It is nice to see some new landscapes, something other than the urban Accra grime. The 3-hour drive east along the coast is a long, flat expanse of lush cassava fields, pocked by red termite towers, the roadside dotted with clusters of watermelon and okra sellers. Although we are following the coast toward Togo, the ocean does not come into view until after we’ve crossed the wide Volta River, and dipped south to the coast.
We’ve been invited to this Saturday outing by fellow AJWS volunteers, The Schnurmans, who have arranged transport with their friend and co-worker, Della, a Keta native from this thin strip of land between sea and lagoon.
The town of Keta was nearly washed away by eroding tides 20 years ago, and it has only been partly built back up since then. In addition to rebuilding homes, it has been necessary to replant thousands of lost coconut trees on which the people depend for so much. Not until last year, however, did they get the first 2,700 seedlings in the ground, Della, tells us, walking us along the beach to the rows of knee-high saplings with members of the local youth group.
Our visit also features a tour of Fort Prinzenstein, a castle built in 1784 by the Danes, later used as a slave dungeon for Africans bound for plantations in the U.S. Virgin Islands. We are shown the shackles, the fingernail scrapings, the scale for weighing live bodies, etc.
The writing on the walls reminds us to never forget, but I am struck by humanity’s amazing ability to do forget and repeat everything, allowing such atrocities to occur over and over (this is heavily on my mind as I read We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, by Philip Gourevitch).
The most interesting part of our visit to Fort Prinzenstein is learning of the upcominig healing ceremony that will occur here on Emancipation Day (July 1), when representatives from the Virgin Islands will gather with their African ancestors at the fort, in an attempt to recognize and somehow “heal” the evil that has occurred here.
The rest of the day is lighter–a visit to a family compound where they are busy smoking racks of herring for the market, and the children delight in getting their photos taken, running and cheering in celebration when they see their faces on our cameras’ LCD screens.
We re-enter the Accra traffic before dark and the next day, we get together with our full AJWS Volunteer Corps group in Ghana, which includes Lew Shapiro, our newest colleague, fresh off the plane from Fairbanks, Alaska, and here to help a local women’s group with fundraising skills. Also pictured, is our in-country rep and guide, Aseye Ame-Bruce, who has been a wonderful host to her beloved country: