Friday, August 22, 2014

PH&F Trip--2014

This year, Bob Peak and I are traveling to three West African countries:  Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, and Ghana.  Bob, who is retired and has focussed much of his free time on rescuing wildlife for Pacific Wildlife Care, has met with me weekly during the past year to develop awareness of the difficulties cocoa farmers face eking out a living.  This spring, Bob decided to accompany me on this year's trip so he can sensitize himself to the issues and actually witness the plight of the cocoa farmers firsthand.

Earlier in the year, I had contracted with SanthaUSA to ship two Spectra40 melangeurs  from the factory in southern India via Mumbai-Joahnnisberg-Lagos and finally to their destinations, Accra and Abidjan.  The Accra machine was picked up by an assistant who is storing it until I arrive on Sept. 10.  The Abidjan machine is happily ensconced in David's factory in Depa, Cote d'Ivoire, located near the city of Issia (if that tells you anything!)

This trip is divided into four parts:

1.  Los Angeles/Istanbul.  We will fly nonstop from LA to Istanbul, Turkey, where we will stay two nights with my daughter, Juliet Layik and her husband, Cem.

2.  Week in Cameroon--August 24 to Sept. 2.  We will be meeting with interested parties regarding the establishment of a cocoa study center.  University students would come to the center and learn to make and market chocolate as well as to attend lectures on economics, history, and chocolate production at the nearby University of Buea.

3.  Week in Cote d'Ivoire--Sept. 2 to Sept. 10.  Bob and I are carrying more chocolate molds, chocolate wrapping foils, a used laptop and a camera in order to help expand the Depa business.  You can read about the Depa effort by clicking on last year's post.

4.  Week+ in Frami, Ghana--Sept. 10 to ~Sept. 21.  We are going to set up and use a mini-factory in Frami, Ghana.  The long-term goal is to set up a local chocolate economy while providing an internship experience for university students.  We are hoping to link to ProWorld, which has several internships established in the Cape Coast region.

5.  Conclusion of trip.  Bob will leave from Accra on Sept. 15 to fly to South Africa to visit a friend.  I will stay in Frami until the factory is up and running and we are producing our first chocolate.

PART ONE--48 hours in Istanbul

I think of Istanbul as my second favorite world city--after Paris.  It's beautiful, it's full of history, and Istanbul is full of people of numerous religions and cultures.  On the taxi ride from the airport, one first becomes aware of the city's rich past, passing remnants of the great Byzantine stone walls that dominate the shoreline.

From the 5th century (marking the collapse of the Western Roman Empire) to the 15th century (the rise of the Ottoman Empire), Istanbul was a crossroads of trade between the East and the West.  The Byzantines, literally the sequels to the Eastern Roman Empire, dominated the Eastern Mediterranean culturally, economically, and militarily.

Constantinople became Istanbul in 1453 when Mehmet II successfully lay siege to a city that smugly sat behind what it thought were impregnable defenses (Maginot Line, Great Wall of China).  But after a period of unsuccessful bombardment, Mehmet II had his forces lay greasy logs over the giant chains that spanned the Golden Horn and during the night, his ships entered the horn and bombarded the city until surrender.

The subsequent Ottoman empire was extensive and powerful and ruled this part of the Mediterranean until after WWI, when Ataturk converted the destroyed empire into modern, secular Turkey.  Today, the country is once again at a historical crossroads,  appearing as a sparkling example of multiculturalism while also showing signs of radical Islamization.  Meanwhile, the government has engaged in brutal repression of those who want to maintain a secular society while raiding the coffers of government and disappearing billions of dollars.

Despite all this, Hagia Sophia still remains a museum, no longer a mosque, and much of Ataturk's transition remains intact.  Istanbul is reminiscent of Spain's Andalusian period, when three Abrahamic religions coexisted in peace and the sciences and arts flourished.

Saturday, August 23

After enjoying a breakfast of Menemen, a soupy scrambled eggs with cheese and spicy sausage, we walked the length of Istiklal, past the famous stone tower, Galata, which was built by the Byzantines to watch for fires.  The first tower burned down as it was made of wood (the medium is the message).
Hagia Sophia, built as a Christian church during the time of Justinian in the 6th century, has withstood earthquakes and politicalquakes, including the transition from the Byzantines to the Ottomans in the 15th century.  About 30,000 people visit what was the largest church in the world.  Workers are busy scraping plaster applied to hide the original Christian figures, as the Koran forbids the depiction of the human body.  Ataturk, who championed a secular revolution, had the building converted into a museum, so now the gold foil covered tiles that dominate the ceiling artwork are being exposed.

Afterwards, we visited the blue mosque, whose tiles fostered the coining of the word, "turquoise."  On the way out, we tried a little Macun, a sugar syrup originally developed as a medicine but then ended up as a saccharine treat.

In the evening, we inspected the city from 38 floors up while sipping cocktails.  We then drove to the Asitane Ottoman Cuisine restaurant, located next to one of the few intact Byzantine churches, the Chora Church (which we did not have time to visit).  I particularly enjoyed lamb shank served in smoky eggplant puree in a crispy crust.  For dessert, I had a fruit salad with cubes of mastic custard, flavored with rose water and crunchy almonds and pistachios.  The lamb shank entree is in my top 5 most memorable lamb shank dishes.  Ditto the fruit salad, truly a symphony of flavors and textures.

Sunday, August 24

We started the day with a marvelous Turkish breakfast, complete with olives tomatoes and cucumbers, yogurt with cucumbers and dill, clotted cream with honey, breads, 5 kinds of cheeses.  Refreshing and healthful.

We walked toward the Golden Horn, where our Bosporus tour boat was leaving from.  On the way, we passed this mosque, located two blocks from Juliet and Cem’s  apartment.  A tiny park borders the mosque, with a walkway from which you can admire the Bosporus glinting in the sun and the faraway buildings of “Asia”, the rest of Turkey. 

