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Notes from Ghana #13

Hi All,

Sorry for not posting for a few days.  We took our three day trip to the Cape Coast area, so that’s why you have not been hearing from us (although I know several of the kids got in touch through the internet cafe at our hotel, in between looking at weaver birds and crocodiles…). So we owe you a few details about the amazing time we have been having. Let’s start with where we left off…a trip to the very traditional and always inspiring village of Dzogadze.

…a collective post from chaperones Evie, Jenni and Lynn


Last Saturday was an extraordinary day. Just breathtaking.

We prepared for the much anticipated performance at the neighbouring village of Dzogadze (Kwasi’s mother’s village were he did much of his drumming training as a young boy). Everyone emerged from the Kathy Armstrong Lodge to “oohhs and aahhs” decked in their new Ghanaian finery. Each of us had carefully chosen our own beautifully rich fabrics. Tailored to fit, everyone looked suitably dressy for the occasion. We were about to witness a performance of Atsiagbekor, the piece we have been learning, to be performed by our teachers, Ledzi and Oliver.

We are experiencing a different sense of time here, and this day was no exception as we had our usual wait in the bus to leave for the nearby Dzogadze. Forty-five minutes later, we were zooming down narrow red country lanes. As we approached, we could see the village children bouncing with excitement. We were welcomed as honoured guests to this tiny humble hamlet. A procession of dancers and drummers led us through the village to sit and be greeted by the elders. Once again we were awed by the honour that was bestowed upon us. As guests of Kwasi, who grew up in Dzogadze, we were welcomed like family. Formal and gracious words of welcome and gratitude were exchanged, as were the traditional offering of local spirits (akpoteshie or distilled palm sap). After a prayer and libation offering we were led back through the village to settle under the protection of a large shade tree. And here the real joy and excitement began.

The rest of the village settled to the right and to the left of us. There we all sat, collectively anticipating as the men and women of Dzogadze – young and old – promised to dazzle us with their dancing and singing traditions. The male dancers clustered in the shade of the lush trees as their sisters sang them forward. Lithe and agile, their bodies swooped and swirled with strength and beauty, telling the story of battle, cued by the hypnotic beating of drums and bells and encouraged by the chorus of female voices beckoning them onward with courage. Slow and fast Atsiagbekor took the first full hour…amazing really, and then they continued with renditions of Gadzo, Brejete music, Adzogbo, and Kete.

The make-up of Dzogadze’s performing troupes – Brim Shi Brim, Gadzo and the others – reflected what we have observed many times since we arrived at Dagbamete – Ghanaians value the inclusion of all – young and old, black and white. The performance groups included not only the village’s best adult dancers, but also their best young dancers. They were every bit as serious and focused as the adults. The drummers also included young and old – each as fierce, focused and integral as the other. The chorus of villagers formed a tight cluster to the right of the drummers, singing with joyous abandon between each of the individual pieces. A few of the older women would break from the circle and begin to dance. It was not long before they invited many of us up to dance with them, two at a time. These beautiful women must have been in their sixties or seventies. Yet they had the stamina and joy of the young, and were so generous to ensure that we all had a turn up dancing with them. It ended with a playful community dance for all of us to join in, Ghanaians and Canadians laughing and dancing together.

This whole day was one of rapture. The vigour, energy, grace and exuberance of the dancers left us all enrapt. We were shaking our heads in astonishment throughout the three hours of non-stop dancing, singing and drumming, performed with generosity of spirit and a deep sense of pride.

Posted in Footsteps to Ghana | 11 Comments

Notes from Ghana #12

So you have heard the occasional comments about the dresses and outfits. Kwasi’s daughter Angelina is a favourite among us all, staying up late sewing traditional outfits for all the women on the trip. And the guys have had all their tailoring done by Sakura (also related to Kwasi but more distantly….ask Rowan he is studiously trying to record the family tree here…no easy task). We all agreed the youth have an incredible eye for what suits them, both in cloth and styles. See for yourself! (You know you can click on each photo to enlarge). We all dressed for our trip to Dzogadze yesterday but ore on that trip later…its pretty indescribable so not sure who we will get to try to convey that experience.   (I am sitting drinking my morning Nescafe,  fingers crossed that ALL these photos will load so here we go…).

