Evacuation

So here I am in Ghana, home of a fine Internet service. So I’m going to get caught up on all the posting I haven’t been able to do over the last couple of days.

First, as promised, here are some pictures from Tabaski:

Tabaski before 2

This is Djibi with a leg of lamb. When I got there, the sheep had already been slaughtered, but the cutting up was just beginning. The girls were washing the blood off the floor of the courtyard and the men were getting out some very impressive knives to turn what was once a living thing into a nice big meal. This is one thing about Eid as opposed to Thanksgiving – the eaters are also the killers, at least in principle. Although one thing that people do is go and give pieces of the meat to their neighbors, so you could conceivably eat a good big meal without having to cut any creature’s throat.

Tataski before 1

Here’s Djibi and his nephew working on cutting some steaks and shanks off of another leg of the lamb.

Then, we, that is, the guys, all sat around and drank tea and munched on stuff while the women, led by Mariatou, went around the back of the house where there were a number of charcoal grills set up and turned all that meat into a nice big meal. The, we ate:

Tabaski after

Tabaski after 2

A variety of people kept coming and going, so many that I lost track of relationships and names.

I wanted to include one more food picture, from the day before Tabaski at Brenda Soya’s house:

Traditional mortar and pestle marie laure

This is Serge Soya’s sister, Marie Laure, making a traditional Ivorian dish called futu. It is made out of cassava and bananas, and comes out in a big sort of puffy dumpling, that you eat with a sauce. In this case we had it with peanut sauce and the result was like an African peanut butter and banana sandwich, one of my favorites (along with Elvis!)

So the day after Tabaski was Friday. We had a meeting with the Ambassador, the whole American community was invited. The Ambassador is, as I have already said, a very lively and engaging speaker, a very energetic and personable guy. Very much worth listening to. Here he is speaking in the main hall of the American School in Ouagadougou:

Ambassador Mushingi

Here’s a few other shots of the school. Kids, you could have gone to this school at the expense of the government, so here’s what you are missing:

American school Ouaga 2

American School Ouaga 3

About the greenest grass I’ve seen yet in Burkina Faso.

Anyway, the Ambassador was trying to scotch rumors about evacuation – no military planes are coming, the government won’t pay for private citizens’ trips home, etc. He gave a lot of information about the political situation, much of which I had already heard, but he expanded on things quite a bit.

It seems that things are still a little dubious. The Council of Ministers, meeting under heavy security at the Prime Minister’s offices downtown (instead of the presidential palace, right next to the RSP barracks) announced the dissolution of the RSP, announced that an inventory of their weapons had begun that very morning and would continue over the weekend, and announced that they had fired a number of people including the Minister of Security. Decreeing and doing are two different things, though. As of this morning, a group of RSP soldiers were rumored to still be refusing to be disarmed. No sign for sure of how big.

Anyway, Saturday morning at 7:00, an embassy car arrived to pick me and Jean Ouedrago, the other Fulbrighter, up for our trip to Ghana. We went out to the airport and embarked for Lomé. I have been to the Lomé airport many times, of course, but 30 years ago. I was expecting that the airport had gotten a lot nicer since then – after all, it is the hub for ASky, a major regional carrier with over a hundred flights a day. Here’s the new terminal at Gnassingbe Eyadema International Airport:

Lome new terminal

Unfortunately, we didn’t use the new terminal. In fact, it looks like it is fenced off and not used at all. Instead, we were in the same old Lomé airport terminal where my Facebook avatar photo was taken in 1986:Lome Old terminal

That’s my colleague, Jean, sitting in the transit lounge. 30 years ago, I was sitting at that bar in the background with a Biere du Benin in front of me and a cigarette in hand seeing one of my friends off. It was a little too early in the morning for beer and thank goodness I have left the cigarettes behind.

So anyway, off we went to Ghana. The international arrivals terminal in Accra looks like Miami’s, except a lot fewer people. It was a really professional and smooth operation. We got out of the airport in record time. A bit of chaffering with the airport taxi guys, who wanted the enormous sum of 40 cedis, about $12, to take us to our hotel, and we finally got out of the taxi and there was our contact, Todd Sargent, the assistant from the Public Affairs section in Ouaga, who has been stranded here during the coup time and making himself useful setting up our travel arrangements (he is on a training program).

We got to the hotel at last, (here‘s their web site, it’s called Agoo Hostel) and found it very nice. Rather Spartan, but nice. This is our room:

Agoo room

Note the bunk beds. Jean and I are roommates as if we are back in college.

This is the manager, Quashie:

Kwashi Agoo Hotel

He is a runner, and tomorrow he will run in a marathon. I said I thought it was rather warm for distance running, but he is undeterred. Actually, the weather here is very pleasant, with cool breezes taking the edge off 30-degree heat. Rather damp but nice. I walked around a bit and got to see the neighborhood. I rode the bus down to Kwame Nkrumah Circle, where they sell a variety of things including cell phone SIM cards, and I got my phone set up to work here. They are building an urban expressway, and the middle of the circle is a big construction site for an on-ramp. So much for Kwame (he was the first president, and a hero of African nationalists everywhere). Later, I discovered that the cell phone vendor had missed a step and the phone wasn’t really going to work, but rather than riding back down to the circle again and finding the people who sold me the card, Quashie brought me to a friend of his nearby who fixed the problem, no charge. They are real debrouillards at this hotel.

I should say, by the King family method of rating hotels, this place gets 14 hangers. That’s how many were in my armoire in my room. Quite impressive, as a matter of fact. I had two shirts and two pairs of pants to hang on them, but it’s the principle of the thing. Here’s another view of the courtyard of the hotel:

Agoo courtyard

And here’s a street scene in Accra, except if you weren’t paying really close attention, you’d think you were in Istanbul:

Cool Mosque Accra

That’s a no-fooling copy of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. I’ve got to go check it out.

Other sites on my to-see list for Ghana:

The home and burial place of W.E.B,. DuBois

ElMina Castle and Cape Coast Castle (big slave-trading ports for respectively the Portuguese and British)

The university

Any suggestions?

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