Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sacirfice and Sunshine

Step back, relax, look through the glass one more time. But I inevitably see myself reflected, wide eyed and expressionless, waiting for a way to get through to the outside, trying to break the inertia.

Then REWIND---

The second Eid Muslim festival, in honor of when Ishmael (not Issac) was almost sacrificed by Abraham as a test by God to ensure his dedication, was a few weeks back. We were able to spend the day with a Muslim couple going to a few different mosques to pray and witness the sacrificing of a cow, which we had NOT prepared for. Actually we were slightly prepared, for in the morning we met at the embassy where the American head of cultural affairs, as sweet woman who had done much work in West Africa. She kept making comments that we were so brave to be doing what we were doing today and she didn't think she could handle a sacrifice, and we looked at each others surprised faces thinking, well, in this case there was less bravery and more ignorance.

Sacrifices are made in honor of Allah on this national holiday and the meat is divided into three parts- one for the family who bought and killed the cow, one for the family and friends that they decide to bequeath with cow, and one for the needy, orphans and homeless.

This is an excerpt of my journal entry after the day:

Moments in time- the animal on the cement, tied hooves, limp tail. A calm beast, like one who is resigned to accept it's fate, knowing the dull blade is meant for its jugular vein. In the name of Allah- but is it ever right to slaughter so inhumanely even in God's name? When the blade came down I expected the metal to slice through the flesh, to immediately abort the flow of life- instead the man slowly sawed through the tough flesh, through the veins, through the bone- a hollow pipe thus exposed, and the stony animal barely grunted.
Red rivers running toward the feet of the wide eyed children, barely scaring them away. Final shudders of life shaking the massive animal- bolts of energy screaming it's not my time to die.

Later we tried a Nigerian/Ghanaian dish that we had never had. It was a sticky ball made of rice and cassava powder- slightly sour by itself, and you dip it in a tomato stew/sauce or a green one that was very very slimy and not entirely appetizing. Overall it was enjoyable, though not something to write home about ha ha ha. Sorry.

I also got a new perspective on the veil as it being a means of protection for women through being modest. I actually realized that in the future I would consider veiling myself for that very purpose if caught in a situation that called for it. Our host explained to us how Muslims believe that since we have cloth we aught to wear it and it is considered primitive to expose unnecessary skin. This is the thought behind their modesty, which I find very interesting, even if I don't quite agree.

Then there was the trip to Krokrobite (pronounced krokrobitae) that I took with some other exchangers which I mentioned in my last blog. About 45 minutes outside of Accra, we got there by public transport, me and four others squished up in the back of the trotro with one rasta man who was very nice.
Just a note- the lights just went off, so we are 8 kids age 1-19 sitting in an absolutely dark den where the TV was recently unfolding some soap opera, we are lit by cell phones and laptops, the blue illumination coming from hands- blue tooth r&b entertainment playin the song i've been singin all day, and Lady crying probably because it is dark, because she is usually so content. Oh. They just came back on. Everything is Illuminated.

Today I went to the mall and on my way home I saw someone selling very old beat up books on the street, so I moseyed over and found some titles like "The Russian Adoption Handbook" and guidebooks for Guatemala, Amsterdam, San Fransisco, Canada and London, then Ovid's Metomorphosis which I bought for 1.5 cedis, about a buck. There was some Martha Stewart- but it was like some biography on her brother. I definitely got a good laugh and will be visiting the spot again.

Back to the beach- traveling there, out of the city, in the trotro slowly approaching the water, a truly sparkling blue ocean, the perma-swayed palm trees then through the coastal villages, little more than slums, sprawling and inhabited boxes with crisscrossed lines of laundry. Then when we reached Big Milliy's Back Yard we were in resort zone obruni land.
These long fishing boats on the hot hot sand, massive nets hanging off and around- boys playing football on the beach and heaps of scarves from Libera sold by a rasta in a blue sequin midriff. the whole place was a rasta camp- nice background reggae and assuredly a peaceful place (and for those of you who would jump to the wrong as conclusion I would, no, the place did NOT reek of wee, though I'm sure it would have been readily available). In the trotro going home we met a nice obruni volunteer from Germany. He had just finished high school and was through some small NGO... then he told me that he had been an exchanger in Texas living with a single Indian (as in East Indian) woman who had grown up in South Africa, gone to college in Canada and was hosting a Venezuelan student at the same time! Now that is a cultural experience.

