During our stay, I was able to meet and learn from many different people of many different faiths. I spent most of my time in the bush with a group of Rastafarians who took me in as one of their brothers, which led to an unbelievably great “what I did on my summer vacation” story!
Josiah has been a seller of ganja for the last seven years, and he has been in this particular ghetto for six. Ghetto is the term used by the Rastas and everyone else in Ghana; each section of “bush” (everything jungle-like that isn’t developed) has several “ghettos” which are the groups of huts in a particular area. Each ghetto has a “seller”.
Josiah is a fully trained mechanic who used to work for the state bus company. He quit in 2000, and since then he’s been a seller full time. He says that at some point he would like to get back into mechanics so that he could earn more money for his community.
Accra has a very long history as a trading center, and because of this, many different religious beliefs and customs have been assembled into a tightly compacted space. Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Rastas and many other religious representations live within spitting distance of each other in the densely populated cities, and there’s very little violence or hatred. In Ghana the people are more than friendly; in fact, they’re genuinely interested in how you are, what your story is, and what, if anything, they can do to help you out. My good friend Moro brought me to his family’s home to meet everyone.
His mother cooked us a pot of “red-red” which is a paste-like porridge of sorts made from mashed ripe plantains. Moro and his friend Tanko were kind enough to escort my wife and I around Accra and made sure that we didn’t overpay on taxis. They grew to become very good friends of ours, and I was sad to leave them behind.
THE GRASS IS GREENER IN GHANA
As my new Rasta friends accepted me, I could freely go visit Josiah’s home in the bush whenever I pleased, and I did. When I was first brought to his ghetto, I was with my friend Kofi. He seemed to know everyone and took me to meet Josiah.
Josiah sat on a high seat in front of dense plants that made up the border of the bush. (At this point I would like to point out that the term “plant” is a misnomer. “Tree” or “mansized hedge” really would be more appropriate.) Around Josiah’s bench were planks that everyone else sat on. Above us was a seven-foot high topless hut. It was built out of live and dead plants and remained uncovered during the day unless it rained. Behind Josiah hung a plastic grocery bag full of decadently scented “rolls”.
A “roll” is about two and a half grams of “skunk” broken up and wrapped in a piece of regular paper, and is enough to make an enormous “roll” with a very large paper. The paper tapers to a tip at one end, and has the thickness of a finger at the other.
If, when you buy, you aren’t also given a “Rizla” (all brands of papers are called rizlas here) then you have been swindled. People come up to Josiah’s ghettos.
Some give him gifts of fruit or nuts, and sit to talk for a while. If you are good friends with Josiah then you can stay and smoke; if not, you buy your roll and go somewhere else nearby and smoke it on a bench. Most of the smoking is done outside in the bush. It’s very, very warm in Ghana, and thankfully there are many small hut-and-bench combos near Josiah’s own hut, which allow for cool breezes to flow over you while hiding from the ever-present glaring sun.
If you arrive at the right time, you will be able to see Afiasion, Josiah’s young chicken. Afiasion (pronounced uh-fee-uhsion ? rhymes with lion) is very small, and she eats lots of termites and loves ganja seeds. Apparently Afiasion just showed up one day and stayed put ever since. The Rastas all thought it was funny that in the U.S. we don’t have live poultry running around our smoking circles!
Along with fowl, there are many different types of lizards in Ghana. Geckos, skinks (called “shiny lizards”) and big monitor lizards are quite common. There are also chameleons, but I didn’t see any. Maybe that just means that they are good at being chameleons! The monitor lizards are quite impressive. Their bite is filled with lots of nasty bacteria and their tail is perfect for whipping. The most dangerous part about them is their talon-like claws. I was told that they could slice right through your chest ? but they only fight in defense, not in attack. We had some Ghana Lizards (found everywhere in Ghana, hence the name) that would leap into my lap at an outdoor restaurant. They are mostly harmless, but at up to a foot long, they can be quite intimidating when they just seem to appear from nowhere!
There are other Rasta ghettos throughout the bush where you can get cannabis, but Josiah’s ganja is what you want. The “skunk” strain is the high-grade ganja in this region, and damn is it great! The bright green buds are covered in large resin glands that glisten in the sun. While smoking a roll of skunk you can see the oils soaking through the paper and all but dripping into your lap. The high is like a volcanic explosion. At first you feel a sensation erupting in your chest and then slowly you can feel the THC flowing through your extremities, like lava marching out to the sea. Smoking skunk in the morning (my personal favorite) left me in a state of wonder and awe until late afternoon. Smoking more than two and a half or three rolls in one sitting is not advised unless there is absolutely nothing you must accomplish until perhaps next week!
