by Ken Akuwobi
Back in South Africa I heard a lot of interesting things about Ghana. Things that piqued my curiosity, raised my expectations and got me interested in planning a vacation to the country. Fortunately for me, I got an offer to work and live in Ghana with Aviation Social Center (A.S.C in the Fitness & Sports Department). It was as if God had planned for me all along to be in Ghana but first had to spike my interest. After careful consideration I took the offer. It was in my area of expertise, which meant work would be fun, plus I would get the opportunity to embark on wonderful expeditions exploring the Gold Coast from the inside out. This was a win-win for me. I had nothing to lose. I eventually moved to Ghana and lived in Accra, Achimota precisely. All through my stay in Ghana I did everything necessary to help me experience the uniqueness of the land. We took trips to the Cape Coast Slave Dungeon, Kakum National Park, Mole National Park, Paga Crocodile Pond, Elmina Castle, Lake Volta, and Kintampo Falls to mention a few. I also visited Ghana's beaches in La, Bojo and the infamous Kokrobite beach.
I attended the black and red themed funerals and colorful traditional weddings too. I virtually saw Ghana's ten regions and experienced each of their cultures, customs, foods and festivals. Thanks to my amazing and adventurous friends Vaughn, Melissa, Kay, Zoe, Adwoa, Adusei, Ivory, Paulina, Eyetsa, Andy, Maureen, Mildred, Kelvin, Nii-Akrofi and many more who made all these trips worthwhile.
I will share with you in detail some of my discoveries, but before I do, I will not forget to add that Ghana is one of the most hospitable and safest countries in the West African region. I have visited other countries in the region, so I can attest to this fact. What makes Ghana even more unique is that apart from the hospitable people, there is an all year round season of fun things to do. Whether it’s the rainy season or the dry season there is a variety of activities to do. Let me share with you these little rumors about Ghana that I found to be true. And by the way, I love Ghana for these little things.
Strength & Balance
People carry things on their heads. They carry gallons of water, wood, food, building blocks, and goods, literally everything. This is so true. I was en-route to my local tailor's store to collect my hand-made colorful kente shirt, when I came across a woman carrying a bundle of firewood on her head. I instinctively ran towards her to help. When I asked her "wo ko hie?” (where are you going?), with the intention of helping, she smiled and said "me ko ton dua" (I am going to sell this firewood). I asked if I could help her carry the bundle. She said "oh pakyc debi, me da se" (oh no, thank you). She politely declined, explaining to me that she traded firewood for a living and was used to it. She further explained that even if she let me help her today would I be there to help her the next day? And the day after? She made sense, I thought, as I smiled and nodded my head in understanding. She smiled with gratitude in her eyes and repeated for the umpteenth time "pakyc me da se" (please, thank you). I could only stand aside and watch her move along, with fantastic posture despite the mass of firewood on her head, swinging, her stride was feminine and elegant. After that encounter I soon got used to seeing people carry all sorts of things on their head. Interestingly enough, almost no-one wears a hat despite the scorching sun. Amazing right?
The sacred crocodile ponds of Paga, located in Ghana's Upper East Region, near Burkina Faso are ruled by the souls of the dead. This might sound a little spooky and perhaps unreal but it is true. With the help of a friend in that community, I contacted a 96 year old elder, who happened to be the oldest in the community at the time. I inquired about the history and nature of the pond. To my surprise, he admitted the rumors to be true and further explained that the belief was passed down from one generation to another. He said the souls of the dead have made the Paga crocodiles docile and harmless to the people of the land and their friends. Indeed, these crocodiles were shockingly docile. At one point we almost mistook it for a big 9 foot crocodile statue. At least it blinked constantly. This convinced us it was alive. We patted it on the back from its head to the end of its tail. It was definitely alive, breathing, and quite cognizant of its surrounding.
Another thing in Ghana that really tickled me was how Ghanaians call the local canteen a “chop bar” and a bar a “spot.” So you pretty much eat at a chop bar and you drink at a spot. Note that a chop bar can become a spot, but a spot cannot become a chop bar. It's a general understanding. And a very interesting one too.
I could go on and on with an unending list of things that made it worth my stay. However, I would like to conclude by saying, if you're looking for a combination of hospitality, indigenous activities, security and camaraderie with the local people, then you should visit and experience Ghana. If you're up for it, I'd say…akwaaba (welcome)!
About the Author: Kenneth C. Akwuobi is a former fitness and wellness coach. He is currently a pastor in-training at the Agape House New Testament Church.