Ghana was everything I imagined it to be. Seriously. I couldn’t have asked for a better time. We arrived and there was a drumming and dancing performance happening outside our ship to welcome us! Once we were cleared to disembark, we met with the bus, which was quite nicer than I imagined, and headed for Senase. It was a longer drive than he said, but it was nice to have some time to just sit and not have anything to do.
We got to the village after dark (the sun sets at 6:15!!) and the children of the village greeted us, running along side our bus. When I hopped off the bus, I realized it was raining. And I was wearing a white shirt. Dang. Little kids ran to me and took my bags from under my arms and put them on their backs.
By the time we got to the meeting house, we were all soaked through. But I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. We were in Ghana, in a village far away from any other SASers, and surrounded by giddy children. We ate a delicious meal I am glad we didn’t see because it was dark (in the daylight, the food didn’t look the most appetizing.) Once we were all filled with spices and rice, we headed to our host families. I was lucky and got to stay with the main hosts, Auntie Paulina. She is who cooked all of our meals, and took care of all of us throughout the week. She is a saint. It is our tour guide, Fredrick Bennah’s mother, but not actually. She took him in after his parents didn’t want him any longer. Since she was unable to have children of her own (she fell on her way to give birth to her first child) she has taken in over 25 children who needed somewhere to stay. She isn’t rich by any means, but she knew how to make her kids help out and turn out right. Fredrick is one of the coolest guys I know; he has achieved SO much, and he is only 23 years young!
Day 2: We woke up with the roosters, literally. It was 5 a.m. I was so dazed that I didn’t even realize where I was going to the bathroom. They have squat toilets, but I needed to go. So I went in the woods, dropped my pants, and went. Only the roosters saw, so I was safe. But good thing I have a toilet right next to my bed usually. I’d be peeing in closets, probably! We ate some yummy porridge, which I am pretty sure Fredrick said had ground fish, maize, and cassava in it (but I didn’t want to tell the others–they probably wouldn’t have eaten it.) We then went into town where we talked and hung with some locals before the elders were situated. We played hand games with the little ones and were asked to marry the older ones. Fredrick told us that the only white people they are used to seeing are businessmen trying to sell them their products they can in return sell to their people. I guess these white men are not the friendliest, so for us to be excited and friendly was a HUGE change for them. It was a very eventful morning.
We then got to go in front of the elders and queen mother of the village (that is equivalent to meeting the President for us.) We were taught how to greet them properly: shake their hand with your right hand, bow a little, and say, Mi Daah Si (thank you in Twi.) They then thanked us through Fredrick’s translating and had a dancer for our entertainment. It was at this time we realized what our payment for this program was going towards: a computer for 5 different schools. They treated us like celebrities. I couldn’t help thinking that how much I paid was not enough for this program. I wanted to give all I had to these people who were so grateful and thankful for every little thing.
After the ceremony, we hopped on the bus and headed to each school to deliver the computers. This was BY FAR the best experience I have had yet. Each school welcomed us with flying arms. They stopped their school day to let us come in and say hello to their class. Some of our group had pencils and little trinkets to hand out, and the kids went crazy over them! They also LOVED getting their picture taken. They’d do a funny face or be very serious and instantly want to see what they looked like. Someone stated that they don’t get to see themselves, really ever. They don’t have mirrors, which is so strange to us, who have mirrors in almost every room. We would go into the classroom and teach them some songs I learned from camp counseling, which was hilarious and super fun all at once! They loved it, we loved it, and all was fun! As white people, we are deemed “brunees,” which means foreigner, and one child told me I was a “brownie.” I’m going to take that as a compliment?
Although we were exhausted, it was only 1 p.m. when we finished. We went back to the village, ate delicious “Red Red” (fried plantains with black eyed pea mixture–all with only our RIGHT hand,) and some took a nap. I sat and tried to write in my journal, but was instead bombarded with children wanting to teach me Twi. I actually learned quite a bit, and I can still say it: “Oh Frie Hay” means “where are you from?” and “Uhn deen de sayn” means “what is your name?” I used those two quite a bit and impressed many street vendors! When the rest of the group was refreshed, we went to our lesson of drumming and dancing. It took about two hours and we were as ready as white people can be in front of a village full of naturally talented musicians. We sounded and looked so uncoordinated with no rhythm, but they were supportive anyway. We then ate dinner (fufu and yams with another spicy mixture–delicious, but filling!) and went to a Ghanaian bar to learn their popular dance: Azonto. It is very hard, even though it doesn’t look like it. But it was fun! Some of our group were so tired, they fell asleep where we were sitting. So we checked in for the night.
The next morning we woke up, had the same yummy porridge, and went to one of the schools where they first performed for us (they were maybe 7 years old) and put our dancing to shame! But we were devoted; we had to show them our version of their culture. We had these awesome traditional outfits and our drums, and we suffered through. When we were done, they all clapped; one lady asked us if that was all… what an awkward question to say yes to. :]
It was time to head back to the ship. As much as my heart was begging to stay in this beautiful village with these lovely people, my hair and body were pleading to have a good, hot shower.
The last day, I had a field lab for my Anthropology of Food class. We went to the market, a local restaurant, and a farm. We all were led by a Ghanaian student per 3 of us. Ours was named Richmond. He was a sweetie! I had some great chats with him, actually sharing my favorite song with him while he shared some of his gospel music with me! It was a very educational day, but I don’t think I could have forced down another Ghanaian food dish if I wanted to. For some reason, it became repulsive with the bones and the skin in the soup along with the meat.
Ghana was beautiful in so many ways. The people really made the country. Yes, they are a developing country; yes, they have day-to-day struggles we in the U.S. don’t even think about; and yes, they are happy through it all. They pearly whites were stunning, just like their hearts. I will for sure be back to this beautiful country, hopefully to help for a longer period of time!
Until next time,