Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tema, Ghana

Tema, Ghana
Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tema is the port town for Accra, Ghana; the two are separated by only a few miles. I took the ship tour, “Meet the People”, a tour to visit the local community within Tema; the tour did not go into Accra. The tour first included a drive through a township area near the port, called Tema New Township. This is an area where immigrants to the area (from other parts of Ghana and mostly, from Togo, Benin and Nigeria) build temporary housing while looking for work, or while working odd jobs while looking for full-time employment. It was a typical combination township/shanty town, with new shanties built adjacent to more permanent housing. The bus drove around in the township for a while before stopping at a larger house where the “King” of the township lived. The tour had arranged for the “King” to grant an audience to the passengers, including a ceremony and then a couple of dances, first by elderly women and then by young people. The dances were fun and included interactions with passengers. The “King” made opening remarks, and five people were selected by the tour guide to sit on the first row and respond to the “King”. I was one of the five, and gave one of the responses. I was given a lei made of greens. We all took lots of photos of the people, including the “King”, and it was a lot of fun.

Next the tour stopped only a short distance later to visit a school. This school was a government junior high school. It was a real school in which students had text books and actually had the usual classes of math, science, English, Literature, etc. Ghana was once a British colony, and the official language in Ghana is English. All classes in school are taught in English. While we were at the school, the students performed a play about the ritual of a young man and woman getting married. It was very well done, and very amusing, and the students, who were in the audience, loved it even more than the passengers did. I took lots of photos. After the play, passengers were invited to visit the classrooms, and I took some photos there, as well. Later, two of the teachers gave me their email addresses and asked me to email some of the photos to them, which I will do after I get home.

After visiting the school, the tour stopped only a short distance away for a walk into the shanty town to see how some small fish were dried for sale. The fish were like sardines and were laid out on screens to dry in the sun. I took a couple of photos of the fish, but spent most of my time taking photos of the people from the shanties who had gathered to watch.

The tour then took us to another area not too far away where more permanent housing existed. The tour guide said that the apartments in this area had been constructed for people who worked in the port. The apartments were “middle class” and clearly much better housing than that in the Tema New Township, either the township housing or certainly the shanties. While there, we saw a woman making a ground meal food that tasted like hominy grits. We also saw how foods are prepared and sold in a typical take away store front. The stoves are open wood fires and the foods are not refrigerated.

I was particularly interested in seeing how much more prosperous Ghana is than either Benin or Togo. Ghana is a former British colony, while Benin and Togo are former French colonies. The Ghana port of Tema is modern, with a very large container shipping business. Many people own cars, and education is compulsory and free, including books, through high school. I was particularly struck by the friendliness of the people -- they smiled and waved and were incredibly friendly everywhere we went. They were much friendlier than in Togo or Benin.

We returned to the ship around 3:00 p.m., and all of the passengers felt that it was a very good day. I enjoyed the day enjoyed the day very much.

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