These children were selling bowfloats- large puffy balls of fried dough- and when I began snapping them, oh they loved it, except one girl, the one who told me to delete the picture of her- insisted really.

From the left- Sophie, Me, Marie, Silka and Coralie, the latter two have since gone home- they were on the 6 month volunteer trip.

This was from the football match- though you can't tell, this man is very short and the popcorn is about half his height again and he just cruised the stadium selling sugar or salt popcorn for 50 peswas.

My small brother Jake, or as we call him, Kookoo (because his day name is Kweku) and my little sis Abena, though we call her Lady.

Scattered Scales.

May the new year be blessed and prosperous.
Love to all.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Take me out to the ball game


National Ghanaian teams- arch rivals here in Accra, today, 4 cedis ($2.75 maybe), wear red and white if you are Kotoko, the Ashanti team from Kumasi, or red, blue and yellow for the Hearts of Oak.

I wore red and white.

Waiting in the stadium, the energy mounting with drums and chants, the Hearts fans with gourds and rhythm, all the young men in yellow and red clapping and dancing. Although I have only experienced one actual professional sports game (baseball) in a stadium before, I can safely guess that American fans don't drum and dance to pump up the vibes. Especially not the young men. Watching and feeling the unity in the division I somehow appreciated sports all the much more in that moment. Looking around the stadium, which was not that big as stadiums go, but had a fairly good turn out I noticed at least three drums leading a beat for the surrounding fans to celebrate to- all through the game they played, singing religious songs, and songs about the team.

Before the game began, two gulls flew over the stadium and the fans wearing red and white began cheering. At first I couldn't figure why- there was no action on the field, but then I saw people pointing at the sky and realized it was the gulls, who were then joined by more. I then remembered all that I've been told about how the Ghanaians are very superstitious when it comes to sports and since the gulls were white, they were considered a good omen for Kotoko.

I sat there with all my brothers (young and old, for the young ones are back from South Africa) and my bra Bush kept a heated exchange going with some rival fans sitting behind us- I can't really express how funny it was how their tones (for that was all I could understand) would swing from joviality to the heated passion of enemies. I would hear them spitting twi back and forth and then turn and see a wide grin on my brother's face- he gave a bet that we'd get the first goal within 5 mins, a bet which we unfortunately lost.....

As always, there were people selling things from their heads, but today I saw a new one- some small school boy was selling gum, mentos, and cigarettes. First, of course, I thought it was strange seeing cigarettes being sold at all because nobody smokes but then I realized how young the boy was and thought of legal ages... something that is easy to forget about here.

The match itself was unfortunate. Kotoko scored on a penalty kick but the ref called a foul and the goal was canceled. Hearts scored and the score stayed 1-0 for the rest of the time. I can say that the ref did NOT seem to be neutral, and I have heard that there is much corruption in sports here....

As we left the stadium among the celebratory music and water spraying everywhere- people were throwing water bottles off the stadium after emptying them on their neighbors- there was a row of young men responding to the call of nature along a wall... or should I say they were seeing a wall about a horse.... Ghana Ghana.


I have no thoughts to speak of me, no mind space left to ramble about my own self, but I can say that I've been doing very well these past days and weeks. I can say that I've been sunburned from a beautiful day on a beach- the sort of perfectly tropical beach that seems impossible to have reached and to be sitting on, eating a pineapple that is not the best pineapple I've ever had but is quenching and succulent in the moment. I can say that I've been singing and watching the sun, been being myself, been exploring what that means and finding interesting things.

Nyame Adom, me ho ye.

Peace and blessings.