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Adventures in Teshie Nungua – A Fishing Village

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lhanson
Nov 6, 2012


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Culture, Education, Sustainability

Adventures in Teshie Nungua – A Fishing Village

About an hour outside of Tema, Ghana resides a fishing village named Teashie Nungua. It’s had electricity for some time, only recently got its’ first cellphone tower,  but those whom dwell in large cities like Tema call Teshie Nungua “the old Ghana” or “the real Ghana”. “People are more relaxed here,” they “live the old life”. Their language is ancient; English, spoken over much of Ghana, is foreign here. Fishing is the industry, and often the currency too. Nearly everyone who lives in town is, in one way or another, part of the fishing trade. The men build the boats, weave the nets, and sail all night to catch the fish. The woman dry, smoke, or fry the fish, and they bring them to market to sell.  It is a fascinating process and a beautiful town.

They fish at night in giant wooden canoes. The whole town and all of her residents are dependent on each catch. The sun has long set and these fisherman are preparing their boats for launch.
The sun rises on the cliff-side dwellings of Teshie Nungua. These shacks are not representative of the lifestyle of the entire community, but many people do struggle day to day.
After nearly 7 hours of fishing the canoes arrive back on shore.  They are pulled in with ropes. While in the past they were rowed or sailed, today they are powered by outboard motors.
The sun, still low on the horizon, casts long shadows as the fishermen beach their crafts filled with the nights catch.
Before the boats can be hauled onto dry sand, their load must be lightened by removing all the fish and carrying it by the bucketful to the woman waiting ashore.
The canoes, weighing many tons, are rolled ashore on top of iron pipes spanning large planks of wood.
Harry Freeman, Kyle Zencey (University of Virginia), Riley Merrit (Bentley University) and Karl Benzinger (University of Denver) pitch in and throw their weight into the pull.
Men are not the only ones to helm the canoes. Child slavery is not a prevalent problem in Teshie Nungua as it is the the Volta Lake region of Ghana. Most children get to attend school, but before they do they often assist in the retrieving the nights catch.
The crew is paid in fish every day, being allowed to take some home and sell some other. In addition, they are paid at the end of each week after the primary portions of the catches are sold.

Men handle the catching, and women handle the drying, cooking, and selling of the catch. They are called fish mongers.
Hundreds of thousands of fish are laid out in the dirt each morning to dry in the sun. They are swept up and carried away to market in the afternoon.
He would eat the fish if it were laying on the beach, but here, after being laid out by hand, this dog knows better than to snatch a quick bite.
Karl Benzinger (University of Denver) and Casey Schulman (University of Virginia) walk with a young girl through the field of drying fish. Unlike in other parts of Ghana, most of the residents of Teshie Nungua do not speak English.

Semester at Sea students got the opportunity to visit one of Teshie Nungua’s schools, where they are always treated with a certain fascination.  Riley Merrit shares a few high fives.
Harper Frankstone (University of Georgia) and the rest of the students got a chance to meet and talk with the head fisherman of the town. He is considered the mayor and king of this fishing region. He is now in his eighties but has held the position since his early twenties. One holds the title for life, when it will then pass on to the best fisherman from one of the four leading families.
The students listen as the interpreter speaks for the head fisherman. Even the residents of the town are not allowed to speak to the head fisherman directly, they must always speak through his people.
Power outages are commonplace, but that doesn’t slow anyone down. Car headlights illuminate the streets and markets are lit with kerosene candles and battery powered lanterns.
An electrical generator roars in the near distance as a national political candidate takes the stage. Ghana is considered by the United States to be the soundest democracy in Africa.
A late-night after school program, designed to help street kids catch up to their peers, glows in the cool light of an LED powered lantern.
Lifelong mongers, like this grandmother, take great pride in the art and science of their craft. Different types of wood, temperatures, and smoking times all result in different flavor.
Fire is the only source of light in the smoke pits.  Fish mongers will often work all night preparing their fish for market.  This mother / daughter / baby grandson team have been at it since the late afternoon with many more hours to go.
The electricity has returned, the fishermen have long since cast away from the shore, the mongers are wrapping up their product for the next days market, and the town begins to wind down.
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