Takoradi, That Bustling Town
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Breakfast is at the rectory and is the usual omelet, bread, juice, coffee or Milo. The morning’s plan is for Rev. Fr. Monsignor Tawiah to take us to the Egyam Orphanage that he built, only a few kilometers away from Apowa over a very bad road. The facility is immaculate and wonderful with Leo acting as our guide because Daniel was traveling for the day. A man and woman (Tia) from The Netherlands are there working for 5 weeks building a goat pen and making other necessary repairs and improvements—they are the founders and have supplied much of the financial backing for this project.
Leo tells us the most difficult task for the staff is to assist the students’ transitions back into society after spending their developmental years in the orphanage. Some can do it well from the beginning, but for most there is trial and error and a gradual re-introduction to life in the outside world. All are welcome to return for guidance and counseling as needed.
St Mary’s Catholic Schools are located a stone’s throw from the orphanage and comprise classes in kindergarten through Form 3 which is equivalent to our 9th grade. There are abundant students ready to greet us or follow us around their campus. We are taken past the four computers none of which work. The story is the leaky roof did them in so patching needs to be done before more computers are brought to this edifice.
Lunch is back at the rectory where we meet our appointed driver for the remainder of the day while Monsignor Francis catches up with his correspondence. Our first stop is an Internet Café where we update this blog and answer email quickly—it provides a wireless environment, air conditioning and a fairly decent speed at 1 Ghana cedi, 20 pesewas for the hour. ($0.75 U.S.)
We move on to the Takoradi Central Market to fulfill some fabric orders for Minnesota quilters and find the area jammed with cars and pedestrians converging on a circular drive which forms the hub of a wagon wheel with spokes leading out in at least 6 directions. (Google Earth it and you’ll see what it looks like!) Our driver says he can find parking room near where he drops us, but the trick with this market is to observe large buildings on the outside of the circle so when you complete the 360 degrees you will recognize your starting point.
If this market doesn’t sell it, you don’t need it! It is a visual display of every shade on the chromatic scale, a cacophony of sounds and a mixture of odors some of which are quite pleasant. But what a wonderful sight and it not only occupies the center ring, but spreads out into the adjacent concentric circles for at least two blocks.
We purchase bright cotton prints and batiks varying in price from 3 to 8 Ghana cedis per yard. ($1.87 to $5.00) and then set out for the best part of this economic mayhem, the center of it all, behind the ring of street facing stores.
The city of Takoradi built and maintains the market where shops are rented by individual vendors. Rights to these spots are passed down from parent to child much like season tickets for the NHL. We are immediately lost with no sense of direction or landmarks to guide us. Everything inside is a jumble of wooden shacks with corrugated tin sheets or plastic tarps for roofing and an occasional rain gutter with downspouts emptying into the open trenches serving as sewers and flood control devices. Pathways are too narrow for people to meet so one must step aside into whatever stall happens to be near or if you are really unlucky, the gutter. People inside are much bolder and reach out calling “obroni” (white man or foreigner) as a friendly greeting.
Ghana is playing Botswana in a football match which attracts crowds at the occasional television set or radio and the sellers all want to know who obroni favors—it darn well better be Ghana in this environment!
The butcher shop is probably the most interesting where lines of people wait for a small package of goat, beef, lamb or bush meat cut to order right in front of your eyes. It's a good idea not to put your hand down on the table to steady yourself--put it inside a pocket if possible! Doug asks one burly young meat artist if a photo is allowed and the response is one cedi per shot. No one would argue with this hatchet swinging strongman in a confusing maze of narrow walk ways and no visible outlet to safety. Doug passes on purchasing any meat, but picks up a bag of gari (ground, dried cassava root), tiger nuts and sesame seeds.
It is getting late and an appointment waits at the harbor view watering hole across town. There we meet Kofi Kudu, a Rotary friend from the past and Mr. Lord Tay, a motorcycle repairman and salesman with a penchant for distributing books and other desirable items to the neediest of bush schools. The conversation is hardy and it’s a great way to end a fun filled day. Too bad E-quip Africa’s container wasn’t sent to this harbor where most of the waiting is for ships to exit with exports instead of the Port of Tema where they line up for entry. That fact is noted and filed for the next containerped ship to this country.
We return to St. John the Evangel rectory for yams with hot or mild vegetables and make plans for our departure from Takoradi on Wednesday.