In 1957 the Gold Coast waved goodbye to its British landlords, repainted the place, slapped a new flag on the wall and changed its name to Ghana. The country was the first in sub-Saharan Africa to throw off the shackles of colonialism, and was one of the few to do it - more or less - without incident. Like many countries on the Continent, Ghana's first order of business after independence was not necessarily attracting tourists. As travellers began trotting 'round the globe more and more throughout the seventies and eighties, however, the country rolled out the welcome mat and hoped more company would feel free to drop in. Statistics on just how many have shown up recently are a bit hard to come by, but the country registered about 430,000 visitors in 2005 and a half a million the following year. It may not seem like much but, at the time at least, the numbers fit the bill well: in 2006 the country reported hotel occupancies of between 79 and 88 percent for hotels ranging from two to five stars. The government reported nearly a million international arrivals in 2010. This is all good news for today's traveller. The near doubling of international visitors signals an increase in investment in the sector, which has resulted in improved infrastructure and added hotels, guesthouses and restaurants, to name a few. A couple of highlight stops around the country include the Kakum, Mole and Ankasa national parks, all of which are teeming with the country's abundant wildlife, and the nation's two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Cape Coast Castle and the Elmina Castle. Perhaps the biggest highlight here, however, is the people themselves. A 2011 Forbes Magazine ranking placed Ghana as the eleventh friendliest country in the world. So if you're in the neighbourhood, take the country up on its invitation, leave your assumptions at the door and enjoy your stay; it's sure to be a good one. ~ Samantha McDonald-Amara
I woke up with a feeling of excitement and anxiousness, as this was the day that I was going to go see the village for the first time. Nicole and Fred had been speaking of the village ever since I first reached Tamale [ed. the capital of Ghana's northern region], and although their description seemed interesting enough, I still had no idea what to expect. It all seemed so unreal to me still – what did an African village look like? The only images I had were the dreary infomercials that play in the wee hours of the morning at home in Canada, long after people had gone to bed. Nobody ever actually watched those things; I’ve been guilty of it myself. The program would come on, and I would say, “Oh that’s sad, look at those children, isn’t that awful?” and switch to some brain-numbing sitcom. That day, I was actually going to see such a village.
That first morning I was awake long before I needed to be. I learned throughout my time in Ghana that if I am told to be ready by 9:00, it could mean anytime between 7:00 and noon. That morning I was the first person up. Still unsure of my surroundings and typical morning protocol, I got showered and dressed, and sat in the barren living room of Fred’s house until finally Boakye entered the room.
“I will make tea."
As Boakye went to boil some water, I took a good look at where I was living. The rooms in Fred’s house were barren, save for a few biblical-type pictures, and a row of pictures of people I didn't know - possibly family. I always sat on the same chair. It was well sunken in and shocking if it didn't have a few ants crawling on it, but I considered it the most comfortable. The couch along the right hand side of the room had three cushions, although only one had the framework to support someone sitting on it, and the couch along the left hand side of the room had the most worn in, uncomfortable cushions one could imagine. There was also a steady, audible hum of electricity in the room.