Recap on the Funeral, Catching a Bus, and Arriving in Tamale

Today is Monday, November 11th (Yes, I know I’m behind again on the blog), the day Spencer and I leave for Tamale, in the Northern region of Ghana. That’s two regions above where I am now. Now I’m in the Ashanti Region, next up is the Bran Ahafo Region, then the Northern region, followed by the two upper regions at the very top of Ghana. We are going to the Northern Region to visit one of Spencer’s PCV friends and experience an event called Fire Festival in their village. After that, my plan is to leave north through the Northern Region and the Upper East Region to cross the boarder into Burkina Faso. I need to cross the boarder to get stamped back in and get my visa renewed. The other option to extend or renew my visa time is to go to the Embassy and buy the extension. Each month is 40 Cedis. I had to do this a few weeks ago because I had no other choice and when I got my passport back two weeks later, I saw they only gave me a 20 day extension. Forgetting the transportation costs, crossing the border is completely free and when I enter Ghana I will get a 60-day extension and the chance to experience another country. I have quite a week ahead of me!

 Before I start talking about the trip up North, I want to go over a few things about the funeral a few days ago on Saturday. I wasn’t there for a very long time because I had work for Expo to do. When we arrived an old man led Spencer and I through the family compound into a room where Momma Fausty and her mom were lying dead on two nicely decorated tables. When I see Momma Fausty I immediately get a flash back of the last time I spoke with her and I began to get a feeling of shock. I’ve never seen a dead body of someone I’ve known. I don’t know what to say or do, so I just stand there and observe. This time there’s no option to just go straight, so I just freeze. I start to look around the room an notice my surroundings. There are people walking around me and through a sort of continuously moving line behind and around the bodies. It seemed everyone in the room was crying and a few were wailing to the point of screaming. I looked around at the people and locked eyes with a woman I greet every day. There was a strange look in her eye as she continued to turn around with her hands spread over her head, chanting something. I’m not sure what expression to have on my face, so I’m trying to keep it as neutral as possible. I didn’t know her well enough to have any feelings of sorrow or grief past the normal feelings that come up when someone might see a recognizable dead body. Then, I noticed that my emotions starting to match those that are so poignant in the room. A great feeling of sadness is washing over me right as the old man looks at Spencer and I and gestures to leave the room. I’m not very experienced with funerals, but sure as hell know that’s not how mine will be. One of my roommates in college experienced a lot of death in his family when we lived together, so this conversation came up often. We both agreed that there would be nothing but a celebration at our funerals. I want my funeral to be a party with laughing, dancing, eating, and drinking. I think it’s a silly waste of time to get people together to all cry together and feel bad that I’m gone. Instead I want people to be telling hilarious and outrageous stories and all be happy that our lives were touched by each other in this crazy world. Of course there will be crying, but there’s no way I’ll let that be the main theme of the event after I go out. Life is too short to be sad that we’ve lost something; I think we should try our best to be happy that any of it happened. Anyway, we left that room and walked down a long aisle of people and shook all of their hands. Then we entered the compound where Momma Fausty stayed and there were a bunch of people sitting in chairs along the boarder of the big room in a sort of square shape with multiple rows. We walked around and greeted everyone in the first row, starting with those on the very right. One older woman who is always very nice to me when I greet her came up and escorted Spencer and I to some seats. We sat there and observed for a few minutes. Then we made out donation, which they announced over the loud speaker, and left the event.

