Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ghana Trip, Day 8

I woke up this morning bright and early, and stupidly excited. Crocodiles, don’t you know? Curry had warned us that we’d only have a little bit of time, so I dressed hurriedly, packed up all of our stuff and waited for the appointed wake-up hour. Then I rushed to Jen and Rachel’s room and knocked.

“Je-en! Crocodiles!” There was muffled grumbling, but eventually the two of them appeared, and I practically DRAGGED Jen outside.

We ate breakfast (more eggs and toast, but this time there was JAM!) and I scurried around taking photos of the crocodiles (and seeing what happens when toss them marshmallows).

Oops, missed that sign!

Anyway, then it was off to the paddle boats:

Note the awesome here as D- pretend to push Jen into the croc pond.

Note Jen's face when the crocs nearly jump into our boat!

Crocodile adventure complete, we loaded our stuff back into the tro-tro. I had Pablo’s phone on me, when all of a sudden I realized: INTERNET. I had time to take and post one croc picture to facebook and let everyone know we were alive before we had to go again. Hopping back in the tro-tro after yesterday did not sound like a good time, but Pablo was THRILLED at the idea of the canopy walk, so I braved the van with a smile. Besides…we’d found 5 minutes of the internet and had seen the crocodiles. Still, having had the internet and lost it again made me miss it like I had when we’d first arrived. Instant connectivity is a drug people. I’m going to need to unplug more when I get home.

The drive to Kakum national park was relatively short, and when we arrived we discovered that we should have brought along our wallets, as the prices for Foreign Students were drastically less than those for Foreign Adults. Curry worked his magic (something about proving we were a nonprofit, and having been there before) and we got in at what I would imagine are reasonable prices.

We arrived right before a huge bus filled with obruni tourists, so Curry asked the guide if we could start the walk now, and not wait for the 9:30 tour. They haggled a bit, settled on a price of GH₵15 (a little over $9), and off we went, just the nine of us and the guide. I’m still stunned that there don’t seem to be hard and fast rules about what is allowed and what is forbidden, as everything is negotiable. Most prices are totally negotiable (unless it is something in a can or a processed package), and they can range from normal to absolutely outrageous. It’s so different from the US.

The trip up the mountain-side looked like the beginning of the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland, and we took some fun photos on the way up.

There was a Palm Wine stop halfway up to the canopy.

Ronai is actually drinking Crystal Light Lemonade, but it looked just like the Palm Wine. I couldn’t help myself.

We started the hike up to the canopy, and Pablo was practically giddy. I’d forgotten how much he likes being out in the green and the trees, and how little he’s had the ability to really do that lately. He was practically skipping, and enjoying his tropical rainforest experience tremendously.

We took a few photos, and Ronai interpreted for Leah, walking backwards up the mountain. She was doing an amazing job, and I found I was feeling excited every time she missed a number or a heavily-accented word, so that I could feed things to her. She took my “help” with good grace, but it was such a unfamiliar experience for the guide leading the tour that he finally asked why we kept flapping our hands (to warn Leah about the soldier carrying the AR15, for example). Ronai asked Leah, who responded, verbally, that she was deaf, and having a hard time hearing the guide, but also a hard time understanding the accent, and so was getting the information interpreted into ASL. He looked shocked, and started asking Ronai about how come Leah could talk if she was deaf, and seemed very shocked to find out that she was intelligent despite her deafness. He tried to backtrack, in his surprise, and say that only the Deaf who cannot speak are disabled, but was cut off when both Ronai and Leah told him she hadn’t been able to speak for a long time, but had been able to communicate since birth. It was apparently quite the game-changer for him. (A special thanks to Pablo for catching this on video).

After that, it was more tro-tro, down to the Western side of the Atlantic ocean. I know I've said that before, but I have such a hard time wrapping my brain around that concept…I’m on the other side of the world! We hit Cape Coast, and unloaded past some very angry sales folk who kept asking for our names as we entered the castle. Curry had warned us that they would ask and that then when we came out, they’d have painted our name on a shell or a rock, and demand to be paid for making us custom art. As we went by, ignoring them, they started swearing angrily at Curry. He just shrugged and told them he’d been here many times, and knew better, and herded us inside.

Again there was the price issue for foreign adults vs foreign children vs foreign students, but these folks recognized Curry and Signs of Hope, International and just let him pay the correct price to get in. Again, Curry skipped us to the front of the tour group, saying we wanted to do the self-guided museum tour after the tour of the castle, because by that point we were a little late and wanted to get home. We wandered to the edge of the castle walls, and looked down at the fisherman, the water and the sand in abject awe. Then our guide arrived, and we entered the doors of the great white edifice.

There really is no way to explain the horrors of the castle. The single beams of light from an foot-square window, the trough in the center of the men’s rooms that ended up backing up to over a foot deep, the tunnel that led them underground to the Door of No Return so that they would never see their wives and children again; these are facts and images, but not the essence of the place. Seeing the separate women’s rooms, where the Europeans would separate the ones worth raping vs the others, the church built over the very top of the whole place, and cell of the condemned, where the rebellious and those who fought for their freedom were locked, with no light, no food and no water, until they died was eye-opening, but the scratches on the stone floor and walls of that cell, made by nails and bones and teeth as individuals made a last-ditch effort to get out alive, are burned into my brain.

(The videos below are dark, and so some of the interpreting gets missed. However, due to the guide's accent, some of the spoken English is impossible to understand, too. Dynamic equivalence?)

After the abolition of the slave trade, Ghanaians bricked the tunnel closed, so that no one could ever be taken through it again.

When we exited the castle through the “Door of No Return,” I wasn’t sure if I was heartsick or relieved to see little children playing just outside the threshold.

The speaker talked about how after the slaves left the castle, they were put in canoes and taken out to the boats, and that then they disappeared forever. Until recently, it was true that no one who had passed through that door had ever come back. In the last few decades, thought, a few families have un-interred their ancestors who were brought to the Americas in chains, and have brought them back in through the doors, so that their final resting place can be close to where they lived free.

Ronai did most of Leah’s interping, with Curry making up the rest, and only an occasional feed from me. Outside the Door of No Return, however, I found that no one was near Leah, and that the guide had begun talking, so I jumped up and started to interpret for her. She grinned a bit, and told me to go ahead and get started. It wasn’t the best interpretation, especially as I have no experience, and no idea how much lag time I need,. Normally, I wouldn’t have even tried, but Leah was familiar with the material, is utterly bilingual, and was listening to the speaker through her implant. She even gave me feedback when we were done. *I* wasn’t even that self-assured at 15! I felt like I did poorly, but it was a very useful experience.

The views from the top of the castle:

Castle completed, we headed back into the tro-tro for the forever-and-a-half ride home. Topics included religion, banned words and the Rachel making up new lyrics to existing songs. Leah even found a way to sleep without being bothered by the burning trash, noise or the light.

Finally, we got back to the hotel, and hit the hay, hard.

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