The Sword in the Stone

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Africa » Ghana » Ashanti » Kumasi
January 4th 2014
Published: January 8th 2014
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We got up early and were out of the house around 8. (That’s about 4 hours earlier than usual!) Today was the day to go to Kumasi.

Kumasi is in the Asante Empire. The seat of the kingdom. (Ghana has a parliament and elected government, but it still relies heavily on the chiefs and village traditions to govern the people. Looks like they have a fairly good way of incorporating the two to me.) There are some pretty cool historical and tourist sites, so it was a place Frank wanted to make sure we didn’t miss. It’s about 4-5 hours away from us if we drive.

Originally, we had planned to go, stay the night, and come back the next day. As we started to run out of time, we decided a day trip would be better. Before we came to Ghana, Frank and I decided we want to take the kids as many places as we can. They haven’t seen a lot of Ghana, and they will likely be leaving it soon. We both wanted them to see and know as much of their homeland as possible.

The flights to Kumasi from Accra are about $30-60 each
No Photos, PleaseNo Photos, PleaseNo Photos, Please

He doesn't like when I take photos in public.
for one-way. Rosemary said we should just forget about taking the kids. But the tickets were so cheap, I insisted they come with us. I wanted to be there with them for their first time in an airplane, plus it would be a good experience, instead of having their first flight be 9 hours across two continents. We set the plan in motion.

On the way to the airport, the kids were quiet. I think they were more nervous than they let on. They’re both kinda hard to read sometimes.

We waited in a big waiting room since you can only check in 30 or 45 minutes before your flight. We checked in, and I tried to show the kids the trolleys that take the luggage and explain what things you can and cannot fly with. There was a sign with a list of prohibited items. I went through the list with the kids, and they said they had no propane tanks, fireworks, or poison with them.

I was seated beside Rita in some small plan that held about 80 people. Across the aisle, there were twin girls heading to boarding school. At first I thought they
On the FlightOn the FlightOn the Flight

Brothers. I bet Frank was making fun of Alex.
had flown before, but they didn’t know how the seatbelts worked, so I’m not so sure. Frank and Alex were behind them, which meant I could see the boys well.

Rita nervously played with the cards in her seatback and looked out the window. We chitchatted a bit. I realized for the first time how scary it is that you get on a plane and they immediately tell you how many things could go wrong! What sort of evacuations may be necessary and all that.

Once the plane started to taxi, her face was calm like she was trying to keep cool. At liftoff, she made quite the face of excitement, but also like it wasn’t what she expected although she didn’t know what to expect. We dropped a little. I honestly didn’t notice it. Apparently Alex’s “heart got scared.” We all giggled at him, and he giggled as well.

I pointed out the window at various parts of the city and the shoreline and whatnot. I think Rita was a little scared to look out the window, but she was also really curious. She said she liked being up in the clouds. I liked being above
them, especially since I could see how brown they were. This furthered my notion that it is not clouds or fog, but pollution that makes everything hazy.

Just like in Kakum, it was really fun seeing everything through their eyes for the first time. When you’re 13 and on an airplane for the first time, everything is grand and exciting. I miss that. Maybe that’s one of the reasons people have kids- so they can relive the newness of everything through them.

We were in the air about 35 minutes. I think it was a great first flight for them. Now they have a little better idea what to expect. They still cannot imagine flying for 11 hours, let alone the 18 Frank did from Accra to Atlanta when he first came to America.

Frank’s friends picked us up from the airport and drove us around all day.

Kumasi seems a lot like Accra. Big and busy and dirty. It seemed quieter though, but I think that’s because the car had AC and we had the windows closed, so we were in our little bubble.

Our first stop was the palace museum. As I said,
Clouds or Pollution?Clouds or Pollution?Clouds or Pollution?

I still say it's pollution. We had lots of sun, but this was the first time I saw blue sky the whole time we were here.
the Ashanti people still rely on the tradition of the king and the royal family. The current king is the 16th, I believe. We went to the palace that was built by the British in the 20s, I think. (Sorry, I’m fuzzy on the details.) This palace is next to the current palace and serves as a museum.

