Ghana Day One: The Slave Castles
Here are two disclaimers if this post a)looks funny, B)reads like I’m in preschool: I am working on a PC (in the “Business Center” of the Miklin Hotel in Accra, Ghana), and I’m writing this using the HTML screen. I have no idea what that really means – it was just the button I had to push to be able to see the words.
This is Africa. That’s what they say when things are so very different that there isn’t any other way to describe what does or does not happen. There is no way to connect my laptop to any kind of Internet. Just not possible. We have NO outlets in our hotel room that are free except for the shaver outlet in the bathroom, which is where I downloaded my photos. On the toilet – the computer, not me. I was kneeling in front of the toilet. My Mac and I are now bonded like never before. Oh, and there will be no photos to accompany this post. There is no way to get them from my computer to this one, but I’m hoping I can figure that out when we get to the next hotel. I will try my best to describe the day with word pictures.
We arrived in Accra late last night and checked into the Miklin hotel, which is nice by Ghanaian standards and just fine for us. It has a bed and that’s all we really needed last night. It was an odd feeling. Just Erin and me at a hotel in a new city in a different country on a continent we’ve never stepped foot on. I laid in the bed feeling as if I was really nowhere. Hard to describe. A little lonely. But a little exciting at the same time. Erin is doing well. She’s been forced to go native and ditch her IPhone. Poor girl.
We slept in this morning until 8 a.m., then enjoyed a hotel breakfast that consisted of an omelet (just an egg actually), sausage (a strange link covered in peppers), beans (like pork n beans only with no pork), and some toast. Not bad. It held us until 8 p.m. this evening.
We visited the Salve Castle in Cape Coast. This was the holding place for tens of thousands of slaves that were taken from their homeland, across the ocean, and sold in slave auctions and markets across Europe and the United States. They were treated like animals, evidenced by the concrete rooms where they packed into before walking through the “door of no return.” The rooms had almost no ventilation and only three small openings at the top to let in a sparse amount of light. If they misbehaved before going through the door, they were held in separate male and female dungeons. The males who were put in the dungeon were there to die, serving as a warning to anyone else who might dare to try escape or revolt. The male dungeon was a concrete block with no ventilation. They people who were banished there lasted about 24-48 hours before dying inside. Even just walking a few small steps into the room was a stifling and confining experience.
On the top floor of the slave castle were the rooms where the Governor and his family lived in luxurious standards. Across from his residence atop another wing of the castle was the church. It took a while for that to sink in. A church? I guess no respectable English family could reside without a place of worship nearby. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this one.
After this sobering afternoon, we headed back to Accra. The sights and sounds along the road back were enough to keep me awake and gawking. Most amazing: the women who carry everything on their heads: plantains, bottles of water, firewood, luggage, piles of clothing. I would say that it’s all a matter of balance, except that small children are somehow able to carry things as well. Not large items, but boxes of peanuts and pails of water. At some point I will have photos, but for now, picture a slim, tall woman walking down a dusty city street surrounded by honking vehicles observing nonexistent road rules. She walks straight, looking ahead and carrying on her head a tall box filled with bags of fruit stacked at least two feet high. She looks completely calm. She is weaving in and out of the traffic and waving one of the bags as she passes the windows of cars and buses. My camera was in my bag which is where it belonged. I couldn’t have imagined pulling it out and snapping a photo of her. She looked far too dignified.
Tomorrow we drive the 4-5 hours to Kumasi where we will be for the rest of our stay. But for now I must say goodnight because there is a very determined mosquito that has feasted on my legs and now appears to want some computer time. Until tomorrow…