Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ghana, No.7

Vultures on the Wall 
February 11, 2011

Charles had told me that i would be staying at a hotel in a Takoradi for a few days before moving onto the school and orphanage sometime on Monday. Half way through our long, exhausting, steaming four hour journey to Tadi (Takoradi), he told me I would be staying with him in the "boondocks" of the city. Arriving at his home I met his wife, Gina, and five children, Ruby, Jesse, Charles, Latti, and George. Their hospitality is overwhelming, and the children are all sleeping in one room as I've taken over the boy's bedroom. I am getting use to them referring to me as "obrini" when they are talking about me, meaning "whitey." I know it is a cultural thing, but it would be nice to be though of as "Michelle" rather than "obrini."

It took a little over an hour to get out of Accra. The closer to the city limits, the more "third world" the city became. Rows and rows of makeshift homes coved the landscape; animals roamed about--all frail compared to the muscular north American versions. The goats, horses, and chickens roamed the streets using the open sewers as a source of food; the goats would rummage through the garbage scattered everywhere between bites of grass.

Leaving the city the air became less polluted and the vegetation a bit more green. Driving with all the windows open and sitting in the backseat (Charles and I were hitching a ride with an economics teacher named Paul), the dust, dirt, and sweat was creating a film on my skin and matting my hair. I didn't care. The breeze was lovely.

Lizards at Lunch
We stopped in Winneba, a small costal village for a late lunch, we were about a third of the way to Takoradi. It was an outdoor cafe, walled, filled with lizards, crows (they are large and have white busts), and vultures. Charles asked, "Do you have scavengers where you live?" We must, but I've never seen a gaggle of 12 vultures. "Yes, but few," I replied. "There are many scavengers in Africa," he said.

Arriving in Ghana (just about a week ago now) I gave up dairy and became a vegetarian after numerous failed attempts with both meat and dairy. Which, though I'm sure has helped, has not cured my stomach issues, which I am battling daily. I ordered rice and a coke--binding and electrolytes, perfect. "Why you eat like poor person? You're American!" I then explained that I was a vegetarian (they didn't have to know it was a new found path in life) and was very satisfied with rice and vegetables. Charles looked perplexed.

Kids on the Road
When driving through Ghana, one is pretty much hopping from village to village. Between the villages you can go up to 120km, but through the villages you must go 50km or under, and at the beginning of each village boarder are speed bumps; this all makes for a rather jurkey journey. Slowing down and cruising through each village, people would stop to stare at the obrini in the car, some would wave and blow kisses, others would look at me in total fright. I tried to make eye contact and smile with everyone, it became exhausting. Eventually I just closed my eyes and tried to nap, my right ear was becoming sore from the constant wind pounding it with dirt.

Road Side Market
Waking to the car stopped, Charles had wanted to purchase some items at a road-side market. I decided to take out my camera to capture some images of the goats roaming, when a group of children saw me with my camera they began to pose and screen--I have a couple great shots of them, ragged clothes, bright eyes, big smiles. Though living in a grass hut, sleeping on a grass mat on a dirt floor, no running water or electricity, these kids were full of life and their eyes full of light; it was a great moment. Not too long after a young girl selling oranges stopped by (note that oranges are really green and yellow here). She had high cheekbones and there was sadness in her eyes, I gestured with the camera soliciting approval of a photo, she obliged.

The Girl with Green Oranges
Two hours later we arrived in Tadi. All of the neighborhood kids had gathered to see the obrini arriving. I was so dirty and sweaty from the five hour journey I didn't even care.Later in the evening after dinner, Charles and I ate first then the children and his wife ate what was left I over (this made me a little uncomfortable so I took the smallest amount possible that would still sustain me), the children and I watched the "Thriller" video on my iPad, and I gave the boys rope bracelets and the girls cherry honeybee chapstick. They were thrilled. I went to bed a little homesick, being in someone else's home, surrounded by their things and their family forces me to miss my own home, things, family, and little for-legged companion, 'Koda. Earlier in the evening the kids had introduced me to their dog, unnamed, who just had a litter of puppies, "we will get rid of them all including the mama when she is done nursing," Gina said. They don't name their pets here, they don't allow them in their homes, and after the dog dies they eat it. Charles told me, "it is a delicacy." He might have been kidding, but culture shock and language is elusive when combined with heat exhaustion.

The Boys and their Nantucket Rope Bracelets

© Habit & Style, 2013.

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