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You know it is difficult to make money here in Ghana so that’s why I decided to go to Libya. Twice I went there and both times I had bad luck and returned empty handed. But as soon as I have enough money I will go for a third time. Until I succeed.
My second attempt to make money in Lybia was in 2003. I learned from my first trip and so I took another route. To Bawku, the border town, and from there with several trucks and vehicles to Agadez, which is a desert town in Niger. That road to Agadez by the way is the worst in West Africa, worse than driving through the desert itself. Humping and bumping through deep potholes in the road, broken vehicles everywhere, mummified cow-skeletons along the road and a burning sun. So, up to Agadez the route was the same as the road I traveled before, but once in Agadez, where you pass straight into desert land, I made a different choice from my first journey. It costs more but it is worth it if you have the money. You wait until there are enough people, 200 in all, and then you are pulled into a large truck, the type we call ‘combine’, and that truck brings you right through the desert where there is no road to a village called Durku. That is the last village in the country of Niger, after that you are in Libya.
We were with over 200 people in that lorry, packed like fish standing on their tails. It’s a miracle that we did eventually arrive. After Durku there is nothing anymore except sand and stones and you wait. You may wait one week or three weeks if you are lucky but some can spend four months or more over there before they find transport to Libya.
Staying in the village of Durku gives a problem for each day you have to eat, at least something. The water is free for there is a natural water source over there. Everybody is careful with his money because it is needed for the connection car to Libya, cars that are run by Libyans and costs 60,000 CFA per person. That is the amount you pay but you also have to have money at hand to pay for a present for the driver for there are always more people than cars. These connection people make good business. Now if you are not careful and spend too much on food while waiting for your connection and you have not enough to bribe them then you can go back to Ghana and have to start all over again!
I took a connection car and went straight and painlessly to Libya, to the town of Saba. The other border town is called Black, that’s where I went the first time when I crossed to Libya, which was in 1997.
Let me tell you about that first time. That time I took the Mount Hogar route, which is less costly but much tougher. It may cost less money but has claimed a lot more lives. That first time I suffered too much before I reached Libya. It took me 12,000 CFA to pay a guide in Agadez and a lesser amount for a car that brings you to the foot of the Hogar Mountain. There you are all dropped in the sand and that is it. The cars return and you are left to yourself. You and your guide climb over the Mount Hogar which is very difficult and if you make it you walk for a week by foot through the sand and you feel thirsty or sometimes you feel nothing, you just walk, only walk. It is a horror. It is important to dodge the official borders so you cross somewhere secretly into Libya. That first time it took me three months to go from Ghana to Black in Libya. Some got sick, some started acting abnormally, some also died. Read more
Baffo returned to Ghana in 1994 and stayed at first in Accra, the capital, because the financial expectations of his family home in the village of Nkoranza were far too high. Much more was demanded of him, paying this hospital bill, that funeral and those school fees, than he could afford. Even now, after twelve years, his ‘been to overseas’ status makes him the banker of the family. This happens to all who leave Ghana and then return as ‘a rich man’. Baffo now invests his money in building a second house. Should he have put his money in the bank instead he would have spend it all on family matters. Now the cash is simply not there, it has become a wall, a roof, a building. ‘Should I tear down the building to pay your child’s bill?’ Baffo helped a junior brother through university and now his brother is also ‘a success’ and helps to share the family burden. His brother follows an exchange program in the Netherlands.
This is Baffo’s story:
In 1989 I decided to go to Libya. I was a driver in the hospital at Nkoranza but I wanted a better future and my friends who had gone before urged me to join them in Libya where money comes easier as they said. So I did. It took me 26 days to reach there. Niger, two days waiting for transport at the capital, a day and a half in a truck and three days waiting in Agadez for transport through the desert. The desert treks are risky so the cars depart three at the time. Pick-ups, filled with 25 persons each. You think there’s really no more place and then another few persons are pressed inside but eventually full is full! Drivers stick together because of desert storms and mishaps, alone may mean lost. We went. You stand there body to body in the back of the pickup and you cannot turn or move. It was so risky that I wanted to come back but there is no way back. You have one gallon water for three days and you put salt in it which helps you to go slow on the water. You drive at night and in the day you wait somewhere in the shade. You reach the Algerian border town which is called Tamanrasset. Here you stay a week to treat yourself from your illnesses, nose bleedings, heatstrokes, malaria, craziness. If you pay the Ghanaian agent he cooks for you. Then there is another trip for you, five cars in convoy this time. A three day journey.