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Notes from Ghana #11

Waiting for things to happen here is one of the challenges and a super typical part of life. You either embrace it or Ghana beats you. I would say that the number of questions I get a day that start with “how long?” or, “when do we…?” have drastically reduced and in fact have become somewhat of an inside joke now. I think everyone is in fact embracing the elastic time. Here are Angie, Danielle and Jona waiting on the lodge porch  to load into “My Goodness” .

An now some great notes from Rory about our day trip on Friday.


By Rory Magill

We climbed aboard the aptly named ‘My Goodness’ yesterday, all thirty-five of us, less one or two suffering temporary discomforts, in search of the real original Tokwoe. This is a piece we love to dance in the modern ‘creative’ choreography we were taught long ago. We have always wanted to see and hear the traditional style, and learned some years ago from our master, Kwasi Dunyo, that the real original one is from the lyrically named Mafi Kumase (ma-fee koo-ma-see). One day we would surely visit that place and see the real Tokwoe (toh-kway). Now at last, this would be the day, and Kwasi has arranged for a presentation, except: at the eleventh hour we learned that the asking price for the drumming and singing and dancing is too high, and a volley of cellphone calls began to sound like there would be no trip to Mafi Kumase. Happily, an agreement was reached (some money for the performing group, some for their village school) and now there we were climbing aboard ‘My Goodness’, aptly named for two reasons. First, it is indeed very good to us, transporting us in cool comfort as an entire group and not divided into three tro-tros with no room to stretch and nothing like cool comfort. Second, ‘My Goodness’ expresses our marvel at the deft negotiations made on highways and dirt tracks, in this inter-city bus, by our capable driver Kobla, delivering us always safely and in good time.

Our search for Mafi Kumase took us first partway back to Accra, branching at Sogakope. That is the bridge town spanning the Volta River, which has flowed in from the north of Ghana, swelling into the massive man-made Lake Volta just north of Sogakope, then spilling over the mighty Akosombo Dam, then under the bridge at Sogakope and on and into the Atlantic Ocean at Ada, where the fresh water of the Volta visibly pushes up against the salt surf of the Atlantic, creating a rolling wall of water, marking the edge of the Gulf of Guinea.

We branched right at Sogakope, heading to Adidome and right again. The road north was nicely paved and then not very paved and then under construction, narrowed to one width and pocked with holes.

Lesser vehicles often pulled into tiny spaces to make way for our sometimes unrelenting village on wheels.

After a succession of town names starting with ‘Mafi’, evidently named for the particular Ewe tribe in the area, we eventually made one more right hand turn that put us, after a pleasant two-hour drive, in Mafi Kumase. Kobla pulled the bus as close to the drain-ditch as you might ever hope for and we cheered at our arrival. Then our dear brother Jambola motioned from the driver’s window of his tro-tro to go back turn around, and so we did. We came back to the intersection with the main road and faced a few options: the main road north or south, and a couple of dirt roads, one smaller than the other. That was our road, the smaller one, and it became smaller the further we travelled. Tall grasses on either side were now able to brush the red dust off the sides of the bus and we seemed to float through fields, still at surprising speeds, though we did slow to a crawl once or twice when the tiny road had washed out just a little. No problem for Kobla. Wonderful entertainment for the busload.

We reached the tiny village of Masi Adakpa Bakpa Akpokope, our true true destination. Kobla parked the bus near the school field, where rows of chairs and benches were set up for us in the shade of a few trees, and then we walked back down the road in a remarkably hot sun, to greet the village chief in his house. There was just room for us all to squeeze in to his living room, children on the cool polished terrazzo floor, women in chairs behind them and the men, of course, on the white sectional sofa positioned directly under the air conditioner at the front. Curtains were drawn, the room was cool and no amount of greeting in Ewe would be uncomfortably long. Introductions were made by our host, a former member of the assembly and spokesman for the elderly chief who sat and listened. Our chief, if Kwasi Dunyo is our chief, sat looking entirely bored, as sometimes befits a chief or a big man, though he did give warm greeting to the village elders when he moved from right to left to shake their hands, snapping fingers as they do, following the introductions on our side given by our Queen Mother, Kahti Amstrong.

