Sunday, September 26, 2010

Serenity Is Not Freedom From the Storm...

Another Saturday, another story.
This week Julia and I set off for Xavi, an ecotourism spot famous for its appeal to birdwatchers.
Getting there, as always, is half the...uh, fun.
Julia and I found a tro-tro to Akatsi and were actually lucky enough to get seats in the front, next to the driver. Two hours later we were on the roadside in Akatsi going "Uhh...where is everyone?" There was hardly anyone around and the people we could see weren't greeting us, or even really looking at us. It was pretty disconcerting. Though less disconcerting than the apparent absence of taxis.
We stopped at a repair shop to ask directions from some motorbike drivers and, wouldn't you know we chose the only three people in all of Ghana who actually didn't want to talk to us. Finally some guy helped us get a motorbike. The driver turned out to be really nice and even agreed to stay in Xavi so we would have a ride back. Still, if you ever come to Ghana, I'd suggest skipping Akatsi. What a grumpy town!
Six dusty kilometers later we were in Xavi. We were a little concerned about the time because it was already almost 4 (remember it gets dark at 6) and we had no idea how we were going to find a tro-tro back to Aflao from the ghost town. Then our guide announces it's a 45-minute walk to the river. Not for the first time, Julia and I looked at each other and went, "UHH...." but of course we decided to go anyway. Perhaps against our better judgment, but we had travelled almost three hours and there was no way we were giving up that easily.
As we set off through Xavi Julia tells me, "I'm pretty worried about how we're going to get home."
I shrug. "Nothing bad can happen if two yevus are together. It's a natural law or something. It was the first thing they told me when I arrived in Ghana."
"I think you just made that up."
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
Well anyway, thank goodness for the Ghanaian perception of time. One thing holds unerringly true about the Ghanaians' estimations when it comes to time/distance: It will be wrong. I say this with a smile and a total appreciation for their attitude towards meeting times, appointments..... curfews : )
A Ghanaian who says they're 5 minutes away will arrive in 15 or 20. Yet the supposedly 3-hour drive to Ho has never taken me more than 2. And, in this case, our 45-minute walk to the river took about 20.
Our destination was the Lotor River, which used to be famous for its crocodiles- says the guide as we climb into an unsteady hollowed-out canoe floating all of 5 inches above the waterline. Which is right next to the canoe that has sunk. Oh goody. He added that they were hunted to extinction here long ago, but I was still a little paranoid. We did see two little alligators from a distance, but I figure if I can get away with at least 3 of my hands and feet I don't need to worry.

Our tour of the Lotor River ended up being the most peaceful, relaxing afternoon I've had yet in Ghana.
It was absolutely gorgeous.

The Western world's tendency to romanticize Africa is as prevalent and sadly mistaken as its tendency to condemn it. The reality is Africa is a harsh place of dangerous situations and difficult decisions. It's a vibrant place with a rich culture and beautiful potential. A simplified lifestyle may be "better" than our chaotic lives of modern convenience, but involves significantly more time and labor. The overwhelming poverty brings out humanity's incredible generosity and perseverance, but also its weakness for violence, anger and depression. 
People, countries, continents just can't be put into one neat category over the other, and it's a struggle for me
to maintain a balanced perspective.
Sometimes it's hard for me to hold back my judgment, but more often- as someone who has been dreaming about Africa for as long as I can remember- I have to remind myself not to idealize it.
That said, the one thing I have allowed myself to fall unreservedly head over heels in love with is the land.
The path to the river took us to the top of a ridge where the view was literally breathtaking. Thick green grass and enormous, gnarled trees stretched across the rolling hills as far as the eye could see. The sky was a deep blue with shockingly white clouds. Even the soil is a gorgeous dark red. The river was muddy, deep (8-15 meters) and slow-moving, but full of waterlilies and overhanging vegetation. Brightly-colored birds flitted around us, filling the air with their calls. Dragonflies zoomed from place to place as the late afternoon sunlight slanted through the tops of the trees.

If the Garden of Eden was a literal place, I'm sure it was somewhere in Africa.

Lotor River Tour


"Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm." ~ Anonymous


  1. Ha ha ha! What a great post. Enjoyed every line. You are an awesome writer.

  2. I'm SO GLAD you're enjoying Africa :)
    This sounds amazing!