June 4- We spent our second day in Ghana exploring the Cape Coast, an area about three hours west of the capital, Accra.
First we visited Kakum National Park, situated near the edge of Ghana's rainforest. It has a series of nets over the tops of
the trees which enable you to do a 'canopy walk' through the rainforest. Kakum also has a small museum that focuses on the
bio-diversity of Ghana. After Kakum, we headed to the coast to visit Elmina Castle, built by the Portugese in 1482
& used as
as a trading post.As the slave trade grew in popularity, it eventually became a holding place for slaves on their way to Brasil.
Elmina changed hands a few times throughout the centuries, and it's style reflects it. It
is a combination of Portugese/Dutch
architecture, with British touches. At right is the
Door of No Return, the last thing slaves saw before their
journey. It started
door started off wide, but was narrowed to allow only 1 to pass through it at a time. Next to that's
a slave dungeon, where
rebellious slaves were put. The symbol above the door says it all. The Cape Coast also boasts a
small tourist base, & after 8
months in Liberia, we found ourselves gawking at them.Of course, after Liberia, we felt like we were on vacation ourselves!
June 19- General Butt Naked- The Liberian Civil War produced some of the more bizarre and gruesome characters in recent history,
characters such as General Peanut Butter, General No-Mother-No-Father, and of course the infamous 'Small Boys Units' used by all sides
to fight. From this circus came the most colorful character of all,General Butt Naked. Initiated into a satanic society when he was just 11,
he spent his early life performing ritual sacrifices. When the war started in 1990, he formed the 'Butt Naked Battalion', a group of soldiers
that would fight in the buff, wearing nothing but shoes and an AK-47. Usually fueled by amphetamines, marijuana, and palm wine, they
believed their nudity shielded them from the enemies bullets.Before going into battle, his Battalion would sacrifice a victim from a nearby
village, and he would even play soccer with heads they cut off. He claims to be responsible for the death of 10,000 people. The General
claims God spoke to him one day, and told him to change his ways. He is now Rev. Joshua Blayhi, a Born-Again preacher who runs a
church in one of the refugee camps here in Ghana. Several of our crew have befriended him, and he has been on the ship a few times
for supper. Having read extensively about Liberian history, I was very familiar with him. I suspect we will be working with him on some
project or another. It seems tome he would want to make some sort of amends to his victims, but I should learn more about the General
before making judgments. While a satanic priest running around nakedand performing ritual killings upon people to gain power in battle
sounds to strange to be true, but to be honest, after time in Liberia,
there's nothing sounds that sounds overly bizarre to me anymore.
June 22- The past three weeks here have been busy for the deck department. With the turnover
rate, we've been down to as few as 3 daily workers. We've had our hands full unloading all the
necessary equipment for this outreach, preparing the ship for a 10 month moor, and getting the
dock cleaned, set up & ready to go. Most departments are experiencing a turnover as well, with
old hands are preparing to leave and new blood settling in. Meanwhile, we are still getting our
feet on the ground here, hiring dayworkers, connecting with local pastors, and assessing where
and how we can most help. Our medical screening is going to be held at a local Assemblies of
God church thisMonday, June 26th, and the surgeries should begin a week or so after. All of
this culminates in a lack of content to update this page with, save for the occasional dayout
exploring this new country. Ghana doesn't seem to be as desperate (or as exciting) as Liberia,
but there's a need for us here, as well...one that will become clear as time goes on, I'm sure.
June 24- While Ghana is certainly much more developed than Liberia, we're finding out that's not always a blessing. Most weekends in
Liberia were spent at the beach, but there is a shortage of those nearby to Tema. The beaches between here and Accra seem to be strewn
with garbage, and the beaches to the east are too rocky to splash around in. While Ghana has plenty to do, most of it seems to be an hour
or more away from the ship. Ship's crewmembers have been scouting out new and creative ways of relaxing. Today, we headed north to
Volta Dam. Completed in 1965, it created Lake Volta, the worlds largest man-made lake. Unfortunately, Ghana's President, John Kuofor,
decided to visit the dam the same day. We were barred from entering, & had to make do with pictures from the scenic overlook at nearby
Hotel Volta. After that photo session, we spent a hour exploring
Atimpoku Bridge then relaxed the rest of the day at nearby Aylos' Resort.
