DionRabouin.com (sort of)

The Ghana Diaries: Day Nineteen

Posted in The Ghana Diaries by dionrabouin on August 21, 2010

Even the pimps are nice here.

We went to Cape Coast for a few days this week. Cape Coast is a town near the ocean where the Dutch, Portuguese and British used to harbor slaves before shipping them off to their next destination. The castle where they harbored most of the slaves is still erect today and you can take tours of it.

After the tour and dinner on our first night, I asked the man who was working as our waiter (he was also the bell hop, the concierge and the front desk attendant, people working in hotels here do a lot of different jobs) where I should go to have a night out on the town and meet some lovely young ladies. He suggested this place called London Bridge. A few hours later, I managed to get a taxi to London Bridge and went to the bar he suggested called Hacienda.

There were only a few people inside, but there was one really cute girl with beautiful skin and what Ice Cube once referred to as “ass for days.” I started up a conversation with her as I do with the women here, said hello, asked her how she was (the Ghanaians say “Owareyou?” like it’s a greeting instead of “how are you?” it’s very strange. And they all always respond with “I’m fine”) told her I liked her style, etc. We started talking about where I was from and Cape Coast and then she left and said she would be back. She told me her name was Portia, which should have been my first clue something was up.

Women my age in Ghana aren’t named Portia. They’re named Bernice or Matilda or Ruth or Margaret or Hagar (I swear to God I met a Hagar, she was sexy too). Everyone here has names from the early 20th century. In Ghana you get your Ghanaian name, which often coincides with the day you were born on (that’s why there are like a billion Kwames and Kwesis around here) and your “Christian” name, which is usually something from the Bible (hence Hagar).

After Portia left, I started talking to this other guy who asked me to give him one cedi to help him out and in exchange he would introduce me to the girls, a “nice one” he promised me. Because I’m an American I get asked for charity a lot, so I didn’t think much of it and told the guy politely that I would not be giving him any money. I walked outside and met another guy who wanted money named Randy. Unlike the previous guy in the bar, Randy had the good sense to ask me to buy him a beer rather than just asking for some money.

Initially I told him he needed to do for self, which he laughed at and seemingly understood, but then he took me to a couple of the other bars and talked to some of the girls there. When we went back to the first bar, I asked the bartender if Randy was an alright guy and she said he was, so I bought him a Guinness. In most places, beer runs you about two or three cedis, so it wasn’t really a big deal. In return for the beer, Randy went outside and promptly sent Portia back in. This should have been my second clue.

After talking to Portia awhile, the bartender brought me back over. She told me that the girls here were very “smart.” Of course, I inquired what she meant by smart. She said they were smart and would take your money if given a chance. She said that even after I paid them, they would try to take my wallet and to rob me in my sleep. Pay them? I asked. Pay them for the sex, she responded matter-of-factly. It still didn’t all hit me.

I asked the bartender how many of the girls here got paid for sex. Some, she said. So, I went back to my conversation with Portia hoping she wasn’t one of them. (If I’m going to pay for sex in a foreign country, it’s going to be somewhere it’s legal and I can see proof of the girl’s STD-freeness.) I asked Portia about what the bartender had told me, and she happily detailed the business of prostitution in Cape Coast.

“It depends on whether you shoot or sleep.”
“Shoot or sleep?”
“Yes, if you shoot, it’s 20 cedis, if you sleep, it’s 50 cedis.”
In case I haven’t mentioned it, the exchange rate is one dollar to 1.45 cedis, so sex goes for around $15 or a little more than $35 if you want the girl to sleep over and do it again.

“If you pay for sleep, do you get it again in the morning?”

It was at this point that Portia started using the pronouns ‘we’ and ‘our’ and I realized I needed to make clear that I had no intention of paying her or being one of those losers that pays prostitutes to talk to them. After I cleared that up I went back outside to talk to Randy, because, of course, Portia had left. Even though I had been drinking, I had come to the conclusion, at this point, that Randy was a pimp and that every single one of the girls at the bar was a prostitute – actually, Portia told me that part.

Randy turned out to be a really nice guy. In addition to taking me around town and introducing me to people, he also offered me one of his girls for free, as a way to welcome me to Cape Coast and say thanks for the beer I bought him. I’m really glad he offered me an ugly one, because it may have been difficult to turn down a free good-looking prostitute. He then showed me some of the places that would be popping when Cape Coast had their festival in a couple weeks. I told him I might attend and he told me to just ask around town for him by name, everyone knew who he was. I don’t doubt for a second that this is true.

