Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Blue Moon Perks

It is true that if one makes a decision to stand with people in poverty in far-away places, unpleasant experiences come along for the ride. Sometimes, to privileged senses, regions characterized by poverty are not only different, but uncomfortable and disturbing. It is the beauty of the humanity within poverty that draws us in, but we often share that beauty within the context of various forms of ugliness-- including in ourselves. When one adds that this activity happens thousands of miles from home over the course of years, we understand why some might think the work is too much to ask, even of people of faith. We understand why people would rather see pictures of family fun, enjoying canopy walks, singing happy birthday, making Christmas cookies. And truly, if our lives actually were forever up to our elbows in human misery and pain, it would probably be too much. But working in West Africa has its perks, so if the sadness and struggle were all we shared with you, we would not be painting an accurate image of our activities. And though we are not here on vacation, there are times when we get a day or two off and we get to simply be tourists in West Africa.

The last couple of weeks contained those off days and we took advantage of them. You’ve already seen some images of our trip to Kakum. Now, few more images of 1) our journey to Boti, one of Ghana’s many beautiful waterfalls, 2) Two nights in Eastern Ghana, at Ada Foah, sleeping on the beach under a Blue Moon, in a futile search for sea turtles laying their eggs, and 3) our kids enjoying a retreat at a beach resort to the west. Enjoy.

First stop, the Boti waterfalls. North and slightly East of Accra, near the Volta River. This is what the twins look like during the wet season...

...and this is what they look like now. It seems like a trickle, but the camera is a hundred yards or more from the falls. Looks to be about a hundred foot drop.

This gives a better idea of the scale of the canyon into which the falls empty. That's Hannah.

Another one of those magnificent Kapok trees.

A couple days later, we were off to Ada Foah, a town about an hour's drive down the beach. We took a little boat to our destination. As we traveled, we realized we were at the mouth of the Volta, and that the shores were covered with huts.

The whole area is made up of fishing villages-- villages that that have been here beyond memory. Currently, the fishing trade and the tourist trade live in harmony, and are even mutually beneficial. Can they be so forever?

The people live their lives around the fishing boats that sustain them. The boys learn to pilot a twenty foot boat before they are ten.

Cleaning nets on the ocean side.

This is where we stayed over two nights. Our hope was to encounter one of the many large sea turtles that come up on the ocean beach to lay their eggs. We enlisted a guide from an NGO that works with the government to protect the turtles from poachers. He and his American volunteer ride up and down the beaches until 3:00am making sure they are safe. There had been turtles the night before, he said, so we thought we would certainly see them during our stay. He would come and get us when he saw them.

A lovely evening, just Renita and I-- the kids were at a retreat-- enjoying the river side of the camp.

This young man came by, dropped his traps, and in a few hours, picked them up. I imagine this is his life's work. I can't figure out if I feel sorry or envious. That night, we slept on the beach under a Blue Moon-- a New Year's Eve Moon, and waited for the turtles to come.

We were disappointed both nights we stayed. At about six, while my dear wife slept, the armada of fishing boats left, as if on cue. You can make them out in the distance; we saw twenty or so pass by our little camp site.

This is what we missed: Lepidochelys olivacea. The Olive Ridley sea turtle. At about a hundred pounds, the smallest of the giants, but still the sight of a lifetime for me. I hope I can return.

This is why they come on shore, and risk their lives. They dig all night, sometimes even making fake nests, to lay their eggs. Dogs dig up most. The day after we got home, our guide called to say that the next night, there were six on the beach in our area.

Hannah and Noah were having their own good time at a church retreat. Here, Noah looks on as one of the counselors eats baby food. Its what they do for fun at church retreats.

Hannah at the beach during Free Time. Sometimes those waves knocked the kids off the rocks. More retreat fun!

Weather: Accra weather has been consistently hot and dry, with moderate humidity. Daytime temps remain to the low to mid 90sF almost everyday, down to around 80F at night. We get a light breeze-- around 10mph most of the day. No rain.