'Resort's' in West Africa are usually just a bar/grill on the beach with a few thatched-roof dining areas scattered around. Aylos' also had a
half-dozen small cabanas for rent, and even had a rope swing we all took turns on. As is
quite often is the case in West Africa, the ride to
where you're going is usually as interesting as the destination. This
particular ride took us through a couple dozen villages, miles of lush
jungle, and several beautiful mountains, some of which look quite climbable. Who
knows,....Perhaps you'll see more on that later on...
July 1- My friend Daniel & I decided to take a group of the new arrival up to Boti Falls, a
scenic waterfall two hours north. We'd heard from others that it's a great place to spend a
peaceful couple of hours swimming, surrounded by jungle, as falls crash nearby. Our group
swelled as more heard about it, & we set off at 9 a.m. with 3 carloads. It wasn't until around
9:15 that we decided to read what the guidebook actually said about Boti Falls. And I quote-
"The Boti Falls is a sacred site, and a celebration every year on July 1. Many thousands of
Ghanaians visit the waterfall on this day, but foreign visitors are welcome to participate."
Sure enough, by the time we got there, there were 'many thousands' there, and the party was
just getting warmed up.July 1st is when Ghanaians celebrate the switch from English Rule to
Ghanaian rule, and such a switch is apparently celebrated by dancing to African Hip-Hop music
at ear-splitting volumes, shoulder to shoulder with thousands of your fellow countrymen.
While we appreciated being 'welcome to participate', we politely declined. Daniel took half the
group on a hike up the mountain, and the rest of us went to check out another set of falls that
I'd seen on the way in, 'Ackaa Falls'. I silently prayed that this falls would be worth the trip, as
we'd come a long way for nothing. Prayer answered! Ackaa Falls had twice the charm as Boti,
with a fraction of the people (and price!). Even the man at thegate said, "I am guessing you
are dodging crowds today." Yes, we are dodging crowds today.Ackaa had a small group of
families there, & all of their children followed us on the10 minute hike to the falls to watch
what we call 'The Whiteman Show'. They laughed and cheered as we spent 2 hours ducking
behind the waterfalls, splashing in the small but turbulent pool, and exploring the massive
stone cliffs a stones throw from the falls. The adults just looked on with curiosity, though
the looks on their faces seemed to say "Why the whiteman swimming here? Don't they
know this river is full of crocodiles?"As always in W. Africa, the journey was as interesting
as the destination, as our trip there and back took us over mountains and through scenic
hilltop towns with names like Adukrom, Huhunya, Akropongo, and Krobo-Adumase.
July 3-9- Sicko! I developed an infection while swimming in Ackaa Falls
last week. I had a cut I'd sustained in Accra the week before. It had healed,
but the water opened it up. It started out as a local infection, but due to it's
location (the shin), the skin was too tight to allow the infection to go up. As
a result, it went 'out', spread to my entire shin and worked it's way into my
blood. My temp jumped to 103, and I got a headache & nauseous. I'd been
taking pills, but they switched me to and IV, three times a day, and ordered
bedrest. So, I spent the week laying in bed, bored and in pain. By Thursday,
the infection was on it's way out, and if I stay off my feet this weekend, I'll
be returning to full duty Tuesday, possibly Monday. We have a doctor here
on board whose primary function is care of the crew. His job truly covers all
bases, from tropical diseases, to pre-natal, to the inevitable scrapes, bumps,
and bruises. He also treats crew with conditions commonly found on board,
such as stress and depression. The picture below at bottom left shows how
far the inspection had spread, evidenced by the circle drawn by the doctor.
Ghanaian Roadsigns- Not as good as
Liberian road signs, of course,but not without their own charm. Here are a few of the ones I've seen.
July 22- I got a group
together this past weekend and headed up to the
Gardens. It's about 60km north of Accra, about a one hour
(like me) you get
terribly lost, in which case it takes about two. Africans are helpful when
but sometimes too helpful.
So eager are they to help, they tend to answer
with "Yes"...even if it's not the right answer. Asking for
directions usually goes like this-
"Which way to I take to
get to Aburi Botanical Gardens?" "Yes!"
"Uh...Is this road the road to Aburi Botanical Gardens?"
"So, If I go this way, I'll wind up hopelessly lost?"
Funny? Sure...just not so much when you have a car full of people and no
map of the area.
Anyways, we're rapidly running out of things to see here in Ghana.
were about the same size and content of an average city park. The only bonus was
hollow tree that you could get inside (well,
of course we did), and look
all the way up to the
the top to the sky. There was very little wildlife there.Trevor claims to have
seen a toucan,
but I suspect it was
simply a crow with his beak stuck in a french-fry carton. Still, it's always
good to get off the boat, and many in my group hadn't gotten too many chances to
I took the same route back that we had taken from Boti Falls 2 weeks before,
which took usup over mountains & down switchbacks into Volta Valley.
Well, forgive the lack of content lately. A recent
computer crash (again!) coupled with a recent ship-wide system crash (ditto!)
prevented me from updating this page. Add on to that fact that I haven't done
much recently but my usual deck work & going out for the weekend, & things have
been in a bit of a rut, website-wise. I'll find more to post here as it comes
July 27- In other news...after 16 years,
Liberia has electricity again!
July 29- Once again, we tossed a group
together and headed out. We'd planned
on visiting Volta Dam, but plans went awry-in a good way. We wound
Shai Hills Wildlife Reserve, a 1000 acre park 45 minutes north. While the
only wildlife we saw were baboons off in the distance, the park
We drove through miles of savannah, explored a 'bat cave', & hiked up the hill
a stunning view of the area. 30 seconds in the bat
enough for me, as
smell was horrible and I knew that squishing sound I heard underfoot wasn't mud.
Traveling with us this day was our
Joe Benzing, from the great state of
The sign at top left actually says 'Animals have right of way'. Pretty optimistic, in my
About 15 minutes after leaving the park, the truck began to
overheat. I pulled over
& turned on the heater, but by then the needle was buried.
We soon found out
Someone hadn't tightened the radiator cap and it was empty. Luckily, we'd all
our Mercy ShipsTM water
bottles, and used them to
refill the radiator. It took all our
water and then some. There they all on the right...can you guess which one is
After that, we stopped off at Akosombo Continental, a local
that has a large pool and a handful of animals on the grounds.
On the way
back, we visited Cedi Bead Factory, where they showed us how they make
those colorful beads we see in marketplaces all
over West Africa. A beadshop was 'conveniently' located on site. I'm more and more surprised how
set up for tourism Ghana is. Granted,
most tourists we see are other NGO
workers taking a couple of days off to see the country, but there's plenty of
others as well. It's good
to having some success in their tourism
endeavors, and it's certainly an added plus for those of us who are here
serving, as well.
August 10- Outside of deck, Hold 4 is probably
the sharpest department on board
the Anastasis. It contains all of our machinists, plumbers,
and welders. When
on a 53-year old ship, having your own shipfitting shop is better than
trying to find
the parts you need, and ours
is always in motion. Bring them a sketch of what
need, and they'll usually have it by lunchtime. I often find myself stopping by
just to see what they're constructing. This week, they've been busy putting
some playground equipment for Kinder Paradise, a local
orphanage. Hold 4's
capable manager, Marcel Everleens, found plans online for a swing set and a 'wip'
(what the Dutch call a see-saw),
and got his guys to work, welding, grinding,
painting. I've been ducking down all week to see how things are progressing. We
got to help out a bit today, as the finished products had to be lifted
into a waiting trailer. Hold 4 will be headed out to Kinder Paradise
set up the two swingsets and three wips. I'll be headed up there on Saturday to
see the final steps & help out as I can. That's
Bob Blanchard on
the left, welding handles for the wip.
