Friday, January 22, 2010

Beach Makes It Better

Yesterday we received the news that Lydia's passport application file was lost during the transition to the new director. While a new file has been started (they still have her picture and her birth certificate, but the rest of the documents have been lost), I'm not sure if the new file has to go all the way through the approval process again or not. The approval for the first application took over a month, so I am really hoping the extra money our coordinator spent to expedite this application means that it will be processed quickly this time.

Our coordinator gave me the news as he dropped the kids and I off at Labadi Pleasure Beach. As I was trying very hard to observe Ghanaian custom and not show I was upset (Ghanaians only frown with their butts, not their faces let alone cry), the sand, surf, and sun washed over me. Soon I was hugged by children's giggles and how could my heart remain sad???

In total we spent 3 hours at the beach. The kids each got a ride on a horse in the surf (5 cedis each, Eddie with the horse owner, and then Lydia with me). That really helped improve my mood! We took several walks along the shore collecting sea shells and found several local sand dollars. Edward had a blast splashing in the waves, but Lydia was not as convinced and spent most of her time in the water firmly attached to my legs. I taught the kids how to build sand castles and decorate them with our seashells -- and Eddie quickly discovered the joy in wrecking sand castles. :) I didn't bring my camera to the beach, but I did get video and will post those later when I have the bandwidth to do it.

While at the beach I got to practice my bargaining skills. The locals see a white person and immediately think "Obruni = rich". Like in other poor countries prices are hiked and bargaining is expected. If you are willing to pay the high price then they think you really are rich and deserve to be parted from your money. The first practice I got on bargaining was with the horse man. He told me 5 cedis for Eddie to ride, and I asked if Lydia could also ride with him for the same price. The horseman agreed, but Lydia was terrified of getting on the horse. When Eddie finished his ride, the man offered Lydia and I a ride which I took him up on thinking it was part of the 5 cedis I had already paid. Let's just say I was more than shocked when I got off the horse with my daughter and the man asked for 10 more cedis! He had seen the 20 cedis I brought to buy our lunch and thought it should line his wallet. He explained that adults are 10 cedis to ride and children are 5 cedis, but he let Lydia ride for free because she was so scared. Um, yeah. When he realized I wasn't going to give him anything else he finally accepted the 5 cedis I offered and I realized that price must always be arranged before accepting service. After that lesson I negotiated for 6 bananas instead of 4 for 1 cedi and then for 30 cedis for a beautiful oil painting of coastal Accra by a local artist that was hawking his wares along the beach.

While Labadi Pleasure Beach was beautiful with its blue surf and fishermen mending their nets nearby, it definitely is a tourist destination. The beach is lined with cabanas for rent and local restaurants. People troll the beach trying to sell art, jewelry, shirts, and food. Horses are available for rent to ride along the surf. Yet, there are few (I found only 1) trash cans and garbage lines the beach. We sidestepped broken bottles, dirty diapers, water satchels, and small poo bags (yes, people poo in bags and then dispose of the bags). At one point Eddie and Lydia went racing off after a piece of garbage in the water that I quickly realized was a floating condom. I so wanted to grab a giant trash bag and start cleanup duty, but was afraid of offending the locals, plus I couldn't find any place to get rid of the refuse. Yet again I was struck by the dichotomy that is Ghana.

Since Uncle P drove us away from the beach Edward has asked to go back. Since we are here until further notice, I figure another trip to the beach is in order for next week to keep us from thinking about how far we still are from home.

1 comment:

Sarah Jane said...

Um, poo bags. . .wow. Can't wait for that. . .so glad you're on your way home!