Ghana Part 1: I Am a Big Fool to Urinate Here

How can a child scream for six straight hours? That’s the first question we ask as we shuffle into the immigration hall at Kokota International Airport in Accra. Not, “Are you excited to visit the Ashanti Kingdom in Kumasi” Or, “Why were there so many macho white dudes on the plane?” Not even, “Aren’t you glad we learned our lesson from the infamous Ethiopia trip and got our visas in advance?”

No. We wanted to know why our seat backs had been kicked, our hair pulled, and our noise-cancelling headphones outmatched during the entire flight from Johannesburg to Accra.

But there was no time to dwell on the doings of the devil-child; we needed to get our bearings. And our bags. Take a deep breath… Nope. Bad idea. It’s nearly 10:00 pm and the smells of the city — the thick smoke of cooking fires, wheezing exhaust of cars and trucks driving too fast on dimly lit roads, hints of discarded diaper — are elbowing their way into Baggage Claim.

Outside, it’s worse, but we quickly adjust. To our noses, we are in Addis Ababa, or maybe Kathmandu. It’s a familiar bouquet of charcoal, diesel fumes, and life. Ragged as we are from a sleepless, six-hour flight, we’re excited to be in Ghana.

Yes, Married. 

Why travel to Ghana a mere three weeks after arriving in South Africa? Prof Jenny, in demand as she is, was asked to serve as an external examiner on a PhD dissertation committee for a student at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi. So, really, this was a business trip. For Jenny.

From the airport, we were fetched by Francis and ferried to the KNUST Guest House in Osu, a district in central Accra, where there was some confusion about how many rooms we needed. After being shown to our separate, single rooms, we laughed and insisted that it’s fine if we share one because we are, after all, married. It was also fine, we said (mostly to each other) to share the one working outlet.

Keep those phones charged, on the off chance the wi-fi is working today
Keep those phones charged, on the off chance the wi-fi is working today

The next morning at breakfast, in the guest house dining room, we met a man from Madison, Wisconsin; a Ghanaian man who works for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. He was very familiar with a project my former employer had done in Dane County. (Let’s say it together: “Small world!”)

Hello, My Name is NiceOne

With a few hours to kill before our flight to Kumasi, we took a taxi to a touristy stretch of Accra, near the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park. The park was closed until 10:00, so we made do with some shopping in a nearby market. After a few rounds of haggling that assuredly still came out in the vendors’ favor, Jenny walked away with some kente cloth and a wood carving in the shape of Africa. It’s a map, actually, though there are a few countries conspicuously missing. I politely declined to buy a replica Black Stars soccer uniform (Made in China) for $40. Or any price.

We continued to walk along High Street towards Usshertown and Jamestown, in the oldest part of the city. In Jamestown, we met a man — or rather, he made a point to meet us — named NiceOne. Or N’icewon. Or Nyswan. He wanted, very much, to be our guide. With him, he said, we could take many photos, and maybe donate some money “to the school.” We opted against the guidance, sent our regrets to the pupils, and took many photos, anyway.

I Am a Big Fool to Urinate Here

It’s amazing that I have only one photo with this phrase, as variations abounded throughout Accra (and Kumasi). Apparently, there are some places in Ghana where it is not foolish to urinate in public. The place in the image below is not one of them. I’m unclear about whether there is any place in the photos and videos that follow, taken while walking in Accra, where a whiz is warranted.

I am a big fool to urinate here
I am a big fool to urinate here
Women with Fish Smokers, Accra
Women with Fish Smokers, Accra
Precious Cargo
Precious Cargo
Plantains
Plantains
Go Team Africa!
Go Team Africa!

As you can see, the walk was a nice one, indeed.

But, before we could say “Nationalism Park” it was time to fly to Kumasi. The 40-minute flight was nothing. The half-hour drive from the airport to the university was fine, full of interesting sights, sounds, smells. The 80-minute wait for lunch was nearly unbearable.

How long will it be until you can read Part 2? Hold tight…I just need to find someplace to urinate go look at some houses so we can have a nice guest bedroom for you.

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