I had close to zero expectations or knowledge of Ghana before I arrived but I never imagined that I would be sitting at a bar in Kokrobite watching hunters circle their prey to the sound of a cover band playing Bob Marley badly.
Kokrobite has two faces. The first is an extremely poor fishing village about 30 km from Accra, the capital of Ghana. The second is a booming resort with its long relatively clean beach covered with speculative development although in Ghana it is hard to tell whether the decaying husk of a hotel has been abandoned or just a stalled project. After all, many of the McMansions that have sprung up around the hills of Kokrobite are in the same condition – half constructed unsightly piles of poorly made bricks with only a pot-holed dirt road leading past them. The government has not caught up with the expansion of suburbs.
Anyway, I was at Big Milly’s, one of the more established beach resorts there and it was Saturday night. The bar was packed full of two kinds of people. The first were badly dressed young white women in their twenties many with African braids that must have been put in as a form of inside joke by the local women. The second were finely turned out young African men in their twenties, many with dreadlocks, wearing fake D&G t-shirts.
The white women, girls really, were there because many had paid to volunteer in Africa and were having some time off either during or after their three to four week stint. I’ve met other such feel-good tourists before in India and Cambodia and I shouldnt have been surprised that the entire tourist industry in Ghana seems to depend on these kids.
The African men, boys really, were there because of the white girls.
There were many couples – some quite clearly established, some in the process of becoming. Everyone seemed happy with each other. But even though I tried to shake it, I was reminded more and more of the less savoury parts of Thailand. If I tried hard to be colour blind and to forget about the discrepancy in wealth between the two groups, the place was pretty much the sort of sleazy pick-up bar one can find anywhere. But I couldnt and wondered if I was just being prejudiced.
I met a few locals and mixed couples in the following weeks and while the picture became more complex, it never really got rid of my initial impression. In some cases, as with a young man lying about his trip to Hawaii with his much older American wife, the desperation and unhappiness in the man’s eyes was as deep as any I’d seen in Thai prostitutes.
But in others, the match seemed more even although always slightly problematic: a German teacher who had accepted a job in Ghana having found her proudly announced perfect mix of both her favourite racial types in her half Korean / half Ghanaian boyfriend, another German teacher with her penniless rasta boyfriend saying “that’s his favourite dish – he eats it whenever he can” as she paid for it.
Maybe my eyes are too tainted by divisions of race, class and culture which is ironic given my own situation, but I could not see past them in those couples and never mind how nice it seemed for them, I always felt at least a hint of the anger I felt in Thailand whenever I saw intelligent attractive thai women with rich unattractive falang.