After forgetting to bring my credit card to the office on three occasions, on Valentine's day itself I finally brought it with me, so that I could order something through the Internet, for my loved one back home. I chose a nice heart, made out of chocolate. And, keeping the damage to a minimum, it would be delivered already the next day. A pity that the cost of delivering the present was about the same as the cost of the chocolate heart itself. And it wasn't a cheap heart.
But, of course, it wasn't the only thing I praised my girlfriend with for Valentine's day. After having run the Hash on Monday, start and finish at @theoffice, where reasonably unfriendly people serve half-priced, reasonably bad, cocktails on Wednesday evenings, we left for Champs. There, to be confronted by a camera crew from one of the National television stations, TV3, who were taping a Valentine's day show. Not only were we strange birds on their show because of the color of our skin, we were also the only ones that actually named our girlfriends by name. No Ghanaian was able, or dared, to do just that, evading questions for the names of their loved ones, who they wished a happy Valentine.
A reasonably interesting concept for entertainment that, as yet, hasn't really made it to West Africa is the cinema. There are, to be exact, two actual cinemas in Accra, where more than two million people live. A cinema being where the audience does not hold any influence over what movies will be shown during the evening. Besides these two cinemas, the city is almost littered with houses, split up in multiple rooms with large screen TVs, where you select a DVD or VCD over the counter, to be played in the room of your choice, seating three to 25 people. Needless to say, all recent theater releases can be obtained at these places.
One reasonable video-hut is the Video Nut Plaza. Five air-conditioned rooms, ranging from three to fifteen seats, bed optional. A third way of getting your weekly dose of Western cinema is checking out some of the western bars on Sunday evening. Champs, Fusion and Chesters all serve one or two movies each week, sometimes for free, sometimes for a small cover charge. A couple of the movies that graced the screens have been the remake of Get Carter with Sylvester Stallone, truly taking the movie to the 'next level', Hurricane with Denzel Washington and The Cell, with Jennifer Lopez; a really crappy movie with qutie a babe. "Ehm, we have some nice screen effects and Jennifer Lopez. let's see if we can construct a movie around this."
Most of our third week in Accra, Ethan, one of the two founders of Geekcorps, was visiting the city. If anything, it meant lots of opportunities at socializing. For him, but also for us geeks, with the highpoint of the week the celebration of Tomas' birthday on Saturday, at Geekhalla. Ethan had, during the week he was there, invited basically everyone he had come across. Having a party isn't a bad idea in itself. The problem, however, is obtaining bottled drinks. Since there is a shortage of glass bottles, you can only get a collection of bottled drinks if you hand in empty bottles. Needless to say, we did not have any when we arrived in Accra.
Tomas was quite lucky that the week before, in Aquarius, he was unable to get rid of a working girl who was really, really, interested in him, resulting in her being virtually a Siamese twin of Tomas for the following two weeks. Although that might seem inconvenient, it also meant that Tomas was able to get bottled drinks without having to supply empty bottles. The working girl had her contacts. Destina, as her name was, was a gift from heaven. A great party, ending in Aquarius after the beer had run dry. Destina, who had to leave early to go to work, was lucky enough to be found again by Tomas, when we entered Aquarius
Besides the crowd that we ourselves (or Ethan) had invited, some guests no one had ever seen before also had shown up. Mainly because Tomas had put up an invitation on Geekhalla.org, shortly after Jason had sent a mail to Slashdot.org, who had referred to our site, increasing the amount of traffic by 1600% in one week. Most of the unknown guests were Danes, making it no surprise that our supply of beer dried out way before expected.
To supply the crowd with some entertainment, Francois, Tim and myself had used up part of our monthly $100 to buy stuff for inside Geekhalla to get ourselves a Ghettoblaster. When in the electronics store, ready to buy the music machine, there was a lights out. So we got batteries, just in case. Only seconds before arriving at the house, the lights came back on again.
After visiting Aquarius, together with Richard, a Dutch guy I met at Aquarius and two interesting ladies, we went to Makumba. One of the few real discos in Accra, where for every man, roughly seven woman are available to go home with. Needless to say, these woman all need to be paid. It was my second visit to the place and much more enjoyable at that, since now I was protected by the presence of two ladies, entering the club with me. The previous time, I had gone in with Francois alone, resulting in us being harassed by more then 5 women after only setting one foot, each, in the club. Now, we danced into the small hours of the night, without ever encountering oppressive women.
During the day of Tomas' birthday party, together with three Dutch people working for ExplainerDC, who I met during one of the socializing events set up by Ethan the previous week, I visited the Feijenoord soccer training camp an hours drive away from Accra. Run by a Belgian guy, the place, with Dutch flags, jerseys and more, seems mildly out of place but is kind of fun to visit. Afterwards, we had a very nice, but expensive, time at White Sands, a very nice beach club in the neighborhood of the soccer camp.
Meanwhile, the relationship between JoyFM and Geekcorps hadn't really normalized yet. Although I was very much enjoying myself at the radio station, it turned out that the SRP, the Social Responsibility Project which Joy was committed to do, wasn't really happening. The SRP basically is Joy's payment for my services. Geekcorps helps them, they help the community by doing a Social Responsibility Project.
Cyril, Geekcorps' contact at Joy, who quit the first day I was there, had great ideas about airing some technology show. However, on my first day I was at Joy, I heard Cyril talk to a guy at programming about this technology show, as if it was the first time he had every mentioned it to him. After some weeks, it was decided that Joy would do a total of thirteen shows and although they claimed they did a number of them, no one ever heard one show on technology sent through the airwaves by Joy…
When, at some point during the week, I went into the Geekcorps office and started talking to Tom, a friend of Ebenezer's, I was almost jumped by him when I said that my mother was a Christian and my father a Muslim. Although this is not completely true, since my father, although born and raised in Iran, never was brought up a Muslim. However, in such a religious society as Ghana is, it is difficult to explain one does not believe in God. You can try to explain the concept, but you might as well not bother since you will only receive blank stairs when trying.
Anyway, Tom was part of a church called Zetaheal. Only some 30 years old, it was a church where Muslim and Christian people came together to pray and he insisted on my coming over the same weekend. Luckily I could convince Jason to come with me, but I have to admit that the service, held in English, Twi, Ewe and Ga was quite impressive, but mainly very 'happy'. Being shown around by some sort of PR manager, we were told one thing: "We have a couple of rules here. The first one is that you can take as many pictures as you want." It was a very relaxing church with very open minded people.