‘last tastes’ and final meals: RedRed (fried plantain and beans in palm oil), nkatiakwan (peanut soup), abenkwan (palm nut soup) made with abe (palm nuts) from Akosia’s farm in Mensakrom, boiled eggs with chilli, fried rice with boiled egg, salad and shitoh (chilli sambal), mangoes and sugar bananas.

My sister-in-law Akosia cutting off palm fronds so she can get at the cluster of palm nuts.

My sister-in-law Akosia cutting off palm fronds so she can get at the cluster of palm nuts.

There was our hurried last minute rush to Mensakrom to see the family. We stayed overnight in a hot little room, but I found Mensakrom much easier to handle in dry, sunny weather, and enjoyed it much more than our previous visit. I gave everyone the Kuapa Kokoo phone number (they’d already heard of them, apparently KK give out free exercise books and pens when they buy your cocoa). Akosia took me to her farm to fetch the abe that Nana had ordered, and carried it all back to the village on her heard – about 50 kilos worth! We took Yaa Ketewa and Martha for their first visit back in many years. Both were excited to go but glad to leave. Mensakrom had become small, dirty, boring and full of teenaged single mothers and bad people who wanted them to drink alcohol.

Menskrom staged a cooking competition for our visit. Perhaps that should be ‘obruni-feeding competition’. I ate three meals the night we arrived and three meals in five hours on the morning we left, and returned to Kumasi totally stuffed. At night I had ampesi (yams and stew) from Nana’s farm caretaker, abenkwan from Yaa Ketewaa’s mother, and rice and stew cooked by Martha and Yaa Ketewa, under instructions from DadaK who feared we’d find nothing to eat at Mensakrom because we visited without warning. Ha.

I know it doesn't look much, but Nkontommre with plantains is one of my faourite Ghanaian foods.

I know it doesn

In the morning Nana’s caretaker provided banku (corn meal) and chilli, and Ohemaa’s daughters cooked both a fantastic Nkontommre (ground taro leaves) with palm oil and boiled plantains, and then beheaded a chicken for a delicious soup made with wrewre (something like pumpkin seeds). Akosia looked a bit put out that there was no chance of cooking for me because other people had taken over. ActionMan disdained all food except rice and stew (silly, silly boy!) but did get through almost three litres of palm wine (don’t worry, it’s not alcoholic when fresh from the palm) and filled up on bofrots on the return journey. He also renewed his acquaintance with the village monkey, and met an orphaned squirrel.

A mace and some manga weapon AM cast in bronze. each about as long as my hand, and heavy. The point's broken off the thing on the right.

A mace and some manga weapon AM cast in bronze. each about as long as my hand, and heavy. The point

Our last days in Kumasi were consumed with finishing things and last minute shopping. ActionMan finally put a roof on the doghouse and cast the bronze works he’d made. He had to leave two behind because we thought Aussie customs would define them as lethal weapons. We said goodbye to our friends at the internet cafe. I raced around the cultural centre, Kejetia markets and Kumasi shops finding All Africa Cup souvenirs, Ghana fashion style posters, stock for my box of birthday/christmas gifts, a cable for the laptop, sparkling apple juice for G Ketewa’s birthday party, and a trashy bags laptop bag made out of recycled water sachets. The laboriously purchased laptop cable mysteriously vanished on our last day in Kumasi but the laptop, equally mysteriously, has been working okay since then. It must have been homesick too.

In our last days in Accra ActionMan spent a lot of time playing on the computer and I spent a lot of time in trotros – catching up with my counselling friends, trying to find a bank that would take Mastercard, and drinking in the mad sights and sounds of the city. Boys fishing with magnets in the clogged drains. A heavily pregnant goat, as wide as she was high, holding up traffic on a street in the busy suburb of Korle Bu. She waddled off the road looking like the kid might pop it’s head out at any moment. A man patting the nose of one of the doomed horses at the slaughterhouse yard at Korle Lagoon. Renewing my acquaintance with the forest of street signs and discovering a finalist for my forthcoming Ghana Awards.

I’d planned to go to Cape Coast and Elmina Castles just outside Accra – a history excursion for ActionMan, as these were slaving castles, but he totally jacked up about another outing and we ran out of time anyway, due to my banking dramas. I’ve been before, so I didn’t feel I’d missed out. And the beaches there, as I recall, are no better than Accra’s.

Baby & mum at dusk in Kruger. This shows how close they were to our vehicle.

Baby & mum at dusk in Kruger. This shows how close they were to our vehicle.

In South Africa we avoided all possibility of trouble in the fearsome city of Jo’berg by avoiding it altogether. A tour bus collected us at the airport, drove us to Kruger National Park, then drove us back again after two days of game drives in time for our flight home. At Kruger we saw lions mating, lions sleeping, hippos’ nostrils poking out of the water, gorgeous, colourful birds, a snake’s head poking out of a hole in a tree, lots of giraffes, assorted antelopes, and all sorts of animals crossing the road – zebras, buffalo, baboons, dozens of elephants, a leopard cub. We also spotted a mob of Aussie blokes on the same tour as us (G’day!) and a remarkable number of grey nomads on self-drive tours.

At our treehouse lodge we had a large but harmless spider in the bedroom, a frog in the bathroom, monkeys in the breakfast area and buffaloes drinking from the swimming pool. ActionMan rejoiced in the ‘European’ food but eating muffins for breakfast I felt almost unbearable cravings for yams and Serwaa’s eggplant stew. Sob.

So it’s over, for now. We are back in the land of long hot showers, high speed internet, pot roasts, very pale people with funny glasses and dark clothes huddled over frothy ‘real’ coffee in inner city cafes, and traffic laws which are obeyed. It doesn’t feel as weird as I expected it to. Or even as sad. Perhaps I grieved enough, while I was leaving. Perhaps not. Writing the following passage still moves me to tears.

Sitting in a taxi in the slow traffic on Sunyani Road, approaching Sofoline interchange, a stretch I’d traveled so many times these past few months, tears rolled down my cheeks and I held DadaK’s hand for comfort. Laid back, flowing Hi-Life played on the taxi’s abnormally clear sound system. It was the perfect soundtrack for our Ghana trip’s closing credits. With outside sounds muted, it seemed like everything slowed down, like I was indeed watching a movie.

Loaded trotros passed us in the opposite direction, packed full of faces that now seem so familiar. A trio of people in black funeral attire chatted on the lawn outside the prestigious Prempeh II High School. On the opposite side of the road, in front of the towering red mounds of earth and never-ending roadworks, hawkers proffered lemon drops and handkerchiefs, and women tended plantains roasting over charcoal, their fires evenly spaced a few metres apart. The sweet smell drifted through our window. Passers-by chatted while they waited for their purchases to be wrapped in scraps of newspaper. A teenage girl ran, laughing, past several trotros ahead of us until she reached the one where she needed to complete whatever sale had begun 30 metres further back. I saw hands reaching to and from the window, money and goods exchanged. It all seemed quintessentially Ghana. I’ll miss it. I fully intend to go back. But for now, it’s Good bye-O.