- Wife of the Gods
- Children of the Street
- Murder at Cape Three Points
- Gold of our Fathers
- Death by His Grace
- Death at the Voyager Hotel
On Sunday October 3, 2010, The Amazing Race competing teams were down to ten in number after elimination of one pair of contestants.As winners of the first leg of the race, dating couple Jill and Thomas got to leave first. They departed with the instructions that they were to fly to Accra, Ghana. To his credit, host Phil Keoghan pronounced the name “Accra” with the correct syllable emphasis, i.e. “Ac-CRA“, not the way every single contestant incorrectly stated it:”AC-cra.” Think of the words bazaar or catarrh with the emphasis on the second syllable
Anyway, off they went, along with the other teams who were close enough behind to all end up on the same Virgin Atlantic 3000+ miles flight from London to Accra. First task on landing was to make their way to Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, where teams would find their next clue. After a mad dash out of Kotoka International Airport, all the teams managed to grab a taxi, vehicles distinguished by standard yellow front and rear panels but not necessarily in the same state of repair. As the teams made their way into town and tasted their first flavor of the country, some of the benign, neutral comments like, “It’s so cool here, it’s so different,” and “This place is amazing,” turned gradually into utterances of amazement and even consternation: “This is unbelievable, I could never have imagined this,” and “Look at all these people, [the women] with all these things [loads] on their heads.” Some of these women, called “head porters,” are an important part of the story in CHILDREN OF THE STREET. They are incredibly powerful women, able to carry staggeringly heavy items on their heads all day long. Not without physical repercussions however. By the end of the day, many suffer almost unbearable headaches.
There was real distress and shock for several of the teams as begging panhandlers avalanched the taxis held captive by stopped traffic and asked for money with varying degrees of aggressiveness, with Connor and Jonathan having the most disconcerting experience of them all when a panhandler groped at them and finally spat on Jonathan when he didn’t give up any money.
Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park looks rather grand with manicured lawns, luxurious fountains, a massive marble mausoleum and a bronzed statue of Ghana’s first president and great pan-Africanist Kwame Nkrumah. It’s one of those monumental sites one comes across in a developing country that makes one squirm over the showy opulence that belies the struggling economy. It’s always a debated issue: do you show only the pretty parts of a place, and how do you measure how well a develping country is doing? many argue that a city must have something “nice” to show.
Without too much difficulty, all the teams made it to the Park, where their next clue was waiting. This was a relatively easy part of the leg, and slowly, inexorably, the level of difficulty began to rise. Next destination: Makola Market, where the teams were to find their next clue. The extent of the market and the sheer number of people I predicted in a previous blog proved to be overwhelming. How were they to find the clue box in this teeming mass? ” This is crazy,” one of the female contestants said. “So many people. And it stinks.” But Michael, who grew up in Taiwan, commented that the Makola environment reminded him of his childhood.
The next clue was a Road Block someone branded “Shady Business.” In sunny Accra, sunglasses are popular and are typically sold on a large portable pallet containing scores of shades of all styles. One member of each team had to “borrow” a pallet from a vendor and sell 15 cedis (about $10) worth of sunglasses to passersby, but at no less than 3 cedis each. Here, blond 20-something Brook Roberts, who is a Home Shopping Television Host, showed her prowess at making a sale. Liberally hugging and kissing the hunky young Ghanaian guys who flocked to her like moths to a flame, she made her 15 cedis in no time, putting her and her teammate Claire in first place. On the other hand, Chad’s attempts to use his “All-American” (read “white”) good looks to flirt with Ghanaian women wasn’t working. Meanwhile, left far behind, Gary and Mallory’s cracked-windshield taxi stalled out and wouldn’t start, ending up with Gary unsuccessfully pushing the taxi to try and get it going, leading them to having to switch to another cracked-windshield cab that finally got them to Makola.
With sunglasses sold, the teams had to find Peace Motor Spare Parts for a Detour. This gives the teams a choice between two assignments, in this case, 1) “Tune In, or 2) Check Out.” In the first, they needed to get to an electrical supply store, pick up an antenna, find a marked house and install the antenna to the specifications of the owner. When I was in Accra, I bought one of these myself and after installing it I never did get a perfect picture on the set. In the second assignment, find a particular wood shop where charismatic coffins are designed and made according to the lifestyle of the occupant-to-be, e.g. a coffin that looks like a camera for someone who was a photographer. The chosen coffin was then to be transferred on a cart to a coffin showroom where they would collect the next clue. Brook and Claire, who chose the installation, again showed remarkable adaptability climbing up ladders, crawling into tight spaces and wielding tools. Katie and Rachel, choosing the coffin delivery, almost got run over in the street. The taxis carrying nerdy Princeton cappella-singing friends Connor and Jonathan, doctors Nat and Kat, and father-and-daughter Gary and Mallory all got lost.
Kaneshie Market was the final pit stop. This is an absolutely huge market where many children of the street find work and are THE subject in my novel of the same name. Brook and Claire, in a frantic but successful scramble to be the first team to make it to the market, arrived in front of several hundreds of riveted marketplace spectators who were probably wondering what in the hell is wrong with these “oburonis.” The contestants who had gotten lost were hit with an impenetrable traffic jam as they tried to get to Kaneshie. Desperate Nat and Kat begged their taxi driver to try and get through. Hand firmly on the horn, he pulled out of the line and somehow carved a way through the traffic jam. More spectacularly, the Princeton boys’ cab driver did the same at an even greater speed, impossibly creating a third driving lane where none existed and passing the Nat and Kat’s vehicle. You know those movies where there’s a death-defying, hair-raising car chase with horns blaring and vehicles dodging out the way? This was it, only 10 times more thrilling because it was real. As they almost collided with a shiny Mercedes making a left in their path, Connor gave the best line: “I’m just so proud I haven’t soiled myself.” The Princetons were team number 6, the doctors were right behind them. Nick and Vicky were eighth, and the final place was a battle between father-daughter Gary and Mallory and mother-daughter Andie and Jenna, both of whose hair had completely frizzed up in the humidity. Both these teams were literally praying in their taxis that they would make it. In the end it was the father-daughter team who thanked God (and Phil) that they were team number 10. With tears and hugs, Andie and Jenna were sadly eliminated, but with a new bond that they had not previously had.
Next episode, the teams stay in Africa.