This is the opening to the chapter about Ghana in the Lonely Planet guide to West Africa. This being my first time in the region, I have no idea how community interaction in Ghana compares or contrasts with that of neighboring countries, but the public aspects of life here are strikingly and at times uncomfortably different from the autonomy of life that I am used to in the States. As Yolanda mentioned, whenever we are home, our porch is swarming with children and the women who help cook for us stream in and out of “our” kitchen at all hours of the day. People are always around outside in the village–a quick walk to the toilet necessitates waving and greeting each person we see, usually in response to incessant cries of “Obruni! Obruni!” from children, a term which means “white person” or “foreigner.” It has been challenging to come home after a long day in the heat and never be able to be truly alone in the space that we have designated our own.

A good way that we’ve found to express that we need our space is to acknowledge the cultural disparities–we explain that in our culture, we each need time to be alone and by ourselves, just as in Ghanaian village culture, people are always around one another. If someone from Eguafo came to the States, for example, s/he would find it hard to be alone all the time, just as we find it hard to be constantly social. Adults understand this, and it feels like yet another aspect of this cultural exchange that we have undertaken. With children, it’s easier just to say, “We need to be alone. Will you come back later? In half an hour?” After a little nudging, they are usually compliant–and I think after two weeks of living in their village, we’ve become less interesting anyway.

Another striking thing about village life is the constant noise. Each morning we are awoken around five by haunting singing from the small Church of Christ congregration that meets in a bamboo structure literally in our backyard. People pray and sing throughout the day; last week, huge speakers were set up right in the heart of town (where the road leading to bigger cities intersects with the only other real street in Eguafo), and someone was preaching and singing over them for the entire town to hear. There are songs for selling things, pop and Christian music blasting out of different speakers, taxis rattling through town at top speed and the braying and barking of all the animals who roam freely between each little concrete house–dogs, cats, ducks, chickens, and adorable baby goats. Once in the night we were awakened by yells of “Jesus…Jesus…Jesus…Christ!” and another time by  shouts that sounded like a fight; the rooster crows begin around 3:30 or 4 am. And then the singing begins again.

Unaccustomed to such incessant heat, noise, and social interaction, we are often exhausted! This weekend, though, we were able to do some more touristy things that provided somewhat of a break. On Friday, we visited Cape Coast Castle with two of the boys, Edwin and Seth. More aptly called a “castle-dungeon,” it functioned as a prison for captured slaves in the early 19th century before they were loaded on to ships to be transported across the Atlantic, while the old colonial government was housed above grounded. It’s shocking and sobering to visit these cramped dungeons that housed between three and five hundred people for months while their captors waited for the biggest ships to arrive. Where we are, along the Gold Coast, there are  several similar castle-dungeons; today we’ll visit the one at Elmina and bring the two other boys at the Center, Mark and Samuel.

On Saturday, we went to a seamstress bearing beautiful batiked and kente fabric for her to sew into garments and placemats. And on Sunday–following attending a church service–we relaxed on a gorgeous and nearly deserted beach at Brenu.

This week it’s been back to work. Liz and I exercised some muscle power putting together two bookshelves without real intstructions, using an Allen wrench and a rock as a hammer. One will go in the volunteer house, while the other now houses the growing library of donated books in the center (thanks donors!). When longer-term structural and fundraising goals can seem far-off, I find it helpful to focus on concrete, tangible activity. The center and the office we are helping create for David are looking great and functional.

As a group, we’ve decided not to travel next weekend. I’m a little disappointed because I was hoping to see a little more of the country during my month of living here, but it feels like there is still  so much to do in Eguafo that to sit in a hot tro-tro for five hours, only to rush back the next day to pick up where I left off, isn’t the most appealing. So instead, we’ll try to see some more of the Central Region and hopefully take a dancing and drumming lesson. I suppose it just means that someday I’ll have to come back to Ghana again.

– Rebecca

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