Akwaaba! (Welcome)

We arrived in Ghana at 5:30am, and were greeted by festive green and red arches as we made our way through the airport towards immigration. Christmas music played as we wait for our baggage, which came shrink-wrapped by the airline for reasons unknown. Yaa picked us up from the airport, along with Isaac and Yaw, a Ghanaian man who will be accompanying us for most of the trip. We headed to Yaa’s house to pick up JP, who had arrived the previous day.

From Yaa’s house we drove about three hours to the eco-lodge we’re staying at in the central region of Ghana. The lodge is located right by one of the villages that the school will serve, specifically Kobina Ansa, the village that Isaac is considered a member of. The huts we are staying in are simple, clean, and pretty, built sustainably from mud with thatch roofs. We eat lunch at the lodge, cooked by Fausina, who will be making all our meals while we’re here. It’s delicious – chicken with veggies and jaloff rice.

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After lunch we headed to the village to meet with the chief of Kobina Ansa, called Nana. The meeting was formal and we had to speak through a linguist (Yaw), who speaks to the chief’s linguist. Linguists are not simple translators, which would be unnecessary as the chief speaks and understands English quite well. Instead, they are meant to make our words cleaner, and put them in language appropriate for the chief’s ear. Occasionally, Isaac did cut in to speak directly to the chief, which seemed to be deemed acceptable since they have been friends for over a decade. After we informed the chief as to why we are there, the chief’s linguist poured out a libation in the courtyard, calling on God, Mother Earth, and the ancestors. We then passed around a cup of liquor to symbolize the connection between everyone in the room. Everyone drank from the cup (though declining was not frowned upon) and some poured a little on the ground for the ancestors.

All of us headed back up to the lodge after that, as we were all pretty jet-lagged and in desperate need of a nap. We met up again for dinner, another tasty meal cooked by Fausina of groundnut soup with beef and rice balls and kenke (the staple food in the region made of fermented corn dough).  After dinner we headed to Yamoransa, a nearby town, with Nana to attend a traditional religious celebration. We visited the shrine of the  traditional priest hosting the event, and gifted him a bottle of schnapps.  The meeting was quite similar to our visit to the chief’s palace in the afternoon – linguists, libations, etc. Since the religious celebration had not started yet, we walked over to a nearby outdoor dance club. Most of us sat, talked, and sipped soda, but Paul eventually got up to dance and completely blew everyone in the club away with his break-dancing. We left a bit after 10 to see if the celebration had begun, but were told the drummers necessary for the celebration had not yet arrived. We sat in a courtyard and watched some of the children from the town drum instead – not a bad substitute, as the children in town are incredibly good a drumming despite the fact that some looked as young as 5 years old. Sadly the ceremony ended up starting too late for us to participate, so we left around 11pm to go back to the eco-lodge and off to bed.

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