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Opinions of Wednesday, 4 October 2006

Columnist: Acquaye, George

My Trip To Ghana In Sept 2006

Folks I am back from another trip to Ghana and I have recuperated well enough to write my report. I thought it is a fun thing to do for the enjoyment for all the readers who may be interested in a first hand account of someone who spent some time at home in September 2006.

I had many reasons in going this time. On top of the list was to see Oguaa Fetu Afahye, our festival, which I have not witnessed for more that two decades. The second most important item on the list was to see Samanboi, a village my late mum sent me to live with an auntie when I was growing up. It was an experience permanently imbedded in my head and I wished to see the place one more time. Thirdly, I wished to give back to the people by rendering my services in the dental profession as a dentist.

I landed two day before the Afahye and because I had to take care of some business in Accra. I went to Cape Coast on the day of the festival. I arrived early enough to check into my hotel and I headed on to town to immerse myself in the festivities. I saw the long procession of the Asafo Companies, the Chief’s army of years gone by. The newly installed Asafo Henfo were decked up in their colorful attires. The drumming of the Asafo Companies was very wonderful and very familiar to my ears. The intricate steps of the dance that went along with the drumming were so inviting that I wished I could join in but I was there to video tape and admire the event. Some of the sub- chiefs and the paramount chief, the Omanhen, were carried on top of people’s heads in palanquins. They were fully donned in their beautiful kente cloths and gold ornaments and with their drummers playing behind them. They danced with the familiar gestures of authority. With a gaze scanning all directions, their hands swung from side to side and clasped on their chests suggesting that the lands belong to them, I suppose.

Most of the spectators there joined the procession and it downed on me that in Ghana parades are opened for all to join in.

For my second reason in going to Ghana, my nephew who had not seen Samanboi before volunteered to drive me there. We took off not knowing exactly the direction to the place. We didn’t have a map but we knew we had to head towards the west to Takoradi and from there we asked for directions. We went to Tarkwa, Bogoso, Bodie, Suroso and then we went on an unpaved road leading deep into some jungle to our final destination. The final 30 kilometers of road without asphalt was the most challenging. The road was narrow and there were potholes everywhere. We felt like we were in the middle of nowhere and yet on the way we passed through some villages where we stopped and asked some people about how far we had to drive. With the rough road, distance was measured in PVC, not Porcelain Veneer Crows, but Patience, Vigilance and Caution.

When we got to the city, we found it very dusty with no asphalt on any street. When I asked one of the locals about the condition of the streets, he said, “How could it be paved? The local chief is on the pay roll of the main industry of the city.” It is a major timber factory exporting millions of dollars of hard ware to all over the world.

Another shocker was when we tried to find a lodging place for the night. We went to a nice looking Clubhouse owned by the timber factory with a rest house. We were told that we could only be accommodated if we were officials of the Company or if we knew someone who could vouch for us. Here we could not even sit or eat but there was another place built for the locals, Forest Club. Everyone could go there but it had no accommodations and the food served there was very bad.

The irony was, here I was in the land of my people with my pocket (I am sorry, suitcase) full of cedis but I couldn’t find a decent place to sleep or eat because I wasn’t an official of the Timber Company and I didn’t know one either. Finally, we ended up at a very highly recommended Hotel. We found that it had no AC, the bathrooms were outside of the rooms, and our room couldn’t be locked with the key from the inside. The place was infested with mosquitoes beyond belief. I couldn’t sleep that night and so I kept vigil until I heard the cocks crowing to welcome the dawn and the morning sun. We met the daylight with much gladness and we began our tour of yesteryears, a journey through memory lane. First, I went to my former elementary school. My fifth-grade classroom was still standing; the Catholic Church nearby was also there, and the soccer field and the playgrounds were still green.

From there I went to revisit the place, which was home to my sister, four others and myself. The two-room house was still standing. Later I went to see the river Semare where I busted my skull on the rim of a bucket as a child. I was happy to be there; my childhood place. Despite everything, we were prepared for the good and the ugly. “To go back home is to return a stranger.”

Back to Cape Coast, I continued with my voluntary dental treatments at their Regional Hospital, where I performed composite (white) fillings and root canal therapies. I performed therapeutic pulpectomy (cleaning the nerve from the baby teeth) for some children and placed stainless steel crowns on the teeth of one of them. The grand finale was an anterior bridge I fabricated out of acrylic for a patient which they found stunning, considering the before and after images. Dr Asante, a dentist from Cape Coast who came to visit with me here in the USA, saw me do such bridge work and white filings and so he lined the patients up for me to work on them. A Cuban doctor was one of the patients on the list.

I felt myself being pulled from all angles and unfortunately I couldn’t see all those that I planned on seeing. It was so good being amongst my people and I did a lot of people watching. I shared in the joy of people having fun during the festival as if there was no tomorrow. Oh! I found it so fascinating watching people walking by and speaking Fante, a rich language among the very ancient ones way before the birth of any European language. It was fun to see faces I had never seen before and most likely would never see again. Glad to be back and I plan on doing it again.

By Dr. George Acquaye
Submitted by Kojo Albion


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