Fire Festival

This morning Emily soaks some dried blueberries, she got in a care package from home, to make pancakes. They’re delicious and make me realize how much I miss the food from back in the U.S. I think the biggest downside of me being in Ghana, besides not being around my family and friends of course, is not having access to all the different kinds of great food. I hope this will help me appreciate the food more when I get back… at least for a few months. I didn’t want to tell anyone, but I’m still a little hungry after the pancakes. Emily brings out a bag of mini mangoes that we bought at the market last night before heading home. No one goes for the mangoes. I’m a little confused considering they’re fresh off the tree and probably much better than anything you can find back in the U.S. See there’s a trade off because the fruit that is available here is very fresh and cheap, unlike back home. I wait for a few minutes out of courtesy for anyone to go for the manoges. When no one does, I take the lead and eat the first one out of the package. It has an amazingly sweet flavor with the thick creamy mangoe juice. I think everyone here is also used to eating these fresh mangoes. They have all been in country for much longer than I and since mangoe season just passed this summer I’m sure everyone had their fill when they could get the big ones. I bet since these are at the end of the season they aren’t as good as the other’s. I don’t notice the difference as I devour my mango.

 The group heads off to town to pick up another PCV, say goodbye to two, and stop by the mango processing plant. Obviously I’m most excited about the mango facility where Emily has told us about the frozen mango purees that we can get. We take the same motorcade back to town and then drive on the regular road. Tro Tros are passing us and Emily flags one down as it passes. It swerves in front of us and then we yell to the driver to stop and he swerves in front of it. The two leaving us get out and join the Tro Tro to reach their destination. That was a pretty good move that Emily just pulled there. I wasn’t even sure you could hail a Tro Tro while you were still getting another ride from another car. We enter the dried mango half of the palant first and I get three bags. Then we go across the street to the frozen puree part. We get a big container for everyone to enjoy together.

 We head back to the beer spot to sit in the shade and enjoy our new mango treats. Mr Adams, the owner of the beer spot, brings us glasses for the mango drink. After a few lifetimes of waiting the drink finally unfreezes enough for us to enjoy. I take my first sip and every second of the wait was well worth it. There is a perfect combination of mango bits and juice. It is like eating a mango that has already been chwed up in your mouth. It basically takes the work out of getting back all the tough fibers and I’m glad for it.

 We get back to Emilyy’s to get ready for Fire Festival in the evening and to tlet the new PCV we picked up un pack her stuff. We make a small mixed drink to start the fire festival celebration. Then we hike through the bushy area to meet tribes of people known for making the wagashie cheese. We walk along some of those paths that I explored on the first day. This time we walk much further back into the bush and come across some small gatherings of people . They have no more than 5 huts all made out of grass and sticks gathered in a circle. We pass through the first group of houses and give our “naaa” greetings. Then we continue on a path at the back of the first group of houses. We do this dance for a few more villages and now we’re really far back in the bush. I know Emily’s been here before, but now I’m getting alittle afraid at the remoteness of the situation. Then we realize we’re lost, so we head back along another path and find the place we are looking for. They aren’t making wagashie unfortunately, but it was a good experience to see these small gatherings of houses and communitites. I’m not even sure they are big enough to call a village. As we are heading back to her place and approaching the road I realize that the alcohol is jjust making me tired. I really just don’t get alcohol. I’ve never been a huge fan of it and it just gives me the opposite effects that it seems to give other people, I just get tired. On the way back we meet Emily’s counterpart, or local person she is linked with through the PC, and he tells us that he will stop by the place soon. When we get back Emily’s students are making some tourches for fire festival. The tourches consist of a bunch of dried brush gathered into a thick cylindrical shape and tied together. Then her counter part comes and shows us the sticks that he made for Emily and all of her friends. Great, not I have two four foot torches that I’m going to be trusted with… this could be bad. I could always just have one light for twice as long instead of having twice the amount of fire going at once.

