"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Got to the bus stop just as the bus to Accra was getting there so we were able to hop right on (and, unlike last time, where you would have thought the bus was the last chopper out of Saigon, there weren't people almost crushed against and under it as it pulled up!).
We got to the Opera Square office EARLY (amazing!). I even had time to stop off and mail a postcard to the boys. We then went and saw a wonderful woman who runs a catering school that CENCOSAD has used to help train people (kind of like the places we saw on Tuesday). Really cool woman ...had her first kid when she was 16 and through sheer determination has made something of herself-- owning her own business. The odds against that in Accra are pretty daunting.
We then saw a whole stretch of alley/road that CENCOSAD helped get paved. Much of the roads in Ga Mashie are dirt/clay ... so when it rains (like now, in the rainy season), it turns to a big mud bog. That's bad for a whole bunch of hygiene and mosquito reasons but also because it discourages customers for the businesses that are on those streets, thus further depressing the economy.
What CENCOSAD did was really cool ...they didn't just spend a bunch of money to have the roads paved. They paid to have trainers come in to train local people in how to pave a road. Then they paid for the materials and equpment and employed the neighborhood people to do the job ... and it looks great. I'll post a picture of it Saturday (Mackinnon and I are considering another trek to Busy Internet then).
Then we went to a meeting of the HIV/AIDS peer educators ... a really cool group of young people. The most troubling thing was that it was 10:30 in the morning and none of them were in school ... mostly because they're parents couldn't afford the school fees. There were so many kids not in school and on the streets this morning.
After that, Bridget (who was our wonderful tour guide) told us that we were going to a palace to see one of the tribal elders. The tribal system is alive and well here. Although the government has official authority, the tribal chieftains and elders have a great deal of unofficial authority -- which often outweighs the official.
I really didn't know what to expect. I mean, I didn't expect some guy with a big wig and a painted face and a bone through his nose like on Gilligan's Island. I mean, I'm dumb, but I'm not an idiot. But I didn't know what to expect not so much in terms of dress, but in terms of how I should address him, how deferential should I be, what would his attitude be toward outsiders like me coming in and spending time in the community.
Well, we showed up at the palace (which, for Ga Mashie, really is a palace, though by American standards, it kind of looked like the place where my accountant works), and ceremonially greeted with handshakes and bows a group of men who were sitting in the front room just hanging out. I think they were some sort of sub-elders, they had some position, but I don't know what it was and only one of them was speaking English. Bridget got into a conversation with one of them, who would occasionally lapse into English and say a little bit about what they were talking about. It seemed like Bridget was trying to convince them that I was somebody who should be there -- she was saying I was an Anglican priest from America and that I had met Bishop Akrofi and that we had gone to the same seminary. The man seemed skeptical.
Turns out that it didn't matter at all what any of those guys thought, because the tribal elder came in the room apologizing for being late for our meeting. I whispered to Bridget "how should I address him?" and she told me to call him "doctor". I thought, "Doctor, OK." Well, we got upstairs and we sat down and he started talking and it turns out that I should call him doctor because he IS a doctor -- did undergrad and medical school at Howard University, spent 20-30 years working in D.C. and New York City doing women's health and other medicene. Now he's retired and back in his old neighborhood trying to help out and teaching comparative religion at the Anglican seminary.
He was the coolest guy. He was able to talk about the problems of the neighborhood with the perspective of someone who has seen the world but also knows the neighborhood intimately. He was the first one who mentioned a drug problem (mostly marijuana), which we later found out from Bridget is rampant and isn't so much a medical concern as much as it just encourages people to remain apathetic and not try to work hard. Anyway, the guy was awesome and we talked for almost an hour. He is incredibly liberal theologically -- something I haven't found a lot of over here. His big crusade is convincing people that all major religions are legitimate and educating people on the foundational truths behind the major world religions and how they are similar and how they have often used each other. We had a great conversation, needless to say.
Afterwards, Mackinnon and I took Bridget out to lunch at a nice restaurant on the ocean -- the waves literally crashing on the rocks right below us. It is the first time since I've been here that I've just spent way more money than something was worth -- 135,000 cedis for lunch for the three of us (for a lunch that probably should have cost half that). I couldn't believe I was paying that much but didn't feel that bad because I knew Bridget probably didn't get to eat at places like that often (besides, even though she works her tail off, she hasn't gotten paid in six months because the UNICEF grant hasn't come through). Anyway, as we were walking away and I was doing the mental math, I realized that my extravagance was spending $15 on lunch for three. I've adjusted so easilly to the currency and prices of things here.
It's easy to see how locals jump on white people to see if they are easy marks. If all you do is hang out in Osu (the tourist area, where everything is overpriced), then you aren't going to blink at spending way more than you should for things. When Mackinnon mentioned that she didn't mind spending a little too much, Bridget said "No. Don't pay that. Don't give your money to those cheats. Better to give it to people on the street who need it."
Anyway, tomorrow we head the Budrubuam, the Liberian refugee camp that has basically become a permanent Liberian settlement here in Ghana. Then Saturday off. Sunday is celebrating at either Christ the King or St. Luke's and then all next week leaving Accra for the Western Region.
More photos coming Saturday, if we can schedule a visit to Busy Internet around the World Cup qualifier (go Ghana!).
EGR resources and connects the church to embrace what one person, one congregation, one diocese and one church can do to make this mission of global reconciliation happen.
Want to find out more ... check our our website at www.e4gr.org.
"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."