Another short walk brought us to this cathouse, where we found two cuties enjoying their time in the sun while hornets buzzed about, keeping us from approaching too close (us being me, obviously)

We took a 1.5 hour ride up the Bosporus past the fort, and then turned around.  While the heat was almost unbearable in the city, a stiff wind off the Marmara Sea kept the ride quite pleasant.

Our plane left at 5:30 PM.  It arrived in Libreville, Gabon at 11 PM, then took off for Douala.  Libreville, the capital of Gabon, is right on the equator and Douala is several degrees north.  I sat next to a Libyan national who was returning from a vacation with his family;  he works for a consortium of oil companies drilling and extracting in Central Africa.

We arrived during a downpour, and the plane hit the runway a little hard.  Apparently earlier in  the day, Douala had experienced strong winds and rain, causing trees to break and collapse all over the city.  This tree met its demise right across from the Planet Hotel and workers spent much of the following day cutting the smaller limbs with machetes. 

Monday,  August 25, 2014

We woke up to a grey sky and many mosquitoes.  The Baptist Guest House costs only $25 per night.  The rooms are spacious and functional.  This is a view of the Woure river, only a couple hundred feet from us but separated from the river by warehouses, docks, and ocean-going ships. 

After breakfast, Kila came to pick us up.  We started walking in the direction of Bonanjo, the location of the Manga Bell palace, constructed for the King by the German colonialist regime in the late 19th century.  Halfway there, we were called back by Amy Banda of S-TV, whom Kila had contacted to interview us.  She conducted a half hour interview of Bob and me.  I talked about the importance of building local economy in order to free farmers from enslavement by their own government and by multinational corporations.  Bob talked about the Native American experience and how that can be used to free pygmies from becoming victims of deforestation..  She’s quite a character and I anticipate to get a copy of the finished product.

The interview made us hungry, so we walked over to a French-African restaurant just blocks away from the guesthouse.  I enjoyed a plate of tripe cooked with beans.  Totally delicious, although the tripe could have been cooked longer. 

Later in the afternoon, we were visited by Ernest Ehabe, who lived in the U.S. for years but moved back to Cameroon about 20 years ago.  He is a perfect example of a social entrepreneur.  He runs businesses to generate capital to help others start their own businesses.  He runs CADAC (Community Awareness Development A___ Cameroon), established to help pygmies find ways to stay in the forest.  Apparently with the massive deforestation occurring in Central Africa, pygmies are finding it harder to survive.

Ernest also runs Bread for Life, which brings medical doctors from the U.S. to do free medical work.  He flies frequently to the U.S. to give talks, especially in churches.

In late evening, we visited the Bonanjo district.  This is a WWI monument commemorating the soldiers who died liberating Cameroon from the Germans and giving it instead to the French.

This monument commemorates the French sacrifice to keep Cameroon in the fold.

The Bell Palace was built for the Bell family by the Germans.

A half year later, the son was beheaded by the German administration.  About 6 paintings commemorate 6 beheadings of freedom fighters—1 by the Germans and another 5 by the French.  The painting on the left is of the young Bell.

Tuesday, August 25, 2014

Pictures soon!  Just need to get on the road at this point….

This morning, we set out to purchase the tools that will be distributed to villages.  This time, because we are visiting a pygmy village on Saturday, we have divided the tools into three piles.  We drove to the usual Lebanese store and purchased the following:

18 pairs of heavy duty boots ($17 each)
60 machetes
3 pickaxe heads
3 shovels
3 rolls of rope
3 hammers
3 rakes
1 case of notebooks for students

We loaded the car with these items and set off toward Buea.  It took about an hour of 10 mph driving to get out of the congested suburban areas and we arrived in Buea at the foot of the volcano at about 3 PM.  We ate lunch in a hotel built to serve governmental employees.  Because of the heavy cloud-cover, this is the best photo I was able to make of the volcano. 

Lunch was really excellent:  Okonghobong, which is made of chopped greens cooked with the insides of pumpkin seeds, dried fish, and dried beef.  The starch accompaniment was boiled African yam.

We devoured our lunches, as we had to be in Ekona at the center for research for a meeting with Dr. Etchu Kingsley, who has promised to work with me on developing a Memorandum of Understanding so we can move the cocoa study center forward.  Pictured is Dr. Kingsley and one of his collaborators, Njukeng Jetro Nkengufac.

We left Dr. Kingsley and drove into Limbe where we quickly visited the beach where the fishermen keep their boats.  There are a number of restaurants on the beach selling grilled freshly caught fish.
This picture shows looking out into the bay, directly at a great eyesore, a drilling platform.  Next to the boats are a half dozen seafood restaurants.

We drove to the hotel, which is set on a hilltop, looking out over the ocean.  The road was extremely rutted, rocky, slippery and steep, a great combination for tired travelers to endure.  Also, I spent several hours working on the MOU and by the time I retired, the water had been turned off, so there was none for showering or flushing the toilet.  I suppose this would rank as a poor practice by the hospitality industry.

Wednesday, August 27

I woke to the water working!  We enjoyed an omelet breakfast as well as fresh pineapple, and while we ate, we also enjoyed the view.  In this picture, we are staring at Equatorial Guinea, the next country south.

View of Limbe Bay, complete with oil platform.  Yuck.

We needed to be in Buea in time for a meeting with Dr. George Chuyong.  On the way, we passed by extensive tea plantations.

We spent an hour with Dr. Chuyong.  Extremely productive.  We decided that the Cocoa Study Center would offer a week's classes to 30 students from an American university who spend 3 weeks at the university.  In one meeting,  we solved the problem of how to get students.  Next summer, I will set up the chocolate factory and train people in production.  The following year we will have 3 classes of 10 students along with 3 cocoa farmers per class.  The students will also visit the farms and spend at least a day working with a farmer.

After our meeting, we drove around the volcano to Munyenge.  This involved driving for 2 hours on kidney-ripping volcanic road.  We arrived in Munyenge at around 4 PM, spent an hour talking to the chief about the cocoa study center and our plans to train the farmers in his village in chocolate production.  He was very supportive.  This is our third time donating tools to the village.  The chief is fourth from the right.

