Monday, January 3, 2011

Day 2 - A Glimpse of Accra

When Mitch, Stephen, and I got through Ghanian customs, we were greeted by a man wearing an MIT t-shirt.  He introduce himself as Charles Jackson, an MIT Class of 1979 course-2er (that is Mechanical Engineers for those not familiar with MIT speak) and husband of Mary Kay Jackson.  Mary Kay Jackson's official title is managing director of Pure Home Water.  What that means on a day to day basis is that she and her husband are the boots on the ground in Ghana making sure everything runs smoothly.  The Jacksons also serve as the greeting committee for any PHW related trekers to Ghana.

From the airport, Charlie took us to drop off our luggage at the Ghana Institute of Literacy, Biblical, and Language Translation  (GILBLT) guest house.  This site with approximately 10 rooms and some conference space is designated for those travelling to Accra with business related to literature, the bible...  While Ghana's official language is english, there are over 60 different languages spoken in this tiny country of 20 million people.

After dropping our bags, Charlie took Mitch, Stephen, and I back to his and Mary Kay's home.  On the ride there, we passed by the U.S. Embassy.  The U.S. Embassy in Accra is a large compound with several buildings.  Charlie told us that within the last 5 years the state department had built this new facility because of the increased activity and aid the U.S. is funneling towards Ghana.  He explained that Ghana as a succesfully African democracy (with success being defined as multiple elections with peacful transitions of power between competing parties) has become a darling of America, hence the interest in funding continued development.

Later, we went with Charlie out to buy some groceries as well as a local cellphone.  This shopping trip took us to the first and only western style mall in Accra.  This mall in addition to featuring air conditioned hallways also has a single theatre cineplex.  The movie theatre generally plays U.S. movies.  Currently one of the movies they were playing is the boston centric film The Town. 

In the mid afternoon, Charlie showed us around the city of Accra.  I saw lots of interesting sights as well as got a feel for the city.  We went to the Independence square which is a large parade ground which celebrates Ghana's freedom from British rule in 1954.  Ghana is very proud of its independence as one of the first colonies in africa to achieve this feat.  The square is very close to the water.  After walking around the parade grounds, we went to check out the very urban beach.  As one might expect, the beach was littered with trash and the water was far from clean.  From the beach, we travelled around various other aparts of the city.  This tour gave me a better sense of the city - both its promise and the false starts it has experienced.   

Accra's only equivalent to a Western style mall.

I got a kick out of the movie theatre at the mall playing The Town, a fictional account of bank robbers set in Boston.

Stephen, Me, and Mitch at a beach at Accra

The main pavillion at the parade grounds at Independence Square.  The arches reminded me of McDonald's, which Ghana does not have a single franchise of.

"A New Accra for a better Ghana" is a slogan that is connected to the economist Jeffrey Sachs naming Accra on of his Millenium cities.  His focus has caused some additional foreign aid to come to Ghana for specific Accra improvement projects.

The "new" Accra water filtiration plant was built to handle.  Sadly, this plant falls woefully short of supplying the 3 million  plus residents of Accra with clean water to drink and use.

Travelling around Accra, I saw lots of billboards like this one for local energy drinks.  Charlie told us that energy drinks were very popular here.  Stores even sell foreign energy drinks like Red Bull.


  1. wow Zac...great pics...somehow, it took these pics to help me get a sense of a kind of 'surrealness' that you may be experiencing. If you have time I would love to see you write about that. Not sure what in the pics conveyed that to me, but I just could feel that even though you are with brothers, that you could really feel homesick! I loved Uncle John's advice it is good. AND I think we would all understand Ghana better if we could undestand how this city that is the darling of our country, can also feel so not ...US! xoxox mom

  2. The plant shown is Accra's wastewater treatment plant, not the water plant. But the water plants can't meet Accra's daily demand either.