Back into the heat of the day we went, back down the road, into our seats in the shade and then two excellent things happened. Clouds came in and cooled the sky right away, and then the long-anticipated Tokwoe began. Everyone was colourfully and individually dressed, in contrast to Dagbamete Unity who, the day before, had performed decked out all in black and red in, their large numbers. The Tokwoe group was much smaller, closer to our size. After some introductory singing, which was at once familiar and different, the drumming began and right away three men jumped up from their bench, pulling each other out to the front of the group, plainly happy to show off their effervescent dancing. The energy of this group was immediately warm and welcoming and smiles went up all round. The first brief dance had not finished before a woman or a child would grab another, or two, and pull out in front and dance for our delight as well as their own. The bell rhythm in Tokwoe is an infectious one that makes it easy to dance. It is the one element of our modern version of Tokwoe that remains intact. Here it was being played not only on gankogui bell but also beat out on large pieces of scrap metal with heavy sticks. The drumming and singing resembled the Ewe styles we hear in Dagbamete, but we now had travelled far enough to see and hear something different – a little bit or a lot, depending on your perspective — and now we are taking in the ‘real original one’ Tokwoe.

It was after only a few dance displays that one of the women approached our side and pulled one of our kids up to dance. Instantly, a buzz of excitement and appreciation passed through their group. Clearly the yevus were serious about this. (We are the yevus). Soon it was a complete dance party and scarves were draped on the shoulders of the most compelling dancers, some of whom, apparently, were among the yevus. Our dear brother Ledzi (leh-jee) was one of the stand-out dancers. (In fact, he will dance the highly athletic and hugely impressive Atsiagbekor later today with his village’s group.) He danced Tokwoe beautifully, putting his own style into it, maybe even the footwork of an Atsiagbekor dancer. All smiles.

There was a highly original woman who danced alone as she passed through the scene from time to time. Maybe she was crazy, or insane, as some people still like to say here, but what does that even mean? She held a notebook and a pencil, she was rather slight, in a dead-white-man top (used imported clothing) in a leopard print, with a zany striped dance cloth around her middle, and a black wig styled to suit an early Carol Burnett show. Then there was the young village child who was pulled halfway into the dance before pulling himself back with all his might with a look of horror on his face. No matter. There were ridiculous costumes worthy of Parliament Funkadelic, one young man wore a thick heavy oversized stuffed beige top hat that would keep you warm in a winter storm. Happy smiles for all. More dances with the hosts and the visitors beckoning one another. Carol Burnett danced through again, this time holding her black wig at her side like a dance partner. Her skinny legs and all made it plain to see that she was dancing about as much like a chicken as was humanly possible. Very like a chicken.

When the Tokwoe eventually stopped, it was decided spontaneously that our youth would present something of their own to the villagers, and so a fully unrehearsed Danse Guerriere began. There was no comparison with the high energy dance party that had just ended, but the village people loved to see it and demonstrated their happy approval.

And then, just as quickly as the grey clouds had cooled the hot blue sky at the beginning of the gathering, new black clouds appeared to signal the end. Rain was imminent. There was no particular concern about getting wet, and dancing in the rain might have taken this excellent party to a worthy climax, but there might well be lightening, and nobody needs that much excitement. And more importantly, the tiny moderately washed out road that brought us here, and that would take us back to the main road again, might very well wash out altogether if the rain would be heavy. We rallied, waved our greetings and deep appreciation to the fine people of Masi Adakpa and ran for the dry comfort of ‘My Goodness’. Kobla navigated all roads and traffic and a variety of weather conditions to get us safely back to Akatsi vicinity, then suddenly pulled the bus to the side of the main road, jumped down, calling back as he left the bus, “Please, I must greet my Mum.” All on board raised a cheer for Kobla’s mum and watched as he crossed the road, jumped the drain ditch and disappeared (if only for a few minutes) down a tiny alley.

