Although I lived in Ghana for 7 years, it did not start well at all. When we went there it was not for an adventure only. It was also for job and business. See my ex-boyfriend, Martin, is an amazing Photographer and DOP (director of photography) and he had this African dream. He wanted to live and work in West Africa – weather in Ghana or Cameroon. He did not have anything ready yet but he had established some contacts with Ghanaian producers and also he owned some decent photo equipment and amazing portfolio of-course. So he had several ideas how to make living in Africa and one of them was to open photo studio in Ghana. I was just running along – I was unemployed anyway and ready to help him with the business. When it comes to business he by all means needed help – he is great artist but not so great in sending out invoices or operating a firm.
We took a two weeks rest from our overlanding trip in Cape Coast. Recharged ourselves in romantic beach resort Oasis, made some friends, listened some Rasta music and Hip-life and got to know the legend of the Cape Coast.
But having done all this, it was time to Move to Accra and find some job. Or open a business. Although we loved the city of Cape Coast. The chances to earn living were better in the capital – Accra. Also that´s where we split up with Andres – my ex-boyfriends friend who traveled with us across the desert. He had his own plans in Ghana.
The legend of Cape Coast
Before we left Cape Coast we also got to know the legend. There is big statue of lobster in the city center of Cape Coast. When asked about it the locals explained like that the lobster symbolizes the people of Cape Coast. When to put lobsters in to bottom of the jar they start to struggle out. But when one lobster is about to make it out – the other ones would pull him back. And that´s how the people of Cape Coast are. When somebody starts doing better than others – the others will make sure to pull him back. Like lobsters in the jar. Surprisingly when people told us the legend, it seemed as if they were proud of behaving like this.
Producer Otabil and the first steps towards making a living
Martin had planned this trip for long time and he had established a good contact with a producer Otabil who was ready to fix him up with some job and arrange the living. Once we had actually meat Otabil, he admitted that he is not really producer but has the relevant contacts for us to find job. He accommodated us into his sisters “building in progress” house about 35 kilometers out of Accra. The house was not quite ready and therefore lacked the electricity contract. Which means we had to manage without electricity – but no big deal. This was temporary solution until we find some job and rent a place on our own.
We had our demo DVDs and CVs ready and now was time to drive through all TV stations and Production Houses in Accra and introduce us. My ex-boyfriend as Photographer and Cameraman and me as business manager and producer. Same time we were also getting to know the city and kept our eyes open for potential location for the photo studio we were hoping to open in Ghana I also had prepared CV to find a job in a bank and whenever we saw a bank we also stepped in and placed in my job application. I was somehow more confident about finding job in a bank than in TV studio cos introducing me as a producer was not quite correct. Yes I had helped Martin in some of his earlier projects in Estonia but I was no producer. Yet I assumed that in chaotic West Africa my problem solving abilty will be needed.
Trust issues and the robbery
At the house we stayed in, we had no way to lock the room door and there was lot of other people staying in same house. Otabil and his sister Awa, and her boyfriend and then some relatives and some boys from village who were sort of working as helpers. Because some money already went missing in this house we did not really know who to trust. That is the reason why we carried anything valuable with us. The photo equipment and both of the laptops. One morning when we were again getting ready to drive through the TV stations (and the banks) Awas boyfriend (I never got to know his name) asked if I could leave my laptop behind cos he wanted to use it to watch move. I refused, cos I really did not trust him and the explanation did not make much sense. There was no electricity in the house. How the hell was he thinking to watch the movie without electricity?
One of the helpers who lived in the house always drove with us and stayed in car to secure the items while we were visiting the companies. But when it was time to catch some lunch we all left the car. We parked the car just across the food joint. That´s how the small kiosks – selling food at the roadside are being called.
The car was in our sight – but yet this was not enough to keep things safe. We grabbed some fast food. Chicken and jollof-rice as take away and were back by the car withing the minutes. And as soon we reached there, we noticed something was off.
“Did you search something from the booth before we left car?” I asked Martin. “The backs if the seats are down”
“The photo equipment!!!” we both freaked.
Yes it was gone. So was my laptop.
At first we thought we had forgotten the doors unlocked – cos none of the wimdows was broken. But later discovered that the the passenger door lock in front was cracked.
It happened at day time on parking lot which was surrounded by different “open space” businesses. (You know – counter under umbrella) but nobody saw anything.
We reported it to Police. But they gave no hope! Yet they took some pribe to investigate further (which gave no results).
Believe me or not but we went to some African Ju-Ju people for help. But having heard about the super expennsive ingridients of their Magical Mixture we did not proceed. We had suffered enough loss so paying 200 euros for “very special” dog head for Ju-Ju Man to do his magic would have been foolish!
New beginning at Nkrumah Flats
After we got over from the first shocked we relized it must have been inside job. It must have been producer Otabil and his housemates. Ofcourse we could never prove it but – how else the thieves whats inside the car and where its hidden.. and all this suggestion to leave my laptop behind thst day…
Well the trust was gone! Actually Otabil was able to convince us that he also suspected his sister and the house mates. So we let him help us to find cheap place to rent in Accra and Moved out.
We moved to Lartebiorkorshie Nkrumah Flats – to an area that got its name by Ghanas first President Kwame Nkrumah.
It was 2 bedroom + hall type of flat with shared kitchen and bathroom. The rent aprox 50euros per moth at that time we had to pay in advance for one year. Which is common practice in Ghana. Some places ask even rent advance for 2 years.
It was empty flat. Bathroom we had to share with residents from one more flat (which luckily was empty while we moved in) and kitchen we should have shared with people from 2 neigboring flats but we bought our own electrical hotplate and did the cooking in the hall.
The bathroom had most of the time running water. Water was available in one temperature only – bit too cold for my preferd shower but somehow manageable.
We lived in 4 story building and best part of it was the rooftop bar. So for a chilled beer, we only needed to climb some stairs. I wish I could also say from roof we had besides cold beer also nice view but it was not so. We lived in very local area with no trash-bins therefore anywhere we could look from the rooftop we saw trash. And when looked bit more into distance we saw empty field with lot of smoke.
We were explained people are burning tires there. This area was called Agbogbloshie – one of the most polluted places in the world.
So yeah – rooftop bar – might sound cute, but the reality was not so romantic at all.
But at least we had home, which had electricity (quite often) and which we did not share with roommates who were just so many that we could not remember the names.
Now only problem was to find some job fast. Or get any income – without having the laptop and photo equipment.
The photo equipment being robbed from us is actually the reason why my desert shots are all so shitty. Martins camera was taken from us before we got to copy the content. That was painful – we really had some good stuff there. Luckily on the way, in Germany, I bought a mini camera cos I wanted to have chance to make some snapshots on my own too. Thanks to this at least I could show you some shots of this amazing desert trip. This camera was also taken from me in Ghana but years later.