Monday, 31 October 2011

A Funeral Experience

The first day back at the office didn’t turn out as I had expected, as often happens here. It was announced that a teacher from a Nadowli town school had died yesterday. On further enquiry, he had collapsed, evidently. This is frequently the explanation of a death. There is little investigation into cause of death and nobody seems to question it.

It was decided that all of us at the office would go down to the house to pay our respects. Apparently, the corpse was seated in a raised chair yesterday, immediately following his death and the mourning process began then. Family members with cloth pieces tied around their wrists and other mourners processed and danced around the body throughout the day and possibly into the night to the beat of drums and a wooden xylophone. Today the corpse was in an open coffin with an awning to protect it from the hot sun. We joined the procession along with the exhausted, wailing wives, daughters and other members of the extended family. Some mourners were throwing coins in the direction of the body.

Afterwards we were offered a seat and given water and minerals to drink. Funerals are very expensive for a family. They are expected to offer refreshments and people attending make donations to help. The burial will take place tonight. Georgitta, our cleaner, told me that in this area people cannot afford to keep corpses in the mortuary, they have to be buried almost immediately. More affluent families pay for refrigeration to allow people to come from far flung places to attend the funeral and a more elaborate occasion and celebration can be planned for some weeks ahead.

The family came around shaking the hands of everyone there. As I walked home 2 men were burning the hair off a whole pig in a smoking fire pit beside the path, the start of food preparation for the burial ceremony tonight. After the burial, it is bad luck on the family to cry and be sad. The mood changes to one of celebration for the life lived and there is a party atmosphere to the rest of the proceedings.

There will have been few children taught today in Nadowli. They will have been on their own in classrooms as most teachers were attending the mourning. Funerals always take priority.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

On the road again

I have to learn that I am not entitled to "Half Term" holidays here. Schools don't have them. However, my friend Jeny came over to celebrate a "big" Birthday so I had the perfect excuse.
I tried a different Accra hotel this time. The New Haven is fine for the odd overnight on the way to other destinations. I sat in my room reading my kindle waiting for the arrival time at the airport. Suddenly, I was plunged into darkness. Eventually an electrician was located and he arrived to fix the fault. Nobody has ladders or scaffolding in this country! They climb anything else to get to high places. He pulled out the only piece of movable furniture in the room, a tall feeble looking wardrobe and found a flip up chair. Maybe electricians need to pass gymnastics tests as he seemed to jump vertically onto the top of the wardrobe, a metre from the high ceiling and fixed the poor connection with a screw driver, his only tool amidst a spray of sparks! This is Ghana. Needless to say, it worked perfectly afterwards.

The journey along the coast westwards was eventless and we stopped for pineapple. Fruit here is prepared for you to eat at the side of the road, cut into cubes expertly and bagged with toothpicks to prevent stickiness. These long and huge pineapples are so sweet and very different to those at home. I was told Ghanaians keep the best ones for themselves.

We turned off the road before Cape Coast to find some "Posuban Shrines" in a fishing community. These are built by local defence units to store their arms and regalia. There are often a few units in each coastal town that compete for the most impressive building. This was one of the best we saw.
As always, the children were eager to be photographed by the "Obrunis". Notice the little girl "backing" her sister. This starts at a very young age. I have seen girls no older than 8 with a sibling on her back and a heavy bowl of something on her head. Childhood is about practising to be an adult!
There were a lot of people frying and smoking small fish. We tried some and they were delicious. With fried sweet potatoes we had perfect fish and chips!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

"Backing and Bundling!"

Firstly, I apologise for the tardiness of my blog posting lately. We have had all sorts of connection problems on line. We have a "dongle" which needs to be fed Cedis for credit with increasing regularity. We have learned to "bundle" credit and get it to last longer. Anyway, I shall be away for the next 2 weeks down south. My friend Jeny is coming to Ghana for half term and to celebrate her "Big Birthday" on the beach. I shall be re-visiting some of the places I went to in August and probably, a few new destinations too. I shall be back Blogging in November.

Whilst waiting to print some documents in the office this week, I was asked if I had ever "backed" a baby. I have been marveling for months how women almost throw small babies behind them and catch them on their backs, wrapping pieces of cloth around their waists and securing these tiny bundles without them slipping off. Then they do everything with the child attached all day. I imagine they forget they are there until they demand feeding which also happens anytime anywhere.

So, I accepted the opportunity to try. I didn't do the throwing round part and obviously missed out the feeding. It was remarkably comfortable and allows you to do anything with both hands. The child was actually laughing throughout the proceedings when it should have been objecting to the rather unnecessary bobble hat. The temperature was nearing 30C. I imagine this could catch on! Maybe it should catch on at home!

Friday, 7 October 2011

A welcome meal

So finally Gemma, my new housemate has arrived. Her journey from Accra took 3 weeks and involved stopovers in Tamale and Bolgatanga for a conference and motorbike training. The office staff have joined me in anticipating her safe arrival for some time. Madam Director asked me if I "took" yam to which I replied "yes" enthusiastically.(The nearest thing to potato) She then offered to send me a guinea fowl and yam as a welcoming gift for Gemma. I'm getting used to life here and thought I had better check how the guinea fowl would arrive. "Will it be dead?", I asked pathetically. "You cannot prepare it?" she enquired. She quickly agreed to send a labourer round to deal with it. At various times throughout the night, I envisaged a slaughter on the doorstep; needing to pluck it myself; managing the head and claws; all the innards etc and wondering how grateful I was for this gift. I wondered at which stage I would photograph the proceedings.

The following morning, Willie arrived at the door with a frozen prepared bird that could have come straight from Tescos! I was almost disappointed, though quietly relieved. We rather overcooked it on Wednesday night but it was an interesting taste and the gift a generous thought from the boss. I decided a photo of the frozen fowl would hardly excite anyone.

Green vegetables are a luxury in these parts and pumpkin leaves are a good substitute for spinach. Surprisingly, the pumpkins are not as highly prized as their leaves. Shame when they grow such beautiful specimens. Clearly, Halloween celebrations have not reached these parts yet. The leaves made a good accompaniment for the welcome meal though.

Monday, 3 October 2011

It's all in the name!

Each time Michael takes me to Wa, I mean to pull over and take photos of some of the Spots along the way. On Saturday, I had my camera ready.....
And in the next village......

Which one would you choose?

During our holiday in August we spotted some wonderful & hilarious names. Almost all businesses and some schools, have a religious flavour to their names and some are just wishful thinking. We passed them quickly along the road with no time for photos. However, this list will give you a taste of some of the best :-

Modern Brains Academy 
Pretty Good School of Hope
Best Foundation Happy Kids Prep School

God Can Perform Miracles - Beauty Salon
Arise & Shine Fashions
I'm Saved - Herbal Clinic

All Shall Pass - Moto Repair Shop (A little worrying!)
God Is My Provider - Mobile phone outlet

Then there are the inspirational posters....

No, I'm not making it up!

I don't think he believes me! This is how it feels to be tethered for months without a nice cold beer at God's Help Drinking Spot.