Saturday, August 30, 2008

$100,000 and a Bottle of Schnapps - Ghana Day 7

While my previous Ghana posts were written while in Ghana, this last set is being written a good week and a half after the fact, which is to say I've probably forgotten everything that happened and will just make some stuff up. Actually, I took some notes each day to try and make this easier and to capture some things I wanted to mention.

Sunday morning was our last meal at the hotel. Breakfast was some dry french toast, then the return of the cute spreadable cheeses because they were out of jam. I put some cheese on the french toast - it was edible.

We loaded up our luggage and got in the bus. Our driver drove like a crazy man, honking the horn the whole way and creating his own lane through the traffic. It was equal parts exhilirating and frightening. The driver said that people would assume we were a UN delegation. Not sure we deserved that kind of priviledge, but it got us to church on time. One of our group shot some video and put it on YouTube. It doesn't quite convey the speed at which this was happening, but it's something. I've embedded that video below, but the same person (and I'm not sure who it is?) has also posted some other videos from our trip. Click here to browse them.

Church started on time, which was surprising, and it wasn't long before a full-on dance party out, which was fun to see and hear, though I'm not so much for participating in dance parties myself. There was some singing, some scripture, Pastor Jeff from our group preached a short sermon in which his attempts at humor were completely disregarded. AC sat up front with the pastors. There was a very good "singing band" that did 2 or 3 songs. We presented the church with some banners, and they presented us with some outfits. The girls had been measured a few nights before and knew something was coming, and if I recall correctly it was a top and a separate skirt.

The church has their own fabric: with a drawing of the church and their logo.
In writing this I realized I had never tried mine on. I'm surprised how well it fits. The men also got cufflinks with the same logo.
At the end of the church service, the congregation broke into "birthday groups", in which you meet briefly with other people who were born on the same day of the week as yourself. This wasn't a total surprise to me as earlier in the week I had been asked by a few different people what day of the week I had been born on. I have no clue and tried to explain that in the US it's just not an item of concern. In Ghana though, it's a pretty big deal. I'm a little fuzzy on the details, but many people are named, at least in part, after this day (the whole naming system in Ghana is very complicated and they all have very long names). So, for purposes of church I just picked a group, and pretty much all they did in these groups was take an offering. I'm not sure for what.
So that was the end of church and then we were served lunch, which was another large buffet similar to the one they had served us a few nights earlier. One item we hadn't seen before resembled hush puppies, but may have been made from yams. There was also a salad that had some beans and hard boiled eggs in it, as well as the customary fried chicken, rices, etc...They also gave us a very good fruit drink (bottled).
While lunch was being served Pastor Clint had the unenviable job of assigning us all to host families that we would stay with for the rest of the trip. He initially assigned AC and I to a family, but then AC was claimed by one of the pastors that had taken a liking to him, and I was re-paired with Brandon, which was fine. My biggest fear was going somewhere alone. Many of the men in the service had been wearing toga-like outfits, and the man we went home with, a tall older gentleman named Yeow (sp?), was one of them. We got into his truck and drove about 15-20 minutes to a very nice house in the city. We pulled up outside a fenced & gated residence; he honked his horn and one of his nieces, nephews, or grandchildren came out and opened the gate. The front yard had a nice lawn with beautiful plants and flowers, and a porch with some deck chairs, 2 dogs, and some chickens running around. We were ushered inside and introduced to his wife Sarah, a very nice woman who walks with a cane (we later found out she had had some surgery). We put our luggage in our room, which was a simple room with 2 beds. Mine was much more comfortable than the hotel bed. We made polite conversation for awhile until our host suggested we take some time to rest (while they ate their lunch).
Yeow and Sarah were very friendly, but we weren't given a tour of the house, shown where the bathroom was, or introduced to the teenagers that we kept running into (nieces, nephews and grandchildren). We weren't completely ignored, but weren't fawned over either.
After resting for a couple hours (I napped), Yeow informed us that he had to go to a meeting and we could come if we wanted. As best I could understand, it was a town council meeting for the village Yeow came from, in which he was still and elder. Yeow was a retired government electrical engineer, currently running a consulting business, and he helps the village with various public works type projects. I was somewhat enthused about the opportunity to go the meeting, though I'm not sure Brandon shared my zeal. We drove to the center of Accra, which we hadn't seen yet, to a hotel/conference center where we went into a small conference room. Two men were seated at a table up front and maybe 20 or so people were in the "audience". We were introduced and given seats in the front row, while Yeow joined the 2 men at the table. I was asked to say a few words. I made some comment about greetings from Presbytery of Chicago and the kindness of our host. I was brief.
The meeting opened in prayer, which surprised me a bit. One of the men up front was clearly the chief, and ran the meeting. The other man seemed to be the secretary, taking some notes and struggling to stay awake at points. Yeow was mostly silent and never laughed when the chief was making some kind of joke. He was deferred to occasionally. The meeting was mostly conducted in Twi, with some English woven in and out. They all had a tiny yellow booklet which was apparently the town constitution, which they were in the process of revising. This day's meeting concerned death benefits, I think to family members of the city council. This was confusing because they kept speaking in terms of millions of Cedis (Ghana's currency), which we understood to have an exchange rate of about 1:1 US. I was ready to sign-up for the town council. At one point Brandon and I are fairly certain we heard one death benefit as "$100,000 and a bottle of Schnapps". We both heard this twice, so we're pretty sure that's what they said. After the meeting Yeow clarified the monetary issue - Ghana recently revalued their money, and they were speaking in terms of the old currency, which was more like 10,000:1 US, so they were really talking about hundreds and thousands of dollars, not millions. We didn't ask about the Schnapps.
When we got back to the house we were given dinner. We ate with Yeow and were served by the children, who seemed to do most of the work around the place. I was excited to see something that looked like a fritter, but disappointed when I found out it was "yam cakes". Not horrible, but I didn't ask for the recipe to take home either. There was also white rice, a cabbage/carrot/green pepper mix, and some shredded beef in a greasy red sauce that had a very fishy taste to it. Dessert was chocolate chip ice cream that had some kind of yellow stuff in it we weren't able to identify, but was pretty good.
After dinner we sat and talked and watched TV with Yeow, Sarah, and one of their older nephews who didn't seem to have to do any of the housework. Occasionally the younger ones would sit down, but back at the dining table, away from us adults. There was news on the television (in English), then a replay of a large political rally that had taken place earlier that day or the day before. Ghana has elections in December and I believe the rally was for the encumbent party. There were many celebrities there and it greatly resembled an American political rally.
We went to bed pretty early.
Sorry this is so darn long.

1 comment:

Hippos and Jeeps said...

I wonder if the yellow stuff in the ice cream was egg. That happened to me once when I tried to make homemade ice cream, and added the cream to the eggs while it was still hot and thus ended up with a bit of scrambled eggs in my ice cream. Just a thought (and one that's not too offensive...hehe).

Glad to see you survived the trip and had a decent time, and I've loved a bit of reminiscing from our Tanzania days! :)