A day in the life of lois in Ghana

The first sounds I hear as I am almost waking up in Cape Coast,Ghana are either dogs barking,a hen crowing or people yelling in loud voices. I never expect to see a blue sky as I have never seen one since I arrived 3 weeks ago.. I was promised that the Hamattan dust season has ended and blue skies will follow but there is still fine cocoa brown dust all over my room and the sky is an even grey. Luckily I had dragged 6 weeks worth of my special Italian roast coffee and mini espresso pot with me,only to find out that only Nescafe was available here. Accra has a passable snack bar called Frankie’s that manages to turn out a decent cappuccino as long you order the whipping cream on top. Priced at $3.50 ghanian cd,they definitely have a small foreign audience. So after my morning coffee with whatever cookies I have found at the gas station (these are the best supermarkets for imported goods), I lock up the house,as the family all leave for work around 7:30am. I am asailed by intense heat as I go to check on the sixth litter of puppies one of the family dogs delivered three days ago. I suggested to Abba,the mother,that they spade her this time. Each night I wash out the insides of my shoes because they are so full of dirt and within minutes of me walking down the hill to the main road ,they are full of dust again. I have allowed myself to spend three American dollars each way to and from work. Most of the volunteers and the people I live with, either cannot afford or dont want to spend that much money. One of the main jobs in Ghana is the communal taxi. Usually the cost of getting around is 35 pesouwas(equal to our cents) so I start feeling guilty taking three dollar taxis but the heat is so intense and by the end of the day,I am
soaked from sweat and dust,that I have come to terms with my guilt.
Recently the office of Global Mamas has been gifted with an air-conditioner so as I leave the sauna outside,I am attached by Artic air. By the time I adjust to the cool,I have to return to
the heat outside. Along with my new volunteer friend,Margaret,Chinese American from Silicon Valley,we visit the Global Mamas women, interview them,photograph them working and talk to them about fair trade laws for them and their employees. The women who do all the sewing and batiking for Global Mamas,earn about $300 a month after their expenses. They pay their assistants only $43 a month and apprentices pay them $150 for three years. In a country where the minimum wage is 1.90 Ghanian cds($2),life is a struggle. I was told that the literacy rate is only about 50%,even though all children go to school until 16 years of age. I usually skip lunch except for a baby pineapple I buy on the street,that has been sliced,ready to eat. I decided to chance it today and bought fried plantains. They were coated with Palm oil which smells like gasoline when you cook with it. And how many times had this poor old lady in the street used this oil to fry. So I passed on lunch as usual and slugged down my bottled water and coca cola on my way to the internet. My evenings are extremely low key. I usually remove all the clothes I have been wearing and cool down with a cold shower after I get back to the family house. If I am feeling energetic, I will open a can of tuna, shower it with balsamic vinegar which I found in Accra at the international supermarket and finally boil some real Italian pasta. My family has cable television which is unheard of for most Ghanians at the cost of $70 a month, but dad likes BBC,CNN and international sports. If we can drag him away from a soccer game,sometimes we can watch an American film like we did last night. I had avoided this film at home but it finally caught up with me in Ghana.. The Jacket,with Adrien Brody and a cast worthly of a good movie but it was a bad movie. Back to my room,plugged into my IPOD to a podcast,this American Life,which saved the evening. Until the morrow. good night.


2 Responses to A day in the life of lois in Ghana

  1. Michael Doucett February 27, 2008 at 12:57 pm #

    I guess you have to love travel and adventure as much as you do to go to a place like Ghana. At least you brought your own coffee and sounds like food is sparce for your liking. ( You usually don’t like to eat in Foreign counties) I swear you travel as your way of dieting. Hopefully the working with Global Mamas is a rewarding experience because at the risk of sounding negative, the heat and lack of blue skies doesn’t sound relaxing or pleasent. I guess you weren’t going there to lounge on the beach. You have that in your place in Porta escondido in Mexico. Al though for now going to Gwana is not on my list. Like I said you like adventure. Mothering Terminally pregnant dogs and living with strangers isn’t my bag but in strange sense you do like the adventure. No one can say you lived a boring life.
    Your eating cookies and coca cola worries me since you have that as your main diet (and Coffee) That isn’t very nutritious! I guess I could live on fresh pineapple though. Any fruit is good and is what I prefer while traveling. It’s usually the safest and is always nutritious. Another reason trips like this are good for you is to simply appreciate how much easier life is here in the states. We are so lucky in this country. Until anyone gets out really gets out of the country the never really understand.
    Send pics soon for me to see the woman working ect.. Did they take your suggestion on trying different colors (Although that is really trying to influence them when it is all about the traditional colors and designs that is indicitive of their culture)? Let me know if the light is good to shoot! Shooting more than the woman? How much longer there? Where to next? Did you meet up with Steve Pearson?
    Eat less cookies and more fruit Michael

  2. Mandy Shoger March 1, 2008 at 10:41 am #

    Hi Lois,

    I am new to your blog. I was introduced by Gillian Theobald who is a dear coworker of mine.

    It is a great joy to see your photography and read your stories and I look forward to reading more in the future. Your photography is beautiful.

    Your adventures resonate with me quite a bit, as I spent 2 months in India travelling with my girlfriends on a very low budget. We were in search of traditional textiles and as a result became fascinated by the lives of women and the poor… Such rich colors and very rough lives, a mixture of beautiful and hardship that speaks to the soul in such powerful ways. I’d love to meet you sometime when you get back to Seattle and hear more of your travel tales.

    I’m especially excited to see your photographs of the women working with textiles!

    I have a few of my India photographs on my website:


    Thanks for the blog, I look forward to reading it as you spend more time in Ghana. And I’d love to meet you sometime when you get back.

    Mandy Shoger
    Seattle, WA


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