Wa, Ghana: First Impressions
My next destination is Wa which is in the northern region of Ghana not too far from the Burkina Faso border. I chose Wa because it is not too big of a city and it has a decent amount of available Street View accessible locations. I also wanted to focus on an English speaking destination to ease my workload a little. Translating and creating subtitles for the video I did with Farid Monti was time-consuming (and definitely worth it). So, as I am still working on the format of this project, I will stick with English speaking countries for a bit.
This post is meant to document my first impressions as I scroll through the streets of Wa and take screenshots. This will generate a lot of questions that I hope to answer by making connections with folks who live there soon.
Religion is Front and Center
One of the first things I noticed was that religion was on display in many different ways. Mosques were very prevalent. Some were large and encompassing a substantial lot, others were more like storefront churches here in DC. There also was a rather large Cathedral of St. Andrews Church. So there is evidence of Islam and Christianity but I would have to say that the majority of the population practices Islam based on the numbers of mosques and minarets I spotted.
Along some streets, I saw what appears to be open-air prayer stations. These concrete slabs have clear borders outlining the area and also incorporate a focal point or rounded bump-out that might indicate the location of Mecca or an area where an imam could lead discussions. A couple of them also had rugs in them as well.
Religion, or deference to God, was also evident in many businesses. There were a few travel agencies specializing in the Hajj to Mecca for devout Muslims. There were also several businesses alluding to God such as the "Heaven Sent Supermarket" and the "God is the Great Provider" restaurant. There was a well-maintained compound proclaiming on its walls that "The Long Awaited Messiah Has Come" followed by "Imam Mahdi has come" on an adjacent wall. Some slogans were painted above bar doorways like: "All shall pass away except God's words." But my favorite combination of religious messaging with business have to be the "To the Glory of God" copy center and the "Christ Cures Enterprises- Chemical Seller." I am going to hypothesize that chemical seller is like a pharmacist and not a subsidiary of Dow chemicals.
I relish the small details that give insight into life which is why I also loved seeing some inconspicuous signs painted on walls welcoming pilgrims back from their Hajj and an image that captured 12 men praying in the entrance to an agriculture machine supply store.
I was able to get a glimpse as to some of the food available in Wa by some of the menus displayed in front of restaurants and food stalls. I have cooked Jollof rice before but I will have to do some research on what goes into Ampesie, Rice Balls, Kenkey, Wakye, and Banku.
Food was plentiful and there were many restaurants that lined the streets as well as people selling meals, snacks or ingredients. I spotted some women bringing fried goods into town, a table of bagged peanuts and a stall that looks like bowls filled with grain that will be scooped out upon request, or maybe you can scoop out your own.
Even though Wa appears to be predominately Muslim, there were several bars and ads for beer as well. There is a beer called Ruut but I bet it doesn't taste anything like root beer! I loved seeing the "Family and Friends Drinking Spot" that had a pot with a pound stick still in it. Looks like preparation for the meal of the day is about to begin (or just finished).
This place is on the move and everything is used from cars and trucks, to motorcycles and Tuk Tuks, and to bicycles as well. I know every place seems to have its own name for the Tuk Tuk three-wheeled little taxis so I will need to learn what they are called in Wa. My favorite transportation spotting was the man transporting some calves sing a motorcycle pickup and a school bus for an English and Arabic school.
In one section of Wa, there were many examples of women weaving. Their looms were easy to spot since the string they were working with was extremely long. The string ends would be tied to a weight across the yard and it looks like the string could be about 15 feet long before it meets the loom where the weavers are working. One of my favorite weaving scenes was a group of women working near a very large shade tree. This image also captured what looks like the preparation of the string which looks like it is wrapped around pegs to make a square.
Places to Research
I came across the soccer stadium which makes me wonder if there is a professional team in Wa. I also found Jubilee Park which is painted in green, red and gold colors which makes me think that it is for governmental events. I also spotted Radio Wa so I will definitely be checking that out as well.
I'm closing out this blog with moments that made me do a double take. First is a barber's sign that reads "Cry Your Own Hair Cut." I have no idea what that means and doubt any Googling will ever answer it. This will have to come up in any interviews I can score. I spotted a Korean delivery truck that still has a Seoul based phone number on it. Lastly, was a chair underneath an arch bedecked with flowers. At first I thought it was a roadside wedding but then I looked again and saw that it was just an advertisement for an event planning company.
There are lots of things to follow up on with folks in Wa and I look forward to connecting and learning more about life there.