Ghana memories. When I was six years old my family lived for about nine months in Ghana. My father was an engineer working on one of the big prestige projects that the Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah had set in motion. Dad’s project was the Tema-Accra Highway.
We lived in Tema which was then a small town along the coast east of the capital Accra. Nearby was the second major project, the deep sea port that became Tema Harbour. The third project was the construction of the dam on the Volta River a few miles inland in the mountains towards the eastern border. When completed this became the Akosombo Dam.
A lot of the families of the engineers who were working on these project lived in Tema and we kids went to school there.
Most people first begin to have longer memories of their childhood from their sixth or seventh year. If something dramatic happens at that point, I think most people would develop and hold onto strong memories. For me, the experience of being taken away from cold, grey England to vivid, warm West Africa, left me with memories that stretch for days and that I can date to 1964 and 1965.
Growing up, I always assumed that everyone in my family had similar memories. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I realised my Ghana memories were unique. My sister, who is two years younger, only has a fleeting recollection of our time in Ghana. As for my parents, the nine or 10 months we spent in Tema were a short interlude for them in their very active lives.
From my thirties onward, I talked about Ghana and my childhood memories much more freely. Probably more than I needed to. And people would say to me: are you going to go back? I would reply, yes. But I never took it any further.
Two years ago, in 2018, I turned 60. As a birthday present Mrs SC presented me with airline tickets to Accra. We would fly together and be in Ghana for a 10 day period over New Year.
This was generosity in overdrive, a most unexpected gift. I was delighted. However, as the time for our departure drew closer, I became increasingly nervous. It would be 54 years since I was last in Ghana. My memories were those of a six year old child. How much must have changed? How reliable were my memories in the first place? And – swelling to overwhelm all the rest – what happens if the holiday is a failure and my wife will have spent so much money for nothing?
I have a tendency to over react like this. I’m also a very nervous pre-journey person. Once the journey is underway I most often calm down very successfully and enjoy the whole experience, but over the years my nervousness in the run-up to making a journey has just got worse.
The six weeks or so before we flew were a period of high tension in this household.
But the flight – to Amsterdam and then to Accra – went very smoothly. The arrival, and the heat stepping out of the air-conditioned airport building, was astounding and full of memory.
Our first full day was not so happy. But Mrs SC is something of an Africa hand after recent missions for her work, she got me over it. She and Patrick, a former colleague of hers from Brussels days. He was home for Christmas and met up with us on the evening of the first day. We shared a beer and he gave me a pep talk.
“You have to get into a Ghanaian mindset. Relax. Go with the flow. Enjoy it,” he advised.
I promised to try.
Round trip and more to come
Everything was easier after that. It helped that we had two very competent and understanding young drivers. Richmond drove us out to explore Tema the second day and then ferried us down to Cape Coast Castle on New Year’s Eve. On 2nd January Julius picked us up from our hostel and took over our itinerary. We visited the old slave fort at Elmina Castle and various points of interest in the area before heading inland to Kumasi in Ashanti and then turning east ultimately to visit the Akasombo Dam and finally back to Accra for the flight home.
This post is by way of an introduction. I’m planning a number of other, more detailed Stops and Stories posts in the near future looking at some of the things we did while we were in Ghana. I kept a diary and I took photographs and even filmed a little, but it’s taken me nearly a year-and-a-half to digest our 10 day holiday. Now, though, it feels ripe and ready to share.