The rainy season is well underway in Ghana!
Yesterday afternoon, I left the house to eat at a local restaurant and then visit friends in Roman Ridge, where I used to live. Shortly after my plate of Thai noodles arrived, the power went out. I looked outside, noticing how ominous the sky had become during my meal.
I needed to get my bill ASAP. I looked around the dark restaurant for the waiter; he was nowhere to be seen.
As thunder continued to sound; I approached the door of the kitchen. I knocked several times, only to get no response from within. I gingerly opened the door, and found exactly what I was looking for. My waiter was sitting in a chair, with his head leaning against a desk. He was fast asleep. I cleared my throat, and he lurched awake. “Eii sorry-o,” he repeated several times.
After receiving my bill, I grabbed money from my wallet and quickly placed it on his bed [desk]. Rushing out of the kitchen, I grabbed my bag and reached for the door. But alas, my speed was in vain.
Zeus was having a major temper tantrum. The sky – bleak and gray – was lit up with continual flashes of lightning. The rain was coming down nearly sideways. A few brave souls could be seen outside covering their heads with plastic bags and dashing for the nearest bus stop.
Leaving the restaurant at this time would’ve been madness, so I sat and read The Dressmaker of Khair Khana for the next hour. As soon as there was a lull in the storm, I threw my Kindle in my man-bag and ran for the main road.
I underestimated the extent to which the storm had slowed. It was still pouring; in the 20 seconds it took me to reach the main road, my clothes were drenched. I tried flagging down a taxi, but none would stop because the right lane of the two-lane road was flooded.
It was raining so hard that it was difficult to keep my eyes open; I couldn’t keep waiting for a taxi on the side of the road. I ran for a balcony covering nearby, where several Ghanaians stood there waiting for the rain to finish. As I approached, they scooted over and made room. All eyes were on me, the obruni, as I proceeded to squeeze out a steady stream of water from my drenched clothing.
Over the next two hours, I stood under the balcony with the women and children [and recorded the video above]. I was soaked to the core and shivering from wind gusts. Nonetheless, I was kept amused by watching people make their way through the street. Schoolgirls waded through the water, holding their dresses high to not become dirty from the murky water. A ‘pure’ water seller balanced her bucket upside-down on her head to use as a makeshift umbrella. At one point a motorcycle driver sped through the flood water at 30+ MPH, creating a stream of water that rose high above his head.
At long last, the rain slowed to a drizzle. I said goodbye to my friends whom I shared the cover with, and waded through the knee-deep water to reach a trotro. I got off at my street junction, elated to finally make it home.
My heart sunk when my eyes beheld the following sight:
The above ‘river’ is the dirt road to my house. After unsuccessfully waiting for 30 minutes for the water to recede, I went to a internet cafe to waste the day away. At night I returned, found a taxi driver crazy enough to drive through foot-deep water to my driveway, and took a much-needed shower before falling fast asleep.
Kente weaving is an ancient art, its roots dating before 3000 B.C. This past week Drew, Adriana, and I visited the largest kente village in Ghana – Tafi Abuife.
Aikins, our friendly guide, gave us a tour around the village of 3000. Every child is taught the art of weaving kente upon reaching the age of seven – as a birthright, responsibility, and means of making money. The ‘click clack’ sound of looms can be heard across the village.
Kente weaving was inspired by intricate spider webs in the ancient forests of Ghana. Legend says that two hunters found an exceptional web, and studied its designs and patterns for two days. Afterwards, they returned to their village to implement what they had seen. Kente was known as the ‘cloth of kings’ due to the cost and time required to weave it. Even with modern-day technology, it is still woven by hand. Each strip is classified by the number of weaves used to make it. A single weave takes five hours to complete, a double weave takes seven hours, and a triple weave takes a whopping nine hours.
Everything about kente is symbolic – the colors, symbols, and geometric designs. Common designs include those of unity, birds, hills, and our footprints as human beings.
My favorite part of the tour was getting to see the ‘weaving houses.’ These sweatshop-like buildings were built by the government to ensure that kente could still be produced during the rainy season. There are three of these buildings in all.
Kente sellers were eager for us to try on their goods to potentially make a sale. Their tactics worked; I now own the two satchels seen in the photo below.
All in all, it was great seeing kente being produced firsthand. I would have loved to stay overnight in the village for a weaving apprenticeship, but my time was limited. But that didn’t keep me from ordering a custom-made kente blanket, the subject of tomorrow’s post!
Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary is easily one of the most fantastic places I’ve been to in Ghana. After spending the night nearby at Wli waterfall, we bought $2 of bananas, hopped in a taxi, and made our way to the monkeys. These little guys awaited us…
A bit of history about the monkey sanctuary:
With the spread of Christianity in Ghana, the Traditionalist belief of worshipping animals became a taboo. With people no longer viewing animals as sacred, they killed the monkeys in Tafi Atome to near-extinction.
In 1993, John Mason, became the director of ecotourism. He convinced the villagers of the economic benefits of protecting the monkeys, and the Monkey Sanctuary has been in existence since then.
The monkeys we saw were adult mona monkeys. As soon as the monkeys discovered us, the leader ‘claimed Mama’ by peeing on her head from a distant tree above us. Somehow he knew that she was the only female in our group, despite being high above us. Logan and I saw this happening, but we were too stunned to tell her to move.
Mona monkeys travel in families, which consist of 30-50 monkeys. There are five families in Tafi Atome.
The female monkeys have kangaroo-like pouches that hold their babies inside.
Bananas don’t grow naturally in their forest, so the monkeys go crazy when tourists visit. After 15 minutes of feeding the slightly-aggressive adult monkeys, the guide took us further into the forest and started calling the younger ones. With bananas as incentives, these monkeys jumped all over our arms and shoulders in pursuit of the precious fruit. Logan was awestruck when he made his first monkey friend.
Followed by his second…
Eventually, the monkeys couldn’t get enough of him.
Soon the monkeys discovered Mama.
Her monkey-butt disgust quickly succumbed to laughter.
And gradually, she began enjoying the monkeys’ presence and tried to converse with them.
Now onto my reactions. At first, being jumped on by monkeys overwhelmed me just as it did Logan and Mama before me. [Please ignore my 4 chins.]
I came to love my four-legged friends, and can’t wait until my next visit to the sanctuary [or until I own one as a pet!]
Last week, Drew and Balthazar celebrated their 17th and 18th birthdays respectively. This spy themed video was filmed during the festivities.
Atirique, Tuepa, Adzogbo and Agbadza. Have no fear; I shall teach you how to pronounce the names of these dances upon my return.
Last Thursday I Skyped Barron Collier High live from Ghana and conducted a study abroad scholarship presentation.
The first 7.5 minutes consist of me talking about various scholarships for study abroad – including the NCWA (for Collier County), CBYX, NSLI-Y, and YES Abroad. The rest of the video is a question and answer session.
Note: Don't expect this video to be fast-paced; this is just the raw footage of the scholarship presentation with no editing. If you're not interested in applying for study abroad scholarships, I would recommend starting the video at the Q&A.
Special thanks to Mr. Kutz, Mrs. Joyce, and Mrs. Van Gemert for helping make the presentation a reality.