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Day 17 – The Return to Accra

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“i am really going to miss Cape Coast”

by the time i head back to Accra i have given away four pairs of shoes, couple pair of pants and tops, lots of underwear and socks, and, of course, monetary tips….as the last suitcase is lifted into the van i extend goodbyes to: ‘my son’, T, W, V, J, A, and the rest of the hotel staff…i am truly saddened by the thought of leaving here….no tears are shed, only smiles..

on the way back to Accra i do take a moment to visit by Ft Amsterdam…this structure is located in the village of Kormantse – a historical, powerful site of the slave trade era…though it is surrounded by the Fanti kingdom, Kormantse is not considered a Fanti state – due to its name and origin; which is purported to be connected to Ashanti of Kumasi…these Ashanti warriors held off an invasion from the Fanti and were fabled to have said “Mikore Mantsi”(“i was with the warriors); shortened to “Kormantse” and given as the name of the village..this i one of the possible source stories that is linked to the name and area…

Ft Amsterdam is the first fort in the Fante region of the Gold Coast (former name of Ghana)…it was first inhabited by British settlers(originally named Fort Kormantin) and later taken over by the Dutch which gave it is present name…it was later reclaimed by the British, but kept its Dutch name…

after giving an offering to the caretaker of the fort, i and my driver B(who originally took me to Cape Coast) roam around the the dwellings…this is B’s first time visiting the site as well and he is struck by its beauty and simplicity…unlike most of the other forts – which only served as look-out points or battle points – Ft Amsterdam served as a captive spot for the enslaved…and as i discover upon site of Amsterdam’s ‘door of no return’ , Africans were also shipped off to Europe and the Americas from here….in the center court of this fort is a very old tree – thick and mangly, yet majestic….it reminds of those trees you may find in New Orleans…those trees that seem to have captured the many spirits of those people whom have come in contact with it…a tree that, if it could speak, would be able to tell some of the most horrific and spellbinding tales…a tree that, if it could speak, may chose not to reveal the sacred secrets or the hidden encounters that it has witnessed…

i make it back to the lodging where i first stayed in when i flew into Accra…i am met warmly by the staff whom remember me very well… “Akwaaba”… “medasi (thank you)” i reply…i have not much to say as my journey back here was interrupted by an interaction with B, the driver…it seems that fuel had gone up since i first went to Cape Coast and, because i am responsible for paying for fuel TO and FROM the Cape Coast, have to pay a substantial increase..i find this out after a VERY extended arguement at the gas station – English loses its validity and clarity when speaking with another brother who is not interested in communicating via a ‘slave language’….

nevertheless i find comfort in the hospitality of the staff and seek rest after a much-longer-than-expected travel back..

i take a moment to settle in and then head to the internet cafe just down the road…
when i return to the lodge i am surprised with a visitor – R (a very friendly vendor i met at Adisadel village in Cape Coast)..i am TRULY SURPRISED..he had told me to call him when i arrived into Accra and then we could arrange to POSSIBLY meet up…i was planning to take a nap before i even called and NOW here he was…i greet him and welcome him back to my room where we conversate about my return and his near fatal accident in a bus ride back…i had noticed a bandage on his forehead and inquired as to what happened…’what happened’ is that he was riding back tto Accra in a public transit van (the same kind of van i had taken with G to Assin Manso) and was in an accident.. 5 people were killed and he was lucky to come out alive…fortunately he was in the very back…he only lost his wallet and cell phone…now i hadn’t mentioned that R had told me another story of losing his money a few days after i FIRST met him at Adisadel; at that time i had bought a pair of jeans that i had saw him wear and liked…i thought this would help him with his sudden lack of funds and i would get a hip pair of urban coutoure ghanain jeans! NOW here i am with another story, an even SADDER story…i sense something not so right, but cannot dismiss his injury or visible signs of shaken nerves…i console him…he says that he has a birthday gift he would like to give me – he is having his brother make an outfit for me…we need to go over to the house where his brother is to take some measurements …tired as i am and weary of going anywhere too far, i acquiesce…

Accra is an urban city, but my thought about its urbaness changed on the way to R’s brother’s place…it shifts from cleanly designed and neat houses and businesses to more basic crudely crafted structures…the roads, never really smooth, become even rougher and remind me of Chicago’s pot-holed streets…but instead of Chi-town’s every-three-or-four-feet-of-the-street-hole, the driver is maneuvers around successive hole-ridden roads…and i realize that i have NEVER really witness an area like this in all of my travels in America….and this is by no means considered a ‘ghetto’…we finally arrive in the middle of a circle of home structures that would not survive a New York winter or a bad rain season…i find out that this is not R’s brother’s place but a family home where ALL of his family live…i thought when he said ‘brother’, he was using it in the more expansive term..NO this was his flesh and blood!

i am struck by the ironic contrast to R’s dress and manners to his surroundings…thoughts of brothers and sisters in America who drive fancy cars but live in tenement projects…where a young person may have an ipod but not a private room or bed ….i see only one big room that attaches to a smaller room where R’s father is resting…”he is not well” R tells me and then invites me to meet him…i tell R that i do not want to disturb him and so we sit close to where R’s brother is working on some outfit…unlike the smiles of the many other people i have met so far, R’s brother ( i cannot recall his name/initial) very politely and coldly shakes my hand…he takes my measurements very methodically and calculated…

as we head back towards my lodge, i tell R that i sense that his brother feels “put upon to make this outfit”..R assures me that is is ‘fine’ with making the outfit; that it is a birthday gift, a ‘dash’ and i cannot refuse it… he then escorts me to a restaurant where i tell him that i will call him tomorrow..he pressures me to make plans to meet up, but i tell him that i may not feel like doing anything tomorrow but resting…i do not invite him to eat with me, because:
– i want to be alone
– i do not feel like paying for his food
– i am trying to create a distance from him, for i fear he is becoming attached to me for purposes of money and whatever else he may want from me….
He reluctantly obliges to wait for my call and asks for money to take a car back…i give it to him and retreat into Mr Big’s restaurant – the closest thing to fast food in Ghana i have encountered…i take the food back to my lodge and ‘chill’ in front of the tv of my room…

just as i am about to close my eyes, the phone rings…it is W from Cape Coast ! i am glad to hear from him …he tells me that he would like to come visit me in Accra…after a quick ‘check-in’ with each other, he confirms that he wil be there EARLY tomorrow morning…i trust his words and his spirit and rest assured that he WILL BE HERE tomorrow…




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