Thursday, August 28

 We started out at 6 AM as our destination was Bamenda.  We were to join Marcie Alvarez, who works for Plan International, an NGO founded to improve the lives of children in Third World countries.  She is interested in building a chocolate business to be run by HIV-positive women in the village of Esu, located about 4 hours over bad road (redundancy) from Bamenda.

We drove about 5 hours to reach Dschang, located at the top of an escarpment.  The university of Dschang is an important agricultural research center.  We were fortunate to locate Dr. Julius Tanka,  with whom we have discussed the cocoa study center in the past.  Dr. Tanka is an expert in the development and use of appropriate technologies. We passed students making wooden blades for windmills and others making a windmill out of metal.  Dr. Tanka showed us a machine for making biogas out of wood as well as a hand-operated pump designed to lift water 60 feet and a 1,000 gallon tank to raise catfish.

This picture shows Dr. Tanka next to one of his cocoa dryers, designed to burn biogas and produce 80 degree air for drying cocoa.  The government of Cameroon is concerned about the low quality of its exports:  Cameroonian cocoa often has a smoky flavor caused by decrepit cocoa drying ovens.  Dr. Tanka's research has received much attention in government circles.

We continued our journey, arriving in Bamenda around 6 PM.  The last 4 hours of driving were over an extremely rough road, and our kidneys felt severely challenged by the vibrations.  Just outside Bamenda, at the top of the escarpment (another one!) we stopped at an old German military post.  Quite beautiful to look at.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t take a picture because I might get arrested and deported and have my camera confiscated.  It is verboten to take pictures of government property--just like in the U.S.

We continued into Bamenda, the capital of the Northwest region.  The road down the escarpment afforded this view of the valley below.  The city is quite beautiful from above.  To take this picture, we had to scramble up a slippery path.  Since my youth, I have devolved from mountain goat to slug;  it was easy to climb the hillock for the view, slightly less easy to tolerate vertigo, as the edge of the hill falls off several thousand feet, and virtually impossible to walk down.  While Kila and Bob scrambled down using their functional knees, I had to employ my best feature--my ass (not a donkey)--and I entered the hotel minutes later with a very red posterior.  Since people look at faces and not at rear ends, I maintained my good reputation until the room, where I washed out the laterite.

We arrived at the hotel at 6 PM and joined Marcie for dinner.  One of the women she has helped start a business had prepared the dinner.  This was a plantain soup with superb spicing.

Marcie, Bob, and I discussed a budget for building a chocolate business in the village of Esu   She feels confident that she can come up with the $9,000.  Marcie was born in Minnesota, but her parents are Honduran.  Her father is a university professor who does research in biotechnology;  because of her upbringing, she has traveled the world.  She told us at the very beginning of our meeting that she has lived out of a suitcase for the past 2 years. 

Friday, August 29

Today was spent driving, driving, driving.  We had to go about 350 km on bad roads.  George, behind the steering wheel, did a great job of going fast while avoiding potholes and oncoming traffic.  An amusing stop was at a series of roadside farm stands, where Kila bought cabbages and other vegetables to bring to his mother in the evening.  This man, carrying a fake musical instrument,  approached our car and began to sing in a very off-tune voice.  His voice was as real as his instrument!  But what a picture!

We arrived at Monatele around 4 PM.  As I climbed creakingly out of the car and stretched my cramped legs, I saw this platform of cocoa beans drying in the short periods of sun--between rainstorms. 

About 30 villagers awaited us, sitting in a horseshoe-shaped formation with our chairs at the top along with a table for beverages.  We started with an exchange of news since our last meeting.  Mr. Jean Nke Ange, Secretary of the Farmers’ Cooperative read a speech.  He stated, “It has been two years and eleven days since you last visited, accompanied by your aged mother (88—see 2012 blog).  He actually called her "our" mother.”  He read off a list of their needs, including the bridge that is so important to their local economy as well as a list of their agricultural output.

After the speech, the skies opened up and we fled indoors, where a lively discussion ensued about a possible chocolate production facility.  

We shared glasses of palm wine.  Note the name on the bottle:  Casanova, which means Neuhaus in Italian.  :=)  Next to the bottle is a plate of kola nuts, traditionally shared when people visit each other.  They are extremely bitter, but tradition dies hard.  They are more tolerable if you take them with a sip of palm wine, which is sweet, refreshing and about the alcohol content of a pilsner.

It was getting dark and we needed to drive on to Yaounde, our final destination.  We removed our donations from the car and arranged them on a table that had been set up for a sumptuous repast.  The picture is really bad because of the low light;  I had to crank brightness up to 100% in Photoshop.  The meal included at least 20 dishes;  one was grilled "mackerel", a freshwater fish.  It was in the top 5 of grilled fish tasted during my past 64 years.  Worth a Michelin star.  There were also gumbo, s soup made both with the okra and its leaves.  Gumbo in the U.S., made by escaped slaves married to Native Americans, is an African American food:  made with okra but thickened with the leaves of the American tree, sassafras (aka file).

We also donated three lights to three children—to help them study at night.  These children attend Ecole Publique de Kougoudai and College d’Enseignment Scolaire de Kougoudai. 

Saturday, August 30

Today, we went to Ernest’s house to join in the 10th birthday celebration of his son. Nathan. We sat around and chatted and watched children of all ages play together.  We also enjoyed lunch and a birthday cake.

They sang the usual bday song, except it went like this..

US:  Happy Bday to you, 4X
US:  How old are you now, 4X
Nathan:  I am now ten years old…. 4X

He sang it very earnestly (no pun intended) and beautifully and unabashedly.  I wish more children (esp boys) could sing without being shy.  Very impressive.

Around 2 PM, we set out for Bertoua, the capital of the Eastern province, which is bordered by the Central African Republic.  It took 5 ½ hours.  Fortunately, the road was in good shape.

While waiting for dinner, I admired the phenomenal collection of ebony furniture and carvings.  I sat on this chair.  Lighting is a tad unfortunate.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Today, we visited a village of Baka pygmies.  We left the paved road and drove down a dirt road through the forest.  On the way, we came across this house, which was lived in by three people, a couple and a man—all three originally pygmies but having transitioned to a more agricultural existence and a house reminiscent of the local construction practices. 

