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Friday, March 18, 2011

Volta/Kumasi



I’ve gotten to travel to a few different parts of Ghana since my arrival in Africa: the Volta region and Kumasi in the Ashanti region.  Both rich in culture, they have helped paint me a better picture of what Ghana is. 

The Volta region is on the eastern edge of Ghana.  When we went there, we arrived at a monkey sanctuary.  We walked out into the forest after our guide who started calling the monkeys by making a loud and long kissing noise with his mouth.  Sure enough, we saw some monkeys in the trees coming closer to us.  A few students were able to feed those monkeys bananas that we had brought with us.  After that group dispersed, our guide got word of another group of monkeys farther into the forest, so we went on a hunt to find them.  This group of monkeys was larger, so there were more of them for us to feed.  Holding onto a banana still in the peel, we held out our hands so that they would come down from the trees and put their little hands on ours to peel the banana before taking chunks of it and disappearing again.  They were pretty cute. 

From the monkey sanctuary, we went to our hotel.  This is the second hotel that we’ve stayed in since being here.  By far the worst I’ve ever stayed at in my life.  But then again, this is Africa, so it was what it was.  We had a faucet for a shower right next to the toilet, with nothing on the floor to keep the falling water remotely close to the drain by the shower.  So…no showers were taken.  The two single beds in the room were pushed right up next to each other, and we had no blankets or top sheets.  But we did have a TV.  Too bad it didn’t work.  Good thing we only stayed one night.  Just had to laugh about the whole thing.

The next day, before we went home, we stopped at a village that makes Kente cloth.  This sort of traditional cloth is colorfully hand-woven.  We played with three little boys that didn’t know any English, and they took our sunglasses and put them on themselves upside down.  They wanted us to take pictures of them and when we did, they had to see each picture afterwards.

We headed out after we saw the cloth weaving.  A week passed, with little class attendance from Miriam.  It turns out I didn’t miss much.  The next weekend we went to Kumasi.  We left early Friday morning.  By early, I mean the bus was supposed to leave at 6, but we didn’t leave until 7.  Traffic was awful on the way there, so it took quite a while.  However, there were fewer bathroom stops on this trip.  Greatly appreciated.  We finally arrived at a cultural center that had many shops with African made art; paintings, wood carvings, clothes, beads, etc.  We ate and shopped a bit in the rain.  We were all a bit exhausted so we headed to our hotel/guest house.  This place was a significant improvement upon the last hotel we stayed at.  We had queen beds, a nice bathroom, a TV that worked, a fridge, air conditioner, and a water heater!  A warm shower (even if the warm only lasted 2 whole minutes) was nice.

When we left our guesthouse the next day, we headed to a village that makes kente cloth.  As soon as we stepped off of our bus, we were hit by a gale force wind of guys trying to sell things to us.  They waited outside the building where the cloth was being made until we came out so they could swarm all over us again.  Inside the building there were so many different colors to view.  We were able to talk to the guys who had made the cloth and they were pretty pushy to sell us their work.  We got to barter for it; I only purchased one piece of cloth.  After leaving the building, we walked around the village.  Common on Saturdays, there was a funeral in process.  We saw women and men in all black traditional cloths.  We then saw the motorcade following the hearse drive past.  Around 200 people, mostly women, were waiting in an alley for the procession to start so they could join.  We got caught in the alley as they were walking by so we just stopped to let them pass.  They’d walk by and smile and stop to shake our hands…very welcoming people.  After we returned I was talking to my roommate about funerals here and she told me that they pay people to cry and wail during the funeral, however they are more of a celebration than a time to grieve.    Funerals take place usually at least a month after the death and can last for days.  They are a time for not only just family but a huge extended family and friend circle to gather.  They usually collect some sort of donation from people because it costs so much to feed all the guests.  When we were on the bus leaving the village, we saw the casket being carried down the road to the burial plot with a whole lot of people in black walking behind it.  I got one not-so-great picture of this. 

We headed back and stopped out on the road for a bathroom break.  Another cement slab…how nice.  We took the time to dance in the middle of the road and take pictures of the scenery around.  It was a gorgeous day.  Sweltering hot, but gorgeous.

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