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Thursday, 21 April 2011

White Man's Grave

In the 17th and 18th centuries Gold Coast was known as the “white man’s grave”. Colonial administrators saw a posting to the area as a virtual death sentence. Cholera, malaria, heat and a whole plethora of tropical diseases laid waste to swathes of Portuguese, British, Dutch and Swedes who came to the tropics to trade in ivory, gold, spices and slaves. Today modern day Ghana, an amalgamation of Gold Coast and British Togoland, is a far safer place to be for an obruni. I don’t think I will be returning to blighty in a coffin like many of my predecessors 300 years ago; nonetheless it is hard not to think that the bugs and bacteria here haven’t got it in for me.

Rainy season is due to start in a couple of weeks time and mosquitoes are yet to really materialise en masse, yet I still mysteriously find bites dotted all over my torso. Last week I had the tell tale signs of early stage malaria, stiff neck, headache and achy limbs. Yes, flu perhaps, but after a combination of prudence and paranoia, I found myself in a chemist buying some delightful yellow tablets to blitz my system.

This week, courtesy of fly blown street food, I have had the pleasure of trying to contend with 30 degree heat and Delhi belly (the politest way to put). I spent Tuesday ill; sleeping, feeling sorry for myself and drinking disgusting electrolytes. With work being extremely frustrating at the moment I don’t think I have felt more miserable than the last few days!!

On the bright side I am not living in Pink Hostel anymore, nor am I hanging out with prostitutes (see previous blog). I am typing in my future room in a tenement building half way between work and the hostel. Why future room? – well , the current tenants haven’t actually moved out yet! I am staying on their floor rent free until they make the move to Danquah Circle next week.


My new room mates are two brothers from Kumasi; George and Eric. They moved to Accra from Ghana’s second city six months ago to work in a phone shop. Both work long days from eight to half seven. After work they spend their time sat in their pants engrossed in conversations with their fiancées back home. They seem remarkably relaxed about having a random obruni imposed upon them by their landlord and even maintain a sense of decorum when I manage to lock myself in on my frequent sojourns to the bathroom.

My room is on the third floor of the tenant building next to the Asylum Down’s centre. It appears that the building was originally two storeys and that the flat in which I am staying has been built on the block’s concrete roof. The walls are inset from the original balustrades and a door from the hall takes you out onto a thin strip of the original roof which now serves as a balcony. This balcony is now my designated evening hangout and I sit on a plastic chair watching and listening to the world go by as sunset falls. Already I have noticed a few regulars. On a two story flat about 100 metres away I see the same guy jogging up and down a flight stairs for twenty minutes before embarking on sets of sit and push ups. A little later, down on Samora Machel Street I see the same “fan-ice” guy who wanders past selling sachets of ice cream and frozen “yoghurt” (it can be described as yoghurt only at a stretch). 

Fan Ice is sold by guys either on bikes with a cool box or from a pushed buggy. The Samora Machel St Fan ice guy sells from a buggy and you can hear him before you see him. He drums up trade with an old fashioned horn, the type with a trumpet cone with a squeezable rubber bladder. It makes a delightful “argha-ha” noise, which reminds me of a 15 year old Arnie Stephenson who would make a similar squeak when squeezing an imaginary pair of comedy breasts.

Anyway, thanks to everyone for the kind comments about the blog. I hope everyone has a great Easter. I am going to the beach but will have to pass on the Easter egg. I went to a western supermarket to price one up. A bog standard Cadbury egg would cost me about £15. Chocolate here is rare and is generally imported at great expense from Europe. Ironic, considering Ghana is the second biggest cocoa exporter in the world!

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