Monday, March 14, 2011

from Ghana

(Sunday) the heavens let loose

A hazy morning sun. Big lizards on a wall, basking in the heat.


For breakfast, you pick up -- whatever. Cornflakes for me. And mmmmm mango.

The woman who helps at the home base comes and goes. I’m thinking maybe visiting a church would be a good thing to do here on a Sunday morning. (I know, surprising, coming from me.) Everything is closed now, the day is warm. Last night, I had asked at the Internet café if they open on Sundays. After church, he tells me. When will that be? Twelve maybe? Or two? They hate to be tied down by a clock here.

She’s happy to escort us to her own church – the Revival Assemblies of God in Hoho. She’s used to it. Herding volunteers. There goes Ata with yevu yevu.

At her church she tells us to sit with the English school group. There is a lesson before service and today the discussion is about this “Central Truth:” That God has the final say in choosing those who should work for him. And it’s a back and forth, and the very small group (the other dialects command larger crowds) tosses ideas about what God would like to see in a leader. Some people offer ideas, some take notes.

The service follows. It is... lively. It’s in Ewe, with an English translation. And sometimes it’s in English, with an Ewe translation. All of it is filled with music and movement. They sing, they dance, they pray, hands raised, they sway to the music, rhythmically, emotionally.

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When the dancing snakes to the front, our hostess (who is so good at telling us when to take photos and when to hold still) asks us to move with the rest. The white people are dancing. Halleluja.

I ask the volunteer program director later – so what do they think of Americans here? You have to wonder. The only white people I see are the volunteers. Our director deftly answers – in Accra, they would recognize the idea of you being “American.” But not here. In the villages, you are simply white people.

So what do they think of white people here? 
They are curious.

Fact is, Ghana is a friendly country. It’s how they describe themselves – the social means more than the commercial. If you set out somewhere, set aside time to talk, because rushing a spontaneous verbal exchange is rude.

We walk back from church in the heat of noon. There is no shade in Hohoe.

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Children. Let me tell you about the little ones here. What stands out – and everyone who comes here will say this – is how happy they are. They play, yes, simple things: poke at a pile of earth. Watch the people go by. Chase each other. And the little ones always beg for a picture. Photo! Photo! -- they beg, and if you show them the result, they burst into spasms of laughter.


This little guy was the shy one. His mother urged him to come up and ask for it, urged him so strongly, helping him inch forward, but in the end he couldn't. I see him and take the photo and show him the result, and he smiles, but in the end he is more fascinated by the entire event of having an exchange of this sort with yevu – white person.


Lunch. We eat outside, because it’s cooler in the shade than in the house. Good foods. Rice, chicken, beans, mango. Mmmmmm mango.


In the afternoon, we have the long long informational meeting. There is a lot to consider. When we begin our review of our placements, I have a lot of questions to ask. One reason I was so keen on coming here is because I teach Comparative Family Law back home and I talk about the interplay of culture, religion and the imported laws in certain African and Asian countries where that relationship is very complicated. And I teach too about another set of complicated issues – international adoption, from both the perspective of the sending nations (Ghana is one) and the receiving ones (the US, for example).

And it surprised me how quickly this subject threw itself in my lap on this trip: I had been standing in line to board at JFK and behind me, a white woman was explaining to someone next to her that she was going to see the sister of her daughter ("the daughter" is a girl she had adopted from Ghana a few years back). The sister still lives in Ghana with the mother. “The mother means well. She is not like the mothers in the States who abuse or neglect their children. She just cannot provide.” Uff... I’ll not comment. Let me just tell the story as it presented itself to me. And it continued. Are you going to adopt the sister? – the other person asked. “I don’t know. Maybe. God will show me the way.

At the home base, Maskafui, our director, confirms that many women here do not fully understand what it means when a foreigner comes to adopt. They don’t get the loss of control, the severance of ties. And the orphanages are a mixed bag too. They’re fairly recent and some are good and they work with extended families and some are not so good and they children come and go and it is suggested that in places, there may be an exchange of money involved.

But we’re interrupted. Distant thunder turns into torrential rains. With balls of hale. The heavens release cool, refreshing buckets of rain. The locals will be happy. The volunteers rejoice.

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The dry dirt roads are quickly flooded.


Evening. Dinner of noodles and a very delicious, spicy spinach, yams -- very white, very large, very stachy. And mango.


And yes, finally, after dinner I hurry to the Internet café, making my way between puddles on the dirt road.

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And the connection is slow, but I am able to upload some and download some and after an hour, I feel once again, in this meager way, connected to home.

I walk back in the dark, flashlight illuminating the ditches and puddles. Makafui warns us: flash those lights! We have snakes, we have scorpions. All the snakes here are dangerous. Don’t step on one!