Sunday, 3 April 2011

First impressions of Accra

I am loathed to start a description of life in an African country with old clichés. There are too many books on Africa that start with descriptions of an unforgiving sun scorching the earth below. Nonetheless this is where I start... Accra in April is too bloody hot!! I flew in on Thursday night and was welcomed off the plane by a brick wall of hot humid air. It was eight o’clock at night, it had been dark two hours but it was still 31 degrees. Ever since I have been drinking (and sweating out) litres of Voltic water and scuttling between strips of shade before retiring to a bucket shower and the a/c in the hostel.
I am staying in The Pink Hostel, a tourist trap in Asylum Down, a sleepy, leafy triangle sandwiched between the city’s main semi circular trunk way and downtown Accra. Accra from what I can tell, has no defined CBD but just a number of neighbourhoods with their own shops and markets. This morning I caught a Tro-tro (minibus) to Teshi, a fishing village on a rocky outcrop that has been subsumed into Accra’s urban sprawl. Unlike Maputo, the only other African coastal capital I have been too, the city seems to be unaware that it is on the coast. The Atlantic appears to be a city boundary rather than a focal point. On the east of the city the seafront is virtually bereft of any buildings, let alone hotels, whilst most roads run parallel to the Atlantic rather than to it.
I am holding up pretty well. The fact that I am meant to be here for a year has only began to sink in and it can be overwhelming at times. I have to keep myself busy otherwise I have too long to think about things! Fortunately, because I am here for so long, I have a big incentive to get a social life kick started. On Friday I had a crash course on the Accra nightspots when I went out for drinks with Emma, an intern who will be with me at work for a couple of months. We were out to say goodbye to some of her friends who were leaving to go back to their studies in Ottawa. It was a bit of headf*ck to be with people who were looking forward to going back to the west as soon as I had arrived. On Saturday I went out to East Legon, to a sport centre set up by Marcel Dessaily for rugby training with Ingo, a rugby playing German gap year student who I had met on Friday night. Three of Accra’s seven rugby clubs were holding a joint day, which meant that I was chucked in the deep end with a bunch of Ghanaian’s who had picked up rugby whilst they were in Britain, some middle aged French men, a Belgium, German and a bunch of younger locals who were learning as they were going on. I have never felt so slow or unfit in that hour and half and I came back with grazes and sunburn for my trouble!
Start work tomorrow. Wish me luck! Love to all, Henry xx

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