A trip to Ghana

Yesterday we took a trip to Ghana.

Not literally—or even close, really—but we did the best we could from home.

My wife had an idea that we should play a game: pick a country, at random, and then take a trip there—sort of take a trip there. We could cook the food, find music and movies and pictures, learn about the place—do whatever we could do without, well, taking a trip there.

I picked a number (47). She compared it to a list of countries. 47 turned out to be Ghana. OK. I don't know anything about Ghana. Really—nothing.

Honestly, I wasn't sure how it was going to work out. This kind of game could have been really cheesy or shallow. But with the right balance—believing that you could find some meaningful information about a place without believing that what you found was totally representative of the place, or even marginally representative, or maybe even right because how can you tell without any real insight?—it could be a chance to learn a little something.

Here's what we cooked:

Lime rice

Okra soup

Here's how it turned out for us:

(What "we" cooked... my job was to look up history and culture, but I only ate the food, I didn't cook it.)

And so: a bullet list of small things I collected while learning more about Ghana:

  • High point: 885m (Mt. Afadja)
  • Low point: half of Ghana under 150m
  • Lake Bosumtwi is a large lake in an old meteor crater (W)
  • 7 national parks (W)
  • Highlife music
  • Kente cloth (W) (GI)
  • Khofi Annan – UN Secretary General (1997-2006), 2001 Nobel Peace Prize
  • Languages:
    • Official: English
    • 11 government sponsored: Akuapem Twi, Asante Twi, Fante, Dagaare, Dagbanli, Dangme, Ga, Nzema, Gonja, and Kasem

(That's a quick list. I was asked to make slides... yikes. Next time I'm going to get in front of it and make a quick web page.)

Look at this list of Ghana history at BBC:  Ghana country profile. You might think that Ghana's history mostly consisted of European countries. Even at first glance that seems wrong. Given only an hour to dig around, I modified it to be something like this:

  • ~1000-2000 BCE – Kintampo Complex, migrants from western Sudan
  • 300 BCE – Ghana empire (unrelated namesake, northwest of current country)
  • 1000s – Dagomba states (Northern region)
  • 1482 - Portuguese arrive and begin trading in gold, ivory and timber with various Akan states.
  • ~1500 - Gã people arrive in Accra
  • 1500s - Slave trade: Slavery overtakes gold as the main export in the region.
  • 1600s - Dutch, English, Danish, and Swedish settlers arrive
  • 1670s – Asante Empire
  • 1874 - The Gold Coast is officially proclaimed a British crown colony.
  • 6 March 1957 - Independence: Ghana becomes first sub-Saharan African colony to declare independence (video of the ceremony)

(That's not great, or complete, but if you're going to do a historical timeline about Ghana, or anywhere, you really should pay attention to the lens that you look at it through.)

And a few videos:

Ghana vs. USA in the 2010 World Cup

Deutsche Welle: People, trading, and markets in Ghana

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