Friday, June 19, 2009

Community

We had another amazing storm here this afternoon. Every afternoon, after spending a little less than two hours on the field, Evanx and I walk the kids who live a little further than my hotel home. Today the sky was looking dark and cloudy as we left the school.

I tried to get going right away so that we wouldn’t get caught in the storm but Evanx was talking to one of the volunteers who just arrived a few days ago. Less than a minute into our walk, it started sprinkling. We walked quickly and encouraged the children to run. We made it out to the main road before the rain started coming down a little harder. I crossed the road and ran inside to my hotel to put down my bag which had my camera and important papers in it. I quickly crossed the street again and had to run a bit to catch up with the group. The sprinkles turned into big rain drops. As it was impossible to walk fast enough to beat the rain, we stopped at a covered, outdoor church and waited for the rain to stop.

The children quickly found the drums which were obviously used for Sunday services. They started banging on them…but not in a bad way. They were actually really good. I was thoroughly impressed. The group that we walk home is made up of maybe 12 kids – most of them are in the younger class but there are about three kids who are in Class 1. The older kids are between six and seven years old. One of the older kids, Emmanuel was obviously an expert. He took the biggest drum and started playing. The others played in conjunction with him.

As there were only three or four drums, the rest of the children danced around to the music. They occasionally stopped to watch the rain or as many of the younger ones did, hide from the rain. I sat on one of the benches, listening to the kids play and watching their cute dance moves. I was holding Rita, an eight year old girl who is in my class. She was not at school yesterday and arrived at school very sick today. According to Raymond, she was shivering and could not even hold herself up this morning. They took her to the hospital where the doctors informed her that she had malaria. She was feeling much better than she had in the morning but she just wanted to rest and lie on my lap.

Rita got up for a minute to play the drums and I joined the children in dance. They giggled and enjoyed the fact that Sister Nicole was dancing with them. When I sat down, one of the little girls got on my back and I carried her around.

For those of you who don’t know, the mothers here carry their babies and young children on their backs. They have a piece of fabric which is tied under the baby’s bottom and around the back of the baby’s neck or the child’s upper back. I think the women would laugh at the fact that we use strollers and baby carriers to carry our children around. Yes, some people have well made packs that they use to carry their baby on their back or chest but even that is so much more complicated than the simple piece of fabric they use here. It is incredible how one piece of fabric can be used to support a baby. It doesn’t seem possible but trust me, it is. Even Raymond’s son, Anderson, who is a big baby and extremely heavy for his age is frequently carried around on his mother’s back.

It is not only the mothers who carry the fabric used to tie the baby to their back. You can see older and younger women with such a piece of fabric tied around their midsection, on top of their garment. Mothers are not paranoid about their children and have no problem with other women picking up their child and putting him/her on their back. Apparently this is pretty comfortable for the babies as they are frequently fast asleep on their mother’s back as she is busy doing her chores or walking to get somewhere.

While on this subject, I wanted to explain how babies and other young children are transported in cars. In America, most people, especially families have cars. And if they have young children, they have car seats in their car. Okay, yea, I know you know that but just in case you didn’t I wanted to inform you. Anyways, here in Ghana, most people do not have their own cars. And I wouldn’t even know where to find a car seat if I for some reason wanted to buy one. Most people here either walk to their destination or for longer trips, use a taxi or tro tro. The children are conveniently placed on the parent’s laps.

Oh, and also, seat belts aren’t part of the norm here. I have noticed that most of the drivers wear seat belts but have yet to see a passenger put on a seat belt. Frequently, it is impossible for the passengers to put on a seat belt as many of the vehicles lack such safety feature.

Okay, so back to this afternoon. After a good half hour, the rain finally stopped. We quickly walked the rest of the way to the point where we drop off the kids. We have to dodge puddles and watch out for vehicles which drove over puddles and sprayed water all over the place. The rain had stopped but the thunder and lightening continued. I thought that the lightening I had seen last week was pretty incredible but this lightening was something special. At one point, the lightening hit in four or five places, one after the other. I stopped and followed its path with my eyes, my mouth open in disbelief. I wish I could have captured this on a video camera because I don’t think words adequately explain the incredibleness of this sight.

Now, let me finish updating you on my weekend and Ho and fill you in on everything that has been going on this week.

So, I woke up somewhat early last Sunday and was served delicious egg sandwiches and tea. I then had to ask the question I had been dreading to ask. I pulled Peace aside and asked her where they go when they have to urinate. She turned and asked her father who was sitting in the middle of the compound, surrounded by people. They told me that I should go in their outdoor shower. I walked over to the shower and found Melody bathing. I helped her get all of the soap off of her body and then she wrapped a towel around the bottom half of herself and ran to get dressed. I then squatted the way most of the females do here when they need to urinate. The males just turn their backs and do their business. I have had many experiences where I have been in a tro tro and the driver has pulled over to the side of the road to urinate. It is not uncommon to see males by the side of the road, backs facing the traffic, urinating. Sorry if that was too much info!