Posted in Footsteps to Ghana | 5 Comments

Notes from Ghana #10

Community Drumming

Yesterday, after a drum lesson in the morning and a great lunch of yam chips and red sauce (my favourite) we all piled into three trotros, each wearing a traditional cloth, either tied in the women’s or men’s style and headed down the red dirt road to a nearby village for a community drumming. This afternoon event featured Unity, a group from here in Dagbamete, and they were performing a burial ritual for a Unity member who had passed on a while back and who had lived in this area. Although the funeral itself was over, this particular group did not have a chance to properly mourn their member so this was the chosen date for this to happen. Lucky us. Some lovely soft and delicate bell sounds were playing when we arrived, accompanied by gentle singing from the crowd of 300-400 or so gathered. Elders were seated at the back of the large double atsimevu drums in a row of plastic chairs, complete with the woolen toques common to these kinds of events. Soon the drums began to play in the typical 12/8 pattern from this area accompanied by a whole two rows of axatses (rattles) which indoors would be deafening but here, under a canopy of palm branches in the humid air is simply intoxicating instead.

There was a small group of women who danced around the perimeter of the large group in a line, kind of leading and inspiring everyone. A few of our female group joined in their cool and twisty moves, sometimes holding black scarves. Lots of breakout dancing duos and trios emerged often asking us to join them. Jona in particular was asked to dance MORE than several times, probably due to his hair which is a big draw(see picture) as well as his cheeks which got pinched a bunch. Incidentally, our kids who have braces are also a big hit, as locals think they are mouth jewellery, since some even have coloured braces….

A few kids wandered off to get a Fanta with Jambolah, our beloved driver, who takes great care and always has a protective and watchful eye over our gang. Most of us danced at some point and I was thrilled to be given a horsetail and asked to dance with the line of elders who were led around the perimeter of the group by ladies with switches (!) in a slow groove…then at each direction we turned and faced the inner group and did the usual Ewe movements. We were all smiling coming back to Dagbamete for sure. Another “typical village day”

Posted in Footsteps to Ghana, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Notes from Ghana #9

Hey there, thanks for all the great comments…I am passing on your greetings for sure. Had a great day today but still writing about it and loading in pics. Check back tomorrow (last night took me one hour to load 5 photos…no kidding).

I will however post some notes of Rory’s about food, below this pic.

For now I will give you a quick glimpse of a “typical adult meeting”. We gather at the “Spot” each day around 5pm for a drink and to settle the day and check in with each other, as this trip is not only new and challenging for the youth. Not your typical meeting room that is for sure. Its also a great vantage point for watching the kids toss a football, walk back and forth to Angelina’s seamstress shop or the bead place, or just get a Fanta for themselves. What a great fun and capable group of adults we have along!

And now, some FOOD  Notes written by  Rory Magill

We have eaten akple (ak-bla) which is a white corn dough for scooping up the beloved red sauce, a tomato sauce rich with fresh, red palm oil (not the clear, filtered, hydrogenated stuff that clogs our arteries in western junk foods) and seasoned with fennel seeds. We have eaten agbolo (a-bo-lo) which is a lighter, spongier version of akple, made so through mild fermentation, giving a very subtle tang to the dough. Most excellent. We have eaten banku (bon-koo) which is not light and spongy, like akple, but denser and more fermented, so that it tastes sour. Least excellent, perhaps. There is also plenty rice and plenty spaghetti and plenty fish. Fry fish, stew fish, sardines (in the salad today, very tasty) and more fry fish. There is chicken and there is beef, but so far, to the consternation of some, there has been no goat. Since MawaKoenya, the catering graduate, returned to the village yesterday, the menu seems to have gone international, and yesterday we enjoyed crepes for dessert after lunch, then a lovely ginger sauce with chicken for dinner, that was described by one of our young diners as Thai take-out. But back to Ghana: fried plantain with stewed bambara beans is a very popular item. Boiled cassava (or agbeli, og-beh-lee) is rather like an african potato. In other parts of Ghana it is pounded for an eternity until the starch polymerizes (we are told) into a tough dough called fufu, not unlike soft rubber, but here in Ewe land it is just plain boiled.

For dessert there is usually fresh fruit, most often pineapple sweet as candy, often bananas; next up will be large sweet mangoes.

For snacks there are cassava biscuits, almost like flat hardtack (for any Newfoundlanders reading) with a lovely hint of the flavour of local coconut oil. The coconut oil here is slightly golden and rich, almost with a hint of smokiness but not exactly, and fantastic. Groundnuts (peanuts) are salted in their skins and sold in long narrow chains of twisted plastic bag, so you can tear one little pouch off and enjoy a snack.