This is a kitchen.  A rudimentary structure has been erected over the fire to protect it from rain.  The fireplace is just a few stones. 

To keep mosquitoes at bay, they light a rubber tire in the evening.  

We continued to the village, which is essentially a mixture of pygmies and non, a juxtaposition of hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists, a mixture of man’s time before the agricultural revolution and our current ways of tilling the earth which has led us to 7.5 billion, global warming, and environmental destruction.

This is a pygmy house.  Note the broom in the foreground.

A second pygmy house.  Note that the closed door.

Add caption

Pygmy grandmother. 

Donation of United Solar Lights by Mermaid Islands Corporation to pygmy children

Pygmy mother stands next to Bob.

Pygmy man imitates animal calls.  

Girl (not pygmy) playing with corn. 

After visiting the pygmy village, we drove to Ernest’s farms.  He bought 100 hectares (250 acres) of land in order to generate money for his various projects, which include a school and to generate jobs for locals, including the pygmies, although according to him, they don’t have the habit of working jobs (no surprise there, as they have leapt forward 10,000 years).  The pygmies in the village are like “fort Indians”, having mostly left their former way of life but require a couple generations to adapt.  It’s of course a tragedy that we cannot leave parts of the planet as they were but have to exploit every square inch, crushing indigenous peoples and raping the land just in the name of profit and progress. 

That’s of course what happened in America:  Europeans crushed 600 different nations of native Americans, exterminating them in the largest genocide in human history, and we Americans now live blissfully in our comfortable homes, surrounded by the ghosts of a bygone era and don't even teach our children about this shameful chapter in our own history.  I do not recall any of my teachers informing me that the United States of America, the so-called “superior civilization”, which sits in judgment of Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, Cambodia, and Turkey, actually being guilty of a far greater sin (in numbers).  Our genocide was more protracted and less organized, but the result was the same.

Tomato seedlings on Ernest's farm  

We left the Bertua area around 2 PM.  On the way, we got a bite to eat, which consisted of grilled goat and cow with onions and plantains. 

Monday, September 1

In the morning, we visited the Muna Foundation, established to promote dissemination of Cameroonian media, including production of videos and music.  We met the grandson of Solomon Muna, who showed us around what amounts to the second largest of Cameroonian artifacts.

Grandson of Solomon

Part of collection

We sat with the grandson for about 2 hours, discussing how we might publicize the cocoa study center and the chocolate production facilities.  The foundation would provide the hardware and expertise;  we would have to pay the artists if necessary.  He showed us an End Malaria music video that they had done with another group.  

Tuesday, Sept 2.

This day was spent traveling to Cote d’Ivoire.  We flew Senegal Airlines—one hour to Cotonou, a one hour layover, and  then another hour and a half to Abidjan.  We met Mathurin in the airport.

Wednesday, Sept 3

 We spent the morning changing money on the black market, ate lunch, then set out to buy the tools.  We wandered around trying to find the right store and hit upon a rather large establishment.  We purchased 68 machetes, 75 pairs of boots, and 5 each of shovels and picks for a total of $1,500. 

Counting out the machetes 

Attaching boots to the roof of the car 

We set out at 5 PM and arrived in Yamoussoukro  at 9 PM.  We drove extra slow because driving at night in Africa is perilous.  You can run across and then run into lots of trucks and motorcycles lacking taillights.  We ate dinner immediately, as Bob and I were running very low blood sugars and had assumed somewhat werewolfian demeanors.

Thursday, September 4

This morning, we visited the Basilica Notre Dame de la Paix.  This is the largest church in the world—higher even than St. Peter’s of Rome.  Pictured are Stephan (our guide), Bob, and Mathurin. 

Apparently, Pope John Paul II asked President Houphouët-Boigny to keep it shorter.  He made it the same height, but then added on a 60-foot cupola.  The church was designed by a Lebanese-Iviorian. This picture compares size and appearance of the two structures.

The interior holds 18,000.  The stained glass windows are quite beautiful.  This picture is taken from the balcony, which is 100 feet above the floor.

The operculum features a dove, which of course symbolizes peace.  The dove is 300 feet above the floor. 
We took a taxi to the basilica so that Sami, our driver, could have some work done on the suspension while we did the tour.  After an hour, we returned, to find several people underneath the car, replacing some component of the suspension.

Bob and I walked across the street to inspect the Grand Mosqué, built by Houphouët Boigny to assuage the feelings of Muslims slighted by the excessive expenditure on the basilica ($300,000,000). 
The car still not repaired, I asked that we spend the time fixing my bag whose zipper had broken.  We walked a couple blocks and found a sewing business run by two men, one of whom took a needle and thread and fixed the zipper well enough that the bag is closed again.

We set out for Issia around 2 PM and drove slowly in order to preserve the suspension.  Our somewhat decrepit Mazda also suffers from a weak clutch.  About 10 Km from our destination, we encountered Mathurin’s brother.  He sold us a large container of vin de palme or palm wine.  We made it by 6 PM, checked into the hotel, which is located at the foot of le Rocher d’Issia (a large upwelling of magma), and ordered dinner.  Mathurin, Sami the driver, and I enjoyed the palm wine.  

Friday, September 5

We were supposed to be in Depa by 10 AM, so after breakfast, we drove downtown to visit the Sous-Prefet, the local official who is friends with Chief Dédé, the head of Depa.  We had an agreeable conversation with him, and he expressed his support of our project.

We then picked up a few items to be used as gifts—including a gas canister with burner for the chief.

At 1 PM, we drove to Depa, which is about 5 miles from Issia.  The village extends up a slope, with the chief’s house at the top.  Several tents had been set up and about 200 were gathered both in the village meeting structure and outside under the tents.  As we approached, we were welcomed with a tremendous clamour.

