From Porto-Novo, Benin, we take a bus through Lome to Accra. At the border to Ghana, culture shock slaps us in the face.
We’ve lived in Mali, travelled in countries colonized by France, and have become accustomed to hearing French from everyone. French with an accent, to be sure, but no slang. We’re also used to the courtesies of Bambara that demand a series of hello, how are you, how is your health, your mother, your father, etc,, etc., always preceded with a handshake. From the post office to the market to the border crossings, this ritual never changes.
Crossing the border into Ghana is a tad different.
“Hello,” we say. The English word sounds strange after a couple of years of French and Bambara.
“Open it!” The border guard snaps the words with a flick of her hand in the direction of our suitcases. A quick check of our luggage and she waves us on our way. We zip our cases closed and climb back on the bus still reeling from the abrupt encounter.
In Accra, we exit the bus station and search for a taxi. A Brit takes us in hand and negotiates for us. We don’t understand a word he says. He seems to be speaking a bastardized version of English. He must notice our confounded stares for he says, “These Africans can’t learn English. So we taught them pigeon English.” He translates a couple of sentences for us.
“Can we please go back to Mali?” I say under my breath. “Now.”
From Accra, I fly to Freetown, Sierra Leone. Upon arrival at a fellow CUSO volunteer’s home, I learn that my father has just died and I fly home for his funeral. Many years later I will go back to Mali, but that’s another story.
All I remember of Freetown is the Cotton Tree. We’re told slave markets were held under its shady branches.
For more information about the famous Cotton Tree of Sierra Leone follow this link.