Land of contrasts

Life in Ghana is a study of contrasts.

Each day that we were there felt like a week as our brains tried to process so many sights, sounds and experiences that were not only new to us, but also sparked so many questions.

For example, we drove several hours to a remote village where people spend a significant part of their day walking to find water. They don’t have clean water to drink, but how do they have cell phones?

How does that mud hut have a satellite dish?

Why are there so. many. goats?

While Ghana is still a nation with a large Christian population, it is surrounded on all sides by countries dominated by Muslim influence. In the north of Ghana, Muslims ask villagers what they need most. Inevitably, they ask for a well, and in three days they return with drilling equipment. The gift of water comes with the assurance Muslim leaders will be able to build a mosque and that the people of the village will convert to Islam.

While the mosque in this photo is older, many villages feature sparkling, ornate, brand new mosques set among small mud huts. “What did I just see?” you ask yourself as you drive by until you’ve seen it so many times that you stop asking.

We also experienced the vast contrast of life in Accra, a city of 2.5 million people, versus life in the north, which looks more like the Africa that Westerners imagine. I honestly struggled with my inner dialogue that wanted to take photos of the Africa in my mind versus this more updated and developed version. Would people feel more sympathetic toward the fascinating, undeveloped version of this country?

Accra has paved roads, electricity, running water, a beautiful beach and is known as the “Cool Capital” of Africa with its bustling nightlife.

Still, questions and contradictions constantly arise… Like whose cow is that?

It’s also home to a castle on the bay, which up until even a decade ago hosted meetings with American presidents and diplomats. What was once a beautiful structure is now crumbling and neglected.

This castle also carries with it the horrifying legacy of being one of the sites where the slave trade began. It’s difficult to wrap our minds around the cruelty of humans who packed other humans into small cave-like rooms in the bottom of the expansive mansion to be sold as slaves.

Driving through Accra is controlled chaos as cars weave and maneuver through tro tros (buses), a family of four piled onto one motorcycle, and head porters walking down the middle of the road to sell water, yams, chips and anything else you can imagine. Rather than using the brakes, our driver keeps one hand on the car horn to signal those around that he’s coming through.

“Who has the right of way?” one of our team members asked.

“Stay careful,” our driver replied.

Driving through the vast countryside on unpaved roads was even more perilous.

To say that the roads have potholes would be such a significant understatement. Our driver would speed along, then slam on the brakes to make it through large ditches in the road. He swerved from left to right or drove right down the center to avoid vehicles, bicycles, women carrying large buckets on their heads, the many small goats or a herd of cattle that suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Our driver seemed confident that a couple of quick honks would alert all other forms of traffic to clear a path for us. We weren’t so sure.


Thanks for reading about my experience in Africa! I have a few more stories I would love to share. If you want to receive new posts in your email inbox, just enter your email address in the field to the right!


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