Gordon Keesler and Quentin Foster load it all into the ship's trailer.
August 12- We headed over to Pram Pram, where
the guys from Hold 4 were
finishing up the Kinder Paradise project. We helped out for about an hour or so,
lifting the tops onto the swing sets & bolting them in. Silke, who owns and runs
the orphanage, showed me the grounds & told me all the plans in store at Kinder
Paradise.They include enlarging the school and dorms and adding a soccer field.Hold 4 is also planning to build a large wooden addition to the jungle gym, and
possibly a 25-meter 'cable ride'. This may wind up being the nicest orphanage inWest Africa. It's already pretty close. It's spacious & open, the buildings are
and freshly painted, and it's so clean that the kids won't even use the
town, as they're 'too dirty'. I was surprised how well behaved & polite they
After Pram Pram, we headed down the road to Ningo, a nearby
We spent 2 hours there, walking the streets and beaches,
talking with the
and sightseeing. There were dozens of fishermen on the beach,mending nets and
chatting on cellphones while
children raced around, jumping over lines, & women
sold food under the trees. It was almost like biblical times, except it was in
And everyone had cellphones. Their fishing boats are up to 30 feet long, and
of the wood is carved. They are extremely heavy and
it takes over a dozen men to
slide it into the water when high tide hits. As you can see, African fishermen
personalize' their boats.
Religious idioms and slogans are among the most
popular. Also painted on one rudder (at left) was 'No Food For Lazy Man', a phrase
here in West Africa. Also in the village, we found the 'Seaman's Bar', on which
painted a mighty familiar-looking ship. The
bar's owner told us it'd been done
resident of the village who worked on the ship named 'Debra Kwame'. It turns
that one of my
day workers (locals who work on the ship while it's in port)
August 26- We have a zodiac (inflatable rescue
boat) on board the Anastasis.
It's been out of service for about 3 months now,
ever since the mounting
bracket for the backup motor broke just before we left Liberia. Our
Officer, Egbert Brouwer,
managed to get it all back in working order, so we
spent this morning testing the zodiac out by zipping around Tema Harbor.
Since we had a pair of water-skis just laying around, we figured we might as
well test those out, too. Despite over a half-dozen
tries, I only
managed to stay up for about two minutes. We tried to stay on the other side of the harbor
so we couldn't be seen
by the Anastasis, but word got out, and we've all
been inundated by requests by crew members to go skiing. The best part of
the day? The Africans watching us. It must be
the first time in history anybody has ever water-skied around Tema's harbor!
Market Days- Coming to Africa & not going to
the market is like going to Hawaii
and not hitting the beach. There's a huge market here in Tema.
not a 'tourist'
market like many of the ones in Accra, the markets here are real African ones. They
don't sell carvings and t-shirts, they sell the
day-to-day things locals need,
food and clothing. I spent a day today wandering around, taking it in.
sold 'Cow Meat & Intestines',
a preacher walked around with a bible in one hand and
a megaphone in the other, shouting sermons. Vendors yelled 'Obruni!' (whiteman)
as I walked by, trying to get my attention. It's
get pictures, as Ghanaians don't like having their pictures taken...for free, anyway.
vendor wanted $50,000 (about $5) to take her picture, so
have to do without it. Cow Intestines guy only wanted 5000...his picture's
September 1- I got to do one of my favorite
things today...bike around
a strange city. We loaded up a pickup and headed to
We parked at Ryan's Irish Pub, had a coke while we
mapped out a route, then headed
into town. We biked through
Independence Square, a
couple dozen markets, and neighborhoods such as
Down, James Town, and Osu. I gashed my
ten minutes in, and the others waited on
the beach while I biked to a nearby filling station to fix the tire. We saw colorful churches
mosques, stopped for a coconut milk break, and
pedaled past countless signs reminding us to not urinate here, though suspected they
weren't obeyed too often. Traffic was congested, and we
were lost more than 1/2 the time, thanks in part to me for actually asking
for directions (see July 22 entry). We got back to the ship around seven
at night...sweaty, tired and filthy, with plans to go again, and
soon. Next time, though, we'll do it again on a Sunday. That's the day that the
markets in Africa are closed, and the streets are empty.
