The Ghana Files: A proper welcome.

Sunday. It comes around once every week , and to me it’s always been just another day. Around these parts however, Sunday is a very big deal. This particular Sunday began at 4:00 AM when I was awoken by the school choir, which uses the space not ten feet from my bedroom window for their early morning rehearsals. On Saturdays I can generally ignore them, I just stick in my ear plugs and go back to sleep. This Sunday morning was a different story. I had received a message late the night before from my principal, saying I’d better get my butt to the church the next morning to attend the first mass given by our new pastor. For those of you I may not have mentioned this to: my school is a very Catholic institution. They have mass every morning and even begin every staff meeting with a prayer. I figured I could get away without going to church every day, but recently there has been some pressure on me to go on Sundays. Around here they just don’t seem to understand the concept of “I don’t go to church.” So, my day started at 4:00AM with the singing, which was a nice segue into the 7:00AM mass I was required to attend.

At 11:00, I made my way to the kitchen with my Little Red Riding Hood basket. This has become a daily ritual for me. Each day I make my way to the student cafeteria and head into the back, where I am greeted and taught words in Fante. I leave with them my little blue basket, filled with my two food warmers and a lace tablecloth. When I return three hours later, the food warmers have been filled with some kind of Ghanaian dish. Usually a variation of a carb, with a tomato-based sauce and fish. Today it is kenke, a local dish that is a white dough-like paste wrapped in banana leaves, with fish and tomato sauce. I bring the fish home and promptly dig in, still getting a kick out of using my hands (well, hand… it’s only polite to use the right one.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

After an afternoon of relaxing it is time to go to the nearby University of Cape Coast campus, where I have been invited by another volunteer for dinner. Patrick is a volunteer with my organization that works at the university. He has been coming to Ghana off and on for many years, and is married to a Ghanaian woman named Mary. They had kindly invited my roommate and I over for dinner. When I arrived, I was surprised to see that they had arranged for an entire party! We sat by candlelight (no power) and enjoyed an endless array of juice, sodas, wine, spring rolls and cake, followed by a plate full of various Ghanaian foods. There were plenty of people there to talk to, some were relatives while it seemed others were colleagues or neighbors.

After we had stuffed ourselves silly, out came a bottle of what I believe was sparkling grape juice. They handed the bottle to a gentleman who had been sitting quietly in the corner the entire evening. He quickly jumped to his feet with the bottle of sparkling juice in one hand grabbing my hand with the other, asking me to stand up. Everyone gathered around as he proceeded to bless both the juice and myself. I was amazed by his enthusiasm, given that he hadn’t made a peep the entire night. He went on and on, blessing my visit, the ground I walk on, the tasks I take on. (Fox, you’ll be glad to know that he blessed you, along with our future children.) As this is going on, people around are shouting things like “YES!” and “AMEN!” It was amazing. I can’t believe how welcoming people have been in general since my arrival, but an entire party to welcome me? Attended en-mass by people who’ve never even met me? It’s really something else, it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

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