Chief Dédé and several representatives from surrounding villages awaited us at the end.  We went around the room, shaking hands with the most important officials.  This is a line of officials with David, the chief’s youngest brother, closest to the camera. 
Before the ceremony, the visitor is usually given honorary chief status.  Since I was no longer a visitor but essentially a member of the village, I was not dressed.  Instead, Bob, the new guy, got the honor. 

Bob greets the audience in the Osage language.  Essentially, he said "Thanks for your hospitality.  My name is Meeteeonka, he who follows the sun.  I am member of the sky people and the eagle clan."  Needless to say, he gets an applause each and every time.

Once Bob was dressed, the chief gave a long speech detailing the years of Project Hope and Fairness’s efforts for the village.  Two spokesmen translated, one from Bété into French and the other into English.  The ceremony took about an hour and a half.

Afterwards, we visited the two businesses that PH&F has established.  This is the new home of the chocolate business.

While inside the rice hulling business, listening to comments about how the electric motor was three times the size needed, we heard a sudden shouting outside the warehouse.  It turned out to be that David had just killed a Green Mamba, the highly poisonous snake that plagues cocoa farmers and the main reason why they wear rubber boots in the field. 

We returned to the chief’s house for a sumptuous banquet that included local rice, yams, a fish stew, goat stew, and two chicken stews.  All the stews are spiced about the same, with tomatoes, eggplants, onions, and lots of fresh chilis.  All washed down with local, fresh palm wine (called Banggi).

By this time, David was ready for us to make chocolate with the new machine that had arrived from India several months ago.  The machine makes enough chocolate for 100 bars at 325 CFA (65 cents) or 1600 disks at 25 CFA (6 cents).

But it was already 4 PM.  So we elected to discuss a few concerns.  First, I wanted to show David what hot cocoa tastes like.  So, we microwaved a liter of water, added milk powder and stir in a dozen disks.  The result was quite delicious!  We then took some how chili powder and spiced it up.  And we stirred in some instant Nescafe.  Excellent!  We passed the cocoa around for all to taste.  In this picture, David is tasting the cocoa. 

My idea is that next time we can bring a shop press from Abidjan and a cylinder and press chocolate to remove cocoa butter, then use the disks to make hot cocoa (by grating them).

We also gave David a laptop for writing reports about his business.

After discussing a number of issues relating to production, we said good night and agreed to meet the next day (Saturday) to observe production of a batch of chocolate.  We drove back to the rice hulling facility and waited for Mathurin.  While we waited, we amused ourselves with the children, who have discoved the rice hulls make a wonderful cushion for playing soccer in bare feet.  [20]

Saturday, September 6

We began the day visiting our first of five villages to which we are bringing tools.  This is a picture of our meeting in Pezoan.  We followed the usual formula.  The chief welcomed us and then asked us for our news.  I talked about the history of PH&F and then about the purpose of this year’s trip.  

Donation of solar lights by The Mermaid Islands Corporation of Unite To Light solar lights to three children in Pezoan:  Ziagou, Edwige, Korebolou, and Blewaetosoba.  All three attend College Moderne Louis Pasteur in Pezoan.

We donated boots, machetes, pens, a shovel, pickaxe to Pezoan.

We drove back to Issia to pick up items at the supermarket for lunch.  Opposite the little supermarché I saw these drums of palm oil which is one of Côte d’Ivoire’s major exports. 

In the early afternoon we drove to Zereguhe, a village about half a mile from Depa.  I have been visiting them since 2005, when we brought our first gift, a weighing scale.  Zereguhe, unlike Depa, has no access to electricity.  Pictured is the chief and a child who was walking around playing with a sharp blade. 

We donated another three Unite to Light solar lights, again from the Mermaid Islands Corporation to Gbelia Kouri Fabrice, Yode Wabi Williams, and Gogoua Joachime.  All three attend the Ecole Primaire Publique, Zereguhe.

Again, we donated boots, machetes, lights, pens a shovel, and a pickaxe.

The chief’s wife cooked a very nice lunch for us with lots of really delicious local African rice (fluffy, aromatic—really, my favorite).  The chief gave us this rather large chicken.  

The chief’s secretary asked us to consider special help for the village which has not had any special assistance like neighboring Depa.  Mathurin and I later discussed getting a 3-wheeled motorcycle with attached wagon for hauling agricultural products..

As we left the village, I noticed this round ball of rubber made from local rubber.

Just before we got into the car, I noticed this man lighting brush.  He obliged by doing a little dance.  The scene became just a bit apocalyptic. 

We returned to Depa to spend time with David—to watch him put a batch of chocolate together.  Here he has run 2 Kg of cocoa butter with 3 Kg of sugar and has started to add 3 Kg of chocolate powder made roasting the cocoa beans, removing their shells, and pounding them in a mortar. 

Before we left Depa I took this picture of how women tie up race in the field for drying.

Finally, we stopped at the supermarket and picked up “dinner” consisting of a few odd items including this Duégué, a sour milk beverage containing cooked millet.

Sunday, September 7

We drove north toward Daloa.  About 10 Km before our destination, we arrived at the monkey village called Gbeutitabia. The monkeys in the village are according to legend, the descendants of a doctor who had converted his family to monkeys in order to avoid French forced labor but didn’t have the ability to convert back.  For $10 they call the monkeys by pounding a stick, against a tree and make a bucket of bananas available. 

We continued to Daloa, then turned onto the road to Man and drove about 20 Km, turned left at a sign that used to read Batteguedea onto a heavily rutted dirt road with many large and deep mud puddles and continued for another 5 Km.  Finally, we reached the village and sat in the reception area, waiting for the chief.  He had taken a motorcycle cab to a relative’s house where a child was in a coma and about to die—probably malaria, the most common cause of death in children.  

The village secretary called the chief and while we waited for him to come back, I took a picture of the sewing room we had built back in 2011 but which still lacked electricity.  

The chief arrived after about half an hour.  We have been visiting Broguhe since 2007, bringing tools each year.  Broguhe was in the international news in 2010, when Dozos, a northern people who moved south when President Laurent Gbagbo was charged with war crimes and currently resides in a prison in the Netherlands, killed 4 members of the village and burned down 16 homes.  The residents of Broguhe spent 2 years, husbands separated from wives, children dispersed.  The village is now back together, but they live in fear of the Dozos, who shoot their rifles every night in order to cause fear in the local inhabitants.