Bread is on the table at every meal and serves as a good default on banku nights and other such moments. Bread in Ghana is virtually always white, very slightly sweet, almost cakey in the crumb, not what you would call substantial, but goes down happily with a spread of Blue Band (yellow shortening) and Fruit jam (listing its second ingredient as Fruit.) The bread toasts nicely at breakfast in the communal toaster. (Remember we are thirty-five….the adults recently stole the toaster from the kids’ dining hall and brought it over to their own dining area. They can probably expect a counter-attack any time.)

Many of the kids have become hooked on Milo for breakfast, a hot malted chocolate drink much superior to Ovaltine, mixed with hot water and tinned milk. Most of the adults get their fix from double-dose Nescafe mixed with the same liquids. The giant and somehow improbable electric coffee maker that once, and only once, issued a great quantity of rather vapid coffee, before blowing circuits and transformers, is not missed. Not to complain: our needs and wishes, gustatory and otherwise, are always cheerfully exceeded. Everybody happy with the food, with the drink and with our living conditions in general, as different as they are from our custom.

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Notes from Ghana #8

Here is a blog entry from Baobab Youth member Ben Compton, with  few photos:

Yesterday was Tuesday, which means it was Market Day ( the nearby town of Akatsi hosts a market every fourth day). The market is a ten minute drive from Dagbamate and beside one of the more major roads. After finding our money belts and our cameras (we were told to keep our valuables close to us), we piled into 3 vans and set off.

A Ghanaian market is very overwhelming for North Americans. I associate the word “market” with buying tulip bulbs, beeswax candles, and maple syrup because that is what the markets near my house sell. In some ways, the market that we went to had a lot of similarities to the ones in Ottawa, but my experience was so different. It is made up of small open shacks with paths running in between them. You often have to jump over the open gutters that are built under the stalls and kids swerve around you at ridiculous speeds on these big carts. There were lots of people as well, so it was slow walking around. We broke up into smaller groups once we got there.

They sell everything at the market. I passed toothpaste, fish, gourds, peanuts, children’s toys, bags, matches, razors, insect repellant, crabs, bike parts, more fish, chicken, radios and hair extensions. Many of us had to find cloth to get made into clothing, which was very fun because they have a huge selection to choose from. There are stalls that have pieces of cloth hanging all the way up the wall. It was hard to choose. One of the best parts for me was watching people laugh at us, usually either because of my father’s bald head or because of someone’s attempt at speaking Ewe and messing up.

Unfortunately, right now, the main thing that reminds me of yesterday’s market trip is indigestion after eating frozen yogurt from a vendor, but I also came back with some beautiful cloth and some “Pray” Brand Toothpaste, which I’m very happy with. It was a fantastic experience and I would love to go back and spend more time there. I think everyone had a great time.

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Notes from Ghana #7

Yesterday was finally, at last, a “typical village day”. At least for us. Two drum and dance lessons, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, three DELICIOUS meals at the lodge, hanging out at the Spot for drinks (adults and kids) playing with the local kids and just generally enjoying a really grounding day, important for sure. Currently we are studying two pieces, Atsiagbekor (Dzogadze style) with the help of Ledzi and Oliver (who are fro the village of Dzogadze, where we will visit for a performance later this week; and Kinka, community drumming music that all of us will participate in when local people get together. Kinka has a very cool second lead part played on Gboba, a large hand drum that many of the kids got to play. The scene at the lodge is great, with everyone working together remarkably well…some of us are in a different building but 27 are in the main lodge sharing three toilets, three showers and one sink. The local food is going over very well with the youth (and adults) and our daily routines are solidifying. There are a lot of cards happening, especially Spit. So much so that Augusta made a very cool trophy for the Spit competition (see photo below).

I will leave you now with a few comments from the group journal that the kids are writing in, as well as some photos.

“I love the friendliness that fills the village”

“I love the people and the place, I feel so at home!”

“Its really awkward when you try and say something in Ewe and then all the kids laugh in your face…”

“I got my dress today!”

“So far this trip has been AMAZING and so much better than I expected. Everyone is so open and welcoming since we got off the bus, and I am excited for our new adventures”

“Andrew (Kwasi’s son) has an amazing soul! Everyone is so kind and open. I feel at home!”

