End of Conference and castle visits

Trip Start Apr 02, 2014
Trip End May 07, 2014

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Where I stayed
Elmina Bay Resort
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Ghana  ,
Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Today again we met for breakfast at 08:00 and enjoyed the sound of crashing waves as we dipped our coffee or tea.

The meetings started just after 09:00 and we almost immediately had a "light out": a power cutoff. This wasn't so serious this morning since we had finished with the PowerPoint presentations and were wrapping up with a discussion of the upcoming pastoral transfers. Some pastors in Ghana have never transferred since I’ve been coming here in 1998 or so. Others have transferred several times.

Tom went through the plans and worked out various details to everyone’s (mostly) satisfaction. Being transferred is not fun. It’s a lot of work and upset and expense, but experience has shown it allows pastors to better serve their congregations, so we do it in spite of the challenges causes.

After a coffee break, during which the pastors and wives moved their luggage our of their rooms, we reconvened for our last discussion about the service rendered by local elders, and how that can be better organized and recognized. Tom went around the room to get a report from each pastor and made notes, then chaired a general discussion of the situation in Ghana. This will be a very helpful discussion to improve our organization and functioning in this country.

As we closed just before lunch, the pastors and wives made a presentation to us of Ghanaian shirts for the men and a long dress for Mrs. Walker. It was a touching gesture and one we very much appreciated.

We fellowshipped again over a lunch of red snapper and chicken with rice (white, Jollof or fried), and finished with fruit and ice-cream for dessert. Then as the meal ended, we shook hands all around and wished everyone well, and we encouraged each other to continue the good work being done.

The Ghanaian ministry headed home with their luggage in three taxis, some who live nearby going directly home, others going to the bus station where they can take long-haul transportation to their home towns in various places around Ghana. The time of the conference passed quickly because it was very full, and much constructive work was completed. Several of the men and ladies thanked us for the presentations and conversations we had.

After everyone left for home, Tom, the Walkers and I took a taxi to Elmina Castle for a visit. It is quite a fascinating and thought-provoking place. Its historical significance is quite important, and the dramatic story of the many slaves that left here for the Americas and the Caribbean is arresting. Tom and I acted as guides since we’ve been here many times and could explain the most interesting parts quicker than the local guides can do. I’ve noticed that the explanations have evolved over the years, and the guides sometimes speak with great certainty about how things happened, but can’t always quote any source to tell visitors how they know such things. (I often ask guided for sources to check how authoritative they should be considered). The "door of no return" through which slaves passed from cell to ship hold is always a striking and thought provoking sight.

We visited the storage rooms that became slave holding cells, the barracks rooms for soldiers, the governor’s chambers and we walked around the top of the walls to see the view from all sides.

The view of the bustling fishing port of Elmina just below the castle is always fascinating to watch, with its long under-powered fishing boats coming and going, loading and unloading. The bridge in Elmina, which we have crossed many times, has been condemned to vehicular traffic due to rust and structural failing. This has had a major impact on traffic patterns. We walked across the bridge and a couple of blocks through the streets of Elmina to where we could catch a taxi to Cape Coast without going the long way round. As we reached the street corner a taxi waved to us and came to negotiate a fare.

Almost no sooner were we in the taxi than two uniforms showed up and began berating the driver. They wanted a “dash” as they call bribe money here, and they got it. The driver explained as we drove away that he wasn’t supposed to pick up fares where we were, there was a taxi loading zone farther along. But he decided (he didn’t tell us this) that the possibility of a fat western fare was worth the risk.

We drove along the coast for 5 miles or so to Cape Coast where there is an English trade castle, less important historically, but more photogenic than Elmina. There is a plaque on the wall of Cape Coast Castle commemorating the visit of Barack and Michelle Obama. Again Tom and I acted as guides to visit the walls, the new museum about the slave trade, the slave pens and the governor’s chambers.

There is a “back door” in this castle which gives access to the busy water-front where fishing boats and fishermen are at work, sorting their catch mending nets and so on. It is always an interesting view.

There is a small tourist market in the entry passage to the castle and Mrs. Walker had a look around for some gifts and souvenirs. She found a brightly-colored smock which she said would fit right in in Latin America!

It was nearly five by the time we finished the visit at Cape Coast. Tom negotiated a taxi to the Coconut Beach resort where we sat under a straw roof and enjoyed a cold beer before ordering dinner. With the drinks they served a bowl of coconut fries which are quickly habit forming!

We had fresh grouper for dinner while we watched the sun sink into the horizon. It’s rather strange for us from North American to watch the sun set at the end of beach, where the land meets the sea. Usually in North American we either see the sun rise out of the ocean or see it set into the ocean. But we are in a place where the coast runs east and west. So the sun rises where the sun meets the sea and sets in the same way (though on the other side of course).

The Elmina Bay would have been close enough to walk to if the beach weren’t being so badly eroded. I was concerned we’d finish the walk in the dark and run out of beach at the same time. Then there’s that place where raw sewage is being piped directly down the beach into the ocean…. We caught a taxi back to the Elmina Bay for, God willing, our last night in Ghana for this trip. Tomorrow we will head back to Accra for our night flights. I will fly directly from Accra to JFK. The others will fly through London.
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Bernard on

Thanks again for the blog, and a few funny typos I couldn't help but notice. Have a safe return.

Tess Washington on

Good to see everyone enjoying together a good meal after the conference! The photos added color to the narratives! Thank you for giving us the historical notes about the 2 castles and about Elmina!

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