5 photos from 1995. Click on any of the small images to enlarge.
More than anything in Ghana, I was struck by the generosity of so many of
the people we met. Well, that's not completely true. First, I was struck by
the heat. Then I was struck by the poverty. Crossing the street in downtown
Accra, I was struck by a bicycle.
But the kindnesses stand out. We hitchhiked across the southern Atlantic
coast, never waiting more than 15 minutes for a ride. One driver kept
stopping to buy us different local foods, laughing with glee at our
reactions. Another asked us which hotel we'd like to be dropped off at. We
said that we needed an inexpensive one, because we didn't have so much
money. This struck him as ludicrous -- we were from America, were we not? --
so we eventually refined our explanation to say we did not have much cash on
hand, because we'd been taken by surprise by a bank holiday and hadn't been
able to change money for a few days. The reaction of this man in a country
where the average person earns hundreds of dollars a year: he offered
insistently to give us the money so we could stay comfortably. (Risking
offense, we turned him down.) Yet another driver, a Presbyterian who went by the name "Music," was turning off the road so he let us out at a police checkpoint and
had a word with one of the officers. He told us that he'd asked the officer to look out for us. Later we discovered that he'd paid the policeman
a tip to find us another ride as soon as possible.
On a drizzly day, we walked from Ghana to Ivory Coast, my first African
land border crossing. I'd heard stories of corrupt officials with their
endless searches and bold demands for bribes, but everything seemed to go
smoothly -- a few forms... no, we weren't exporting any currency, in fact we had no Ghanaian money left... some friendly
small talk... and we were on our way. Then I heard the guard bark out my
"Cruz! Come here." I turned around. He was grinning slightly and
motioning towards a coffee can full of wrinkled bills. I was ready for this:
I carried a twenty in an accessible pocket.
"It is raining outside, you know," he said.
"Um, that's true," I offered, a little not sure how to respond.
"Well, you should not be walking in the rain with your bags," he said,
fishing out a few bills from the can. "You should be in a taxi." Handing me
ride money, he waved me out of the office and out of this generous land.