Though Uganda and Ghana are, in fact, on fairly opposite ends of the continent, clicking through the album instantly transported me back to Tema, Accra, Aburi, Cape Coast, Akosombo, Krobo... I was back in Ghana.
The African sun beating down on barefoot kids playing soccer (correction: football), people working outside, lounging outside, living outside, milling through the streets. I'd never seen so many people along the side of a road in my life. Some older women sat frying and selling kelewele by the flickering light of oil lamps, some offered handicrafts, others hawked anything from side tables to windshield wipers or sold phone credit. Throughout the day, the dirt, pot-holed roadways that passed for streets were peopled with men selling wood carvings or hauling trolleys piled high with coconuts, machete at the ready to hack off the top for a thirsty passerby. Women sold tilapia and banku, bofrot, mangoes and melons, dresses and cloth, balancing trays of eggs or bread atop their heads and a child strapped to their backs... Mother Africa.
Forget the sheer beauty of the country for now, it's the people that come to mind. In a country that proudly notes itself as one of the most stable and democratic of Africa - what's more, claiming title as the first black African country to gain its independence - Ghanaians also hold claim to a reputation for friendliness, and for good reason. Naturally, I stood out in the country. Naturally, I was most commonly referred to as "obroni," or white person, foreigner. Never was it in a rude or negatively discriminatory manner.... somehow, I almost wish it was, at times. Perhaps that would've been a sign of pride in being Ghanaian (beyond supporting the Black Stars in the World Cup), a recognition that I was no better than they merely because I am lighter skinned. Instead, I was - and am - afraid to imagine how easily white visitors in particular could, and surely do, take advantage of the situation. Thus the danger of being too friendly, too trusting, too self-degrading in looking up to others.
But I digress. Upon my return, of course people asked about my trip - asking was, after all, socially obligatory. A girl goes to Africa and you don't ask "How was Africa?" Right. The trouble remains, though, that there is no way to accurately sum up a country, and even if there were, you'd miss out on the little details that truly made the experience what it was. I wouldn't get to tell you about the children following me through the market, let alone the sights, sounds, and smells of the place. And I wouldn't get to tell you about an afternoon spent wandering through the Accra crafts market and chatting with a few of the young craftsmen. David, Solomon, and Anthony... I'm determined to remember them, and their stories. David, who roped me in with a friendly manner and small talk, explaining his carvings and masks, their histories and origins, introducing me to his friends and fellow craftsmen, all men in their mid-20s. Solomon, one of the aforementioned friends, who led the group back past the dirt soccer field, brilliant blue ocean in the background, as he told me his story and wended the way back to his stall of paintings - the son of a village elder in Burkina Faso, come to Accra in search of work. And Anthony, the ridiculously tall and gangly young man who called himself their brother and shocked the Agyares' driver, Atta, by jumping up to greet me the moment I arrived at the market a few days after my first visit.
I had a good time pleasantly surprising Atta, when I could - the odd obroni girl who had friends in the crafts market, who stuck with him as we wove our way through the Makola market, the most absurdly large and overwhelming beast of a market I've ever seen. The oddity that insisted upon saying hello and "meda ase" (thank you) to the live-in help - or, what's more, learning to say "Please, I can do it myself" in Twi to stop the elderly woman from constantly attempting to clear my dishes or offer me food. Or, apparently the most pleasantly entertaining factors for him, holding my own when bargaining, in my own silly manner, or walking down the street to buy bofrot from a nearby vendor for a whopping 30 cents (pesewas). I was later informed of the apparently endearing peculiarity of this: tourists don't eat things like bofrot, only Ghanaians do - that is, working and lower class Ghanaians. I'd raised myself in this man's opinion without even realizing it.
The fact that I'm still babbling is evidence not only to my verbosity (though it's that, too), but to the many stories involved in getting to know any country or people. There's so much to see, do, experience, talk about, marvel at. On one hand, I wish photos could capture it. On the other hand, I'm glad they don't. It lends a certain value to the stories and the memories, written, discussed, and kept buried away in our thoughts.
The crafts market in Aburi, of the Eastern Region (also home of the Botanical Gardens): shanty upon shanty of wooden carvings, masks, local instruments, jewelry, and eager salesmen and women, each insisting "It's free to look! Come in, come in!"
The canopy walk of Kakum National Park, in the Central Region: 100% worth the vaguely terrifying trip there and the hike up to the start of the walk. I have no idea how people have time to be afraid in this situation - the sheer beauty of it all is much too distracting to be bothered by things like the ridiculously slim possibility of plunging to the ground.
Beginning the walk from Kakum back to Cape Coast, public transportation being limited to shared taxis and tro tros (aka death vans packed to the brim with people).
Cape Coast, just over four hours east of Accra along the coastline, and home of Cape Coast Castle, a former fortress and slave hold - the unavoidable evidence of the grim truths of the Atlantic slave trade.
Street vendors in Accra certainly made good on the Black Stars' impressive run towards the World Cup semi-finals. A sad twist of fate and a notorious Uruguayan by the name of Louis Suarez (who would be in physical danger if he ever again steps foot on African soil) ended their run in the quarter finals, but no one could say that Ghana did not make Africa proud - and had the whole continent behind her, in the mean time.