Monday, July 27, 2009

Elmina Slave Castle

Melissa: - Nicole and I both woke up at 7 am as Nicole’s phone and alarm both simultaneously went off. We both packed and got ready and headed out for breakfast. They informed us that for breakfast we would get some fruit, coffee or tea and some toast. They also told us it would take 30 to 45 minutes for it to be ready. All they had to do was toast some bread, heat up some water and cut some fruit but somehow it actually did take them 35 minutes to do this.

We headed out around 8:30 and started on our short drive to Elmina Slave Castle. Of course we had no clue where we were going but Raymond told us to trust him that he would find the way. We eventually did make it there after we traveled through many little streets and a village. The way people live here is still a little surreal to me. People really do live in little huts or small houses that look like they built themselves. Kids run around, play in the dirt and just sit in it as well. I don’t think some of them even know what being really really clean feels like. People crowd the streets selling water, chocolate, plantains, fruit and anything else they can get their hands on. We have seen people selling pillows, mirrors, foam, TV antennas. Your every random need can be fulfilled by those people. Something that is really hard for me to get used to is the smell of the villages here. It literally smells like shit at times, because they don’t have a waste system here. And I am pretty sure that no one ever cleans out the sewer so that smell stays there forever. I think Nicole is pretty used to it already but at times I just have to plug my nose. Raymond likes to say he is sorry for it which makes me laugh because it’s not his fault, completely.

Nicole: - Eventually we arrived at the castle and upon pulling into the parking lot, we were bombarded with men selling jewelry. I warned Melissa not to give her name to any of the sellers as I learned the hard way last summer that they will make items with your name on them and then pressure you into buying them. We told the people that we would look at their items after we finished touring the castle which was the only way they would leave us alone.

We walked up to the castle, across the draw bridge and into the reception area. Once again, Melissa and I were charged 4-5 times as much as the Ghanaians. We were told to go inside and look through the museum and that the tour guide would come get us in a few minutes. After spending a few minutes in the museum which used to be the Portuguese Church when they occupied the castle, the tour guide arrived and a group of 9-10 of us started the tour. The castle was used during the slave trade so we were shown the female and male dungeons in which hundreds of captives were held before being shipped to other countries, the open area where the women were only allowed to be in when the governor decided that he wanted to find a woman to rape, and the governor’s living quarters. The memories from the castle were very sad but it was hard to fully grasp the sadness as there was so much beauty surrounding us. With the castle being located on the ocean and it being a beautiful day, Melissa and I couldn’t help but take photos on the top of the castle. The ocean was full of canoes as Elmina and Cape Coast are fishing towns. The smell of the fish was almost as intense as the amount of people in the open market area and around the dock which we could see from atop the castle.

After the tour of the castle, we headed back to the car. Of course, we were once again bombarded by even more people selling all types of jewelry. The guy whom we told we would look at his wares after the tour did not forget us and approached Melissa upon our exit of the castle. He informed Melissa that we promised to buy from him or at least look at his selection of jewelry. She apologized as we left without buying anything.

From the slave castle, we drove back to Accra. We stopped a few times to buy various fruits from street side vendors. For less than 6 Cedis (about $4.20), we purchased 10 oranges, 5 pineapples, and 4 mangoes. Try doing that in America. As we drove towards Accra, we talked with Raymond about the Ghanaian government. He told us how the Volta Region (the region he lives in) has been trying to rally up all the residents of the region to support the idea of them becoming their own nation. Melissa and I were extremely impressed by Raymond’s intelligence and his reasons as to why he supports the idea of the Volta Region becoming a separate nation from Ghana. He also told us about the difficulties in achieving this and how the current government is making it difficult for the people of the Volta Region to successfully carry out this proposition. Melissa, in awe of Raymond’s wealth of knowledge asked him about his schooling and the university system here in Ghana.

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