Monday, June 25, 2007

Ghana Lackawanna

Since we have been in Ghana, we haven't had to stop for trains.

Not that there aren't tracks- there just aren't any trains on them.

The last mention I can find of train travel here is from the 60s, when prices here were still in shillings and pence.

Imagine our surprise when we were out running around and suddenly a guy popped up in traffic lanes waving a red flag.

The guy wasn't too remarkable... since the stoplights are frequently not functioning, police or civilians waving branches of leaves are a normal site on many streets, and parking lot guards use red and green flags to stop traffic and allow people to pull onto streets all the time... but this guy was standing on a set of tracks, far from any parking lots or stoplights and snapping his flag pretty energetically.

Ted stopped the car because we take any excuse to pause and watch just about anything. ;-) The guy in front of us decided to stop too, and slowly everyone crept to a halt just before the tracks.

We looked at each other and craned our necks to try to see down the tracks.

Could it be a train? In Ghana?

We didn't see anything.

And there are new red and white striped steel barrier gates at a lot of level crossings in Accra (although at least one that we pass often
in Dzorwulu has already been smacked hard enough to knock it down), including the one we were sitting at- although no one had bothered to lower either of them (they are hand operated gates, with a big weight on one end to hold them up when not in use).

I got my camera out, just in case something cool happened, and VOILA! Here came a train!

You can see the unused crossing gate sticking up behind the train's leading edge.

Then entire train consisted of two empty passenger cars with one engine pushing them slowly down the tracks in some kind of test.

People were dramatically unexcited.

Except us. We thought it was really cool that a country so desperately in need of more transportation options is working on getting some!

We immediately started picturing ourselves on a train like this, headed up north in the company of lots of people and probably lots of goats and chickens (they ride tro-tros, they will surely ride the trains!).

I really hope they get it organised while we are still here- train travel rocks, and trains through the African countryside- well, how could we resist?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

This Means You!

This is just one of those things.

There are lots of signs in Ghana, about as many handmade ones as "professional".

They convey all sorts of information and warnings and offers.

I suppose I should collect a good sampling for you, but until then we couldn't resist sharing this gem that popped up on the street near our house last weekend...

(Remember, many of the folks who live around us have, basically, a plywood box or less to live in- there is certainly no handy tiled bathroom for them to use. And remember also, that "farm" does not mean here what it might mean where you live.)

In Ghana it's more important to get your meaning across than to spell it correctly...

And don't you forget it.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

African Wildlife of the Icky Kind

This is a quickie to share one of those "Ewwwww!" moments that life hands us all sometimes.

Africa has these winged bugs. They have long thick bodies (about 1.5 inches or more) and long white teardrop shaped wings (2 inches plus, each!).

You never see them around except the first few times it rains really hard after the dry season.

Then they just appear suddenly at night, clustered together in a frenzy of bug love, or bug rumbles or some kind of bug social event.

We have driven through clouds of them. Smooshed thousands beneath the car wheels. Watched them writhe and clump together on the deck or the walls around the house.

And like most bugs, they are attracted by light.

And we have lots of lights around our know where I'm going with this, right?

So last week sometime I'm noticing that the pool skimmer isn't drawing well, and when I go outside to check on it, this is what I find:

Go ahead. Click it bigger. I dare ya.

Ewww! Both skimmers were completely full of these bugs. They were packed so tight the water couldn't even pass through them anymore. They were piled so deep I couldn't get my hand onto the skimmer basket without burrowing through (mostly) dead bug bodies.

So what did I do?

I called Cooper outside.

I calmly explained the problem and then told him to take care of it.

Didn't work.

He looked at me for a few seconds to make sure he had heard correctly, and then said,

"No way. You do it."

My boy loves me. But apparently not enough to battle ewwy bugs for me.

And I thought he was at least a little bit scared of me. But apparently not as scared as he is of ewwy bugs.

To his credit, he usually doesn't shy away from this sort of thing, but there is something about these giant, suicidal bugs that skeeves him out, and the fact that they weren't all necessarily completely dead just made it that much worse.

[n.b. last year I remember these bugs suddenly appearing, but Mark took care of them before I noticed a problem. This year, I'm glad to have saved him the effort- no one should have to do this job every time.]

So give us a half hour, some rubber gloves, a cardboard box, a plastic bag, some yelps of surprise and disgust, and we managed to get most of them up out of the pool skimmers.

This is just the bulk of the bugs in the first skimmer hole.

And when I say "we" up there, I mean that I did all the icky stuff and Cooper provided scrub nurse support.

I'll get him back. I swear I will.