“Got to teach children in the school today. They sang songs and we showed them some tongue twisters I think all of us want to be teachers here now.”

“Am in “aww” with everything.”

“Sometimes I think the kids here are way richer than us”

“When we line up for showers at night we have the most fun EVER!!”

“Its wonderful that you can walk through a village knowing only a handful of people, yet not be a stranger.”

“Early morning Fanta run. I’m beginning to develop a dependence. You won’t like me if I haven’t had my Fanta!”

“Four way Fanta”

“A Fanta a day keeps the doctor away !”

“must… acquire…MORE…FANTA!”

“Milo is legit, the best thing I’ve ever had. Also the bread.”

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Notes from Ghana #6

(Sorry no photos from this day, as requested by our hosts)

This entry from parent and chaperone Chris Duschenes about our day yesterday:

Of spirituality, sacrifices and cellphones

Another day of incredible wonder, learning and startling contrasts. Many individual elements of this day will remain with me for a long time and many questions will remain unanswered. However, there are two feelings that will dominate my lasting impressions: genuineness and conviction. The remarkable events that we were privileged to have witnessed today obviously emanate from profound and sacred beliefs in a country that is seemingly overrun with westerner christian missionaries.

It was shrine day in Dagbamete – a day for Ghanaians from near and far to congregate in the village and commune with their gods; a time discuss and solve their problems, restore their health, clean their souls or pray for a brighter future. The Dagbamete Shrine is famous and attracts hundreds of worshipers a year, due to its reputation as a place of powerful healing and solutions. Today, there were about 200 souls of all ages, freely coming and going throughout the day and evening.

The Shrine is by far the biggest structure in the village. It is a huge concrete-block shell about the size of a small hockey arena with open sides on the ground floor, a huge open space in the middle and a wrap-around mezzanine balcony. One end of the open space houses the main place of worship where the village elders and spiritual leader congregate in a semi-circle around several effigies, referred to by the locals as ghosts, to provide council to worshipers and preside over a wide range of rituals.

At around 10:30 this morning, drummers summoned villagers and Baobabers to the Shrine. All dressed in wraps, shoes were removed and the men and women were ushered to benches on opposite sides of the large open space. Over the course of the next 10 hours, worshipers came to present and discuss their concerns in groups of 2 to 30 or so, each individual accompanied by a live chicken or goat, as an offering to the gods – chickens to address lesser needs, goats for greater.

The first pair of worshipers to be brought forward were women seeking cleansing, having recently witnessed a dead body. After lengthy discussions with the spiritual leader during which he repeatedly blessed the women by gently using their chickens like wands, the seemingly desperate animals were immediately calmed by simply lying them on their sides on the concrete floor. The pair returned to their places on the benches, chickens in hand and, following a brief interlude of drumming, were replaced at the alter with a second group to undergo the same type of exchange with the spiritual leader but seeking another type of help. Although it was not clear to me what type of more significant help was being sought, about a fifth of those seeking help brought goats. As with the chickens, the goats were treated with care and respect. The largest group to come forward were 30 or so individuals who were seeking “membership” in the shrine. A small fee and a chicken paves the way for you to benefit from the power of the Shrine for a year. The Shrine has over 8000 devotees.

After several groups of individuals seeking help had been catered to, all came together before the effigies and the animals were sacrificed. There was nothing violent, bloody or sensational. The animals were rendered unconscious before their blood was let and they did not struggle. Children removed the bodies from the Shrine and immediately plucked the chickens and roasted the goats. The meal was had by participants, the circle complete.

The rituals ended this evening with a healing circle where those who are sick are given the opportunity to cleanse themselves in sacred water, then oil and finally in a fire lit next to the main effigy. Men and women gathered tightly around the fire, passing parts of their bodies slowly through the flames, seemingly without pain.

I don’t want to leave the impression that witnessing the events of today was easy or that I am romanticizing the Ewe religion. A lot of the day was tough to watch and hear. I cannot imagine any outsider not being at least somewhat disturbed by the frantic squawking of the chickens and desperate bleating of very young and cute goats as they were led to the alter. However, that is not the image that persists and much of the day was a celebration of life. In the vast space of the Shrine floor, small children danced or played soccer a few yards from the rituals and on many occasions, the theme song from the Simpson’s could be heard in the background as one of the elders answered his cell phone. It was a true blending of the old and the new – a community coming together to address real, contemporary issues in a profound and ancient way – the same way their ancestors did and, it is hoped, the same way generations to come will.