You go again with your gallon of salted water, now to the Mount Hogar. There you walk, you have to climb the mountain by foot and it is tough and you are weak. The bag you have is too heavy so people throw one by one their luggage away. If you are lucky you reach the mountaintop and you rest. At four in the evening you start walking. You walk for three days through pure sandy desert, again with another gallon of water. You have hired a guide who leads you to the border with Libya. You see so many corpses dead in the sand and everywhere along the road that you want to return, but return, how?! We Nkoranza people are more in number, in my case we were four, so we looked after each other. If one is sick we tell the guide to stop and wait for the Nkoranza friend to recover. If you are alone the guide does not mind you but if four people say stop he will stop. These guides are from Niger and Algeria. They show you the light of the southern city in Libya and then they return and you go alone. If you miss the light that night you have to wait another day till it is night again. Short of water, short of food, no shade but all you can do is walk on. Read more
Should I start with my name? My name is Michael Sarpong, a citizen of Nkoranza. I stayed in Ghana for a number of years and I want to tell you my own story of why and how I got overseas. My wife had a health problem and she decided to go to the US for medical treatment. That was in 1987. She applied for a visa which was issued for two years and she left soon thereafter. During her stay, which was at the time that Reagan was president of the United States, she, together with many other foreigners, was granted amnesty and received a residence permit, because she had stayed for a certain number of years. My wife was lucky being there at that time and she began processing her papers towards permanent residence in the US. She called me over the telephone one day and told me about this and asked if I wanted to join her. I said all right.
At that time when I talked about my plans, people said: ‘No, don’t do that! Nkoranza is a village!’ ‘There is no light, no water, nothing in Nkoranza’.’There is no road to Nkoranza, too!’. People told me to reconsider and build my hotel in any town but not in that small village of Nkoranza. But I said ‘No, you wait and see’. And look at it now! Now there is electricity, now there is a tarred road, and now many people visit Nkoranza and the hotel is always full.
I believe in my goal and I have been right when I said: ‘Very soon things will change.’ Things changed! As a marketing man I am not short sighted. I plan for the far future and I must see how things are in a few or many years from now. That is my field: planning and concentrating on succeeding.
So even when I acquired the land people did not like it because it was too near to the cemetery. So what I did was this: I looked around and saw a good piece of land nearby. It belonged to the Presbyterian Church but it was not used. I said: ‘That is the right piece of land which I need for my hotel!’ I saw that the church had not made any lease and did not use the land and so I put sand and blocks on it. One day they saw that someone was building on their land. I got a letter from the District Council summoning me to come and so I came. I asked ‘What do you need me for’. They said the committee of the church had reported me to the Council for taking their plot. So we all met and sat down and then during that time the DS was a woman, Dora Adyei. And I presented my case to her, while the people too presented their case. She said to us: ‘Oh but this is a good plan, this is good for the town! The town is developing and we have a lot of visitors and always we have to send them to Techiman so stay overnight. So when you, Michael, have decided to build a hotel here it is a good thing for the town and we should encourage you! People build houses for themselves and you are going to build a hotel which serves not just yourself but the whole town, so I decide to give the plot to you!’ She then asked the other people to present their lease and their side-plan and all the papers and they had none. Dora said: ‘Okay, this guy has a good project for the town so I am going to divide the plot into two, one is for the hotel and the other is for the Presbyterian Church. Half for you, the other half for you.’ Read more
To Be A Man Is Not Easy ~ The Boys Of The Band. Nkoranza (Name Changed). Interview With Akosua Asantewaah
She’s called Akosua Asantewaah, a solid, good-humored woman of about forty years old. Some time ago her husband took his colleagues, all civil servants, as well as his own family by surprise by going to Accra for shopping and … calling his wife the next morning from New York! Her husband Dominique has worked as an accounting assistant for over fifteen years. He is known and well liked in town. His wife kept silent but rumors were quickly spreading that he had indeed left Ghana. ‘He went to New York, with the people from the band!’ people whispered to each other and congratulated him on his luck.