First, they show you a 12-minute documentary about the kingdom. It’s mostly about the current king and not a lot of history. As I found out, the history is taught in school and every Ghanaian can recite it from memory.

There is a strict no-photos policy in the museum, and our tour guide was a stickler for that. He told us about how the new king is chosen and showed us the talking drums and the carriers the servants used to get the king from place to place. We saw the king’s office, which was pretty substantial. There was a giant pen on the desk. The guide said, “The king was a big man. He needed a king sized pen.” The kids got a kick out of that.

There were portraits and wax statues and all sorts of relics throughout the house. It was pretty interesting. The guide did a great job, but he almost exclusively looked at me when he spoke, and I didn’t like that for a lot of reasons.

In 1900, there was a war in Ghana. (I’m not sure who it was between or what it was about.) There was a woman named Yaa Asantewaa who was a brave warrior and led 24,000 men into battle. The guide said I looked fierce like her and he gave me a new name: Nana Apena Astantewaa. Nana isn’t a name, but a title of respect. Apena is the name for a girl born on a Tuesday. (Remember, in Ghana, most people have a middle name that is the name for the day they were born.) I was pretty sure I was born on a Tuesday. Apena is a name I share with Rita. And Asantewaa is the name of the woman warrior who helped with the war for the Ashanti people. He even let me take a picture with her figurine!

All along the palace grounds, there were beautiful trees and flowers and several peacocks! Not something ordinary people have in their yard. (I do
have a memory of my uncle Bob having them when I was small, but that may have been a dream. I’m not sure.)

Next, we went for lunch. Asanteland is the place where fufu originated, and fufu is one of Frank’s favorite foods. The kids didn’t want it, and I’m not a big fan. He took us to a hotel of some sort to get familiar foods, and he and his buddies went for fufu. The kids and I enjoyed chilling by the pool. We played a few rousing hands of Crazy Eights while waiting for our food. Alex cheats at cards.

The boys came back to pick us, and we went to the hospital. Who visits a hospital just for the heck of it? Well, this hospital is also home of one of the most important pieces of Ashanti history. A long time ago, a man named Okomfo Anokye was a priest, born with dreadlocks, was a priest. He commanded the golden stool- the ruling seat of power for the Ashantis- to come from the sky. Over 300 years ago, he put the sword in the ground and said whenever this sword is pulled out of the ground, it will mean the collapse of the Ashanti kingdom. Since then, many folks have tried, including Muhammad Ali. While building the hospital, the Brits tried to pull it out with bulldozers, but it wouldn’t budge.

They no longer allow visitors to try and pull it out, so we couldn’t get that close.

It was funny. Accra, to me, is about 97% humidity. Kakum, in the rainforest, was 100%. Kumasi is about 94%. The whole day, Alex talked about how dry it was and how hard it was to breathe. He’s in for a rude awakening when he comes to America! We live in one of the driest places I know of!

Our last stop was the cultural centre. It’s similar to the art centre here, but less crowded and a little more organized. We found a couple gifts, but not too many. Rita and Alex were my shopping buddies once again.

Eventually it was time to head home. Not by air this time, but by bus. The bus we were on was a fairly nice chartered-type bus. AC and everything. (Actually, I got cold because the AC vents kept opening and being TOO conditioned.) They turned off all the lights, though, including the individual reading lights. Alex and Rita both tried to fight falling asleep, but it was no use. Frank and I took short naps as well, I think. The drive should have taken about 3.5-4 hours, but with traffic, it was 5.

We got the car and went home. Another adventure in the books!

Additional photos below
Photos: 29, Displayed: 28



This is where a statue SHOULD go!

The NanasThe Nanas
The Nanas

Me with the statue of Nana Yaa Asantewaa. My namesake.

Alex found a bowtie made of Kente cloth. So cute!


Frank calls them peahens.

Crazy EightsCrazy Eights
Crazy Eights

The kids and I played Crazy Eights over lunch. Alex had half the deck in his hands!

Rita didn't hesitate to laugh at Alex.

8th January 2014
Apprehensive for the Flight

Nice photo

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