 All right, back to a happy note about the trip today. I wake up at my usual time of 04:30 and get a quick bucket shower. Knowing I have to et to the bus station at 06:00 to catch the bus that leaves at 07:00, I have the same energy I normally do when I’m on my way to catch a plane. I’m packed and completely ready by 05:10. Bad news, Spencer is 10 minutes from being readyand I’m literally shaking with the energy to travel. Partially because I would have literally started bouncing off the walls and partially because I wanted to scout for breakfast, I leave ahead of Spencer. Swimming in the back of my consciousness I also have this illogical need to get to important appointments much ahead of time. For everything I attend I run on Lonbardi time, which is a story I’ve heard form my ad so many times that it has become engrained in my head and has actually helped me a lot in the past. Vince Lombardi, a college basketball coach, would tell his players if they weren’t 15 minutes early, they were late. To me, that has sound logic. If something unexpected happens, you have 15 minutes to deal with it and still show up on time to most people. I also like to get to places early and get to know the area. However, I will admit there is no logic to why when I’m catching transportation I calculate all the usual delays and then add at least an hour onto the time. I guess I just feel more comfortable if I know I have enough time when an emergency delay occurs. That’s probably the third underlying reason I left at 05:10. I catch a few Tro Tros and get into Adum to the bus station. As I’m walking, I’m keeping my eyes peeled for koko and kosi. Not one person is out on the street, selling any type of food. I find the enterance street to the station and check the time, 05:45. Exactly an hour ahead of Lombardi, just as planned. Using the extra time, I walk down the street asking for the koko and kosi seller. I ask some people on the street, speaking only in Twi. I still love how simply speaking Twi can bring a huge smile to most people’s faces. Sometimes I can even get them to yell and run around in surprise and excitement. Being inKumasi, the people are much more used to seeing Obroni’s and are less likely to have such a strong reaction. This held true with the first few people I’m passing. Then I see some women to my right, cooking in large pots, behind a building and away from the street. I walk down and greet them. Immediately the younger one in the front is yelling “Ayyy!” They tell me to keep going down the street and I tell them I’m leaving. When I get a few feet away, they call me back as if they were to stunned to ask more questions when I first approached them. After going through the regular Twi script that my town people have helped me master so well, the women have completely stopped cooking and are coming closer to get a look at the Obroni speaking Twi. I take my leave andt ell them so. On my way out I turn around ajust before I turn the corner and say “Yebe shia,” or we shall meet. That usually gets them going and was very successful here. I can hear them howling as I turn the corner to continue down the street. I don’t know if I’ve said this before, but I’m going to put the phonetic spelling of the Twi so that way you can get the right sounds down because that’s how I started and I think it’s more important than the exact spelling. Not that I could get the correct spelling anyway.

 As I get further down the street I realize people justdon’t sell food before 6:30. I give up the search and haead back to the bus station. I’m just around the corner to the enterance street for the station and I look down a long alley and see some people cooking. I pass the alley and stop about three feet past to remember an important lesson I learned with my mom this past summer. With out getting too into the story, we missed out on a cool experience because neither of us acted on instinct that told us to speak up and be assertive about wanting to go in a certain direction. Instead, we just assumed what we were doing was right and went with the flow. We felt bad that we missed out, but I refused to let this pass as just a negative hole in our experience. Instead, on the ride home I vowed to myself and my mom that I would never miss out on an experience because I wasn’t aggressive enough to speak up or act out, therefore letting something just pass because of an assumption. On that third step past the alley when I stopped, the lesson flashed through my head, so I turned around to wlk down the alley to the people cooking. I greeted them in Twi and they immediately lit up with smiles. It was a fiamily and the two main people talking were the father and other. After telling them about my search the father told me to follow him. I walked a few feet behind him as we trekked through of of the may back alley systems of Kumasi. I’m also speaking the whole walk to this man in Twi and understanding everything we are talking about. I suddenly felt very connected to the Ashanti people. The fruits of my labor to immerse myself in this culture are really paying off and I love every second of the experience. Okay, maybe not every second, but you know what I mean. We went around a corner and found some ladies cooking in a large pot. He told me they were preparing the koko, but it wouldn’t be ready until 06:30. He then walked me out of the alley sytem to the street and showed me where the ladies would be selling the food. We walked back through the alleys to his families spot and I thanked them and said I had to go to the station. After going up the road, I arrived in the waiting area at 06:10. Not bad for all that searching around. Spencer shows up shortly after and at 06:30 we leave to get the ko and kosi. We take th amin street and avoid tha lley ways on thwe way to the spot. When we arrive two men are already lined up to buy the same thing. The woman recognized me from the alley way and smiled as she told me that they had only koko because the kosi is still being cooked. I bought just 50 peswas of koko and we took the alley back to the station. I pass by the family and tank them again for heling hme find the food seller. Back at the station I enjoy the extra gingery kok and read some. I’m now reading a spy book that’s just as addicting or most so than th watchers was. Time flies by and it’s now almost 08:00 and there is still no bus to be found. I tell Spencer that I’m going to go back for the kosi. This time I go alone and take the express route through the alley way. I tell my friends “mekwaba” as I pass them. That means I’m going and coming and is actualy four different words, me ko a ba, that sounds like on quick oword. When I get back to the seller she is just placing a big bowl of freshly made kosi on her table. This time one of the other seller sis next to her. As I’m ordering the kosi, another woman walks up to join the conversation. The seller asks me, in Twi, to take her with me backto America. I’m asked that question a lot in Antoa, so almost instinctively I tell her to bring me her money. That always seems to get them to laugh and stop insisting to go with e. With the fresh and hot kosi, I head back to the alley short cut. The father is there and I thnank him again for thehelp and tell him I’m going to catch the bus. As I’m Levin I tell them my usual fairwell in Twi. Apparently, there is a woman aboce us listening because as I’m walking away I can hear her yell “Ayy!” and she repeats what I said as if she’s in disbelief that I could make those sounds. Back at th station I try the kosi. It’s by far the best kosi I’ve ever had. It’s warm still from being cooked and ahs a great contrast between the soft donut-like center and the crispy fried-like outer skin. Shortly after I begin to write this journal entry.

