We just got internet at our sub offices here, so now I have time to upload pictures.  I posted some on the flickr account, and will try to post more soon…I’ve noticed I haven’t taken much pictures lately, not sure why…but here are some old ones at http://www.flickr.com/photos/7392286@N08/  I think that address will work…much love

hey yall…so i am getting requests that yall back home want to send the kids something, or help them in some way.  well, we planted some trees a few weeks ago.  we planted 23 trees at the primary school…i got pictures of the kids up on my flickr account, so check them out.  we measured them and will measure them again at the end of the term in late july.  the kids with the tree that has grown the most will win a prize.  the children whose trees are still alive will get a lesser prize.  so if yall want to finance these prizes, it would be a great way to provide aid to these children.  i will buy them notebooks and pencils and such…so send word if you want to help and i’ll give you details.  i only need one or two sponsors, so it is first come first serve.  thanks for the support and i’ll look forward to hearing from yall…much love.

Once again…sorry I have taken so long to write on here.  I wonder if I have lost some of yall’s interest by now?  Anyway, I was thinking the other day, trying to conceptualize this experience…not to name it or anything, because defining it doesn’t change what it has been or will be to me.  But something of it was starting to feel familiar and I wanted to reflect on what it could be.  It was the phases of integrating into this that felt familiar to me, like I had done it before.  So I put it to this…I remembered those days when I was at Tuckahoe Middle School and how my friends and I use to skate at Freeman (the high school that we would soon go to).  We would also shoot bball, vandalize, hid on the roof from staff, and go to football games there on Fridays.  It was this majestic place of which we had only a certain level of understanding.  We had yet to be exposed to the inner workings of this institution.  That, in some ways, has been what my first 6 months or so have been here.  Anyone who has traveled or tried to establish a new home somewhere may be able to relate to this…for this is how it was for me.  Ghana was majestic…I arrived, and was taken back by everything…I could barely gather the breath to express what I was seeing…in fact, I couldn’t.  Then it started to settle and I started being exposed to what Ghana is.  But for the first six months, 2 of which were in training and 4 at my site,  I didn’t really see myself as a member of this community…I would tell Ghanaians I was, and myself I was, but I didn’t feel it.  Around 6 or 7 months, that is when I became a resident…not just a visitor.  Just like when I traversed the bridge between outsider and student of Freeman…I have made the transition similarly in my community here in the Upper East of Ghana. I now have opinions about many things in my community, that I can share with them, just as they share with one another. We talk about farming and how we want to rain so we may be able to plant. We talk about how the political process of electing the new paramount chief for our area. I have been living as they have for a while now, and it is making me see as they see.
I was looking at a billboard in my district the other day while in a tro tro and remembered seeing that same image when I was in a tro tro, fresh off the plane from the States. It sent me back to looking at this place as Africa…”Holly shit, I’m in Africa.” Africa in this thought, is just that, a thought, not the materialized place I now know…or the tinny pinpoint of it that I have come to know. These happens fewer and fewer times…I am begining to forget what I perceived this place “would” be and am living in what it “is.” These “Holly shit” moments only last for a few seconds. They might be brought on by the cow or goat that wonders through the bar while having a beer. Perhaps a little grass structure where a man lives during the rainy season so he can be closer to his farm and get in those extra minutes it would take to walk down the mountain will trigger the memory. Whatever triggers it, it fades, but I am still here, growing my understand of this place and self.

So the festival has passed and I am now able to get some rest and relax a bit. Planning was frustrating and slow these past couple months, and in the end, the final day when we had invited the dignitaries ended up being a disappointment. But, it was the first year dignitaries were invited, so it was a stepping stone…and we learned a lot for how to plan for next year.

The festival itself was amazing. The tradition behind every custom and event of the week was almost too much to take in. The festival is basically a time to facilitate peace and ask for a bountifull rainy season. It begins with the new moon and lasts for the duration of that moon…so for about 28 days or so. We take off our shirts, wear shorts, and put on a towel around our necks and then our skins. They allowed me to use the past chief’s sheep skin for the month. I was referred to as Goldaan…which is the owner of the Golob (the drum that possesses the spirit of the festival…it is centuries old). It put me in an awkward place because in no way was I deserving of such an honor…and I could see it in the eyes of some that they felt the same way. However, the Assembleyman wants to promote me, so I tried to wear it with dignity, and asked them to call me by my local name instead…Goldaanzoe…which is friend of the Goldaan.