Kathy here:

I was so proud of the kids and their willingness to check out the Shrine day, as most of them did, and it was an optional event. Not all stayed all day but they came and went according to their own needs. In many cases, what they witnessed was much simpler and gentler than anything they imagined in their minds before coming. Kwasi gave a talk to us in the morning about what to expect, as well as a few hows and whys about it all in terms of its function in the village and their lives. As Christopher said, there are many questions left unanswered but we all agreed that it is OK to not have all the answers. One thing I particularly loved was watching the kids play the drums, rattles and do some dancing with members of the Shrine at the opening invocation of the day. Incidentally, when each group of chickens and goats are sacrificed, the drumming music is played to accompany their souls from this world to the next. Pretty moving. We had a great round circle talk about the experience last night before bed.

And now a couple of notes from the kids about the day at the Shrine (from our group journal):

“The sacrifice was so interesting to watch ! I didn’t see the goats though, only the chickens. Out back there is a sort of cylinder with all the skulls of the dead animals. It is so cool. I think it is OK because they kill the animals so humanely, make sure sure that they are unconscious when it happens, and the meat isn’t wasted because they eat it after. Also, I love SUGARCANE yum”

“The Shrine actually pretty cool. A bit sad , but cool. Love my shorts.”

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Notes from Ghana #5

The Graduation.

We all joke that on the schedule, although there are many “typical village days” , there really is no such thing. Every day there is some unexpected event that surprises and engages us. For instance, Kwasi’s daughter MawaKoenya has just finished her advanced catering certificate (she is known to many of us on previous trips as a baker, bringing us delicious homemade donuts once in a while for a breakfast treat). Yesterday was her graduation from her college in Kpong, near Ho. So all of us piled into trotros (small vans, 12 of us per vehicle) and made the long journey through some amazingly beautiful hills and forest area, complete with wild baboons. We were supposed to leave by 8am, which of course turned into 9:20, and the expected 90 minute journey was actually three hours so we arrived at 12:30 and although we were supposed to be there for a 9:30am start, we arrived about 20 minutes ahead of MawaKoenya’s actual ascent to the podium. Naturally! That is Kwasi’s luck. Of course there were many people, many dignitaries including a Bishop (a Catholic college), lots of graduates and their families, all dressed to the nines. We proceeded to greet MawaKoenya…no small thing as 35 of us paraded through the field towards her in our gold Footsteps to Ghana shirts. She was trilled to see us. We took our seats afterwards and waited for her to be called to the stage. It is customary for the families to meet the graduates coming down for the stage and cheer and hug them and walk with them back to their seats while lots of photos are being taken. So Kwasi asked some of our kids to greet MawaKoenya as she descended the steps. They decided to form an arch for her to walk through which was a big hit. Much fun.

Afterwards there was a fantastic fashion show showcasing the final exam projects of the seamstress program which we all loved. THEN the brass band and Bobobo dancers came out, FANTASTIC! Then even that was topped by a hiplife (think hip hop meets highlife music) dance performance on the field to loud music form huge speakers, which our kids joined in. The dancing was SPECTACULAR! Absolutely amazing. Hope to post some video of it at some point….the photos take ages to load so we’ll see.

We then proceeded to move to an open area with tables and chairs and a picnic was unpacked from our trotros of jolloff rice and chicken and we washed it all down with minerals (Coke, Fanta, Malta etc). The kids found several bead sellers who they made very happy by purchasing some great bracelets etc. Then we piled back into the trotros and drove back to the village over the mighty Volta River, getting back just after dark. Wow. So. Much. Fun. (So. Much. Driving.)

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Notes from Ghana #4

So the first couple of days here have been spent exploring the village, getting Fantas at the spot and having our first lesson under the trees. All 35 of us played drums and danced Kinka. Although the youth have been working on the piece a little before we left, it was new to many of the adults and they REALLY enjoyed themselves. Kwasi has a unique and engaging way of connecting people to this music and he left no one behind.

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