Among The Palms

Trip Start Feb 04, 2007
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Trip End Mar 09, 2008


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Flag of Ghana  ,
Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Returning to Sega was always nice.  People would hear the car and run out to see who was coming as cars in the village were a rarity.  After being away for 3 days, it really felt like we were returning home.  Back to rising early as a result of my noisy farmyard neighbourhood: the 16 pigs crying out to be fed, the roosters cockadoodle-dooing over and over again, the clucking chickens, the vociferous sheep and the goats suffering from extreme flatulance.  Home sweet home! 

I loved walking back to my house of an evening and passing a special patch of bushes which was always filled with fireflies.  On my first night I actually thought I was seeing things because I have never seen fireflies before.  They are absolutely incredible.  I was assured by a few over zealous kids that you can rip the "glow" right off their bodies and spread it on your hand ... but I declined the demonstration. 

Ghana is a country full of contradictions.  Nobody has a telephone at home, but everyone has a mobile phone (whether or not it is actually functioning with phone credits is a different story);  most homes consist of a spartan dwelling with a simple, dirt floor yet some had televisions which played non stop Terminator 2 - Judgement Day, Jackie Chan Kung Fu movies and the porch was more crowded than I had ever seen when WWF wrestling was on (" Madame, Madame, The Cow is defeating Nick!").  

During my stay there were two major ceremonies.  The first was a coming out ceremony for a baby which had been born 2 weeks prior. [It is routine for a newborn baby to spend the first two weeks with the family before being introduced to the village via this special ceremony] .  The second function was a funeral for a man who was born in Sega but had died elsewhere.  His body was returned to his family in Sega alongside formalised funeral proceedings.   Both commemorative rites involved the erection of gigantic speakers which were assembled in the dirt where early 90s dance tracks and ultra-religious techno were played at a volume which would literally wake the dead.  These all day, all night and then all the next day celebrations were astounding. Dancing barefeet in the dirt under a full moon for most of the night is definitely a nice way to spend an evening. [These Ghanaians really know how to party!] 

Most people have a Ghanaian name and a "Christian" name.  If you turn up with only the latter, you are usually dubbed something in Dangme based on the day of the week you were born (which is more important than your birth date).  I was named " Donuki" by a woman in the markets who was horrified I had not been named yet. [I didn't have the heart to tell her that I was not sure on which day of the week I was born].  From what I could decipher, "donuki" means happy because she said I very much was. 

During my stay we went on a number of day trips: to Agomonya (also in the Volta region) and the country's capital, Accra.  The Accra adventure (with all the remaining volunteers) helped commemorate my last weekend in Ghana and therefore, after having lived in a remote village for a month, turned out to be a huge culture shock.  Accra: an extremely busy, populated city with a claustrophobia-inducing marketplace.  We also visited the local Ghanaian supermarket chain, confusingly titled Koala Mart, in the hope of encountering a whole shelf of locally manufactured goods.  I have never seen so many overpriced imports in one location. As we loudly pontificated over the exorbitant prices "who would actually pay $11.50 for a Rexona aerosol deodorant?" people shoved us out of the way to continue filling their already brimming-over shopping carts.  Having seen hardly any "foreigners" in Ghana we were also struck by just how many expats/tourists/blefonos were shopping alongside extremely wealthy Ghanaians in this supermarket.  Talk about a shock to the system.  Both plentiful goods on shelves and white people who weren't us.  It took us a while (and a few gelatos) to recuperate.

Like all good things, eventually my time in Sega came to an end.  I never stopped feeling like I had just arrived at the village - even despite the zillions of things we had done while I was there.  
 
My final day was very sad as I said goodbye to my class, the village kids, Rita, Mr Godwin and the other volunteers.  I had a celebratory "favourite" final dinner the night before and Mojdeh, Jess and I wandered to Junction on this last evening for a farewell gin and fanta (yes, it was the only refrigerated beverage at the petrol station/bar.  Yes, it does taste just as bad as you'd think).
On the final day Rita prepared a special lunch for all the volunteers and brough it to the school and I was given a couple of truly heartwarming gifts.  Jess had taught her 5th class the words to "Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree" so they could sing a melodic harmony with my 6th class as another farewell tribute. [For reference: on my first day Class 6 had wanted to learn a song and a dance from "where I was from" and this was about the only song that I knew almost all the words to].  My last Worship session involved the school praying for me, Mr Godwin's generous and continual thanks and then a number of heart-wrenching farewell songs were sung by the school.  

A few hundred tears later I leave with a great desire to return - next time for even longer.  What an incredible, unforgettable experience! 
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