a travelers survival guide

Traveling has become so easy with the internet,and the mobile phone. One can go to any remote village in any third world country and there will be at least one person with a cell phone,and if he is the only one, he will probably be generating a good income as a phone service. Rememberng back thirty years, when I backpacked through East AFrica for 7 months,my only contact with the modern world being the Post Restante in the capitols of each country,I am amazed I was able to survive. But we use what we have at our disposal and make the best of it..
Arriving in Ghana,I was accosted by heat,humidity and the Hamattan season; dry,dusty and grey skies. Ghana’s coast is covered with small villages made of mud or wood shacks,crowded together,some with 3 feet wide passages in between each one..Water usually has to be bought at a central place and carried to the houses. This is a very common job as the Ghanian people have the most amazing posture as they carry everything on their heads with grace and ease. I probably should take some lessons. The landscape I have seen so far are shanty towns,long stretches of flat,dry plains,with small bushes,dusty dirt roads,and then every30km another town of make do shelters,slowly spreading out over the landscape. There are special areas along the coast,that have been developed for tourism by foreigners. Last weekend, I traveled almost 3 hours by shared taxi vans and finally private car to reach an idyllic beach resort,offering elegant cabanas,serving gourmet continental food on a tropical,white sand beach. Surprisingly,the owners are an American couple with a 6 month old baby,from the midwest. Most of the tourism is from diplomats,expats working for foreign companies and aid workers. There are lots of peace corp volunteers in Ghana but they are all on backpacker budgets. The 2 day beach vacation was dreamlike.
Getting back to Cape Coast,where I am based, I suddenly developed a possible detached retina problem so I had to shatter my lovely weekend at the beach and take off for Accra to find an opthomologist. Through the Christian eye center in Cape Coast I got the name of the number one eye surgeon in Accra.Dr Akofu. Asking questions is truly the best way to find out how to survive in a foreign place. I found an air-conditioned shared van to Accra for five ghana cd (equal to five american dollars) instead of hiring a private cab for sixty american dollars. Private cabs for in city travel are very affordable for a westerner so I grabbed a cab to the huge Korle Bu hospital complex west of the city. I was told that the doctor was in theatre which I translated as being in surgery and I should come back tomorrow. As I can be pushy,I said I was very concerned and was there anyway to see him today. They sent me to a private clinic he ran on tuesday afternoon a few miles away. After convincing the lady who decides whether I am allowed in or not,I paid thirty Ghanian dollars for a consultation and began my four hour wait for Dr. Akofu.
I was finally seen by the assisting eye doctor and it seemed I was out of danger but she wanted me to get Dr.lAkofu’s opinion. As he never made it to the clinic,I had to return the next morning to teaching hospital to catch him..The next morning,in between Glacoma surgeries, visiting English opthomologists and other eye problems, I finally got his attention,no retina tear. I was barely able to see after they had dilated my pupils twice but I survived, found a cappucino and tried to make my way back to Cape Coast. The problem I now faced was George Bush’s visit in Ghana,coinciding with my desire to leave Accra. The three hour trip took almost six hours as all the roads were blocked for our wonderful president.
He just seems to cause problems everywhere he goes. I am back on the job with Global Mamas,working on some new clothing designs and
batiking.. the weekend is here so I am off to find another beach paradise.

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