the first thing you notice when you get off the plane in ghana is the humidity. even arriving at the Kotoko Internatnional Airport late in the evening, one can notice the humidity immediately. customs was pleasantly informal but upon arriving at the baggage claim, we realized that british airways had mishandled our luggage and we wouldn't be seeing it for a few days.
it was good to see mike and chelsea. we hadn't seen them since my grandpa's 75th birthday party in placerville and it was nice to have family there to help relieve the culture shock.
outside of the airport, we were waiting quite some time for a certain taxi driver that chelsea and mike preferred. because of his honesty and efficiency, he was able to earn returning customers, which is a great talent for a budding entrepreneur!
as we were about to leave in the man's taxi, government agents, or policemen, placed spiked poles in front of our taxi driver's car and a boot on his back wheel. they were claiming that he was in a "no pick-up zone" and would have to pay a fee. at the same time that these government agents were harassing this young man trying to making a decent living, other taxi drivers were picking up customers in the same place where we were picked up. it was believed (and later accused) that because it was late and we were white, that the government agents wanted to extort money via an under-the-table fee.
as shady as this sounds, the civility of west african society soon became fully realized in front of our eyes: a mass of other taxi drivers surrounded our taxi and eventually the policemen and began to persuade the government agents and the law, or force, that they represent was in the wrong. the citizens were so incensed that they offered to pay the policemen out of their own pockets (a huge insult) rather than see the law and and the government agents of coercion that law requires to enforce its mandates be abused. the citizens proclaimed that they would commit suicide before they would let the injustice happening before their eyes go unheeded.
this debate, in the middle of the street between citizens and the law, was won, non-violently and logically, by the citizens and the taxi driver was allowed to run his own business and his own life unhindered by the law.
this amazing occurrence reminded me of Aristotle and his writings on civilization. He argued the difference between the civilized and the savage was the use of persuasion over force, or law, to come to a reconciliation. the civilized society was one that preferred to argue out their differences in order to come to a conclusion while the savage are more apt to turn their differences over to the ruling class and the laws that they created.
if we are to apply Aristotle's argument to the events that unfolded before us as we were arriving in ghana, then we had witnessed what civilization is all about. not since my travels in europe had i realized just how much more civilized the old world is as compared to the new one. we are from a rugged and tempestuous society, still young, still foolish, proud and vain.
after three days in accra, ghana's capital and largest city, i was beginning to get antsy. luckily, our bags had finally arrived and we were free to flee the city. now mind you, i loved accra, but for a country boy like me, cities are nice places to visit for two or three days. even the great european capitals of paris, rome and madrid had me longing for the countryside.
arriving in kumasi, ghana's commercial capital, made me curious, so anna and i will have to go there soon. the village we are staying in, Wiamoase, is the tropical paradise you read about in famous novels. friendly natives, dense and lush vegetation, with a peace about the air that makes this place feel like, well, paradise.
i must admit i am having difficulties adjusting to their culture. i know my language skills are inadequate and i feel as though i am being offensive in my manners. luckily, the civility of ghana's citizens stretches from the largest cities to the smallest villages, and i know that they will be patient with me.
the people already love anna (she is a great dancer), which makes me delighted that she feels safe and welcome. much love to all who read my ramblings.