Monday, April 26, 2010

Pediatorkope: Goodbyes

I just saw my face for the first time in five days. It looks different. A lot redder than it used to be. And it's white. I'm not used to seeing white faces anymore. I look out of place--I think after being in Ghana for a few days my brain has adjusted. I used to see Africans as a different kind of people. Now they're just people, and I feel like I'm the one who has to fit in. I've mentioned this before, but I'm surprised I never noticed how beautiful Ghanaians are. I held a little girl on my lap yesterday and noticed how beautiful her skin was. All of the children have huge, dark eyes and attractive faces.

I'm back in Accra, and I feel strangely homesick for the village. I noticed how friendly Ghanaians were when I came to Accra for the first time, but now I notice a stark difference between city Ghanaians and the villagers. We walked through Big Ada on our way to the van that took us back to Accra. People would raise both of their hands and say "Moiye! Inga sa minya lu." The children would laugh uncontrollably and run to us in mobs, wrap their arms around our legs and ask to be picked up. The people in Accra are more reserved. Still friendly, but definitely not as outwardly kind toward obrunis.

This morning was a slightly somber experience. I got up, had breakfast with my family, and for some reason we didn't talk much. They laid out a feast: leftover stew from last night served with kenke, which is a ball of steamed corn masa kind of like a tamale, except tangy from the fermentation. They also had a large bowl of freshwater shrimp (they call them lobsters) fried in coconut oil. I learned that you can eat them whole, shell and all. They were delicious, and the head and legs added a wonderful saltiness. I also got a baggie full of fried and salted river oysters. They were so good I couldn't stop eating them. I'm getting hungry just thinking about them right now.

I walked with the boys down to the river bank one last time, to take pictures and observe their antics. They taught me more Dangbe, showed me the lobster traps, and I watched the men fishing for oysters. My brother Moses stripped off all his clothes on the bank and dove into the water with a knife in his teeth. He pried some oysters off the river bottom and pulled up some of the basket-like lobster traps, dumping their contents into the rough-hewn canoe I was perched in. The shrimp jumped like crickets in the bottom of the boat.

The time came to say goodbye. I gathered the boys into a bear hug and took a dozen more pictures. I hugged my mother goodbye and told her when I would return. Papa Joseph wouldn't let me carry any of my bags--he grabbed one and had his daughter carry my huge backpack. A girl from the village took my shopping bag containing the leftover water and a small watermelon I hadn't eaten and tossed it into a rubber basin she was carrying on her head. I was amazed by the ease with which she balanced everything, and how gracefully she walked with a watermelon on her head.

My friends and I converged at the school, trailing a good number of the island's inhabitants behind us. They felt like family, and it was hard to leave them behind. We gathered by the same tree we had sat under the first afternoon when we had our introductory Dangbe lessons. We joked around and showed off all of the things we had learned to say.

It was time to go. We formed a procession and made our way back to the beach we had first landed on a few days before. We loaded our things into the motorboat and sped off down the river, waving at our newfound friends and families.

Big Ada really is a big place, but it's all a matter of perspective. When we first arrived it seemed like a small collection of colorful sheds with tin roofs. Now it was a booming metropolous. People and animals wandered everywhere, and I saw countless interesting things being sold from little tables and booths. Isaac bought me a colorful beaded bracelet for 1 cedi. We trekked through a maze of narrow alleys and crossed a few rutted dirt streets before coming to a tall metal gate, partially opened to reveal a large, grassless yard. Piles of palm seeds, peppers, and other things lay drying in the sun. A bunch of sleeping cats lay in a pile under the shade of a long bench. Three beautifully-dressed old women sat in a row on the bench, mending clothing. We came to a large house with colorful walls: lime green, orange, and blue. This was the house of Big Atah, the chief of Pediatorkope.

Ada used to be a warrior kingdom, controlling the salt trade up and down the Volta River all the way into Togo and the northern regions of Ghana. We saw some of the vestiges of ancient authority: the chief wore bright kente cloth and carried an interesting carved totem gilded in gold. His translator (which he didn't actually need--his English was very good) held a tall scepter bearing a lion on the top. The Chief gave us a bowl full of mangoes to eat while he prepared himself inside. We then went in, observed some kind of formal greeting that we didn't understand, and talked with the Chief for twenty minutes. He told us about his life, Ada, and the island. We told him a little bit about ourselves, and what we thought of the village. It was a very pleasant conversation. We took some pictures together and then left the Chief, Big Ada, and our new island home behind, framed in the window of a ten-passenger van as we sped along the George W. Bush highway back to Accra.

1 comment:

  1. Oh I can't wait to see all the kids in Ghana and have them chase after me and play with them and everything!! I think thats the part I will love the most--the children!
    Wait, there's a George W. Bush highway in Ghana?