Notes from Ghana #15

So…its pretty late (for Ghana time) and we just had an amazing party with live drumming from a Kpanlogo/Bobobo group, a HUGE dance session, and outdoor dinner for 50 set up in front of the lodge. Fantastic food (more than 8 traditional dishes)  that can be summed up by Rory in three words: coconutgoat,  kebabs, dzakble. (see his more than three words in the next post) All topped off by a visiting major war chief . Nuff said. We are all exhausted,  happy,  sad ( lots of tears) and we will leave the village tomorrow morning early for our last couple of days in Accra. So much has happened in these last few days we have been unable to blog about it all but will fill in the gaps when we are home. For now I will leave you with a few of Christopher’s (parent & chaperone) observations. See you soon!

Anecdotes and observations from my walks around Dagbamete and other nearby towns. by Christopher Duschenes (most of the following photos are Christopher’s as well)

1. I get lulled awake every morning by the rhythmic sound of the villagers sweeping the red dirt paths and roads clean with palm frond brushes. I’ve been going for walks early every morning just as the town is waking up. Two out of three people say “Good morning, good morning, good morning, you are welcome”. Totally charming. They are also very keen to shake hands, but with a twist. Hard to explain but it ends with two quick snaps of the fingers – your middle finger snapping against theirs. Three weeks in this country and I have almost mastered it.

2. Last week I met an unbelievably smiley 30 year old woman named Ruby. She grilled me about my family and was thrilled to know two of my boys are here with me. She was also thrilled to know I have another son in Canada but totally dismayed that “Your poor wife, she has no girls?” “Yes” I said. “I will be your daughter” she shrieked and now yells “Daddy” at the top of her lungs here when she sees me and refers to Oliver and Ben as her brothers. In Ottawa a scenario like this would be creepy. It’s not creepy here, it’s endearing.

3. I stopped in at the corn mill yesterday morning. Things were in full swing with many women waiting to have their mais ground into flours for akple or one of the many other corn-flour based dishes. The miller, Cujo, was being helped by a very beautiful woman who asked me to take her photograph – which I happily did. I showed her the LED screen on the camera and I said she looked beautiful. She said that was good because that was in fact her name. I have met very many people with great names like hers. They are all English translations of their Ewe names. I have met: Nice, Happy, Gracious, Peace, Destiny, Courage, Fine and this evening, oddly Funky. Not sure how that happened.

4. I shared my shower in Cape Coast with a gecko that was about 1/2 the length of my pinky. Very cute. There are tons of lizardly like things around. Some very colourful. There are also animals with babies all over the place; chickens, goats, cats, ducks, dogs, sheep, all roaming free. Owners identify their chickens by either painting a small patch of a bright colour on their wing or by tying a short piece of coloured string to their feathers. Still have not figured out why the often emaciated dogs don’t eat the chickens..

5.On my early morning walk near our hotel in Cape Coast, turned a corner and came face to face with a largish, snarling dog. He ran towards me followed by six others who flanked him in Snowbird-like formation. I, not liking dogs at the best of times, did the brave thing and bolted. Or at least tried to. I turned around, took two quick steps and tripped over one of the 700 zillion raised bits of concrete in this country and went flying, ripping the skin off my forearm. Good thing too because I shrieked in pain, freaked the dogs out and they took off. Nurse Claire polysporined me back to health..

6. I have walked to Dzokpa– a village two kms from Dagbamete – a few mornings. The road is narrow, packed red earth, perhaps seven feet wide. I have met the same people each morning, either walking to their fields, to fetch fire wood or kids on their way to school in Dagbamete. There is a school on Dzokpa but many parents prefer the school in Dagbamete because, according to a teacher that I met, it is more traditionally Ewe and not Christian. Two mornings I have walked with Erik, Francis, Peace and Nice – the latter two being girls. They range from age 6 to 9 and are all totally lovely but speak essentially no English. They insist on holding my hands. We laugh a lot, an amazingly good form of communication. They, mainly laughing at me. We’ve tried to teach each other words for various things we see in our respective languages. Total failure on my part based on how hysterically they have laughed at my pronunciation, to the point where Peace had to lie down in the grass to recover. Resorted to teaching them how to whistle using blades of grass between their thumbs. Much spit and hilarity but little success. Ghanaians love to laugh.

7. Went back to the mill where a bunch of women had gathered to wait their turn to have their corn ground; some plain dried corn, some tossed with palm oil and some mixed with dried chilli peppers all in huge aluminum bowls transported on their heads. Above the very loud roar of the grinder, we tried to have a conversation. “You marry me and we go back to Canada?” one woman enquired. I asked her name and she said Victoria! I explained that not only did I already have a wife in Canada but that her name was Victoria too! We all laughed hard and they began to chant “One Victoria good, two Victoria more good!” Many men have several wives here. I’ll stick to one.

8. I went back to the lodge and got the family photos and returned to show them proof of the existence of my Victoria. They loved looking at the photos, especially the one of the entire family camping. I gave it to them and Victoria clutched it to her heart and I thought she was going to cry. Tough to know what she was thinking.

9. It rained torrentially the other day. Young kids stripped off their clothes and were dancing in the puddles. Dancing in the rain, a global phenomenon.

10. Sakura is the men’s tailor. He is incredibly gracious and accommodating. He lives with his wife, two kids and seemingly all his worldly possessions in an 8×11 single room that includes all his sewing supplies and machine. Our weeks here are obviously a huge huge boost to his business.

11. Had a game of American football in the big field outside the school yesterday. Total chaos at the beginning but the locals caught on fast and we had a great time. A couple of the kids were phenomenal athletes. Denis, a 9 year old, caught on to the complexities of the game in minutes and made two excellent catches. Jonathan is 15 and runs faster than any human I have ever seen. I called him Usain Bolt but he did not recognize the name. It’s pretty cut off from the rest of the world here. Not a bad thing.

12. The sound of “Yevu! Yevu!” follow us everywhere as the local children try to get our attention by yelling “Whitey! Whitey!”.

13. It does not seems that there are any newspapers here – at least not in the rural areas – and I have not heard much radio. Only seen two TVs. As a result perhaps, people announce the death of individuals by putting up obituary posters all over the place. The posters provide a lot of details of the person’s life and when it will be celebrated. They include photos and usually a catchy headline like “Until We Meet Again” or “Into The Beyond” or my favourite “What a Shock”, which is, sadly, used to announce the death of someone young. Shirts are also made with a silkscreen of the face of the deceased.

14. The Baobabers are a fantastic bunch but have been very prone to asking many questions that begin with “How far is…” or “How long will…” or “When will….” all totally unanswerable when operating on African time and distances. The kids have yet to fully grasp that we are essentially functioning in a different dimension here. Ben noted the other days that we really need to learn how to “hang-out better when we get home”.

15. It’s been said that you can’t change Africa but that Africa will change you. Well, it has but I must add a qualifier. Kathy Armstrong has not changed all of Africa, but she has unquestionably changed Dagbamete.

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