'Swimmers' in Ghana- Tema's port seems to be
infested with swimmers.
They're not as brazen (or dishonest) as
the swimmers in Liberia, but they'rethere, alright. Just about every day we see
guys swimming to and from ships
ships around us. They fill up a bag of rice, cocoa, or sugar, tie it inside of 2
or 3 other bags & swim away with it.
I don't mind as long as they stay offof our dock (I confronted one and threatened him with arrest if I caught him
there), but they have a habit of cutting off pieces of our messenger lines to
tie up their bundles with. Last week,
one jumped over the containers that
separate our dock from the one astern of us (which seems to be a popular
spot for them ). He jumped to the ground, landing about thirty feet from the
Ghanaian security guards the port
provides for us. Not wanting the hassle
of transporting him to the police station ( and all of the paperwork that
comes with it)
they simply made him do pushups for about a half-hour or so, whacking
him with a baton when-
ever he faltered. The hazards of doing business here, I
suppose. Below is a slide show of an average operation,
including one of the many buck-naked swimmers constantly seen paddling past our
ship, carrying bags of rice...
Sept.17- Got 10 people together & headed up to
Volta Dam today.Built in 1964-65, Volta Dam created Lake Volta, the world's largest
man-made lake. We paid 25,000 Cedis (about $3), and spent an
hour walking around the top of the dam, listening to our 'tour guide'
drone on about megawatts and transformers. We just came for the
view, & what a view it was. Nearby was the Atimpoku Bridge, which
Ghanaians love so much they put it on the 2000 Cedi bill. We visited the dam 3
months ago, but were unable to see it, as the president
was there. He has a home on a hill overlooking the dam. Today he
arrived just as we were leaving...we heard his sirens. Good timing!
Sept. 21- Today, a few members of the deck
department went to Doryumu, a small village
about an hour away. In addition to our regular work, deck always takes on a side
the ports we serve. While we were in Liberia, we worked with 2 orphanages,
adding on new
buildings, a boy's dorm, a classroom, and a half-dozen latrines. We also added a
roof to one,
dug a well, and several other minor jobs. We are looking for a project in
Ghana, and visited
the village of Doryumu for that purpose. I'll have more when we've decided what
we will do.
Sept 24- Besides
kente cloth and
Kofi Annan, 'fantasy
coffins' are probably Ghana's most
well-known export. Originating with the
coastal Ga tribe, these carved coffins
known throughout the world thanks to features on the
& a September
1994 article in
National Geographic. I remember reading that article years ago, never imagined I
myself one day. The Ga
believe that your afterlife 'home' should detail how you
earthly life, and the coffins reflect that. Coffins will often reflect
the deceased's' occupation
(fish for fishermen, vegetables for farmers), or particular vice. Soda and beer
bottles are fairly common
(and brand-specific!), as are cellphones. Tribal chiefs traditionally get
they've been switching to Mercedes Benz's in
recent years. Mercedes' are not
only a modern
favorite, they are considered the most 'prestigious' of coffins. The license
course, must match the real-life one! Pastors order eagles to 'soar into
Heaven', & Army veterans
get rifles. On the way to Accra
today, we stopped off in Teshie, where most of
are located. We visited a few shops and took dozens of pictures. The
sell for about
$500 locally, or $1500 for ones going overseas. At top right are 'urns'
used to store the
ashes of cremations.
Also below are a cobra, an Air Canada plane ( made for a
no doubt), and my personal favorite, a lobster. we also saw
Nike shoes, a Bic
pen, crabs,and chickens. I've decided this is how I would like to be buried, and as soon as
out a way to
combine a tugboat, cajun food, & Fenway Park, I'm ordering a
coffin! Anyways, here's a few pictures below. hope you like them.
