Nuzulezo–A village on a lake
Agooooo [long O] says our guide for the day. Ameeeee [long A, or Spanish E] is our answer. Akyea calls three times, and by our third answer the students on the bus are awake and listening for a while. It takes 2.5 hours on very rough roads to reach the entrance to a canal where we then travel by dugout canoe to visit a village built on stilts over water. Akyea taught us a lot about Ghana during the drive–the revival of rubber, the use of palm oil, that gold is still being mined and the process pollutes the rivers, the reverence people still have for Nkrumah who started Ghana on a path to prosperity in the 1950’s with free education, a viable democracy and a vision of a united Africa. He envisioned a continent where raw materials would not just be exported but used to produce goods for export. The people would develop, industries would thrive. But he was ousted. Multinational interests interfered. Agooooo Ameeeee The students wake up and we arrive at last. Did they hear what he said?
Young men pole us along the canal and then we paddle to the village. It takes about an hour in full mid-day sun, some of us bailing with a plastic cup as we go since the wooden boats have many small holes in them. It’s calm and quiet. We look foolishly overdressed in our life vests, but they’re required.
We arrive and climb up to the walkways made of bamboo and wide boards where we are welcomed on the main ‘street’ by women and children dancing and singing as a man drums.
We follow the troupe, in total about 500 people live here, to a community room. Along the way we are right next to their one-room homes. A few have electricity as we hear radios and a t.v. One woman is ironing. You can hear chickens and maybe a pig somewhere to the left. To the right clothes dry, children nap, life goes on as these tourists drop in for an hour or so to visit.
We listen to the sub-chief tell the story of the snail god who led people to this place when they fled from Mali many years ago. Our guide translates into English. We are welcomed with more drumming, dancing and one of our students responds with our thanks. Formality adds weight to a place floating on the water. The children stay here through primary school but then leave and many don’t come back as there is little to do except fish and subsist. Our being here brings money, and many visitors are finding Nuzulezo. But, I feel like an intruder, like the foreigner I am. Once again I see all the human capital and potential in Ghana that is waiting to grow and develop.
There’s lots to think about paddling back across the lake and through reeds into the canal that leads to lunch and our bus. This is my last post about Ghana although there is so much more to tell. It was hard to see all the poverty when stuck in traffic and knowing you were one of many privileged white faces looking out.
Takoradi and Tema–our ports in Ghana–were windows to the hard life that is lived out near ports.
And Accra was difficult to negotiate as traffic moves more slowly than walking most of the time.
Ghana is a developing country. It is not bleak. But change happens so slowly. Its people are ready. One hopes for more honest leaders and a few right-hearted partners from abroad so that the pace can pick up from a walk to a jog.