Antoa Program, Cultural Immersion, and A Storm

Thursday was bocoo (slow). I met Tio at the public JHS and got the names of the students that signed up for the program. There are 75 names! Tio said that many would drop out because they probably signed up because their friends were. I have a feeling from this list, I will end up with a good solid 30 students to attend the tutoring program. I went over to the SHS and they still didn’t have the list of names ready. The Academic Master is very apologetic and says that it is nothing personal.

 As I’m heading back home a man is standing next to the gate that leads into the compound where I stay. He calls to me and at the same time starts to pee. He’s asking me what my name is as he is peeing, facing me. There are some really different things about this culture. Trying not to laugh I have a conversation with him. He tells me that his name is also Akwasi, for Sunday born. I couldn’t tell if he was sober, but I knew something was a little off with him. This reminds me of the walk home from Wonoo yesterday. A man approached me and was drooling on him self and speaking nonsense. He was fairly aggressive, but not threatening. The family that always asks me to bring them bread came up to the path behind me. I could hear them approaching me as I was speaking to this man. I felt very comfortable knowing that they were watching out for my safety. Again, that’s why I think those walks are probably safer than riding the Tro Tro. As the man passed the one of the girls told me that man has lost his mind and not to worry about him. Even those people had seemed like they only wanted to talk to me to get bread, they were also concerned for my safety. I don’t think they helped me to get bread out of it because that time had been the second time I told them I have no money to buy them bread.

 While I’m on the subject of Thursday’s walk home… I passed the crazy man and entered the edge of the junction town. Remember I said before that this place was much different in the afternoon. Well it is about 17:00 and at first sight, there is clearly a different crowd roaming the streets. There are many more children, but also many more adults. I greet the first bunch of people, where those men told me in the morning to not walk on the roads here. As I greeted them some kids run up yelling “Obroni, Obroni!” I ask their names and persist that I have no money for them. I don’t look behind me, but I can hear the children following closely behind me. They have stopped asking for things, so maybe they just want to see where I’m going. An old man at the next stop grabs my hand to shake and uses that to pull me to him. I don’t think his head was on totally straight, but either way he decided to join the boys and follow me. The next group is mostly older men, about 50 to 60 years old. They tell me that they are all teachers at the primary school near the edge of town. They seemed very interested in why I am in Ghana. Every chance I have I am using Twi to answer their questions, asked in English. Each time I answer a question they all cheer together. They tell me multiple times I am welcome anytime in their town. I think the cheering got some other people attention because I look behind me and the group following me has doubled. I feel like Forest Gump, when he just decides to run across the US. I sort of didn’t know what I am doing, except for walking home, and I don’t think the people following me really know what they are doing either. Now I’m getting toward the other edge of town and the group is even bigger. Apparently I’m in this town to lead a parade. The way people look at me and follow me, I honestly feel like I’m some kind of talking animal or some kind of Frankenstein experiment. It’s one thing to have children run out from nowhere screaming your name or Obroni, but it’s a whole other thing when half a town is following you down the street. I have to admit, it is quite fun. I always think of the good ideas after, but as I get back on the desolate road and the crowd disappears, I realize the potential I had right there. I could have made this a very funny event. I should have turned around to see if I could get the crowd to walk in circles or something silly like that. Good thing I’m going to be here for a while. I will definitely be doing something of that nature. Your suggestions are very welcome.