So, we wear our traditional attire for the month. From the new moon we count 15 days, and that is the start of the week long festival. For that week, community members can speak whatever is on their mind about anyone, their disputes and they will reconcile the problem. Also, during our days of singing and dancing, songs will be created about women cheating on their husbands and other problematic current events along those lines. One song was of such a situation. The man was used to cheat on the husband, had to lead the song and dance about his wrong doing…then the lady had to be present as well. It is ment to shame the involved members…seems to work.

The dancing…the men put on our traditional attire, minus the skin. We wrap cloth around our right ankle, then put on a form of bangles that cling together when you stomp. Men will have horse tails in their left hand and swords, cains, umbrellas, and other things in their right. It begins as a call and response. An older man leads with singing, and the men following moan. After some few have joined, they start to snake around, one man following the other, all stomping their right foot in rhythm. After about 20 or so men are involved, they start to circle, the rhythm gets more intricate, and the singing in unison of whatever song the leader created begins. Dancing to one song will usually last for an hour or so. Depending on the day, Tengzug may go down to a neighboring village to dance, or other villages may come up to join us. For Moor, the climax of the week, dancing usually lasts for 14 hours in Tengzug, with 5 or so outside communities participating as well.

The festival was almost surreal…especially on the moonlit nights when we were dancing or the elders were praying to the spirits of the festival.

It was a lot to take in, and I am still sorting it out. If you have any questions about the festival, feel free to post them, and I’ll try and respond and provide clarity. But for now, I’m at the coast in Kokobritey at a picturesque resort for our In Service Training. I am reuniting with some of my fellow PCVs and enjoying the ocean breeze and the southern culture for the first time here. I’ll be traveling for a while after training, seeing a little bit of the Volta Region maybe and some other PCVs I haven’t seen in too long. So to all, take care and much love…send words.

6 months into it and I finally posted some pictures. I chose to do them on a flickr account (part of yahoo.com). I don’t think you need an account with yahoo to view them, but if you do, just make one, it’s free. Anyway…I hope yall enjoy, sorry there are so few, more will come…when I have the time.

Website address is http://www.flickr.com/people/7392286@N08/

I was invited to watch a couple of the days of their funeral processions here. It was the 2nd and 3rd day of it I believe…I don’t have my notes with me, but the name was something like Kobwaat. I came to the family’s compound in the morning, with a bottle of Apatechi (the local fire water…tastes like moonshine). My friend helped me present the offering to the elders and we all had a shot, or two. It was nice to sit with the elders in my community, not understand each other, but still enjoy each other’s company…maybe the Apatechi had something to do with it. Anyway, after drinking that and some pito (another locally made beverage, lower alcohol, made from millet), we were prepared some local food. The woman who made it were the daughters of the house who have married. They had to come back to cook the food…which they were then beat for cooking outside, where the men were about to consult the soothsayer. They wern’t beat, in a violent fashion, it is just part of tradition. They laughed and giggled while it went on…maybe the Apatechi again. So when they all got their things back inside the compound, we, the men, gathered around the shrines to the ancestores and waited for the soothsayers to consult the spririts. The one sooth sayer emptied out is bag, which was an assortment of bones, monkey hands, thimbles, and I think I even saw a car lighter. He then blew his horn to summon the spirits, while the other soothsayer prepared the area for his cane to strike. The one held the top of the cane, the other the bottom. The one holding the top would ask questions, and if the cane came down on the iron slate set down, it was true, if it came down on the ground, false. The cane also would point to people, and far off villages every once in a while. I thought it pointed to me at one point, but my friend explained it was acknowledging the village behind me. The process is to figure the cause of death. At the end, it was found that the man died because he traveled far from home, and didn’t make many trips back, so his body wore down. The elders slit a chicken’s throat…if it landed breast up, what the soothsayers said was true, if on its side, they would need to consult the spirits again because they misread the signs.

After that, the family (sons, daughters, wife, sisters, brothers, mother, and if the father was alive, him too) came out to have their heads shaved and the woman had ropes tied around their necks (to be taken off on the last day of the funeral). This is when it became more real to me. Before, it had seemed as just process, not much emotion involved…just going through the motions. But as soon as the women’s heads were shaved, they broke down…the man was just 28 or so. It was sounds that made even the elders solumn. We sat in silence for a while. Then the elders had a meeting, about current matters, so I was dismissed.