I had rationed out my supply to be able to take in the natural beauty of this land for a while. This is also important because it is quite potent cannabis, and I am prone to getting lost ? which is not advised because the African bush is full of dangers like snakes, lions, and hippos. So far, though, I have only encountered Rastas who are more than happy to smoke a while and lead me back home.
Some of the most striking things that I saw in Ghana were the different botanical gardens. In Ghana, if you are sick and need medicine, or if you are hungry and want some fruit, then you just go and pick it from a garden. There is no cost because giving is the right thing to do. It is amazing to see the public welfare programs that are exist in Ghana. Even without lots of money, they help each other in many wonderful ways.
At one point during my stay, I was sitting on a bench with a friend and we were finishing the first of the four rolls he had previously acquired for me at 2000 cedis apiece. (If you know anything about the cedi, then you’ll know I still had enough change left from a U.S. dollar to buy a stamp.) We lit the fat end of the roll. After three or four tokes, I looked up and slowly realized that I was surrounded by marijuana.
At first I became aware of the two-foottall plants to my left and near my feet. Then as my stoned vision began to focus, I noticed the four-footers sparsely growing amongst the trees. But wait a minute, I thought to myself: those trees are marijuana plants! Some of them were twice my height! To my amusement, the very bench I sat on was merely a board jammed between four thick cannabis stalks. There were plants everywhere, for as far as you could see. I remember thinking it would be very hard to leave this place, and my wife would have to acquire a crowbar to ply me from the bench in the bush with the Rastas!
Later during my visit, I was with my friend Kofi and his companions, and I bought ten rolls for a whopping 10,000 cedis ? about a dollar and twelve cents in U.S. Dollars. Everyone smoked their own roll, and then we passed around one of my cigarettes. I had brought with me two bags of organic American Spirit tobacco, and it was highly popular because most of the Rastas are conscious of the terrible chemicals involved with regular cigarettes.
My new friends were blown away by the U.S. prices of ganja. For them to spend the fifty U.S. dollars on 3 grams of good stuff was hard to comprehend ? it would be far more than a month of rent, food, and other living expenses combined. It really brought things into perspective for me.
On Sundays the Rastas get together to play soccer. This was a glorious spectacle to behold, with dreadlocks and thick smoke flying everywhere. I had brought along several hacky sacks, and they were an instant hit. While at first the Rastas dismissed my beloved sport of hacky sack as another symbol of American laziness ? they thought we just stood around and nonchalantly shuffle our feet ? they actually started to play, and sweat, and enjoy it. Within minutes they were moving and jumping, and there were feet flying in all directions. My hacky skills were quickly eclipsed by the Rastas’ own knack for kicking a ball!
A SECRET POT PARADISE
I think there are definite possibilities for building a ganja reputation for Ghana, like in Jamaica. I know I’ll return to Ghana long before I go back to Jamaica. I felt safer all of the time while in Accra, and Ghana is clearly the safest place for foreigners in Africa. I don’t recommend going out to the bush at night, but that has more to do with predatory animals than it does with humans. While it is cheaper to fly to Jamaica, once you are there it is considerably more costly to enjoy day-to-day activities than in Ghana. Four friends could easily stay in Ghana for a month, in luxury conditions (this means air-conditioning and screens in the windows) and smoke an ungodly amount of ganja for about the same cost in a comparable resort in Jamaica, for only half of the time. This is not to mention the super-cheap prices on ganja in Ghana. Four people could easily spend a hundred dollars in Jamaica for a two-week stay; those same four could put down only twenty-five dollars in Ghana, and have some wonderful weed for over a month! I was told that a kilo of skunk costs about fifteen dollars. If I were to shell out twenty-five dollars for ganja, then I would also have to hire someone to help me take it all back home because one person’s outstretched arms simply couldn’t carry that much! The people of Ghana also need to benefit from your tourist dollars, just like Jamaica has.
Traveling throughout Ghana is incredibly cheap and easy to understand. With English being the official government language, communication isn’t much of a problem. The only down side of the journey is the long flights. Perhaps a two-day lay over in Holland would be the best route.
Now that I am back home, my excursion replays itself in my mind and I keep seeing and learning new things from my friends there. I miss waking at the first light of dawn, and shuffling out to greet Josiah and to screw my head back on with a roll. I miss being able to learn the customs and ways of life from a people who have spent considerably more time on this earth than my fellow Americans. Ghana was completely humbling in the best possible way.