Ghana- Week 9: Kumasi Home Stay

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Africa » Ghana » Ashanti » Kumasi
March 20th 2013
Published: March 20th 2013
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I had planned to post this blog right away, on Monday, but I had not realized what 5 days without internet would force me to catch up on many other as important tasks.

CIEE, took the nifty nine, well technically now the ____ eight/ the ____ seven, and well, even at times just the ____ six (depending on the situation) to Kumasi (up North). We left at 5:30 am on Thursday morning for a 5 hour bus ride. First, we went to an Asante Traditional home where I got to read up on the history and hear about how the Asante dealt with British influence by keeping their traditions. Afterwards, we went straight to the Palace Museum to get a further tour of the Royal Chiefs and Mother Queens of the Asante Tribe. There were facts about gold, cloth, THE stool, and a coward sword.

We then made our way towards Bonwire Village, where kente cloth is made and where we would be staying with host families for 2 nights. Before meeting our host families, we made a stop at the Kente Factory, where most of the Kente sold is made. I got to attempt my hand at weaving (on a loom) some Kente cloth lines; and let’s just say that it was pretty darn gosh difficult. There were knobs that went in between my big and second toe on each foot and I had to extend my pointed foot even more than a ballerina who dances point. It was an insane ankle work out. And once I began to bargain for a piece of cloth that I fell in love with, I ended up acquiring a husband to get a good (a wife) price. (So remember this as Husband #1)

Now, once Gabby, Jamie, and I made it our host family’s shop, we were told that we had to sell the eggs that were set in front of their Kente shop. There were 6, 7, 8, and 9 Cedi sets of eggs, each holding 30 eggs, priced by size. For the hour or two that we sat there, we sold absolutely nothing. Our only possible customer left our eggs to purchase cheaper ones at another shop nearby. And then we were home for dinner, helping de-shell hard boiled eggs at watching everything cook over a handmade fire of wood outside. They began to serve us the food and what I thought would just be a plate of a couple of cupful of rice, became a monstrous plate of heaps of rice, boiled yams, and spaghetti (and 2 eggs) for each person! It was crazy, I felt sick just thinking about eating so much. They were being so generous and hospitable to provide so much food but it was just so unrealistic. (Especially for three relatively small girls, I mean, if we were huge football players or an Olympic athlete then definitely, Bring it ON!)

But no, we begged them to take a plate away and tried to eat two platefuls but ended up only eating one and…well a quarter of the second plate. It was embarrassing and we were uncertain about how to show our gratitude even if our plates weren’t sparkling clean. We proceeded to go into a food coma and went to bed at 8am (latest) to wake up the following morning to go to the poultry farm of our host father’s. It was dark out and lights went out, just an hour after they finally turned on. It was a hot and sticky night but what was great, even though I was not aware at the time, as I drenched myself in DEET, there were no mosquitoes anywhere in the entire small radius of the village. Instead there were a large amount of flies, but nothing that could give me malaria, so I was happy as a clam, when I packed away the bug spray the next day.

I woke up again, before the sun rose, which was an odd adjustment for my body that was used to waking up to/with the sun, but even with the sun still hidden , I was quite well rested and grabbed tea before heading off to go see the chickens…for well.. 2 hours…an extremely too long of a time to be on a chicken farm, when all you can do is walk around outside of the coops, watch flies land on you, try to pet the little kittens running around, and avoiding the dogs that didn’t look as clean. Then we finally left and went back to the center of town to wait for the rest of the CIEE group to go on our other planned visits for that day.

So, we sat down again…until I got up and wandered
A super cute manA super cute manA super cute man

even if the skirt just doesn't look good on me..
in to the shop to look at some things my family sold. During my “window” shopping, a taxi driver walked over, greeted my host mom and proceeded to grab my hand and take me a few feet away to the taxi station hang out area. Calling me his wife, he introduced me to the other drivers and picked up the Oware set (Ghana’s Mancala). Now, this was something that I thought I knew I could play. But somehow the rules had to be completely different; I didn’t understand what was happening after I sat down. The set up was exactly the same as the “American” Mancala that I know but you could only collect pebbles from the other person’s side; only distributing one set of pebbles at a time (not just ending your turn when you get to an empty spot). And there were no home spots, where your pebbles were placed, you were supposed to count, which is normally seen as cheating…and you could only collect pebbles in spots that you put a pebble in to make it either a total of 2 or 3 pebbles in total…

See, the rules of Oware, can get confusing, even if
Laying down the roadLaying down the roadLaying down the road

old technology
it is just a simple game in Ghana, it’s definitely different from what I was used to, and it was clear as all of the other taxi drivers, passengers, and passerbys stopped over to watch and tell me exactly what to do; helping me win against my husband (husband #2).