We donated the usual boots, machetes, and other tools.  Bob and I gave the chief $310 for him to add the electric meter so that the sewing room could be finally connected.

We donated another three Unite to Light solar lights, again on behalf of the Mermaid Islands Corporation to (from left) Logbo Ble, junior,  a student at the Lycée LM Daloa, Sery Valencia Reine, College Anado Abidjan, Ble Nekpato Gildas, a student  at Lycée Moderne in Daloa. 

We bade farewell to our friends and returned to Daloa, where we ate lunch, then drove back to Issia, then returned to Depa to taste the chocolate that David had started yesterday.  

As we entered Depa, I stopped by the rice huller to watch it in action.  Children were outside, tossing rice in the air to remove chaff. 

The rice huller was busy, many children working to process hundreds of pounds of rice.  In minutes, they were performing an operation that takes hours when done in a mortar.

We continued through the village to the chief’s house, where we sat with the chief and officials to enjoy some Ivorian rum.  About 50 villagers gathered around us, including these children, who posed with Bob.  The children have the charming habit of holding on to your hands.  Bob and I both enjoyed the children, as they express pure joy.

As the evening light dwindled, we walked over to the chocolate building.  David had molded a few bars and disks and I showed him how to wrap the bars with the foil we had brought.

David shows a wrapped bar to everyone. 

Bars being wrapped by eager students.

Monday, Sept. 8

Bob and I took a hike up the Rocher d’Issia.  This is a 400 foot high outcropping of magma, one of several in the region.  Our hotel is right up against it.  Also, it’s a popular hangout for the zebu cattle that on sees plying the streets, interfering with traffic.
This water tower is parked halfway up. 

Here (left) is a dwarf version of one of the forest behemoths that are often 200 feet high.  Unfortunately for this individual, there isn’t a lot of topsoil on the granite. 

A view (right) of our hotel (with the orange roofs) 

We visited our last two villages today, Djahakro and Tetia.  We had to drive for about 15 minutes on a treacherous dirt road with rather deep mud holes.  At one point, we bottomed out.  We got out and tried to push backwards.  This didn’t work, so we pushed forward and that worked.  Needless to say, the car changed color from dark green to bright orange (the color of laterite)

We arrived in Djahakro, a Baoulé hamlet.  Here we are, enjoying an interminable supply of palm wine with the chief. 

We went through the entire ceremony, which consists of these steps.  Most of the talking is done by spokespersons.

1.     Provide seating and a table
2.     Share glasses of water
3.     Bring out alternate beverages (pops, liquors, wine, fruit juices)
4.     Spokesperson discusses village news
5.     Your spokesperson talks about what you’ve been doing
6.     You add what you want to say
7.     Village provides meal
8.     You ask for permission to leave

During the ceremony, Bob and I investigated a pile of fermenting beans.  I was disturbed to see that some of the rotten pods are being fermented with the good ones.  To ferment, the beans should be pulled apart in order for even fermentation.  This has clearly not been done. 

This chicken is helping to clean the beans, although I'm not too keen on what comes out her back end.

Donation to Djahakro.

On behalf of Mermaid Islands Corporation, we donated another three Unite to Light solar lights to (from left) Logbo Ble Junior, student at Lycée LM, Daloa;  Sery Valencia Reine, student at College Anado, Abidjan; and Blé Nekpato Gildas, student at Lycée Moderne III d’Issia.

We drove back through the 3 km of mud holes, this time gunning the engine through the mud puddles so as to have enough momentum that even if we bottomed out, we’d carry through the resistance.  Tetia is at the beginning of this road, near the blacktop.  It suffers from lack of access to electricity and clean water, as they have no well and are forced to drink from the river, whose water becomes dirty after rainstorms. They boil their water, which makes it quite smoky tasting (as Bob and I can attest).
The chief’s assistant was very precise and attentive with the customary ceremony.  The chief, who sat to my left, is quite stolid.  Two of his wives were standing in the back, dressed beautifully.  I didn't have the chutzpa to ask for a photo op.

Right, people awaiting our arrival.

Left, people awaiting our arrival. 

Donation (right)

And again, we donated another three Unite to Light solar lights, again from the Mermaid Islands Corporation to (from left) Kouassi Amoin Henrietta, student at College Louis Pasteur;  Kouame Konan Lucien, student at Lycée Moderne d’Issia; and Kouakakou N’Zue Nathalie, student at Lycée Municipale d’Issia. 

Tuesday, September. 9 

 In the morning, we stopped by the Prefecture, essentially the office of the regional governor.  The prefet expressed his support for our project and encouraged us not to get discouraged.  He gave the example of COOPEC, an agricultural bank/cooperative that first started in Canada but that has expanded internationally.  Pictured are from the left:  yours truly, the prefer, Bob, and Chef Dédé (chief of Depa).

Before hitting the road, we picked up water at Issia's one and only supermarché.  Waiting in the check-out, I noticed this bottle of Ivorian libation.

We arrived in Abidjan in the late afternoon.

Wednesday, September 10

We had three hours to kill in the morning before we went to the airport.  Right after loading the car with the luggage, Bob took this picture of Mathurin (left), his youngest son, me, his daughter, and his oldest son.

We drove to the Plateau, which is the downtown of Abidjan and withdrew enough money to pay Mathurin.  We then continued to the Hotel Ivoire, which is in the Cocody district of Abidjan.  This is a picture of the landscaping outside the casino.

The hotel is now owned by Sofitel and has made a lot of improvements.  This is the registration desk.

We drove back to the plateau to visit St. Paul's Cathedral.  Because of heavy damage experienced during the 2010 civil war, the inside was closed.  It has spectacular stained glass windows. The cathedral was designed by an Italian architect;  there isn't a straight line in the place.  The figure of Christ faces the lagoon.  St. Paul's is one of Houphouët-Boigny's projects to make Côte d'Ivoire the jewel of sub-Saharan Africa.

Finally, we drove to the airport and took a 3:20 PM flight, arriving in Accra at 4:15 PM.  Alex Mensah, my Ghanaian representative, met us at the airport.  Within half an hour we had found a very reasonably priced hotel (Central Hotel).

Thursday, September 11.  In the morning, we drove to Cape Coast, which is 3 hours west of Accra.  Shawn Dillard, who works for Intrax, International in the Cape Coast area, called my phone.  We agreed to meet for lunch at the Castle restaurant.  Shawn is interested in adding a chocolate production and marketing experience to the list of projects available for university students to participate in.

We discussed the political issues associated with the location of the chocolate production facility.  On Friday, we will meet with the chiefs of four villages to discuss location.

Bob and I spent the afternoon visiting the two slave castles in this part of Ghana--Cape Coast Castle and Elmina Castle.  During the almost 400 years of slaving--from 1482 to the 1830s when the British banned slaving, Cape Coast Castle was an important trading center.  It held approximately 1,000 captives at a time.  The British prayed to God in their Anglican church, located directly above one of the dungeons with a capacity of 300.  Any captive who became sick was promptly dumped over the ramparts.

Next to the castle is a beach used by a fishing fleet.

We drove 20 minutes west to Elmina Castle, named by the Portuguese after the nearby gold mines.  Before the Spaniards massacred the Aztecs in Central America, most of the world's gold came from West Africa.  Christopher Columbus stopped at Elmina Castle on his way to the New World in 1492.

For many years, Elmina Castle was the largest and oldest colonial edifice in sub-Saharan Africa.  Contrasting with the immense beauty of this place is the horror of people worshipping Jesus while treating other humans in the most cruel ways.  At Elmina, for over 300 years, the Portuguese and then the Dutch governors slept with female prisoners, impregnating many and adding numerous mulattoes to the surrounding towns.  If a female refused, she was chained to 8 cannon balls and allowed to starve in front of other prisoners.

Friday, September 12.  This morning, we picked up Shawn and Kofi from ProWorld.  They have a number of internships going in the Cape Coast area.  A division of Intrax, International, ProWorld represents a window to American academia.  It's the connection with American universities that I have no experience with.  It's far easier for me to schlepp equipment halfway across the world, make friends with West African village chiefs, suffer the inanities of corrupt and bothersome police, recover from bouts of malaria, and stop periodic dysentery caused by poor sanitation than it is to find American university officials or for that matter students who are interested in anything African, in any kind of African experience.  The fact that ProWorld has demonstrated success in this is critical to our success establishing undergraduate cocoa study centers.

Home of ProWorld in Ghana.

We drove to Ebekawopa, where the chiefs of four villages were to meet.  These are:  Ebekawopa, Gyaware, Mmaniaye, and Adiyaw.  We have visited them regularly since 2007 (see previous blogs).  About 30 people were in attendance.

Three members of the ProWorld staff attended in order to show their support.  From the left:  Isaac (in charge of working with villages);  Kofi (looks after students); and Shawn, director of ProWorld, Ghana.

Reverend Sampson addresses the chiefs.  I spent about 30 minutes discussing first the history of Project Hope and Fairness and then the positives and negatives associated with locating the chocolate production facility either on the road or in the village.  In short, to make the facility available to all four villages, it's smartest to locate it on the road, where the electricity is available.  The reasons for locating the facility in Ebekawopa is the fact that I am Omanhene (development chief--I have my own stool) and the village would provide extra security.

After about two hours, the chiefs had come to consensus.  It was decided that the nearby town of Frangin (sic?) would serve as the site.  Furthermore, the chiefs decided they would discuss the matter with members of their villages, then visit the chief of Frangin in order to find the best and most secure room in the village.

Before we left, we donated the remaining solar lights, children's' toys, and pens to the chiefs of the four villages.

After the meeting, the ProWorld folks and we drove to Kakum National Park (5 minutes away) and enjoyed lunch together.  I ate Fufu with Goat in Light Soup.  When my dish arrived, I discovered that my goat had turned into beef, but no worries.  It was still very good.

Shawn, Kofi, and Isaac took a taxi South, and Bob and I did the canopy walk--a 0.8 Km walk on air (with the intervention of a few planks of wood, metal cable, and rope.  We let the bouncy kids go first, and I was last.  Agnes, the guide, a lovely person, walked backward in front of me, engaging me in conversation so I wouldn't think about the 110 feet of empty space between us and the forest floor.  I did pause also to revel in the scenery--a virgin tropical rainforest stretching uninterrupted for miles.

This was my third time, and I'm glad I did it.  Being an atheist, it's illogical to credit God with this incredible beauty, but you have to have a heart of stone not to glory in the great beauty of nature.  It also makes one extremely sad to think how stupid and selfish we humans are, that we could despoil this planet with no consideration for our own survival or that of the countless species of plants and animals that share the Blue Planet with us (thanks, Carl Sagan).  I equate this experience to sitting in Chartres Cathedral listening to the organ.  It's so overwhelming I can only cry in happiness knowing that there is such beauty on this planet.

Drenched in sweat, we returned to the starting point.  We drove south to the Hans Botel, as I wanted to show Bob a crocodile.  Of course, it brought out the poem:  How doth the little crocodile improve his shining tail…  And pour the waters of the Nile on every golden scale… How cheerfully he seems to grin, how neatly spreads his claws…  And welcome little fishes in with gently shining jaws.

Saturday, September 13

Today, we drove back to Accra, checked into Central Hotel, ate a Chinese lunch, and then drove to four different businesses to purchase a refrigerator, a microwave, and a lot of smaller stuff.  We found a glass door refrigerator, Samsung (good brand), for 1400 Ghana CDs but didn't pick it up right away due to its bulk.  Instead, we drove to one of the really large malls in Accra where we purchased the following:

1 Microwave-convection oven
4 cotton towels
1 rubber spatula
1 set of wooden spoons
3 glass bowls
3 glass oven dishes (for roasting the beans)
2 sheet pans (for cooling the beans)
1 strainer (to make chocolate dust for the machine)
1 electric filter (to prevent damage to expensive machinery caused by brownouts)

Bob Peak purchased it all--for about $900.

