Friday, December 01, 2006

Beads! What Else Happened...

The bead factory in the previous post is not too terribly far from our house- just a couple of hours on some fairly good roads.

We took off early Thanksgiving Day- notable mainly because it's the time of year close to Christmas when Ghanaian Police Officers (thankfully just a few of them!) have their hands out, looking for a little Christmas Cheer (read: bribes from Obronis and anyone else they can intimidate).

We were clear of Accra, and moving through a checkpoint when a policeman on the opposite side of the road spotted obronis riding in a new car and made Duke pull over. He told Duke to get out of the car, bring his license, and show his safety equipment.

In Ghana, every car must have two reflective strips on the front and back bumpers, an insurance sticker and registration sticker- both glued to the windshield, a fire extinguisher, a reflective road triangle, and a driver with endless patience.

As opposed to the only other time we have been stopped capriciously by the Ghanaian police, this one was hoping for more than he would get by just asking for "something small for the boys" (that guy, last year, cost us ¢10,000 or about a buck)- so when he got to the safety equipment, knowing it was his last chance to nail us for something, he declared that we were supposed to have TWO triangles.

Liar liar, pants on fire.

Duke expressed surprise and told him we would surely get another one ASAP.

No dice, Duke. This officer was bent on getting some Christmas cash.

After Duke puts away the safety equipment and accompanies the officer to the passenger side of the car, Mr. Policeman looks in the car at the three obronis and asks us how we are.

We tell him just fine, thanks.

He waits.

We don't start crying or handing him money.

He starts jabbering at Duke that he must have two triangles and that his "transport officer" should have known that.

We know enough to let Duke do the talking, and so we sit politely and wait for the next scene in the play.

Cue Mr. Policeman, to Ted: "Do you have something you want to say to me?"

Ted: "Yeah, I guess I do! I hadn't realized that we needed two triangles. Is that a new law? Because my company is very stringent in its safety program and we are usually on top of any new regulations."

Mr. Policeman: "You need two triangles!" then to Duke: "I am taking your license, you can pick it up next week at court."

Duke: "Okay. Please write me a ticket so I can prove that I have a license but that it is with you until next week."

Mr. Policeman: "Okay! I will write you a ticket!" then to Ted: "You wish to speak to me?"

Ted: "Nope- like I said, I'm surprised my company didn't know about the new regulation but I'll be sure to check on it tomorrow!"

Duke: "May I have my ticket please?"

Of course by this time, Mr. Policeman is annoyed and sweating because he hasn't got a leg to stand on. If he writes Duke a ticket he will have to basically sign a paper saying he is lying about two triangles and trying to extort money. And we are apparently too stupid to know that this is the part where we are supposed to hand over piles of cash to avoid court.

Freakin' obronis won't play.

In a fit of pique, Mr. Policeman chucks Duke's license back to him and says, "Get another triangle!" and stalks away.

It took every ounce of restraint in my body to keep from yelling "WAIT! What about our ticket Fatboy????"

... and I was biting my cheeks really hard to keep from speaking because Ted usually kicks me in the ankle when I mouth off to the immigration twerps at the airport and I wasn't sure what he would do in this Duke knows what to do and it's always best to shut your mouth and let the native speaker do his thing.

Duke gets back in the car, with a big goofy grin on his face and we are off again into unexplored territory where the regular, friendly, hardworking folk live and play.

The rest of the drive to the Bead Factory was uneventful and after our tour we looked for someplace to eat lunch, finally settling on a 'resort' with restaurant situated slap bang on the banks of the Volta River. We ate outdoors at a table just feet from the water's edge. Can you beat this for atmosphere?

(this is Duke enjoying his warm Coke)->

We lolled in the shade, wandered the grounds and ate lunch. Ted wanted to visit the little boys' room before we got back on the road, so he wandered up to the bathrooms. He was back within a minute, asking for the camera. This is why...

Back on the road, we found ourselves following a truck load of people. An open truck FILLED with people, all headed down the road and glad of the lift. When Ted raised the camera to shoot a picture through the windshield they all started laughing and posing.

As they turned right to leave the road we were on, they all waved and shouted goodbye. God, I love these people (Fatboy notwithstanding).

A little further down the road, we were suddenly confronted with a sign that said "Road to Accra CLOSED. Diversion".

We stopped, looked at the sign, looked at the dirt and gravel piles ahead of us and dithered for a minute.

Then Duke spotted a policeman and asked him where the diversion would take us. The policeman said basically it went around by way of Siberia but if we didn't mind a road under construction we could continue if we liked. While Duke was clarifying this statement, a pickup came from the opposite direction and told us the road was easily passable.

Since we LIVE on a dirt road with gravel piles, we were blissfully unafraid, and after thanking the pickup driver and policeman, we headed down the [closed] road to Accra.

When they finish, it's going to be a spectacularly beautiful, wide, road. The scenery is unbeatable, the point where we entered the road is a couple thousand feet up in elevation and it curves gracefully all the way down to sea level and home.

But we were frequently glad to have a 4X4 nonetheless.

Here are a couple of shots I took after telling Duke to stop the car so I could share the experience with you all. He did not understand why I would want these pictures, but he often does not understand us, so he just smiled and did as I asked. I wanted pictures of the really tricky, ditchy parts, but Duke was busy driving us safely home and I couldn't bear to make him stop in mid-ditch so I could snap a few shots. ;-)

We were home well before dark, for the first time in our explorations of Ghana! Whooot!