Navigating Cape Coast

We got up around 9am and discovered our water had been turned off, despite Dom’s admonishment to the owner.  Dom has a lot of theories on this, on the power structure of “big men” and “little men” in Africa.  I have no desire to fight with the owner though, about whether he will provide us water.  I will simply find a different homestay … so he can save $.10 because I couldn’t shower in the morning, but lost possibly three months of room rental to us.  We went to pay for our night’s stay and check out, but the owner was no where to be found (maybe since he’d turned our water off, hah), so we left our stuff in the room for the time being and decided to walk around Cape Coast in the light and try to make sense of Dom’s whirlwind tour from the previous night.
We found most of the stuff Dom had shown us, including the Malcom’s (which is like a department store for “rich people” here … according to Dom, although I think I might put it the other way, for “non-poor people,”).  This was the first time since arriving in Africa I had been in an actual store selling various goods (cereal, rice cookers, soap, etc) rather than the more traditional Ghanaian “find a street vendor who has the cereal/ricecooker/soap/etc you need” method.  We also found a place that maybe (big maybe) can develop my film.  And the MTN store Dom had told me about.

For Internet he recommended just getting a 3G USB dongle, rather than using Internet Cafes.  That way we’ll have fast (for Africa) Internet everywhere, and it’s about the same cost as using a cafe for maybe 2hrs a day.  Unfortunately the store was all sold out and told me to “come back next week.”  So we’ll head to a second place Dom knows tomorrow to see if that MTN store has one.

We killed a few hours on the beach, waiting for Dom to get off work.  Tried a ball of shredded coconut carmelized with sugar (bought from a girl for 10 Peshawas, which is 7 cents), and it was pretty good.  Petted an “Obruni dog,” that belongs to the Obruni owner of the beachside restaruant.  Drank a Fanta. Waited some more.

A kid came up to us with a piece of paper explaining he was deaf and raising money for his deaf soccer team.  We also had a deaf person approach us in Accra, except he was raising money to open a shoe shop.  I can remember having this sort of experience as a kid in Hawaii once or twice, in the airport, but that was back when airports had Hare Krishnas and you could walk your family to the gate and that sort of thing.  Anyway, both in Accra and in Cape Coast it turns out the person really was deaf and definitely could sign.  We had a much more extensive conversation in ASL today with the kid, since he was friendly, and chatted about the other kids he worked with, how long we were staying, what our names were, how many other people he met here who could sign, and so on.  It’s funny to me because Miranda and I use signing as a way to communicate without others knowing what we are saying, but in the states we have to be careful because many people actually do sign.  We’d been working on using Esperanto instead, since very, very few people speak Esperanto, but I digress.  Before we left I’d said how it will be great because we can sign to each other and no one in Africa will know ASL.  Ironically, since arriving, I have signed with two deaf people and even seen ASL-captioned TV programs here (something I have never seen in the states, save on PBS or a college tv station occasionally).  So even though there is British Sign Language and AUSLAN and other forms of sign, it seems ASL has become to sign what English is to verbal language.

Eventually Dom showed up and we checked into the beachside bar for a night (it is also a small sort of homestay, with little bungalows along the beach).  Unfortunately it is $26CEDI a night (around 17USD), so we will probably only stay here a night.  The room has only one light which is very dim, the window does not open, the mosquito net is inadequate, and thanks to the ventilation issue with the window it’s a lot hotter inside than it needs to be (the humidity here is pretty close to sauna-like, I constantly feel like I need a shower).

The owner offered to work a long-term deal for $20CEDI a night, but we could see within 5 minutes of being in our room that it is not really any better than the $12CEDI/night room we’d had (unless being on the beach with other Obruni around is a big deal to you, which to me it is not a selling point at all, since other Obruni attract hustlers who want to try to sell you weed or “help you” find something you’re looking for at 10x the price it would normally sell for, etc).  So we’ll stay here the night and then move on.  Dom is working on getting a room in a house in a secure area for us, which hopefully should be $200CEDI a month or so, which is both reasonable and more reliable as far as the constancy of amenities of the security of our stuff.  I am accepting that in Africa things move slower and I am reliant on others.  I cannot will things to happen, and so we are making the best of our time.

I wish I could have slacklined today or shot something cinematic, but neither were possible.   I need to just look at this time, these first few weeks, as pre-production efforts, and not expect to shoot right away.  We need to learn Ghana, as best we can in such a time, and then the job of my filming is to translate what I have learned into our film.  I am doing the best I can.  So for now I’ve spent the entire trip just shooting stills (digital and film), with the expectation that if I can learn about what I am seeing, and learn to capture it in still life, then eventually I can film it in motion and tell its story through cinema.  I will get my hands on my card reader tomorrow night and hopefully upload a bunch more photos of the things we have seen and done.

So now we’re back in our hotel room, the waves are crashing a few hundred feet away.  The waves here are huge.  Monstrous.  I see why Africans do not swim, haha, when these are the waves they must contend with.  Nonetheless, once I get the rest of my clothes (still in a bag at Dom’s) I will venture into the ocean, albeit carefully.  The waves are basically like Northshore Maui.

Miranda is passed out, and I’m going to venture to Cape Coast’s Internet cafe (one of three I have seen) for the first time.  We’ll see how it goes.  Dome has assured me that robbery at knifepoint (and that sort of thing) doesn’t happen here, and that basically pickpockets and bagging are the worst we will need to contend with, so that helps me feel a little better about our security, since my skin is a giant billboard that pretty much broadcasts my relative affluence.

We have now also seen our first African cats … three of them!  I’ve seen maybe one or two dozen street dogs (all reasonably well fed), probably 100 random domestic fowl, a handful of cows, a handful of pigs, and many, many thousands of goats.  I am still not sure how they figure out who owns what goats/pigs/etc as they all just seem to roam the streets of Cape Coast eating any organic garbage or greenery they can find, and I am wondering if they simply become the dinner of whomever is desperate enough to eat them before they are properly fat, haha.

Oh, and Miranda and I had red red for dinner tonight from a street vendor, $2CEDI for two plates.  It wasn’t as good as the restaurant, but it’s a start.  Once we have a more permanent place we can cook it for ourselves. We also bought a loaf of bread from a vendor, for a single Cedi, and it was pretty good.  Sort of sweet like Hawaiian or Challa bread.  It’s nutritionally void, I am sure, as it’s the whitest most Wonderbread-like stuff I have seen in a long time, but it’s cheap and filling, which is probably why the Ghanaians like it.  To make it even more nutritionally Machaevellian we dipped pieces of it into a jar of Nutella we’d brought for when protein bars started to drive us nuts.  Now that was good.

More tomorrow.

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