A Game of Borders

(Ghana, Togo, Benin map)

MPAGErs weren’t settled for twelve hours before hitting the road again. At 10am Sunday morning, students left their Accra hotels, and started an eight-hour eastbound trek across Ghana, through Togo, to Benin’s Songhai Centre, one of the world’s leading sustainable communities.

Snoozing students jerked awake the whole ride. The van bumped along a bumpy road carved in vast savannas decorated with wise-looking trees. Four hours passed until we reached the boarder.

Togo wasn’t too happy to see us. The photographer/videographer, Abdul, was almost arrested for filming. He was forced to erase all footage from that day and they even tried to apprehend his equipment.

Students sat in the stuffy van for almost two hours while Togo officials demanded bribes and extra unnecessary documents, but alas, MPAGErs were permitted to enter Togo.

Racing to reach Benin before sunset, there was little time for a proper lunch. Instead, MPAGE site coordinator, Umar Mohammed, purchased a bag of street fried lamb and three loaves of bread. MPAGERs feasted on the race to Benin.

Benin’s boarder officials loved MPAGE as much as Togo’s. They refused to accept the entry documents, even though a Benin ambassador in Ghana approved them. Umar went back in forth with the officials for three hours, but they wouldn’t budge. They ceased the group’s passports and ordered Umar to return tomorrow if he wanted MPAGE to enter their country.

(Togo-Benin boarder)

MPAGErs settled at a Togo hotel close to the Benin boarder. The small beach houses were modest and comfortable and students were exhausted.

(Main building of the Togo hotel)

The next morning, students awoke refreshed and ready for another battle. During breakfast, a meal of omelets, crepes, and tea, an entire fishing village scrambled across the hotel’s beach. What are they all doing? every one wondered.

(Local community fishes on the beach)

They were fishing. Dozens and dozens of men, women, children and the elderly filed along a netted rope over a 100 yards long and heaved with all their might.

MPAGers shuffled across the beach to get a better look. Before long, students were yanking the endless rope too. There were no cheers, curious looks, or smiles from the villagers. They accepted students like they were supposed to be there and even started giving instructions. Students tugged and sang in rhythm with the people. Nearly 45 minutes passed before the net was finally ashore.

(Research intern Robert Shannon and Mohammed Joseph tug on net)

Hundreds of pounds of fish flittered in the net. There was tuna, squid, stingrays, and countless other kinds.

(The fishing net once it was ashore)

Bright, triumphant smiles shined on everyone’s face.

Next stop—round two with Benin’s boarder officials. When MPAGEr’s arrived they made even more unreasonable requests and it became apparent that visiting the Songhai Centre was not going to work out. So, MPAGErs packed it up and returned home, Ghana.

Written by Kwabena ‘Kobi’ Ansong

July 26, 2012, Cape Coast, Ghana


One thought on “A Game of Borders

  1. One way to look at it is that the lesson is in what we actually experience, not in what we planned to experience. Much was learned on this trip, despite not reaching the Songhai Center.

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