 Then at about 09:00, 2 hours ater we’re supposed to leave, people start to get impatient. One man walks over to what looked like a little office room and he starts yelling at the covered window. Someone, who appeared to be the manager, poked their head out of the second story wwindow. They only said a few things and then closed their curtins the an tcontinued to yell, pace back and forth, and throw his hands around like a boxer warming up for a big fight. Then, other people get up out of their seats and start joining in. Unable to control my laughter and interest, I put my book away and enjoy the free show. The boxer now looks like he has fans in the crowd as people start to get out of their seat and join in with the yelling. Instead of joining him right next to the window some just stay by their seat or sit back down and continue. Some stay standing and start to pace back and forth and direct their yelling to the people next to them as if they’re trying to start a riot. If I didn’t know Ghanaians are so peaceful, I would have been more worried about a rebellion. Instead, it is just comical and entertaining. At 09:40, we gave up and got our money back for our tickets. We left to head to another bus station to hope that we will have better luck and maybe even save some money.

 On the taxi ride to the new station I am looking out of the window and observing a neighborhood that I haven’t explored. I realized it’s for a good reason as I start to see all the dirt and grime. This looks like a place where tourists get pick pocketed or conned into something. Then we come to a slow crawl as we pass by a stopped cart on the right side of the road. I’m looking around the are trying to take in all the sights, good and bad. Then my vision focuses on a big wagon stopped on the side of the road. In the back is a pile of dead cows. I’m glad the window is up because I think the smell would make me throw up. The cows were sitting there in pieces, for who knows how long. It is a horrifying sight, but for some reason I can’t take my eyes away. Right before it leaves my view I see a cow head hanging over the side with it’s tongue hanging out and it’s eyes wide open.

 With the new bus, we finally departed north for Tamale at 11:15. I mostly read on the bus and finished the first spy book of the series I have. As we got further North I noticed the buildings are getting less modern. Almost all of themare the traditional Ghanaian mud and stick houses , but these had straw cone-shaped roofs. I also noticed that the trees and vegetation are getting much less dense. It feels less like a forest and more like a savanna. The trees become much thicker the more south you go in Ghana and vise versa when you go north. We arrive in Tamale around 18:00 and find Spencer’s Peace Corps Volunteer friends. From there we take a taxi to the small village where we will be staying for the next ffew days. We squeezed 7 people into the taxi, with two in front four in back, and one in the trunk. It’s a hatchback, so the trunk is probably the best spot. We drive on a two laned road for about 30 minutes before turning onto dia dirt one. Ther are some speed bumps that I can feel scrape the bottom of the car through my feet. On the second speed bump the driver tells us we wont make it, so the six of us in the front and back get out. We are walking next to the car as it easioly clears the last speed bumps. We hop back in and continue down the road. It’s dark now, so I can’t make out much of the scenery. However, I can feel how smooth the road is and how fast the taxi is moving. This seems like an exception to most of the roads I’ve experienced so far. After about another 15 minutes of driving down the road, we reach her place. It’s a quaint compound with no electricity and limited space. Spencer, Chris, and I all sleep outside. Emily, Spencer’s friend that lives here, gave us a bug net and a pad so I’m more than happy to sleep under the starts. After all the traveling and being up since very early I fall asleep very fast.

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One thought on “Recap on the Funeral, Catching a Bus, and Arriving in Tamale

  1. Okay, wait. Vince Lombardi was the coach of the Green Bay Packers, not a basketball coach. And fix the “I” in the funeral part of the story. They should be “me”. Figure it out.

    I love your stories so keep them coming. Dad

    Date: Wed, 20 Nov 2013 18:13:17 +0000 To: bhotmer@hotmail.com

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