The Yonso Project was our next stop of our weekend trip, where the organization makes bike frames out of bamboo (and other products) and the proceeds go towards funding people’s education. The founder, Kwabena Danso, is an amazing person, who doesn’t do anything for himself; he is clearly a completely selfless person and a definite inspiration, who I will at the very least always remember. And on the way back to Bonwire, we checked out another family’s home where they stamp fabrics with ink made out of tree bark; which is an art form of itself altogether. As clouds loomed overhead, we were rushed away from their home onto the bus just in time.

It started to rain literally cats and dogs. It was the heaviest rain I have seen in Ghana so far, with water filling the open sewers and rushing downhill with gravity. The entire village of Bonwire quickly closed down to return safely home before the storm could do any real damage.

With a break in between groups of clouds, I ran over to the Kente Factory again to look at more fabrics the day before we were leaving the village, but when the clouds appeared in the windows, once again, I was driven away with words of rain and my husband#1 showed up and stated that he’d quickly walk me home. Taking my hand, we dashed out of the factory and down side streets, speed walking by children, who were shouting “Money!” at me as they got closer and I could only shout back, “Daebi Sika!” (No Money) which was still completely wrong.

And other men in the surrounding area laughed and called to my husband#1 before walking beside me to hold my free hand and ask me random questions. It was an odd form of madness and excitement tied into one emotion. And then the path came to an abrupt stop as it intersected with the main road. We bumped right into my host sister, Mariam, who I was handed over to, like a lost child, to my big sister who would take me home before the cats and dogs began to fall.

As soon as I made it home, I was given a bowl, a gigantic blob of fufu and a ladle for goat light soup. I ate it all; not really feeling the food as there was no chewing involved, just swallowing balls of dough. But I was proud of my accomplishment, unlike the first time I ate fufu, when I tore little goldfish bits of the dough into my soup and ate with a spoon. This being the third time, I tore off at least 1 inch size globs with my fingers and dipped them into my soup to inhale the fufu easily, like a true Ghanaian.

Right after I finished my dinner, lightening began to photograph the sky and conversations sparked with the random students who stayed in the house. Those who were related and unrelated were a struggle to decipher. Once the droplets fell, I took shelter in the house to only walk back outside of my room at 7 pm to find one host brother just sitting in the hallway, in the dark, watching the rain. So I sat down across from him, thinking to just chat, and somehow everyone else in the family decided to flock around, as if we were telling scary stories around a camp fire. More introductions and questions were answered by me and others, but when the clock struck 9 pm, the gates were locked and everyone quickly made their way to their rooms. It was supposed to be another early morning, and besides talking in the pitch black dark, there was nothing else to do, until the sun came out at 6am.

At 6am on the dot, I was already out of bed, dressed and ready for the day. I had until 1 pm with my host family until we left. It was already Saturday and no one in the group besides me seemed to want to stay past noon. There wasn’t much for us to do there, besides sitting around.

I left with Mariam, Yusiff (one of my host brothers), and George (one of the students) to go to the shop. Mariam had to be at the Yam Stand that the family also ran, a few feet to the right of the store and I was going to assist her. Once in the center of town, I was beckoned over to try weaving Kente cloth again on the side of the road. So I did. As locals gathered around to watch my second attempt, I somehow even amazed myself as I did a lot better this time around and so I didn’t know when to stop because I was on a roll.

But then my chore to grind pepper was called to my attention by Mariam, so my weaving bubble was popped and I was getting to work. Grinding the hottest peppers (and tomatoes and onions) with a stone slate and grinder, it took me hours to complete the task that would probably only take five minutes for anyone else to do, even with help from the experienced. It was tiring, my arm hurt, my skin was already golden by being under the suns heat, and I just wanted to taste my pepper before I had to leave. During my time grinding the pepper, locals stopped by to correct my form and comment on the Obruni working. But it was fun when I even got to see familiar faces walking past, who I could call over, being assimilated into the small village.

I couldn’t even think about leaving because I created a home in Bonwire, just by trying to grind pepper for a simple yam stand. But time was not on my side and decided to fly by and sooner than I expected I had to say my “See you later(s)”.

We drove to Kumasi’s huge market, which was a maze and a lot bigger than Medina, the only other market I’ve really experienced. So to be thrown into the atmosphere of organized chaos I had to try to watch my footing while watching my head to make sure that I wouldn’t fall or get whacked by a huge sack that others carried on their heads.

After 1.5 hours on our own, we were all together again on the bus and headed to the hotel, where our weekend was finally considered “over”.

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