Archive for May, 2010

3,500 Ghanaians Flee To Togo – Or Is It 1000?

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Yesterday the Daily Graphic – the Ghana newspaper that is something of a mouthpiece for the govt – had an article that Ghanaians up north were crossing the border into Togo to flee ethnic violence.  The article also showed up on BBC. (See it here too)

Eric and I, while not unsympathetic to the refugees plight, sniggered at the Togolese authorities response:

“Our immediate task is to find the resources to provide these refugees with emergency relief supplies, security, feeding, clothing and temporary rehabilitation structures.”

In other words, Togo was looking for money from the international community to help them in this situation.  Yet there is little doubt that most of the money would be “eaten”.  That is to say, put in the pockets of local authorities… as little as possible would go towards refugees.

But then, lo and behold, today the Daily Graphic had an article on a meeting between high level government dudes of Togo and Ghana (including Ghanaian president Mills).  They renounced this horrible press rumors.  There were really only 1000 refugees in Togo, they stated.

Surely, it is highly embarrassing for the Ghanaians to imagine that their own citizens would seek refuge in the poor neighbor country that they tend to look down on.  Of course they would react strongly to put a stop to the international press that is (possibly) airing Ghana’s dirty laundry.

I don’t know how many refugees are actually in Togo, and how much of the story was fabricated by the Togolese to get international money, and how much is being refuted to save Ghanaian pride.  I don’t intend to go up North to find out.  But I’m learning to “read between the lines” of press stories!

Saturday Night At a Fancy Accra Hotel Restaraunt

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Eric and I decided to splurge and go out for a Margarita last night.  There is a hotel-restaurant nearby that claims to serve them.  The hotel has several restaurants; unfortunately it turned out that the place that makes Margaritas was charging 20 cedis to get in. (All you can drink Saturday!)

We decided to just go to one of the other restaurants in the same hotel, where we know we can order a cheap bottle of wine (9 cedis).  We enjoyed sitting in the traditionally decorated patio and watching the people pass through.  Groups of very young Americans trooped through on their way to All-You-Can-Drink, looking slightly guilty and scared to be leaving their cultural exchange experience or volunteer program to go get some underage (for American) intoxication.

Three very beautiful, young, and sexily dressed ladies sat quietly at a table across from me.  They didn’t talk to each other, and they didn’t order a drink.  They studiously ignored the 70 year old infirm white man leering at them, perhaps hoping for a younger, richer client.  It was a quiet night, and there weren’t many options.  In fact, 2 of the 6 tables of people seemed to be women waiting for money-making opportunities.

Behind us sat a group of Lebanese men.  Live Lebanese music started in the third restaurant in the hotel complex; we could see the singer through the window and hear the music.  The singer was impressive; I don’t consider Arabic a language that soothes the ears, but he rendered it into something nice.  From our perspective, it looked like the restaurant was full of white men, clapping along to the music and laughing.

I heard the group behind me call out something to us, and understood that we were being nicknamed by the bottle of wine we had in front of us (Baron D’Argnoniac).  I turned to the older, thicker Lebanese man as he encouraged us to  enjoy the music. He clapped his hands in rhythm in the air.   “You need to enjoy life”, he said. I said he should show us how.  He didn’t require any armtwisting, and immediately stood up and danced.  “Now you should!” he said to me.  I said I would give the floor to my husband first.

Eric didn’t take any convincing either, and was suddenly up dancing with the Lebanese, trying to imitate his moves.  Suddenly, everyone in the restaurant, from the prostitutes to the ex-pat family,  was clapping along and smiling as the two men danced in front of me to an Arabic song in the next restaurant.

The Accra Mall

Friday, May 7th, 2010

There is an American style mall in Accra.  It is large, air-conditioned, has a movie theater, and Apple store, a food court, a grocery store, a number of small clothing stores, and a book store.  It is the place to go and be seen on Saturdays if you are a teenager in Accra.

In fact, everyone tries to look nice when they go to the mall.  If you enjoy people watching you will see the mixture of traditional and new styles.  Men with woven cloth, attached on such a way that one shoulder is bare, walk past groups of teenage boys with Fro-Hawks, skinny jeans, and chunky silver chain necklaces.  Young girls look awkward in their secondhand mini skirts, while older women look elegant in the floor length skirts in bright patterns with matching tops and head scarves.

The stores tend to be empty; people mostly wander the mall hallway.  Except for the grocery store bags, it is rare to see people caring bags of purchases.  I don’t envy the store owners in the mall; I can’t imagine they make a profit.