September 28- Looks like I got my
15 Minutes of fame.
Marine News did a
feature on Mercy Ships that featured yours truly. They'd done
several stories in conjunction with
World Maritime Day, an actual holiday set aside to raise
the importance of ships safety
and the marine environment.While it's not as well-known as, say, Secretary's Day or even Arbor Day, World
Maritime Day shares September
with such holidays as
Squirrel Appreciation Day
and of course, the ever popular
Like A Pirate Day', so I know we're in good company.
September 29- The Deck Department spent it's
first day in the
village of Kordiabe, working with the Bright Future
They spent the day painting the window frames on the buildings,
digging the beginnings of a support
for a 250 gallon water tank,
and, of course, playing with the kids. We will be going out there
every Friday, taking
turns so we all can get a chance to be involved.
I didn't go today, but am planning to go this Friday or the next.
I spent my first day at Bright Future Orphanage by painting windowsills &
shutters & building the base for a 250 gallon
we've bought for them. The orphanage houses about 60 children on a tiny
compound of about a dozen rooms. They have
to walk a mile in the hot
African sun to go to school every day. Their 'school' is a few classrooms
underneath a thatched roof with
no walls, though they've started building
a proper six-room school nearby. Ghanaian orphans are shy and quiet, even
more so when
compared to Liberian ones, who get a little rambunctious attimes. I can't go this week due to an injury, but should return next week.
Once again, I got a group together today and went exploring. This time we
did some hiking. Mount Krobo is a
2-hour hike up slick rocks underneath a
blazing sun. We
crawled over boulder and trekked through long-abandoned 'villages',
evident now only by
3-foot high rock walls and tiny caves. The mountain was home to the Krobo tribe
the British evicted them all in 1892- for not paying taxes, of
course. They were re-settled in the nearby towns of Odumase,
Somanya, and Kpong. The Krobo now return
November for a month-long tribal festival that includes, no joke, running
up the mountain.
After two hours we arrived at the mountaintop hot, sweaty and tired,...but the view made it
October 19- Wondering what Tema port looks
like? Take a look below. Just my luck
that the port I've spent the longest time in is also the
ugliest I've ever been
has all the charm of Detroit without the lousy weather. It can dock up to twelve
at a time, & there are
ships coming and going 24 hours a day, seven days a
In contrast to Monrovia, our view here consists of concrete warehouses and
cranes. I crawled up onto a couple of them to take these photos. The first two
give you a good overview of what the dock
looks like, with the security tent
just aft of
the gangway, and the medical screening tent behind that. At both ends of the
shipping containers to keep thieves and other types from wandering around
space. The last two pictures are taken from the gangway,
and show a view of the
from ground level and looking forward and aft, respectively.
More about Tema port
November 1- The MV Anastasis maintains a 'walking
blood bank' on board.
Those who care to sign up to donate blood when needed, and our blood
lab keeps a list posted of who has what type of blood. So, late last night, we
had an emergency when one of the patients who'd had a grapefruit-sized
goiter removed began bleeding out. Goiters grow in the neck, very
to the arteries, and her Thyroid Artery had burst, and was spraying arterial
blood, shooting so hard it was hitting the ceiling. They rushed her to the OR
to save her life & began to call everyone whose blood type matched hers.
I was one of the ones they paged, as my blood type (A+) matched
hers. I woke up just in time to hear my name being called to the lab. When
obvious they weren't getting enough blood fast enough, they simply paged,
'"all those who have blood type A+, please come
to the lab immediately".
The lab was like a 'vampire factory', with donors lying down as soon
as the bed was free. They were so short of room, they ran out of bed space, and
our cook, who lives down the hall from the lab, was woken up so they could use
his bed to draw blood. The patient, Eunice, was saved, despite losing
whopping 8 liters of blood! Eight liters is the amount of blood
body has, so Eunice lost all of her blood, & is now walking around with
the blood a dozen Mercy Shippers. Eunice is alive and well, thanking God
for her good fortune. I didn't mind helping, it's the only 'A+' I ever got.
October 2005 to May 2006 were spent on Outreach in Liberia.
To read about the Liberian Outreach, click Here.