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ELSEWHERE IN GHANA - Takoradi Blog - "The last Ghana article" by Flash

Dec 16, 13 - Comments

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The last Ghana article

One year and a couple of months; a short enough time, but long enough to fall in love.

After 19 years in Nigeria, I came to Ghana. Nigeria was ok and as usual, I made many friends plus you get used to anywhere; despite literally the muck, the tear gas and bullets.

The Muck – I had been visiting a remote flow station when the local community decided to ransack the offices of anything saleable whilst roughing up anyone working there. A couple of us were inspecting progress of the incomplete security perimeter fence. That was kind of ironic as the security fence itself was stolen a few months later. The area boys were not adverse to stealing personal possessions and were rough if you resisted. Not wanting to lose our watches, cell phones and any money, we slipped down into the perimeter drainage ditch, which was half full of rainy season water and mud; and there we hid and waited for the fuss to die down. We stayed hunkered down in the mud for nearly an hour until it seemed safe to go cautiously back to the offices, as the community boats had departed.

Tear gas – A couple of incidences: I lived near Rumuola junction in Port Harcourt, where there would be the occasional riot, and you learned to quickly switch off your AC. If you forget, the tear gas is sucked into your accommodation and with eyes steaming you would have to run outside and risk the mob. Another time my stupid curiosity got the better of me. We were stuck in a massive hold up, so I walked up and found the police watching a demonstration taking place. It was a fight between two tribal factions. I thought I was safe standing with the police – big mistake. The police fired off their tear gas canisters and as they smoked they made a lovely arc in the sky to fall down amidst the fighters. The only problem was that no one had checked the wind direction and the tear gas began to drift back to the police force. In no time, there was complete pandemonium as myself, along with police and fighters still carrying their machetes and lengths of 2x2 began running hard down the road trying to outrun the drifting gas.

Bullets – Like above, sometimes my insatiable need to get out get and do stuff gets me in trouble. I went out with my driver one evening to visit the Mosquito bar – literally its name. The location was near where two tribes had been fighting, but we both thought the bar was well outside the trouble area, wrong! As we neared the bar, we came round a corner to find a road block of logs and burning tyres. My driver stopped quick and started to reverse out of it – too late. A bunch of local boys brandishing weapons, wearing dark clothes and bandanas jumped out of the bush by the road and pointed their guns at us. They roughly tapped the windows, so we wound down. Often these guns are homemade and are notoriously hair triggered. A gun was held to my drivers and my own head. Where were we going and were we not trying to carry guns to their enemies in the next community?  My driver spoke his language to prove he was not from the next community, and they then had me get out to open the boot, all the time with a gun to my spine. The boot was empty, no guns. They then waved that we should go back – we did!

Then came the hostage taking period, when 265 expats were taken hostage over a 2 1/2 year period 2006 to 2008. We operated for a long time under a 19:00 to 06:00 curfew, and trips outside the town were not to be taken without an armed guard.

So you can imagine my feelings when I found myself posted to Ghana, where I could walk the streets, didn’t need an armed guard, could take local transport anywhere, and could explore with impunity with only the snakes and crocodiles to worry about.

For any of you who have reads any of my 17 articles (and hopefully enjoyed some of them), you will know that almost every weekend has seen me indulging myself doing what I love – getting out there, getting involved - doing and seeing stuff. Never mind that some of my colleagues think I’m mad!

The last weekends have been a roller coaster of emotion. For two weekends in late November, I had stayed two resorts and had seen the destruction of a total of seven turtles taken for meat. The struggle up the beach is watched, the egg laying is watched. Then when complete, the fresh eggs are scooped out to eat later and the turtle is dragged on its back by its flipper to its death. First, the head is cut off; then a cut is made along the body, just under the top tough top carapace. The body is then pulled apart, and the meat taken out. 

Last weekend was the opposite of the dark side. I stayed at Fanta’s Folly and was up early for a beach patrol, but no turtles, though one of the hatch boxes was full of overnight hatchlings. The night guard and I transferred them to a bucket of sea water – 110 babies just smaller that the width of my hand. The other huts gradually came awake around seven, and the ones that were not up, were knocked up. Philippe and Fanta, his wife, then took the bucket down to the top of the beach and released the babies. 104 were still alive and driven by some primordial instinct they began to make that long struggle down the beach to the water’s edge.  We tourists snapped away at the migration, noting one lead baby that was determined and was way ahead of its brother and sisters; I hoped it would survive. Hard reality is that roughly only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings survive. It was such a nice sight to see after the previous weekend’s carnage.

During my time working is some esoteric parts of the world, and having witnessed some terrible things, maybe I have become hardened to man’s inhumanity to man and beast. But despite my experiences, or maybe directly because of them; I was lifted by the experience of seeing these tiny baby turtles frantically making their first scuttling steps down to begin their life in the sea, and into what will be an continued struggle for survival.

I have tried in my reports to be dispassionate regarding local customs and practices. Who are we, as partial interlopers, to be judgemental regarding what has been done for centuries, but it is reckoned that some species of turtle breeding females’ number in the tens of thousands only, and are severely endangered, and besides, if I cannot be passionate in my last report, when can I be?

So, two weekends to go, and I am sadly ticking them off, booking my favourite beach haunts. Which ones do I like the most? Each one has its own ambience and attractions. Be it costs that vary wildly, or access to nature, which I prefer. You must go and find out for yourself!

I have fallen in love with Ghana and its people. Always ready to smile and help a stranger. Work colleagues that I have enjoyed mentoring, but now they must fly on their own. If any company needs a Projects Controls consultant / NGO Project Manager type, and it entails me staying on in Ghana. You could twist my arm and tempt me to stay…. Pleeeeease. Claude has my details.

Flash

 

Takoradi Blog is a Blog written for accraexpat.com
by our British Member nicknamed Flash who landed
in Ghana in December 2012 to work in the oil industry.

(your comments and feedback are welcome and will be forwarded to the author)


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Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in the Blog are those of the writer only and do not engage the responsibility of the website


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