Tag Archives: Accra

Where Were You When…..?, by Carole Howard

Those of us who were around at the time will always remember where we were when we heard about JFK’s assassination. I was in my dorm room, blissfully unaware of what was going on, until my raucous roommate told me how the universe’s axis had just shifted.  The man who would turn out to be my husband was in a small town in Senegal as a Peace Corps volunteer.  He had to figure out what the kid who spoke only Wolof was trying to tell him.  And it was the same with 9/11.  We were in Paris, in a rented apartment.  TV, yes, but no CNN.  We felt very cut off and extremely American.

I imagine most people don’t feel that way about hearing that Captain Sullenberger landed a plane in the Hudson River. But I do.

My husband and I were in an internet cafe down the block from our apartment in Accra, Ghana. If you’re visualizing a spiffy computer-filled and highly air-conditioned room, stop. There were internet cafes like that in Accra, but not the one in our neighborhood.   This one was very hot and mostly frequented by kids playing video games with very loud rap music as background. Its chief advantage was location.

We went every day after work. On that day, we “opened” the NYTimes and saw the news about Sully. We’re New Yorkers, so it was “our” Hudson River in “our” city in “our” country. OHMYOHMY. We wanted to talk to everyone in the place about it, but being the oldest ones and the only foreigners made conversation difficult. Thank goodness we had each other to share our amazement with.

I just saw the movie Sully, which I liked a lot. Plus I loved my mental trip to “our” internet cafe in Ghana. Without the rap music as background.

How about you?  Is there anything you associate with the particular place you were in when you heard about it?
Our Accra neighborhood

Our Accra neighborhood: This is our end of the street, in the morning, looking down towards “our” internet cafe.

  •     *     *     *

Carole Howard is the author of Deadly Adagio, a murder mystery set in Senegal, around the corner from Ghana.

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under memory, Travel, writing

Art is Art by Carole Howard

During our two months in Accra, Ghana in 2009, I started looking forward to our Saturday excursions to the beach, and to Bob’s sculptures, around Wednesday or Thursday.

He always set up shop in the same place, and he was always there by the time we arrived.  Short, stocky, with an easy smile on his round face and intense concentration while he worked with an eclectic bunch of tools, he usually had sand scattered all over his shorts and tee shirt.

A sample of his work:  A seated African elder in a flowing robe holding a cylindrical drum under his arm.  A couple stretched out lazily on the beach, she with her hand cradling his head, he with one hand coyly flirting with her bikini bottom.  An elephant with elaborately wrinkled skin crouching on his forelegs.

All – the fabric folds, the elephant wrinkles, the bikini – made from sand.

You could call them “sand sculptures” if you want, but that evokes images of kids’ sand castles, made with pail and shovel and maybe some shells stuck in the top.  Wrong image.

Just call them sculptures.  Representational, sensuous and beautiful. Sand and water, rudimentary tools, talent and creativity in abundance.  I’d never seen anything like them, and still haven’t.

We started going to the beach on weekends as a way to escape the heat, which was oppressive and crushing. I almost took it personally, the way it pressed me down and kept me from going forward easily and breathing freely, like a hand on my chest.  It was exhausting. We’d been to West Africa many times, even two other countries in the steamy part under the Western hump, so we expected heat and humidity.  But this was worse.  Or maybe it was just because we’d gotten older.  Either way, it was brutal, almost more than we could take.

At first, we felt a bit sheepish:  we didn’t think of ourselves as the kind of travelers who went to the beach every weekend.  No, we were more adventurous than that.  We traveled, we visited villages, we learned about the culture.  (Snobbery comes in many forms!)  But not this time:  We worked as volunteers, Monday to Friday, 9-to-5.  We were H-O-T.  We weren’t as young as we used to be.  We went to La Beach, “La” being the name of the neighborhood, not the definite article, as in French.

On the way, the first treat was passing the shops of whimsically carved and decorated coffins – a Ghanaian tradition since the 1950s.  Think Pepsi bottles, race cars, fish, cell phones, all carved and brightly painted, all coffins.  Every week we’d spot different ones.  They were as amazing as Bob’s sculptures, but we only saw them from the taxi.

Once there, we settled in under the awning outside the restaurant.  The restaurant guys knew us and greeted us as we arrived, starting us off with my husband’s ice-cold beer and my ice-cold Coke, hold the ice cubes. We ate, we lazed, we people-watched.

There were Africans and Westerners, young and old.  There were even Arabic women in black headscarves and veils, seemingly oblivious to the heat. Passing by the restaurant was an unending parade:  Vendors sold jewelry, trinkets, fabric.  Musicians with unusual homemade instruments put on a show.  Child acrobats with exaggerated smiles jumped, ran, tumbled, and made human pyramids.  Horse-back riders sold rides, meandering pedicurists sold the possibility of pretty feet.

We enjoyed whatever breeze we could catch. We swam in the narrow channel where swimming was permitted: it had a very long and gradual run-out to water that was thigh-high.  It wasn’t cold, but cool water filled the bill.  Aaaahhh.

We might not have been visiting villages, but seeing Bob was like going to a museum, a living sculpture museum.   Art is where you find it, and we found it at La Beach in Accra, Ghana.

Have you found art in unexpected places?

* * *

Carole Howard is the author of Deadly Adagio, recently published by Second Wind Publishing.

14 Comments

Filed under Art, Travel