More pictures from Techiman Ride.

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Mountain biking is pretty much the best thing. Ever. (After bike polo – lets be honest). I am reminded of this as Jason just sent me these pics he took of our ride last week.

Makes me wonder where my priorities are at that I am not mountain biking all the time when I am back in the states… I’ll have to fix that this summer. Vermont trails are calling.

Muddy trails after the previous nights rain.
Muddy trails after the previous nights rain.
I can't stay clean. Ever.
I can’t stay clean. Ever.

Serious Bike Parking

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On my way to Ghana I had a 7 hour layover in Amsterdam, and I took a train into the city to drink some coffee, eat some waffles, and check out the city’s infamous bike culture. And I gotta say – Amsterdam is serious about bike parking. This is just ONE of the bike parking structures outside the central train station.

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In fact, there are so many bikes everywhere that every possible surface, and then some, have bikes chained to them.

Riding Outside Techiman

Jason leading the ride.
Jason leading the ride.

After spending a couple of days being pretty ill, I woke up on Monday feeling marginally better and so Jason, Harley, and I went out for a ride in the bush outside Techiman. This was both a great and terrible idea. It was terrible because my body was exhausted from 2 days of expelling everything that had been in it, and heading out during the middle of the day with the sun so high was also probably not the greatest idea. We had to cut the ride shorter than we had intended because my body just couldn’t hack it. Oops.

But it was also awesome because we went out riding in an area where Village Bicycle Project has done a lot of programming, and we ran into a few folks with their bikes out on the farms.

James with his bike.
James with his bike.

SAM_1827We interviewed these two guys about their bikes, and were especially keen to ask how many repairs they had needed, where they repaired their bikes, and if they had any tools. So many bikes in Ghana get literally ridden to death because people don’t know how to recognize when repairs need to be done or there is no repair infrastructure around to fix the bikes. Both of the people we ran into kept their bikes in good shape, had had repairs done, and one of them had attended an advanced tools workshop and clearly enjoyed wrenching on his bike.

So even though I spent some time dry heaving on the side of the road, it was still totally worth it.

I’ll load more pictures next week – my connection right now is slow, and this internet place is playing New Direction on repeat and I need to leave.  Laterz.

 

Photo Updates from Ghana

After a little over a week in Accra, yesterday I traveled 8 hours to Techiman – a town pretty much straight in the middle of Ghana. I’m hanging out here for a few days before heading to Koforidua on Tuesday. Techiman is beautiful, and approximately 1000 degrees cooler than Accra. I’ve been enjoying the breeze, afternoon rain storms, and just chilling in a quiet neighborhood. Tomorrow we’re planning on going out mountain biking through some of the rural farm area, and I’m pretty pumped to hit the single track : ).

But at last – some pictures! First are some photos from a container unloading at the Accra warehouse. This container arrived from Re-Cycle in the UK, and although I wasn’t able to get there in time to see the actual unloading of the bikes, I got to see the selling process afterwards, which was what I really wanted to see.

When the bikes come out on the other side.
When the bikes come out on the other side of the ocean.
As the container unloads, the buyers stack the bikes they want to buy in a pile and then wait to negotiate the price at the end.
As the container unloads, the buyers stack the bikes they want to buy in a pile and then wait to negotiate the price at the end.
Mountains of bikes everywhere.
Mountains of bikes everywhere.

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The next day VBP loaded a big truck with 100 bikes for 5 days of one-day workshops in the Northern part of the country. They’ll be doing 5 one-day workshops where they distribute 20 bikes a day, and then they will be teaching 2 days of advanced mechanics training to the first 50 people who come. Continue reading “Photo Updates from Ghana”

Greetings from Ghana

Hello from Accra! I arrived in Accra just about a week ago, and have spent my first week here spending time with Village Bicycle Project (VBP), exploring Accra, and trying out lots of new foods. Most of my time has been spent with Jason, the VBP country director, just tagging along on his various trips and meetings around town. I’ve also spent some time hanging out at VBP’s warehouse with the trainers and consignees (the people who import the containers that Bikes Not Bombs loads jam packed full of bikes and parts in Boston). It’s always fascinating to talk to people on the other side of the container – to hear what they think of our containers when they come in, what bikes sell for what price, and what parts are valuable. And I’m pretty pumped that tomorrow I’m going to get to see a container unloading at the warehouse. I wish I could say it was a Bikes Not Bombs container, but, alas, that timing would be too perfect. Instead I’ll get an inside look at how other shipping organizations pack their containers, and see what that whole process is like.

So far in Accra I have not seen a single woman riding a bike. Admittedly, the traffic in Accra is formidable, and I haven’t seen a lot of people riding period, but I haven’t seen a single woman either. Folks tell me that more women ride bikes further north in the rural areas, so I’ll be interested to see if more women are riding in Techiman – a town in the center of Ghana where I’ll be going this weekend – or in Koforidua – the city where Ability Bikes is located where I’ll be starting next week. I’ll keep an eye out and let you all know.

On an entirely different note – One thing that has really struck me about Accra, and is so so different from my time in Sierra Leone, is the incredible amount of wealth in Accra. I knew that Accra, and Ghana generally (known as West Africa’s golden child), is a lot wealthier than other parts of West Africa, but I have been sort of blown away by how fancy some places are here. I mean, I generally feel shamed in West Africa about being sweaty/dirty/not well enough dressed, but Accra is taking my shame to a new level. Before traveling here I saw this article on Africas a Country about a new web series called ‘An African City,’ which they describe as Sex and the City meets West Africa. And although this portrays only a tiny part of life in Accra, I think it’s important to point out that this is part of life in Accra just as much as popular images in the Global North of African children in the street. Wealth and Poverty exist in extremes in all parts of the world – north and south. Anyways – check out this trailer for ‘An African City’ and let me know what you think.

Ok time for me to sign off from this packed internet place and try to track down some food. I’ll try to keep updating as I’m able. And take pictures. Really gotta remember to take pictures.

Off to Ghana

So I have a pretty cool job. A job so cool that I’m going to Ghana for the next month to spend time with two different bike projects – The Village Bicycle Project and Ability Bikes. I’ll be spending the first two weeks with Village Bicycle Project (VBP) in Accra and northwest Ghana. I volunteered with VBP for 3 months last year in Sierra Leone, and I’m very excited to see their programming in Ghana and to spend some time with the bike sellers in Accra.

I am especially excited to visit Ability Bikes in Koforidua, because after 6 months of skyping regularly with many of the members, it’ll be nice to put voices and faces together. Bikes Not Bombs shop mechanic Derek McIntire visited Ability Bikes back in November, and put together this incredible short documentary about the bicycle cooperative. Check it out to get a better sense of Ability Bikes:

I’ll be doing some program monitoring, capacity trainings, but most importantly getting to better know our partners and talking about how they see their work.

I’ll be blogging from Ghana, but posts might be a bit less frequent depending on internet access.

World Bicycle Forum Song

I’m still processing everything I learned this last weekend, and I’ll write up a more comprehensive summary tomorrow as I spend too much time in airports. For now, I’ll leave you with this song. I’ve had this song stuck in my head for 4 days now. It’s pretty awesome. This guy has produced over 50 albums, 3 of which were entirely about bicycles.

The chorus of the song is ‘I’m in love with riding my bike’ and it’s just so catchy! Some of the other chants you’ll hear are ‘more adreneline, less gasoline’   ‘more bikes, less cars’  and my favorite ‘more love, less motors.’