Monday, August 17, 2009

Monkey Sanctuary

Nicole: Melissa and I had been planning to go visit Tafi Atome, the monkey sanctuary for about two weeks now. Every day that we told Godwin, our driver that we wanted to go to the monkey sanctuary, it would start raining and we would have to cancel our plans. We decided that we wanted to take Class Two, the oldest class at the orphanage with us as we had so much fun when we took children to the waterfall. So we talked to Raymond and decided that we would go to the monkey sanctuary today. After the children ate lunch, we arrived and awaited the arrival of the tro tro.

The eight children in Class Two, as well as Raymond’s wife, Dina, Raymond’s son, Anderson, Dina’s friend and co-cook, Elisabeth, Patrick, Melissa, and I got into the tro tro as all the other children at the orphanage jealously watched us. Dina and Elisabeth were very excited to be able to join us on this trip as they had never been to the monkey sanctuary. Most of the children were not certain about where we were going as we told them that we were going to take them to the hospital. We confirmed their prediction that we were actually going to the monkey sanctuary and then passed out biscuits and water.

We drove for about half an hour before reaching our destined town. We drove past the sign for the monkey sanctuary as we needed to purchase bananas for the monkeys. But as we drove past the sign, the children inquired as to whether we would be going to Accra, or even America.

After purchasing a ton of bananas for a total of 2 cedis (less than 2 dollars), we turned around and headed down the road to Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary. Our guide took us into the forest and started calling out to the monkeys. The monkeys started running down the tree branches, waiting to be fed. Our guide explained that we needed to hold on to the bananas tightly or else the monkeys would take the whole banana. By holding on to the banana tightly, the monkeys could peel the banana and eat it. And that they did. I did as the guide suggested, and bent down to feed the monkeys. He didn’t warn me that by doing this, about five monkeys would come and fight for the banana. I held the banana as the monkeys fought for it but eventually one of them won and stole the banana away from my hand. The children just looked on and laughed as the monkeys ran back up the tree. We saw baby monkeys feeding from their mothers and a big male monkey, the chief of his clan.

Our guide tried to tell all of us about the mona monkeys which lived in Tafi Atome but ended up only talking to Melissa and I as the children, including Anderson were too entertained by the monkeys. This wasn’t to say that Melissa and I were not entertained by the monkeys as well but we tried our best to stop taking photos of the monkeys and listen to the guide. He explained to us that the villagers hid their treasures in the forest where the monkeys lived and when they returned years later the treasure was still there. For this reason, the people believe that the monkeys are gods. We also learned that although the monkeys had been living in this place for about 200 years, they have yet to find a dead monkey so they believe that the monkeys have their own way of conducting a burial for deceased monkeys.

As we stood around listening to the guide, we got distracted as the monkeys tried to get ahold of our last banana which Patrick was holding. One of the brave ones even jumped towards him and attempted to grab the banana which sent us all into laughter. This last banana came in handy as we wanted to take a group photo and wanted to have some monkeys in the background. As the monkeys were hanging around, waiting for this last banana, we were able to take a group photo with me holding out the banana to the monkeys. And we successfully got our group photo with monkeys in the background.

On the way back, we decided to stop and treat the children as well as ourselves to bananas and ice cream. We arrived back in Wegbe just as the storm came in. The children ran to the orphanage as the rain drops coming down were as big as grapes. We then spent the remainder of the afternoon organizing some things at the orphanage and putting up more educational materials that we had made and got laminated.

In the evening, we visited our seamstress in Hohoe for the last time. We had asked her to make so many bags, skirts, tops, and other items for us that she told us that she had to shut out all other clients for the day. We were extremely impressed with the work she had done and thanked her immensely before saying a sad good bye and promising to send her photos of us in the clothes that she made for us.

Melissa: Today is my 2nd to last full day in Ghana. Just thinking of it makes me start to tear up. Although sometimes I really miss home and miss the norms of life, I am going to miss it here so very much. In Ghana it is peaceful and life is easy. I am going to miss having little kids scream out “white woman” in Ewe whenever I walk by and everyone in the town waving and saying hello to me. I am going to miss going to the orphanage everyday and holding and playing with all the children.

We started today off like any other: waking up early, eating breakfast and then heading off to the orphanage. This morning when we walked out of our hotel a man was walking by. He told us he would walk with us and took my bag to carry. He didn’t speak English very well and kept telling us that he was the manager’s father and that the manager was still sleeping. Nicole and I didn’t understand at all who the manager was but we nodded our heads politely. The man said Raymond in one of his broken sentences but that is basically all we grasped from him. We thanked him for carrying our bag when we arrived at Raymond’s house and said goodbye. Later we found out that he was Raymond’s father.

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