24 November 2007

Sankofa! Extreme Makeover of Accra

28 September 2007

It has been great to be back in Ghana, although a little strange after such a long absence (since July 1999). There have been a lot of changes that have made parts of Accra unrecognizable, and the population has ballooned too. My friend Essel's home, Kisseman, used to be a dusty village between Achimota and the university in Legon, but when I arrived it was an unfamiliar jumble of storey buildings, makeshift compounds and street-stalls, with the paths through compounds or gutter-ways the only way to get around.

Downtown Accra is even more crowded and congested than before, with many new roadways and overpasses trying to keep up with the city's growth. These photos are from the old lighthouse in Jamestown, in downtown Accra.

One problem of such quick, unplanned growth is an unreliable water supply. Most of the compounds (households) lack running water; even the trusted public toilet ($0.05 a go, $0.06 if you don't have paper) is not a self-flushing facility. So Essel and his family, and their tenants, have to fetch water from one of the compounds that can afford a tap. In Kisseman a 20 Liter bidong/jerry can costs five pesewas, or $0.05, to fill. In other areas where piped water is an even greater problem (such as parts of Madina), 20L is as much as $0.20.

Essel asked me if I had seen Extreme Makeover, which is shown on TV here, and if deserving people really could enter and win the chance to have their home revamped. The show and the money and energy people put into their home decorating and improvement is a little, well, extreme to me -- consider that Essel's compound with some 25 people does not have a single toilet. That I find these home aesthetics programs a bit bizarre when just thought of abstractly may not bode well for my upcoming return to this milieu. To me, more practical concerns, such as a compound of two dozen people lacking even a long-drop toilet (and with one bathing area for the residents to share) are of greater concern than the extra touches that make a house nicer.

No comments: