Busua has been a popular spot for backpackers since the sixties due to its vibrant surfing culture. Though back then tourists were doing the surfing for the most part, today it is clear that this culture and sport has permeated into the local scene, so that it seems most locals are born on a surfboard. Moreover, due to the well known phenomenon that surfing usually brings with it a chilled out, hippie, Rastafarai, “hang loose” vibe wherever in the world it happens to take root, one could sense this town was all of the above from the start.
Immediately upon arrival a surfer – later to be known as Michael – brought us to the local hotel and hang out spots. This encounter was refreshing, as we could immediately sense how locals here seemed much more used to white people. Usually, the feeling a white person has when walking around in Ghana (and most West African countries) is like suddenly acquiring a three foot unicorn made of gold, based on the reactions from locals. Here in Ghana this horn normally evokes chants such as Bawfle! Bawfle! (white man! white man!), but not so much in Busua. Here, the white person feels more that they can be them self, rather than constantly directing their focus and energy towards thwarting this fantastical mythic status.
After we finally chose a spot to rest our heads for the night, we walked along the beach to have a beer at one of the local bars Michael had pointed out to us. The beach extends out for miles to the east, and to the west ends abruptly in a small peninsula affronted by large fishing boats brightly colored and worn, and adorned with lights, flags, nets, and elaborately painted names such as ‘God’s Power’, and ‘London Bridge’. When out at sea the scraggly appearance of these boats affect an image of haunted pirate ships, whose long bodies seem to hover above the waves whilst parading their tattered sails.
Perforating this mist were small figures either collecting bits and pieces on the beach, or continuously tossing out and gathering in their fishing nets from the shallows. The rain that was falling during most of our time in Busua added a sonorous and silent voice to their movements, unyielding in its slow and steady repetition amidst such a downpour and silhouetted against crashing waves..
The most memorable thing about this town, aside from the surfer vibe, was it’s smallness. I have rarely spent more than one day in a village as small as this in my life, and the extent to which faces and friends reappear struck me. There was Eric the cab driver who wore a beaming smile and introduced us to the local language. Frank, the juice man, who seemed quietly possessed by concocting and distributing juice mixtures in plastic bottles to tourists. There was Isaac who was not a native, but was in the process of building his house nearby, laying each brick as he was able to accumulate enough money to do so. There was Daniel the pancake man, Michael the surfer, Kofi the soft-faced boy with the puppy named Tiger, Ebenezer who stood on grasshopper legs and wielded a hidden intelligence… and the list goes on…
Thanks to its distinctive smallness, history, and the openness of its inhabitants, I feel Busua granted me a true glimpse into the nature of an African village. The openness, an unflinching generosity this glimpse revealed stayed with me even after I left, in the form of a child. As we rode a tro-tro back to Esiama, a young girl shared her boiled egg for me (and the undulating lace of her dress). Perhaps there was some significance in this: as they say, it takes a village….