Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Food for thought

January 17, 2007

It would have been nice to have a day of rest, but it was not in the plans. I rolled out of bed at twenty to nine and a tro-tro (name for minibus) was here to pick us up at nine sharp (5 Atlantic time so I was still pretty sleepy).

We went to the Ghanaian Journalists Association to begin our orientation with Ato, JHR's country coordinator. We ate a nice breakfast on the patio outside the association and then went into an air-conditioned room (thankfully since it was already 25 degrees and muggy).

We heard two talks during the day. In the morning, it was Bright, Blewu, the head of the Ghanaian Journalists Association. He spoke about the history of the free press in Ghana. He says the media is in the embryonic stage right now because there was no real free press before freedom of speech was enshrined in the 1992 constitution. The real freedom came, though, after the criminal libel law was dropped in 2000. Until then a journalist could be jailed for criticizing or investigating a politician or prominent figure. There is still a libel law but it's a civil one so reporters are more inclined to investigate and/or comment on controversial subjects.

I had the most amazing lunch - a bean stew with fish and rice. Oh my God it was good. It was mildly spicy - I must find out what kinds of spices they use so Janet and I can try and cook it. I'm pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoy the food...for two reasons. One, I was so afraid of potential allergies to nutty dishes. But it is easy, as it turns out, to avoid them. Two, I had been told by many people that the food was unexceptional. But it's great so far. I think it's because fish, beans and rice are such staples in my diet. It's comfort food...

In the afternoon, we spoke with Egbert Faibile, a lawyer and journalist in Accra. He gave us a broad overview of the political system, and the culture and society.

By the end of the afternoon, I began to fade. You know that feeling when you're trying so hard to stay awake - the eyes flutter as you fight falling asleep.

We went back to our hostel and took a short nap. At night we went to the French association, which was interesting because the British colonized Ghana though it's surrounded by French African countries. We watched a performance by an African drum and dance troupe, and ate dinner. I had plantains and the same bean and fish stew. I didn't enjoy it as much because I don't like the sweetness of the plantains and the stew was a little too spicy. Had a beer and went back to the hostel to sleep.

- Mark

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