 Continuing with this walk I am on the outskirts of Antoa now and I make sure to say hello my lady friends. As I’m speaking to the first group, the most vocal of them starts to do something that looks like she is scratching her breast. Then, before I can answer the next question she pulls out her breast and starts feeding her baby. My eyes are going crazy. I have no idea where to look. I look up at the sky. No, I can’t act weird about this, so I look at her friend next to her. She addresses me again and I have to look at her when I respond, so I suck it up and do. By the way, she is totally calm during this whole thing. This is either very common here or this is another game to see how uncomfortable they can make the Obroni. Speaking of making me uncomfortable, the women outside the compound where I stay always tells me she wants to have sex. She just says it right in front of the whole group. So of course when I got back to the house she calls me over. I walk over and she tells me again, but this time I try to pretend like I don’t understand the Twi. The man behind her, who has always translates for me if I stand there for too long, says “she is asking you for fuck time.” When she has told me this in the past I just have laughed and tell her that I have to go and run some errands or any other excuse I can come up with. This time I try to hold my ground. I tell her “3y3 s3n,” which means how much. She says “I’m for free, baby.” I respond “No, how much are you going to pay me.” The women behind her burst out laughing, meanwhile she is looking at me with a very serious look. She is so good at not breaking character, it’s quite amazing. She turns and whispers a few things, before turning back around and saying she will give me 15 Cedis. I stand there and keep eye contact with her and don’t respond for about 20 seconds. The man behind her repeats the amount. I finally answer and say, “no, that’s not enough for me.” She finally laughs and then tells me to get out of there. I think I’m starting to get the hang of this thing. Adam’s comment on one of my posts actually really helped. The locals here have a very good sense of humor and I think most of them are just testing me, including the young men who have been very aggressive in the past. I have a new game to play with them and I’m excited for the next test.

 When I get back to the house Daniel and I start our Twi lessons. Then dinner is ready and we sit down for emoo, kosua, na peppeay (Twi for rice, eggs, and how they pronounce pepper in English). The Akan people are not very good with pronouncing the er’s. The pepper was different from the other peppers I have seen. There is only a small amount on top of the rice, so I have a feeling it is spicy. I mix the rice and spread out the pepper as much as possible. The first bite I take is like a shotgun blast of spiciness. Much different from the stew I had the night before. It was instantly hot and very intense. This doesn’t seem spicier than the stew, but it certainly is having more of an effect on my senses. I’m trying to listen to Daniel and make eye contact as he tells me about political issues in Ghana and the rest of Africa. He either knows I am struggling with the peppers or thinks that I am very sad about their situation here. My eyes are watering, my nose is continuously flowing, and the sweat is practically dripping off my forehead. I finish the food as fast as possible and try not to make a fast brake for the water. As I’m sitting there listening to Daniel the spice goes away. It came fast and went just as fast. Danile and the nurses spent the rest of the night arguing about Ghanaian politics in Twi. I try to keep up, but the more tired I get, the more it sounds like gibberish.

 I go to bed and fall asleep almost instantly. In the middle of my sleep I hear a loud explosion and nearly leap out of bed. My mind is racing now. Is the town being attacked? Is the larium peaking? I’m pretty sure I’m awake. Actually I have no idea if I’m awake, but I want to find out who just threw the grenade at my house. I know what a gunshot sounds like and this was much louder, fuller, and deeper. There was no mistaking that this was some kind of explosion. I start to calm down and realize that it is raining. I get back into bed without opening my door and now it starts to poor. My roof is metal, so the rain is making a very loud constant static of sound. Then I hear the explosion again and see the flash of lightning in the sky. Then I realize this is my first Ghanaian storm. Some things I will exaggerate for fun, but I am not exaggerating that this was the loudest thunder I’ve ever heard before. Maybe the town has a bunch of pointy roofs that are attracting the lightning right over my building. Either way it was a bit scary and I couldn’t go back to sleep until it ended a few hours later. I can’t remember ever, even as a kid, ever feeling scared of a storm. This time I don’t know if I was scared or just nervous, but I certainly wasn’t comfortable enough to sleep. I finally went back to sleep and had a crazy Larium dream, where I’m telling my family all about the storm, but they don’t believe me. Who knows maybe it was all a dream. However the water bins were much more filled in the morning, so I’m inclined to think that it happened.

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One thought on “Antoa Program, Cultural Immersion, and A Storm

  1. I can’t believe no one has commented on this story! First, next time you are leading that crowd, you need to start doing cartwheels or something. I like the idea of walking in giant circles, too, until they figure out what you are doing. They probably follow you because they have never seen an Obroni with such a large head before. Can you imagine when they see Mom when she comes to visit?! They’ll think their village has been invaded by a ghostly spirit and everyone will be dancing naked with a pot on their head.

    Also, I think you handled the “f time” girl perfectly. Although, she probably likes you more now, which can be a bad thing in itself… Haha, good luck with that.

    Lastly, you grew up in Cali. You have no idea what a real storm is like except for that ONE you experienced in Nicaragua, so I’m not surprised you woke up crying in the middle of the night. Oh…did I read that wrong? I love storms. I think they are magical.

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