Akosua Asantewaah, stout earthly and always where her business is, has three children and sells second hand clothes on the street. I ask her about the rumors and this is what she tells me: Oh yes, he left! How long ago? I dont know exactly, it will be a year or more ago already. It was no surprise to me, I knew that he was planning something with his friends, but of course he never told me in so many words. I felt it however and I was proud of him when he called me from New York that morning and when he said: ‘I’m here, I’m in America!’ I called my children together and told them: your father is a hero, he has made it to America! They danced! We made fufu that day which you know is the food we like the best and we had a party. The neighbors came. I won’t forget that day!
He whispered over the phone as if somebody could still overhear him and send him back! Beforehand, yes, he told me that he wanted to go away to earn money for us, but no details. I didn’t ask him. Then when he called from New York I knew he had made it. He sounded so happy. But I asked him ‘Why did you not greet me before you left?’ He laughed and I laughed too. Of course he had to seize the opportunity and go at once so there was no chance for saying good bye. He has a very good friend, a musician. Often this friend gives concerts overseas. One time when things were really hot my husband did something very good for him and his friend said: ‘One day I’ll pay you back, I’ll help you.’ So I knew that he was waiting for help to get out of Ghana.
When this musician was invited to perform in New York he took Dominique with him as one of the band members. No problem with the visa at all. When they all left for the plane my husband joined and it all went smooth, he said. That’s how he came to New York!
Now I am alone with my children but people always stop to greet me and it seems they are proud of us, so I am happy. We just pray every day that he may reach his goal and try not to worry too much. Or drink too much! We all pray that one day he comes back safely. And rich of course! I am more worried for him then for myself and my kids. He does not have it very easy. But he calls me as often as he can. Almost every week and when the children were sick he called every day. Read more
To Be A Man Is Not Easy ~ Peace Of Mind Or Success? I Want It Both. Interview with Kojo Apiah Kubi (Brian Osanhene Duako in Chicago)
In Ghana they call me Kojo, Kojo Apiah Kubi. Back in the States I use the name Brian Duako, which is the name in my passport and also Brian is easy for Americans to pronounce. But now I’m back in Ghana and my mum says ‘Kojo, you are home’. My family and friends make me feel so good, it’s so sweet to be Kojo again!
I‘m 35 years old and I was born in the village of Tanfiano near Nkoranza. After school I attached to an artist in order to develop my drawing skills which I possessed since early childhood. If people ask me who I am I say I am an artist. As a small kid in the village I would make drawings from anything I saw, houses, trees, faces, a village road. I lived in this small mud-house in Tanfiano and made drawings on all the walls included the ceiling and my parents said: ‘you have talent!’ I started developing that talent.
People were amazed at how well I would copy the scenes on paper. ‘Kojo, good for you!’ They would say. I did secondary technical education in Sunyani and then started my own art studio over there. For five to six years I worked happily and independently in my studio and by then I had my own apprentices who attached to me.
Then I got the chance to go to Chicago because my sister lives there and she helped me get the visa. Once there I went straight to school to work on my Bachelors in graphic designing. I got there when I was 26 and now have been eight years in Chicago. I like that city, it suits my taste. It was easy for me with the visa and I got married there and that way I also received a residence permit and now I am a USA citizen and a family-man with two kids. I had to combine study with work and so I drove a taxi to finance my studies and help support my family. Nowadays I alternate times of studies at the university with time spent working. I work full time in graphic designing and screen making and I drive the taxi when I want to make some extra bucks. Last time, 4 years ago, I came with my wife and boy. Now I also have a baby girl, eight months old, so my family stayed home this time.
My wife is very interested in what you do here with the handicapped children. She works at the Howard community with handicapped persons and one day when the kids have grown she wants to come help you as a volunteer! She reads your website and is really interested.
Right now we don’t know how to organize it, the kids have to grow somewhat, but we will come! My wife’s mum is from Ghana and her dad is from America. The first time I came with my wife, 4 years ago, the experience was bittersweet. First of all I was of course so happy to meet my mother and the family but also it was a confrontation that was too hard. Now we are used to things different in USA and in Ghana it is not the same. I try to adjust. For example I cannot drink the water anymore without getting sick, that kind of thing. Ghanaian food however I love and thank God it never makes me ill. Read more