We returned to the place with the refrigerator, but they had closed.  Alex and I will drive the chocolate machine plus all the paraphernalia tomorrow afternoon after dropping Bob at the airport.  Then, on Monday, we will drive back to Accra to purchase the refrigerator.

The plan is that the chiefs will have found a place in Frame by Tuesday so we can move in.  There are still many details to iron out before we can produce our first batch of chocolate.

In the late afternoon, we visited Alex's house, which is under construction.  Alex owns 13 4X4s and 3 buses, all of which he rents out.  He conducts his business by cellphone as he drives.  Alex also is into real estate investment and also purchases large quantities of materiel for various businesses.  In addition, he is in inspector for KFC!  Bob and Alex inspect the construction.

Alex's house from the front.

Looking up to the roof, which is being covered with shingles manufactured in Switzerland.

Alex's house has been under construction for two years.  Currently, 15 men work on it full time.  

One of them lives on site along with his wife and two children.  Chickens run around the construction site, and the family made a dinner of roast chicken over a fire burning construction scraps (lower righthand corner).

Sunday, September 14

This is the day for Bob to go his own way.  The plane was to leave around 5:30 for Dubai, where Bob was planning to spend several days—just to see the city that has supplanted Las Vegas as the most egregious use of fossil fuel to date and is a celebration of human _____ , a modern Tower of Babel.

In the morning, we drove around the downtown area, visiting a few of the sights.  This is the Supreme Court.  Hopefully it’s as pretty as their decisions—or do I mean the other way around…

Across the street is Kwame Nkrumah’s mausoleum.  Nkrumah is the father of modern Ghana (and sub-Saharan Africa for that matter).  He declared independence in 1957.  He played the First and Second worlds against each other, although showing a preference for the Second.  He was replaced in a CIA-backed military putsch because of his preference for the Soviets and Chinese. 

Nkrumah was forced into exile and became co-president of Guinea until his death in 1972.  His wife, who was Egyptian, is buried here as well.

We drove to the castle, which has been converted into the vice-president’s residence as well as a prison.  During the Rawlings era in the 1980s, people were summarily executed (without trial) by having a concrete block tied to their backs and tossed off the ramparts into the ocean.  Needless to say, I did not take a picture because it’s illegal, it's not particularly interesting, and I happen to like my camera.

On the way back, we checked out Mills’ mausoleum.  President (Professor) Mills died several years ago.

We dropped Bob off at the airport and continued to Alex's house to pick up the chocolate machine.  We drove along the George Bush Highway.  "W" borrowed $800 million, gave it to Ghana to make a highway in his name, and the Ghanaians hired the Chinese to build it.  Brilliant!  Your tax dollars at work!  We are still paying the interest on that money!

We had a little bite to eat (Green-Green with Snail and Fufu and a lovely fruit salad).  

Fufu being pounded;  it's made with boiled cassava and boiled plantain.

Right, fufu being kneaded with water to make it gluey.  I love Fufu.

Using the help of four strong males, we picked up the 300-lb machine and inserted it into the back of the car.  Alex and I drove to Cape Coast.  We checked into a hotel ($10 per night--no hot water but good AC!)

Monday, September 15

We drove to Frami, the location of the new Ghana Cocoa Studies Center.  The sub-chief met us and then took off on a motorcycle to assemble village officials.  I took a picture of this is particularly handsome little building while waiting.

We went for a little walk through the village.  Alex shows how he used to retrieve loaves of bread from the oven.  The ashes were still quite warm.  In Ghana, since they were a British colony, they bake large Pullman loaves of bread in ovens such as this.

After about 20 minutes, we were invited to join the main chief, the sub-chief, the mother of the queen, the head of the family, and high-up village officials to discuss our project, which they were very excited about.  On the chair (obviously) sits the main chief.  He is the right hand man to the King of Fante Land.  Next to him is the head of the family and then to his right sits the Queen Mother.

After about 45 minutes of formalities, we all walked to the property that the chief of Frami is giving us for the Ghana Cocoa Study Center.  We passed this mural, which commemorates an important battle when this village was taken away from somebody else.  All the cocoa farmers have raised their machetes in a victory salute.  No one knew the date that is being commemorated.

This is the building that has been allocated to the Ghana Cocoa Study Center--Frami.  It has three rooms and electricity.  We are going to install iron bars on the windows as well as a steel door--to protect the expensive machinery within.

We emptied the 4X4 and unpacked everything.  Now the electrician has to connect the electrical stabilizer (prevents damage to motors caused by the frequent brownouts) and the carpenter has to make 3 tables and two shelving units.

Alex and I set out at 11 AM for Accra to purchase the refrigerator.  To save time, we dined on roasted plantains and peanuts.  On the way, I saw this German van.  The German government gives people tax write-offs for donating their business vehicles after a couple years of use.  All over West Africa, you see vans that used to belong to butchers, electronics dealers, you name it.  In this case, it's a newspaper near my hometown of Trier.

We arrived in Accra about 2 PM.  We stopped by the Cocobod, the Ghanian government's agency that controls exports of ALL Ghanaian cocoa beans (21% of the world's beans).  We asked the guy at the reception desk for advice on where to purchase cocoa butter.  He gave us the name of someone at the Golden Tree Processing Company in Tema (one of Kwame Nkrumah's few successful state-run enterprises).  Unfortunately, the traffic to Tema at 3 PM would have prevented arrival before they closed, so we elected to purchase the refrigerator and spend the night in Accra.

So, now I am back in Central Hotel.  Just had an excellent Fante dish with fish and gari.  We finally were able to purchase Blue Skies fruit juices--the best fruit juice in the world!  I drank an entire bottle of Mango-Passion Fruit.  This picture is of my other favorite, Pineapple-Ginger.  No added sugar or water!  No pasteurization, which absolutely RUINS fruit juice!  They just sell out before 5 days have passed!  In a Third World country!  Absolutely brilliant!

Tuesday, September 16