 Now we leave for town with the older woman who is Emily’s roommate. We get dinner and eat over by Mr. Adam’s spot and wait for the festivities to start. Children can’t seem to wait and are already lighting things and chasing each other around. They start with tourches and then they just start lighting parts of the bush on the side of the road. One of the children was even using their torch to smack other’s in the back. Next thing I know there a loud explosion in the street that sounds awefully like gun shot. Great, just what we needed to add to the already dangerous situation of fire and alcohol… guns. We all get up off our chairs and walk down the path back to Emily’s that we came to town on. In the distance there is a small glowing light. I keep my eye on the light during our walk and notice it transform. As we get closer the light looks much wider and like something very big has been lit on fire. Then as we are much closer I begin to nitice that it’s not one fire, but actually a bunch of individual fires on the end of tourches held by people in the mob. I don’t think it is an angry mb, but I can’t tell because everyone is yelling and chanting. Sounds a lot to me like some one  was accused of being a witch. Knowning it’s firefestival, I calm my imagination down and figure it’s nothing as we continue to approach the energized group. Desprite my instincts throwing the red flags up left and right, I happily stoll into the thick of the crowd. I light the stick in my right hand because I figure I can control that better and then my boyish tenencies take over and I decide to light the lone in my left hadn as well. Why not just go all out. There’s no use in lessinging the potential experience. The one im my left hand is flaired out making not such a tight clyndrical shape and the flame extends to cover the entire fan of the sticks. I wuickly realize my fire is getting out of control because all of the peple around me are not as close to the other people around them. Some people are even scurrying away from me. I start to smack the sticks on the ground, thinking that would make the fire less. Instead it causes bits of burning stick to shoot in every direction causing people around me to yelp and run away even faster. Now, I’ve stopped walking and I am realy concentrating on trying to control these fires. I finally, with the reluctant help of a small child, get the fires under control and continue to follow the group. It’s hard to see anyone because of the glare between the bright flame and the darkness everywhere else. I follow the group aas they’re chanting, hitting drums, and marching toward an open field. I start to feel the energy of the crowd and really get into this whol thing. My pace quickens before I catch my foot on a bush and almost completely fall. The only problem with that is that my hands instinctually cushion me when I fall and this time my hands are occupied by big balls of fire. I laugh at my self for almost falling and get back into the flow of the crowd. Then I trip again, but catch my self a bit sooner. I lok down at what is trying to make me trip and burn and I notice that , while the ground is mostly dirt, there are bthick bushes that go about a half a foot in the air scattered about. Now I’m looking partially down and partially up at the tree that everyone is now gathering around. I make it up to the tree and copy everyone around me by throwing my sticks, lt on fire, into the tree. My first one goes much farther than I expected and sticks right into the tree. The one in my left hand is still a bit out of order, so I decide no to throw it and risk hurting myself or anyone else around me. I follow the group as they leave this tree and go to a second where they repeat the same process. On the way back to the first tree some small children hand me a premade stick because they see that I don’t have any more. I’m touched by the offer and light the stick. I walk up to the tree wit ht he stick just barely lit. I hesitate wanting to let the stick burn a little longer and then throw it inot the tree. It doesn’t stick in the tree and is much less exciting than the first on eI threw. This time when everyone leaves the tree I hang  around to see the process that everyone takes before leaving. I don’t notice anything strange, other than when everyone leaves there are a few men still under the tree screaming and manicly chopping at the trunk of the tree with their machettes. A little scared of them and losing the group I leave to find the group.

 On my way back down to the second tree, I realize that the people have continued down the road. I don’t feel un safe at all because I now have a big group of kids gathered around me staring at me in wonder. After some time walking down the road, I find two more of Emily’s PCV friends. We all continue to walk together to find the group. We come across a large gathering of people an my first instinct is that we caught up with everyone, but then at second look I realize the group is smaller than before and I don’t see any other white people. My first instinct was set off by the fact that the drummer is with this group of people. We decide to move on, but the group shifts focus and starts walking back over to the road where we’re standing. One man from the group with a machete distinguishes him self by his crazed motions and dancing. Then he pushes some woman and puts the machete to her neck like he’s going to cut her head off. I know I should keep walking, or even running now, but I can’t help but turn away from this event. He leaves her alone and then starts harassing someone else. Worried that he will start to target the white people that clearly stand out I start to walk down the path toward town, where we started at Mr. Adam’s. We finally catch up with Spencer, Emily, and the rest and everyone looks like they’re done. That’s quite different from the people that have now split up into smaller groups and are still marching and chanting around the village.

 Emily signals the motorcade and we all get in to get back to her place. We don’t say much on the ride back partially because of the shock of the event and the lack of energy from everyone. We get back to the house and pay the motorcade man and then I instantly go for my sleeping pad. My plan tomorrow is to get up and get ready before the sun is rising so that way I can walk down the road just as the light is reaching the day so that way I have the maximum amount of time to make it to Burkina Faso. I experienced many delays in Ghana before and I want to make sure I have the maximum time possible to explore the new territory.

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