Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cape Coast Castle

Where we left off last time (before I decided to spend two nights winning pub quizzes and hence not doing any decent blogging), Ortencia and I were eating in what came to feel like the only restaurant in Cape Coast's only restaurant, drinking Malta Guinness with a guy and his friend. Our first morning at the blue-light hotel started with "cheesy" toast, incredibly light on cheese, and a packet of instant coffee. As we wandered down to see the Castle that gave its name to the restaurant, there they were, waiting for us. They came along to the bookstore with us while I bought some postcards and then it got a bit awkward - they obviously intended to spend the day with us, but we were headed into the Castle.

Visiting one of the castles involved in the slave trade is a hard experience to put into words. Cape Coast Castle was incredible - in addition to the tour and the structure itself, there was a photo exhibit of Ghana today, a museum, and an showing of Italian drawings - even a couple making out in an empty room who I startled quite a bit when I walked in. Cape Coast Castle is moving. The dungeons with their lack of life and stagnant air, the lines of cannons, the Door of No Return, the view of the sea and the fishing boats next to it. It was a moving tour, a moving place to visit.

After our visit to the castle, we ended up once again at the Castle Restaurant and while we were eating, watched some boys learning acrobatic tricks on the beach. While we were there two men tried to join us, without so much as asking if it was okay if they sat down. After they left, one of the acrobat teachers noticed us watching the kids having their lesson and stopped to explain that they were trying to teach the boys so that they could join competitive teams.

During our visit to the market, we saw a lot of used clothing stalls. Ortencia told me that in Togo, they refer to shops like that as the dead white people shop. We went and surfed the Internet and it was s l o w. There were a couple of hours of sitting around, drinking fresh orange juice, but the wind near the coast made it chilly, so after buying a loaf of bread, we headed home to read, relax, and try and figure out how to use the SIM card Ortencia bought.

Plans were to head to the rain forest the next day, so we tried to go to bed early, though I slept very badly.

"It never takes longer than a few minutes, whenever they get together, for everyone to revert to a state of nature, like a party marooned by a shipwreck. That's what a family is... Also the storm at sea, the ship, and the unknown shore. And the hats and the whiskey stills that you make out of bamboo and coconuts. And the fire that you light to keep away the beasts." Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policemen's Union

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