Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Our last day in Ghana, I took a tour to Tangorme Village to visit the Ehweh tribe, one of 45 main tribes in the country, with each having its own language and dialects.  In 1844 the British captured several of the chiefs and had them sign a bond for 100 years.  That ended in 1944, when the world was at war, so the status quo remained until 1960, when Ghana, then named the Gold Coast, became the first African country to gain independence from a colonial power.  Kwame Nkruhmah, who believed in African unity and Karl Marx, was the first Prime Minister.

Ceremonies were overseen by the king
We went past Kpong Dam, built by the USA to provide cheap hydroelectric power for Kaiser aluminum.  The village we visited is just down the road.  The dam created a lot of environmental problems, but also jobs and training.  It is now run by a Ghanaian company.

The village consists of several stone block buildings, including a school.  The first thing we did in the village was greet all the elders.  They had folding chairs set up for us so we didn't have to sit on the ground.  Then we had a naming ceremony.  Our names were based on our birth dates and the day of the week we were born.  Mine is Delali, which they said means "saved by God."  All the names had religious meanings, but whether they are Christian I am not sure.  When our names were called everyone clapped and we went up front to get a pottery bowl with our old and new names on it, plus a bead bracelet.  The beads are very colorful and the area is known for them.  Then there was lots of singing and dancing.
...and the Prince.  Elders are in the background
Jim learns the Ghanian boogie
After the ceremony, which lasted a couple of hours(!), we went to see their pottery making.  They make the pots by hand and dry them in the sun.  They use a natural dye for glazing.  During this time the kids were trying to sit with us and hold our hands.  They didn't ask us to buy anything, although they had a small table selling ugly statues.  We did pay for the tour, though, and it was all a tad too commercial for me, especially knowing that another SAS group had been there the previous day.  Do they do this every day?  Twice a day?

Making pots.  Backache???
Village schoolgirls

Monday, April 8, 2013


The next day we headed to Elmina Castle (aka St George's Castle), the oldest European building in the tropical world.   The Portuguese first came to the area in 1471 looking for a route to the Indies, then built the Castle in 1632, ten years before Christopher Columbus made his famous voyage.  In 1637 it was captured by the Dutch and was under control of the Dutch East Indies Company until it was sold to the British in 1872.

We entered the Castle and came to a huge courtyard.  On one end is what was the oldest Catholic church in Africa.  When the Dutch came, they removed the tower.  It later became an Anglican church, ironically sitting above the male slave dungeon.  It now serves as a museum.

St George's Castle moat

We wandered into a smaller courtyard on the side.  They used to keep 400 female slaves in the adjacent area, chained to each other.  All feces, urine and vomit were left on the floor.  Comely slaves were taken to the courtyard.  The governor had a balcony overlooking it and could have his pick of slaves.  The ones who refused to be raped were tied to a cannonball in the courtyard and given no food or water.  Pregnant slaves were taken to houses in town and used as domestic slaves.

Male slaves were kept in an area on the other side of the main courtyard.  There were small cells with little light or air.  European soldiers would be kept in there for punishment for an hour or two.  Condemned black men were kept in there with no food or water until they died.

Those who survived the hellish conditions were taken 300 at a time down a narrow passage to the "roof of no return"  and loaded onto ships.

We then proceeded to Cape Coast Castle on the other side of the bay.  This was built by the British in 1663 to handle the ivory and captured slaves.  It was the administrative center of the British colony until moved to Accra in 1877.

The captured slaves were chained and shackled together in a stone room with one small high window and fed twice a day.  A small trough in the floor captured the flow of urine.  Piles of human waste were kept on one end of the room.  Those who died had their bodies thrown off the ramparts into the sea.  Condemned slaves were put in an airless room that held up to 50 slaves. shackled together.  When they all died the whole group was disposed of.

Female slaves were kept in another area chained so they lay head to toe.  The pretty ones were put in a front room and used by the soldiers.  After a minimum of six weeks the survivors went to the "gates of no return" to be loaded onto slave ships.

 A plaque was placed on the walls of both castles by the Pan African Council in 1992.  It reads:
"In everlasting memory of the anguish of our ancestors.  May those who died rest in peace.  May those who return find their roots. May humanity never again perpetrate such injustice against them.  We the living vow to uphold this."

After lunch, we drove to the port of Tema to find our ship.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


Canopy walkway

Our second day in Ghana I took a tour to Kakum National Park, one of the few remaining areas of tropical rainforest in the country.  There are supposed to be 40 large mammal and 400 bird species here, but I didn't see more than a few birds and a strangely colored lizard.  The main attraction here is the canopy walkway, constructed with boards, rope and pipe high in the treetops.  You put one foot in front of the other so you don't swing wildly side to side as you walk.  It gets kind of crazy when there are several people at once on the same section you are on.  I had been on something similar in the Peruvian Amazon, but there were a lot of birds and monkeys there.  Here I just saw trees.

We had lunch at Han's Cottage, a restaurant with a large crocodile pond in front of it.  We only saw the snouts coming up out of the water.

An interesting thing about Ghana is that you don't see anyone smoking.  Per our guide, smoking became unfashionable in the 1970's when there was a big campaign by the government, churches and schools to make it socially unacceptable for fathers and mothers to smoke in homes with children.  That was expanded to cars and workplaces.  Eventually the tobacco companies left and now you only see public smoking in bars.  This social pressure seems to work for HIV, also, since the rate is less than 3%, very low for Africa.

Cocoanut Grove Hotel
We reached our hotel for the night, Cocoanut Grove, around 3 p.m.  The place is right on a gorgeous rocky beach and has pretty lawns and cottages.  I was a little upset to find they have wifi here, since I don't have my laptop with me.  I haven't been able to send my blog since Capetown due to lack of internet.  My roommate is Susan again, who I shared with in India.  She arranged to have a massage before dinner.  The masseuse was a black American from New Jersey who had come to Ghana as a missionary ten years ago.

There was another group of 21 SAS faculty here on an independent tour so we had plenty of people to socialize with.  Beer was cheap and the buffet dinner  outdoors overlooking the ocean was upscale typical Ghanaian.  I was surprised not to see the sunset, but the Ghanaian coast faces South.