I have been absent from the blogging scene for some days now; though, I do check my twitter accounts once in a while. I am still at Kwamebikrom but have been moving around a lot. I have visited three border towns: Oseikojokrom, Pillar 34 and Ahimakrom. Oseikojokrom is the largest of the border towns, though not as active as Elubo, another of the border towns in the Western Region. We walked across the customs checkpoint. We got as far as Mazaan River. And that's about 100m away from the checkpoint. The major mode of transporting people across the border is the motorbike. And they can speed! Our visit occurred a day after a heavy rainstorm and so we saw collapsed school buildings and uprooted trees. We walked deep into the unofficial routes to Cote d'Ivoire. We also met several of them. There was a guy who was riding his motorbike across the border several times. He carried no passenger for all the four times I saw him move in and out. I discussed it with my colleague and said I suspect him only to be told by our 'oboshi' guide that he transports fuel across the border.
At Pillar 34, the fan decreased. This is a small village with no light. However, here the idea of international borders breakdown. Some farmers in this village have landlords who are Ivorians. Thus, their farms are found beyond the borders. We met the Kontihene and spoke with him.
The last border town we have as of now visited is Ahimakrom. This is the last community in the Bia district. It shares boundary with Brong Ahafo region and Cote d'Ivoire. Though here we didn't see the actual border zone. We were only told it was less than a mile away. The work we had to do locked us down.
|Devastation after the Rains|
I also take GPS positions of various land-use systems to help us ground-truth an existing data. This land-use systems include, amongst others, forest and oil palm. I mentioned these two because of the unique encounters they gave me. I happen to enter the Bia forest on the other side, close to Asanteman. Here we were led by a man into the forest. Yes! I entered the forest. The underground was cool and free from shrubs. I was just scared for the guide told us that there are elephants there. They come to eat their cocoa pods. The forest share boundary with a cocoa farm and the pods attract the elephants. However, he was quick to add that elephants fear humans and that only one person had ever been killed by an elephant and that occurred because the man was overly brave. He would go and lash the elephants when they come to feed on his pods. One day, he was given a kick by one elephant and that was his end. He died instantly with crushed bones. The people there sack the elephants by hitting a cocoa tree with a stick. (We also entered Subim forest, that was on the first day of the work, and there I saw a baby alligator.) I even entered an ancestral grove. I nearly forgot this, but the man who took us into this forest and told us the story scared the hell out of me when he jumped so high that he could almost have been participating in an Olympic game high jump after a twig brushed his leg, the area near the ankle. My colleague and I laughed our eyes out only to meet my fear.
|Another Route to RCI (Unofficial)|
My fear occurred or the real deal occurred on my way from the forest. I saw an oil-palm farm and wanted to take my GPS waypoint. In taking waypoints one had to be at the middle of the farm to account for the inexactness of the GPS equipment (+/-3m). As I was pushing my way into this oil-palm farm, I saw a huge black cobra (popularly called ɔprεmire). It was so big that I can't compare it with my upper arm. It raised its head and turned, slithering away. Yes! I saw it but in a flash, I had jumped and fled, like lightning, away from this ominous encounter. I lost control of my legs, as if they were fleeing on their own or thinking on their own. They worked independent of my central mind, taking me as far from danger as possible. From my new vantage point, with my heart beating twice as fast, I saw it slowly slithering majestically away. What a beauty and yet what fear! I left that oil-palm farm in search of another. Work must continue no matter what; though not at the cost of my life.
|A Hut at the Edge of the Forest|
When we got back to the village we had come to conduct our interview, I told a farmer what I had seen only to be told that they are aware of that snake. It only feeds there on rats and mice and squirrels and also on their fowls. Fowls? And they haven't killed it? They said snakes are fearful, that if you haven't done anything to it it would not bite you, it would slither away. I asked what if you inadvertently step on it. 'It would bite you' they said. And that has always been my point. What if I step on it first. They also said unless they have spiritually sent it to bite you, snakes don't just bite people. I agreed to it, quietly for how could I know if such spiritual task had already not been issued.
|Entrance to the Forest|
As if that wasn't enough, we saw a smaller version of the cobra on my way into another forest when I was returning from Ahimakrom at a place called Kaase Nkwanta. Here the guide almost killed it; but the serpent wouldn't lie low and be killed. Here it was the snake that was running away and not me. At least I had five more people with me. It quickly climbed an oil-palm tree and disappeared in it. When I asked the guide why cobras or snakes prefer oil-palm trees he told me that is its feeding strategy. When the fruits ripe different animals come to feed and they also serve as food for the snakes. Also because snakes are generally cold-blooded they come out to warm themselves when the sun is high. These two sightings of the ancient enemy reduced my vim for the work drastically. Snakes are not my idea of fun.
I would be rounding things up next week. The work has been interesting and worth the sacrifice. Electricity here is intermittent but then so too is it at East Legon, where the organisation I work for is located. No problem then.