After he walked me around some shady parts of town and showed me a couple bars that were closed, but would be open for the festival, we went to meet some of his friends.

“These are some killers I got,” he said and took me to an abandoned shack where four nefarious-looking hoodlums were sitting. He introduced me and said something in whatever language they speak in Cape Coast – every tribe has their own language and whatever tribe is most populous in an area is what language most people speak – to one of the main hoodlums. He asked me to come have a seat next to him on the crate he was sitting on. Randy turned to me and said “No, no, no” and said something else to the guy, which I assume meant, “No, I like this one, don’t kill him.”

Then, the killers all gave me a pound and Randy and I went back to the bar. It was about 2 a.m. at this point and everything was closing up. Randy grabbed one of the taxi drivers he knew and the guy offered to take me back to my hotel for two cedis. Of course, I flatly refused because I had gone down there for 30 pesways (cents) and I wasn’t about to pay two cedis to get home. Fortunately, Randy’s “real sister” – who also works for him, whether they’re actually related by blood I don’t know, but it wouldn’t surprise me – was going in my direction, so he got the driver to take me for free.

When I got back to the hotel, the clerk/waiter/bus boy/cook/concierge was asleep on a towel outside of the dinner pick-up window. He told me earlier in the day that he never leaves and I thought he was exaggerating, but I guess he is literally always there. I woke him up – because he keeps the keys when you leave the hotel, not because I’m a jerk – and asked him politely why he didn’t at least warn me he was sending me to the ho spot. He just sort of laughed and shrugged. I’m still not sure whether he thought it was funny, he didn’t understand what “ho spot” meant or if he really didn’t know it was the ho spot.

I think if this had been any other country I would probably have been robbed and shot (generally what happens when you walk around a strange city at one in the morning with a pimp you’ve just met) but because this is Ghana, the friendly pimp/tour guide gave me a really nice walk around the city and got me a free cab back to my hotel.

That’s the end of the story, now to the part where I go on at length about some larger concept my time here has me thinking about.

For the past couple-few days I’ve been ruminating about how this place is a nation of contradictions or odd juxtapositions. What’s really strange is how nice the people are, but how rude they can be. I’ve talked about the traffic before – it’s horrendous – but one thing that adds to it is the drivers here will just straight up run you over. It’s this philosophy of no excess. I think the thinking is that if people don’t want to get hit they’ll move out of the way. So drivers don’t think twice about yelling at pedestrians in traffic or making a b-line to their desired destination and taking out whoever is in the way. I still haven’t seen anyone get hit, but there’s time yet.

The most interesting thing that happened on my tour of the slave dungeon was this mixed couple from the Netherlands. It was an African man and his Dutch (white) wife and their two mulatto chilluns and they were taking a tour of the slave dungeons where the Dutch harbored, killed, raped and dehumanized Africans before sending them on their way into slavery. I suppose it would have been more stark if the man had been a part of the Netherlands Diaspora rather than an African immigrant, but it was an interesting picture nonetheless.

The thing that kept going through my mind as I went to place after place was that I would’ve been one of the first slaves that got shot. There would be absolutely no way I would’ve made it onto the boat. The guide showed us this room where they kept slaves that got out of line, it had no ventilation and they kept the offending party there until they died of either suffocation or starvation. Again, I would not have made it there. I would have forced them to shoot me.

I guess I understand most people’s reverence for life, but I would honestly rather die than go through that. Same thing goes for being a slave, period. I just couldn’t do it. I would’ve organized a revolt and if no other slaves were down I would’ve just run up in massa’s house with a cotton gin or something.

After my trip to the Elmina dungeon – owned by the Dutch West Indies Co. (remember that name from history class?) – I went back to the hotel for dinner with my father and his wife. That’s when the whole episode started.

TANGENT: Both of my parents are remarried now, so I suppose I have step-parents and am supposed to refer to them as such, but considering neither has really been any sort of parent to me – because they’ve only been around since I was old enough to take care of myself, not because they’re bad people – I have no sense of them being step-parents. It’s weird saying my dad’s wife, but there is a 0.0 percent chance I will ever refer to the woman my father is married to as mom of any sort, so I suppose I don’t really have another choice.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: