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hello, old friend REUNION IS BITTERSWEET Peace Corps stint forges lasting bond page 2
Forty years later, return to Ghana is bittersweet

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Date published: 8/31/2007

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We figured we had last met in 1980. He was between weaving gigs in the United States and stayed a few weeks at my house in the Northern Neck. He set up a loom under a maple tree in the backyard and wove kente every day.

While he was there, I taught him to drive. My method was the same way I had learned:

First on a riding lawn mower, which he crashed into a tree. Then on a John Deere tractor. Then in a car in the pasture. Finally in the car on the highway.

In July, at his home near our old school, we laughed about those odd driving lessons. But they seemed to work. He now drives--quite well, I'm glad to say--a Toyota sedan that had 392,836 kilometers on its odometer.

fashioning a future

Most of Bobbo's 1-acre, walled compound is the campus of his American Village Weaving Institute. It can house, feed and teach weaving to as many as 12 students at a time, many of them from America.

The compound is also where he keeps his Massey Ferguson tractor and other farm machinery. Such equipment is rare in Ghana. He owns about 100 acres and farms about half of it himself. "I love it so much on my farm," he said.

He also owns two or three other houses that he rents out.

He weaves little himself these days. Instead, he employs 16 other weavers to make kente to his specifications. He sews it together on a 45-year-old treadle sewing machine in his house.

Another wall separates the campus compound from his house. It has beds and mattresses, but he prefers to sleep on a mat on the floor beside the sewing machine.

Once a week, his driver takes him 100 miles to Ghana's capital, Accra, where Bobbo sells women's and men's clothes, tablecloths, wall hangings, place mats, runners and other pieces.

"I know everybody at all the embassies," he said.

Bobbo makes friends quickly and easily. Everyone who meets him is soon smiling and in good buying spirits. His affable nature, it seems to me, is a main ingredient of his success.


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Reporter Frank Delano revisits Ghana, where he served in the Peace Corps 40 years ago, and reports on Prince's Town, Fredericksburg's new sister city.

SUNDAY: Sister cities Prince's Town and Fredericksburg are worlds apart. MONDAY: Sister-city relationship shines a beacon of hope into Prince's Town. Tale of two soccer balls illustrates town's need, and obsession. TUESDAY: Spotsylvania man leads effort to protect villagers from malaria. WEDNESDAY: Profile of Fredericksburg's Pamela Bridgewater, ambassador to Ghana. YESTERDAY: What is the future of the sister-city relationship?

TOMORROW: Remembering Prince's Town's Golden Age, and a photo essay on a traditional burial. in TOWN & COUNTY. To read previous stories, go to fredericksburg.com
ON THE NET >> For video and more photos, or to order photo reprints, see fredericksburg.com.

GETTING THERE

Get inoculations and malaria pills. Apply for a $50 tourist visa from the Ghana Embassy in Washington. Fly 5,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to Accra (ah-KRA), the capital of Ghana. Don't worry about the language. English is spoken everywhere in Ghana.

IN ACCRA Enjoy the confusion and energy of this city of 2 million. See capitalism at its crowded best at the Makola Market. Negotiate prices of everything. Savor keliweli, plantain grilled with spices by sidewalk vendors. See the new $112 million U.S. Embassy, but no photos are allowed. Take taxis everywhere.

IN PRINCE'S TOWN From Accra, drive west 164 miles along Ghana's gorgeous and historic coast. Turn left at the sign for Prince's Town, "the most beautiful sea shore in West Africa." Continue 11 miles on a mostly unpaved road. Four-wheel drive recommended. Stop at the beach in the center of town. Fort Gross-Friedrichsburg is at the top of the hill.

WHERE TO STAY Bare-bones rooms with cots are available in the fort for about $2.50 a night. The fort's caretaker can arrange meals, as well as other accommodations at private beach houses nearby. A new guest lodge in town may open soon.

EATING AND DRINKING Pineapples, mangoes, bananas, plantain, oranges, papaya, cassava, chicken, goat, fish, oysters, cockles and lobster are available most days in Prince's Town. Everything is fresh and local. Drink only boiled or bottled water, sodas, beer or coconut milk.

THINGS TO DO Learn about the fort's long, fascinating and terrible history. Ignore the bats when you enter the dungeon. Thousands of people were imprisoned there on their journeys of no return into slavery. Ask about local heroes John Conny, Anton Wilhelm Amo (1703-59) and Kwame Nkrumah (KWA-mi, in-KRU-ma) (1909-72).

Walk the endless beaches. Surf or swim if you dare. Take canoe rides on the Nyila (na-YEEL-a) River and the Ehunli (eh-HOON-lee) Lagoon.

Look for monkeys and crocodiles.

Hike two miles to the fishing village of Akatekyi (aka-TESH-ee). See giant dugout canoes beside houses on the beach.

Buy fresh or smoked fish or loaves of delicious bread baked in big clay ovens.

Make people happy by learning to say hello, goodbye and thank you in Nzema (EN-zah-ma).

TABOOS Eating with your left hand. Fishing on Tuesdays. Going into the lagoon on Thursdays. Entering the sacred grove beside the lagoon at any time. Harming or killing crocodiles.

BEST CONVERSATION STARTER "Do you think the U.S. will beat Ghana the next time?"

RECOMMENDED READING "Ghana: The Bradt Travel Guide" by Philip Briggs.