Takoradi: Like a Circle in a Spiral

Some people were really surprised this morning to wake up – no, not to their alarms, and even not to dean Rita’s loud voice, but to the beat of the African drums. Random, right? Well, there was a bunch of drummers and dancers on the embankment by the ship, and they were just playing and dancing throughout the whole breakfast, and then vanished within seconds. Ghana!

The other thing that struck me when I walked out on the deck was the thick, moist, dusty air. This air is really not clean. You try to slow down your breath to get as little of it as possible, but uh you fail.
At breakfast I was still unsure what I wanted to do, and I didn’t feel super good. In fact, by the end of the breakfast I felt crappy enough to go to the clinic – for the first time – and get my blood pressure measured. 132. My norm is 110. And I am supposed to lay back on the bed and spend the rest of the day in there – usually, that’s what I do. But the idea of overpaying for this goddamned Ghanaian visa and going through that hell back at home gave me superpowers, and I decided to join my “quiet group” – Rachel, Stephanie, and Rebecca – and stay in Takoradi for the day.
Now why did I suddenly get high blood pressure, for the first time during the voyage? I didn’t even have stress! Probably, for the same reason why for the second night in a row my sleep is cut into pieces, and even when I dream, I fully realize I’m there in my bed stroking my neck, only in the dream this movement represents something else. Or why I felt drowsy and hungry all the time. To sum up, malaria pills aka Lariam suck, and if you have the guts to just not take them, don’t take them (doctors would not approve that for sure). Use bug spray (although no bugs were detected today, but we stayed in the city) and wear the clothes that covers you up. Or get Malarone, after all it’s said to have fewer side effects, though it’s the priciest. John, our hotel director, spent a while in Africa, and he said he never took the pills – and never got sick. I have a feeling that I might stop eating that crap, for the sake of my health.
So, we got on the shuttle bus – even before getting on the shuttle we got surrounded by the locals selling stuff at the little market that they set up right in front of the ship. But boy you should’ve seen us getting off the shuttle! Immediately we were in the middle of the crowd of people shouting something, shaking our hands and trying to do fist bumps, asking for our names and telling us theirs, touching us, pulling us somewhere, and trying to sell us their goods. One tried to grab Stephanie’s wheelchair and won’t let me take it from him; the driver had to snap at him.
I generally liked the friendliness of the people, but I for sure would’ve very much appreciated if they kept some distance. Even in Morocco I did not see anything like that. Yah, I’m a sort of a European. Scuzi.
So we walked the dusty road up the hill, despite all the effort the locals put into trying to get us into the taxis and drive us to the beach. Once we reached the street that led to the Market Circle, the main attraction of the city, another group of street vendors attacked us and followed us to the bank, where, thankfully, was shooed off by the guards. At the exit they tried to follow us again, especially the guy that was trying so hard to sell Stephanie a bracelet with her name. She said her name was Lisa, and while she was using the ATM the guy wrote “Lisa” on a bracelet and tried to sell it to her for 20 cedis, which is like 10 bucks – ridiculous price for Ghana. Rebecca cut him off with a lengthy speech of how no one around needed a bracelet, and finished it with “her name is not even Lisa”, which upset the guy tremendously.
We proceeded to the market… My gosh. Moroccan markets are nothing, trust me, nothing, in comparison with this one. Firstly, it was really a huge circle, and then the market spread in narrow passages within the circle. Everything was mixed – stinky fish stands would be next to pineapples and plastic buckets. Girls and women were walking around with huge bowls and plates of food on their heads, carrying them so naturally and gracefully. Any Western ballerina would kill for their posture. Everything around us reminded me of this movie Moolade that we watched for our Globalization through film class – the colors, the dresses, the speech.
First challenge was to get the wheelchair up into the outer circle past all the stands; then we tried to go inside.
Beads, vegetables, cloth, ginger, green coconuts, pieces of meat that stunk so badly that I had to hold my breath, fish that stunk even worse, sitting in the heat all day; but what finished me (and not only me, as it turned out later) was the bowl of huge, dark brown snails, that were still alive and moving in their shells. The passage, leading to the heart of the market, became narrower and narrower, and was cut by the gutter that added up to the “majestic” aroma. We just turned back and didn’t stop until we got the heck out of there.
We took the outer circle, and I ended up with a skirt and three decent shirts, paying six dollars for all. At that moment we all started liking Ghana.
The roads were bad, and by bad I mean what we traveled could hardly have been called a road. And these gutters on both sides! Seriously. Yikes. I immediately remembered the good old days of playing Sim City, and really wished someone could put Takoradi inside of the game and leave it to me for a couple of hours. If only things could be done that easily.
At a certain point we all felt starved, but there were literally no cafes around, and the rare street food looked absolutely unattractive. It was hot and humid and dusty. We looked at each other and made our way back to the ship, passing the poor dirty houses, kids with beads in their braids, baby goats jumping across the road, bikers and taxi drivers, hungry for tourist flesh.
We had to wait for the port shuttle for quite a while, and the very same vendors just wouldn’t stop trying to talk to us and sell us stuff. For some reason they thought the tourists loved when they yelled “Hey hey sista! Obamaland! Come hea!” at them. I just told them I was from Putinland and was left alone. I’ve noticed that sometimes people completely lose any interest in selling shit to me. Probably when at the peak of irritation I do what I kid to be “the Russian face”, which basically is a Grumpy Cat face with a “fuck off for Christssake” message on it. And I don’t mean ill when I do it. It’s just a natural self-preservation instinct. Pushy people freak me out.
Anyway, we did get on the shuttle, and finally got back to the ship. Explored the little improvised market and found a lot of interesting stuff. But the best part for sure was stepping inside the ship and feeling the air conditioning. Ohh sweet heaven. That was divine.
And water, liquid, any liquid! I took a bottle of water with me in the morning, and I wished it was bottomless, because that air was just sucking the life out of me [why am I even sitting on the outside deck right now, this air is so bad! Habits].
We got up on deck 7, I got a big yummy pizza, right from the stove, and some soda, and life suddenly felt very good. And then I realized that the pool was open, and announced that I was going to spend the rest of the day in there. And made Rachel go with me, and taught her to float on her back, and filmed it. We spent like two hours in that pool.
And after dinner watched Beauty and the Beast in our cabin with Steph and Rebecca. I mean, life is good!
Don’t even ask me what I’m doing tomorrow, I have no clue. Right now I’m going to my cabin, taking Advil ’cause my head is exploding, and going to bed. Yup.

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