That night, I came back for the killing of the fowl. My friend, David, told me to give him some money for a chicken, so I did. When I arrived, he presented me with my chicken to sacrifice. Poor thing was no bigger than my hand, beak to anus. I asked if he/she was too young, but everyone said it was fine. As I approached the shrine to present the bird to the elder who was chopping them, I felt ashamed and embarrased…poor little guy. He was the smallest sacrificed that night. My indifference wore hard on me that night…I felt guilty for not speaking up more and saying that the fowl was too young to be killed…but I was the outsider, and didn’t want to trample on their traditions. After the sacrifices, I was told to come back in the morning for more pito and food.

My friend Kat joined me (she is the fellow PCV in a village not far from my site) for the food and drink the next morning. We were given a large fowl to eat, and much pito. It was a great breakfast. I have already eaten the head of a chicken here (it is not bad…actually most Ghanaian’s favorite part, usually saved for the children because the brain is so sweet)…but this morning I was shown the propper way to eat the feet (not as good in my opinion). After we were nice and full, we thanked them, took a shot or two of Apatechi and were on our way, I had a meeting to go to and Kat had to be back in her village. So I went to my meeting all liquored up and full on hot greasy fowl…needless to say it was a good morning.

So that was my funeral experience. I have experienced other traditional things…usually viewing them from afar. But Golob Festival will show me much more, and I will be an insider. There will also be a huge funeral in April to celebrate the life of the last chief who died 2 years ago. I’m sure I will have some interesting stories from that one…including things like people eating “power” and taking macheties to their bodies without bleeding (yet to see it, but friends have told me they do it, so we will see). Ok, well my time and story have seem to run out together at the perfect moment. So I am off. Send words and love. Much love…

Time…I usually have a lot of it.  Recently though, things have been moving quite quickly…well, faster than normal anyway.  We are having our Golob Festival here at the begining of March.  We will also have 5,000 students come to visit the site at the end of February.  So we are trying to get everything ready.  It is nice to have lots of projects to work on…but I do miss those free hours I had each day to day dream, write, play guitar, read, or just escape the heat in one of the caves.  Man, it is getting hot here.  I’m kind of use to it now…like 95 is ok, because it is so dry.  That is the temp in my house for the lighter parts of the day. 

 Anyway, I’m writing to share recent experiences with yall, not talk of the weather.  So…about a week ago, or maybe it was 2 weeks ago.  I don’t know, time is distorted here…nothing really to mark it with, all the days seem to blend together while at site.  Some days ago, a couple from Holland came through and I got to spend some time with them.  One of the benefits at being stationed at a tourist site is that I get to meet a bunch of great travelers with amazing stories.  This Dutch couple, they biked to Ghana…that is bicycled 10,500 km, spending 4 and a half months on the road, to Ghana.  They spent the night at the site, and the next morning I accompanied them on their day’s ride…the 15 km or so ride to Bolga.  They were great people.  I heard all about their travels, this not being the first long bike ride.  They have also traveld across Asia, New Zealand, and down the PCT in the States.  Anyway, the thing I took from meeting them is this.  Our perceived restrictions for doing things like this are manifested by us…and in so, if we only acted, instead of just dreamed, them we could actualized these amazing fantasies.  They were normal people like you or I…in great shape when I met them, but only decent shape when they started.  Ype told me that the training they had was just the first two weeks of the trip…they went at a comfortable pace, and they said, before you know it, you are treking through day-by-day, amazed at how your body is working.  They did say that one needs good equipement, proper diet while on the road, a little bit of planing (getting the required visas before hand and what not), and in their case, they suggested a companion, to push you and care for you on those days when you can only escape your souroundings as fast as you can peddle.  It is a cheap way to travel, and the best way to experience the destinations.  They even said that they had traveled through Iran on bike, saying that they were welcomed warmly and faced no obsticales while making the trip through.  I told them I don’t think I would be welcomed as kindly, being American…they told me I would be very surprised. 

 They have found what they love to do and are doing it, and God bless them for it.  There are other travelers I have met with similar dispositions…they are all open-minded, yurning to experience and understand, and because of this, I really enjoy talking to them. 

I gave them this blog address and told them to check it out.  Ype and Janet, if yall view this blog, please share some thoughts, we had a great conversation about balancing your life in The Netherlands with this life of wonderlust.  It was great to meet yall, and I’ll try and update yall with how the Golob Festival goes. 

Much love to all…share words. 

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