The family was going to go to church but I was informed that Dela and Bless wanted to take me to the waterfall. I happily accepted their offer. We hiked down the hill and followed a long path. Eventually I could hear the sound of water. Let me tell you, this waterfall was nothing compared to Wli Waterfall, the big waterfall located in Hohoe. This waterfall was extremely small but super cute. Dela climbed up and grabbed a crab – no, not the little ones kids catch at the beach but rather, a big, somewhat scary looking crab. Along the way to and from the waterfall, Dela and Bless pointed out all the different vegetation to me. They explained the difference between a plantain and banana tree (a plantain tree has a bit of red on the trunk and the banana tree’s trunk is more white). They showed me the cassava plants, maize (which I could easily identify), yams, coconut trees, and cocoa plants. Dela found a ripe cocoa nut and cracked it open. I was a bit surprised by the taste of the pure cocoa. After visiting the waterfall, we walked down another path to see the stone quarry. I had been shown many piles of beautiful pieces of flat rocks that were used to decorate houses and for other landscaping purposes. As Bless works at a quarry, he wanted to take me there to see it. We stopped by a few other sites before we arrived at the one that bless works at. It was hot and looked like a lot of hard labor was required for this job. Bless easily took a piece of the stone and used another, smaller rock to split the stone in half. I lifted one of the now two pieces of stone and was taken back by the weight of it. It was absolutely incredible. Bless showed me the areas where they have excavated far enough in to the land and have found pure water.

On our walk back from the quarry, Bless and Dela told me that there were some pigs that we should go see. We were guided by their smell as well as their sound. The pigs were separated into about six pens, each with three to five pigs of relatively the same size. The first pen we visited had some average sized pigs, the next had some baby pigs, and the next had huge pigs. The baby pigs stuck their snouts into the gate, trying to communicate with us. As I was taking a photo of one of the big pigs, he decided to lie down in the water. Splash. Yes, you guessed it, some of the water landed on my legs. I tried not to be too grossed out but when we arrived back at the house, I got a bucket of water and washed off my legs.

When we arrived back at the house, the church goers were not home yet but there were still many people around. The girls asked if I have brought the little photo albums again on this trip and I replied that I had. I got the photo albums out, one full of my pictures and the other full of my sister’s pictures. The photo albums were passed around and everyone enjoyed looking at photos of our friends and family, as well as landscape. Around the same time, the photo book which I had got made for the family after my departure from Ghana last summer and had sent to them was brought out. My heart was warmed as it had been brought out a few weeks earlier when I had visited them as well. They took the book out of the protective sleeve which they keep it in and showed it to their other guests and extended family. As I had my camera out and had been taking photos of the kids, one of the older men asked why I hadn’t taken any photos of him or the other adults. To be honest with you, I am much more comfortable taking photos of children as they love to be photographed and don’t really care what they are doing or what they look like. Photographing adults is more challenging and requires me to actually ask the person if I can take their picture. I went around, asking each of the adults if they wanted me to take their photo. Each of them replied ‘yes.’ We hung around the compound for the rest of the morning/ early afternoon. Forgive and Peace were busy preparing banku in honor of me for the entire family. They were so excited when I told them that I regularly eat banku and akpeleh in Hohoe. They made my stew separately as their stew had fish in it. Dela and I were served in the house and enjoyed the specially made meal.

After spending a little more time with the family, I informed them that I would have to get going. Dela, John, Forgive, and I walked down to the main road. Forgive told me that I should carry ‘my baby’ so I did as I was told and carried him. He had spent the entire weekend wearing clothes that I had brought from him and I must say that he looked pretty cute in them.

We reached the main road and sat down, waiting for a taxi. I pulled John aside and asked him if I could give him some money to cover my expenses which they had endured. He told me that ‘God would repay him’ and that he would not accept any money from me. As I had a feeling that this would be the answer as Dela had also refused my money, I had already asked him to think of something that I could get them that their family needs or could use. As of Wednesday, Dela informed me that he was still thinking. In case he doesn’t come up with anything, I asked Patrick to help me figure out something that would be appropriate to give as a gift to my Ghanaian family.

As Forgive, the mother of Melody and Richmond is no longer receiving any financial help from her husband, she had asked me the previous day if I could help her in any way possible. As I was raised by a single mother and know how difficult it can be to support children on one’s own, I asked John if it would be okay by him if I gave Forgive the money that I would have given them to cover my food and other expenses. I told him that I didn’t want Forgive to become dependent on money from me but that I wanted to do what I could to help her. John told me that it was a generous gesture and that he would think about what the right thing for me to do would be.

They pulled over a taxi for me and asked me if I would be okay getting a tro tro on my own. I informed them that I would be fine and thanked them for all of their hospitality. My adopted family had not been happy that I had to leave so soon but I promised them that I would return in two or three weeks to visit them again. I told them that next time I visit, I will come on Friday and leave on Sunday so that I can spend more time with them.

I was dropped off at the very busy, crazy tro tro station. I was only the second person on the tro tro heading to Hohoe so it took some time for the vehicle to fill up. When it finally filled up, we drove out of the station, honking like crazy and had a smooth, quick ride back to Hohoe.

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