Ron Cappucci, business operations manager at Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport, has found a bit of work/life balance in exploring Ghana, one of a handful of countries vying for the title of being located closest to the equator. Not only did the trip offer an opportunity to learn about a new culture, but Cappucci discovered what it meant to really unplug from work for a while.
“The great thing about the trip was that we had limited to no internet connectivity,” Cappucci said.
“Once we left the airport, there was limited Wi-Fi, even at the airport. We were really off the grid, and that was refreshing/relaxing to be disconnected for a couple of weeks. When we got off the plane everyone went the extra mile to make our trip nice.”
Visiting Ghana’s Gold Coast, where his wife Effie was born and where some of her family still lives, Cappucci, a resident of Bristol, Rhode Island, left his comfort zone behind for this maiden trip last year. Joined by their eight-year-old son, the family experienced African culture through the eyes of a local resident.
“When I thought of Ghana, I thought of Africa and desert. I didn’t know much about it,” Cappucci said. “When we grew up and watched ‘National Geographic’ or studied it in school, we didn’t see the different people or cultures in Africa, but Ghana is in Western Africa and it’s pretty industrial and Westernized. One thing I learned quickly was that Ghana was formerly a colony of Great Britain, so there are similarities. They don’t drive on the left-hand side of the road anymore, but there are lots of rotaries, and other traditions that have English influence.”
From the rainforests in the west to Lake Volta in the east, Ghana, which sits atop an ancient Precambrian craton (a stable part of the Earth’s continental crust that is estimated to have formed 300 million to 2 billion years ago), is rich in material deposits that account for 5% of the country’s gross domestic product. With a dry season in the winter and rainy season in the summer, Ghana has a tropical climate with an average year-round temperature in the mid-80s. The Ghanaian culture is one that is very hospitable, where people are warm-hearted and welcoming, Cappucci said.
Afternoon tea and proper dress for supper remain stalwart components of Ghanaian life, and Cappucci noted the food and clothing as major visible cultural differences between his home and the West African country. His shorts and New England Patriots T-shirt, for example, stood out amid the sea of brightly colored patterns of kaftans and head wraps worn by African men.
“Their regular attire is amazing — it’s a hybrid of Westernized clothing like jeans and then a colorful loose African kaftan,” Cappucci said. “They always are well presented, more formal than we are, and dress up for an occasion. Ghanaians even get formally dressed up to go to the market.”
His favorite New England/Italian pasta dish with bread was a stark contrast to the local fish and rice served regularly for family dinner in Ghana. The chocolate is also the best he has ever had, Cappucci said, as Ghana is the world’s second highest producer of cocoa, among four of the world’s top five cocoa harvesters in Africa alone.
“Ghanaians eat loads of rice and cornmeal with their locally caught tilapia and snapper,” he said. “They bring the fish right off the boats and grill them over the open flame. And they don’t use power boats — it’s all small sailboats.”
Of course, everyone was friendly and welcomed his family, he said. The Ghanaian’s hospitality afforded him and his family the opportunity to explore Accra’s stunning shoreline, including some of the continent’s most pristine beaches.
Ghanaian women would walk back and forth along the sand, from their homes or fishing boats to the marketplace, balancing baskets of fish and water jugs on their heads. Palm trees and azure skies was the perfect backdrop to relaxing in the equatorial sun, while surfing and horseback riding were among his family’s top activities.
On the trip, Cappucci did discover something familiar from home, however.
“We came across a Harley Davidson shop. I have a Harley, so that was pretty cool. They were all made in the U.S.A., all priced in U.S. dollars, and were more expensive than in U.S. because of tariffs,” he said. “I felt like a celebrity when they asked me about the history of Harley!”
Hoping to return to Ghana next year for a big family celebration, Cappucci is still relishing his inaugural trip there and that rest and relaxation that came with it.
“We can’t wait to go back,” he said.
NUWC Newport is a shore command of the U.S. Navy within the Naval Sea Systems Command, which engineers, builds and supports America’s fleet of ships and combat systems. NUWC Newport provides research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures associated with undersea warfare.
NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869. Commanded by Captain Michael Coughlin, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Fla., and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher’s Island, New York, Leesburg, Florida, and Dodge Pond, Connecticut.