Then half of the stay was over, and 2009 was over and being 16 was over and therefore three new pages had been opened, blank and ready for me to create my own life with. Time Time Time is taking me breathless through, sweeping me off my feet into and beyond the days and moments and weeks. I wish I could just pause and speak of all the emotions, sights, and beings I have encountered.
The Holidays With Family
Christmas did not feel like Christmas, but not only because I was in skirts and sunburned. My host grandmother's 80th birthday was the 26th, and her massive party was held here in my house, so the days before and after were filled with relatives and friends and cooking and cleaning and more cooking and generally preparing. The amount of food we made- well, I should say THEY made, becasue I mostly walked around in awe or chopped onions or fetched water or took care of Lady- was incredible. Coolers and coolers full of rice, watchee (a rice and bean dish from the north which I LOVE) and jallof- huge cauldrons of stew and soup and shito (a spicy sauce for the rice and watchee) and fried chicken and fish. Christmas night I sat out back with my sisters peeling onions at midnight when it began to pour on us- dancing in the rain after scrambling to get the laundry and food under shelter, in the streetlight, washing the day's work away... Then I made christmas cookies with my little brothers... and I have to say they came out alright, though most people found them too sweet... and it was 4 am and my mom and auntie were still frying the chicken and fish out in the yard because the rain had gone as suddenly as it had begun. The next day at the party there must have been a few hundred people in our yard and over the course of the party all the food was eaten,though I'd thought it not possible. I enjoyed feeling like a part of the family when I was helping out and being part of running the party- serving and clearing amidst just dancing and talking and enjoying the outcome of all the hard work.
Ghanaian parties are very big and they all seem to appear the same... loads of food, people sitting and eating in their lovely dresses and some people dancing, a loud sound system pumping the air with live singing in Twi what are probably mostly Christian songs.
For another few days after the party we were cleaning up all the dishes and repacking all the rented cutlery and plates... our yard is mostly recovered though there are still black spots of burnt grass and one of the laundry lines is almost touching the ground... I don't know what destroyed it.
31st night is big in Ghana. They don't watch a ball drop (and from far away, describing the event it seems so absolutely random!) or clink champagne glasses at midnight... no, every Ghanaian rich or poor, pious or not goes to church on the last day of the year to pray in the new season and release the old. So even if it was not the New Year's Eve I might have been expecting, it certainly was once-in-a-lifetime! I went to Independence Square where there were thousands of people gathered for the International Christian Gospel Church service. The pastor was really quite good and preached about this new year being one of BREAKTHROUGH for all people in all areas of life. The last 15 minutes of '09 we were all praying praying praying- people jumping, shouting, rocking back and forth whispering "jeasus jeasus JEASUS" and then the last second struck and we all broke out cheering and a thousand white handkerchiefs were waving in the midnight before me and a firework went off alighting the arc-de-triumph-look-alike with the black star and FREEDOM AND JUSTICE declared on top. Everyone a dancin and singing in the new year and we got little bottles of oil to anoint ourselves with and we shook the hands of those around and there were tears in my eyes as they swept the crowd again and again in disbelief.
The young days of 2010 were fairly uneventful- bidding my mom and brothers goodbye again as the headed back to South Africa maybe not to return until I leave. They left a rather enormous rip in my heart and vacuum in the house. I thoroughly miss them all- playing snooker with Jake, bouncing Lady and making faces with her, Marco-Polo in the pool with Baron and Kelvin and, of course, cooking with my African Mama. Once they left though I rallied up my friends and we all went down to Cape Coast- about two hours out of Accra.
The three days whirled past on salty air and 5 am wake up calls- deep dungeons and dark jungle- pineapple juice dripping down our chins and loaves of bread. We four- Adam, Marie, Sofie and myself- got a ride down with my host brother Bush and got a flat tire on the way, in the middle of green mountains and coconut trees. The first day we woke early to see the sun rise on the roof of our hostel.... but of course the Hamatan dust hazed out the horizon all day.
Cape Coast is most famous for the salve castles built by the Portuguese in the 17th century. The castle in Elmina was actually the first sub-Saharan fort built in Africa and became an epicenter of European desire along the coast causing tension among the colonizers. Of course the castles were used to house the whites, most prominently the Governor, and there was much trading of goods through those white walls, however a significant chunk of that trading was the shipping off of slaves to all parts of North and South America.
We were able to go on tours in both of the castles on which we were taken down to the dungeons where the slaves had been kept for months at a time- deep under the castle, dark with barely air holes but at least tall ceilings- told us about how around 200 men would be crammed in as much space as the Governor got for his living quarters, how they were chained to each other as they died and had no place to dispose of their body waste. Of how food and water had been simply tossed on for the fittest to struggle for.
And how the women, crammed in the same conditions only saw the light of day when brought out to be looked over by the Governor when he desired them... and only washed if they were the one chosen to climb to his chambers.
By the way, this is me and Adam climbing the poles that had been used for training the soldiers. The next day my arms complained royally, asking me why I had decided to climb up it...twice.
Katkum National Park
From Cape Coast, Katkum is only a 40 minute taxi drive and we spent a lovely day on the beach and shopping before heading out to the jungle.
Arriving around 5pm to an empty park, the park rangers led us up to the sleeping platforms we had read about in the Lonely Planet guide book. About a ten minute hike through the deep forest around and over roots- it was like the floor was alive with snakes frozen on top of one another.
Somehow there were showers up there in the middle of the "campsite"- open showers with just stone walls and after such a long day we readily stripped down and cleaned off there in under the canopy in the coming dusk- rapidly coming dusk... Adam, being the last one to bathe, came back in the dark. I remember Sofie's darling voice calling to him, Adam? Yea- . . . Adam? Adam? (more high pitched now) ADAM??? Wut? OH, thank you. oh, what for? Oh, just being you, and being there, and answering and being alive.
Our accommodation, which was I think 36 Ghana Cedis, was an elevated platform about the size of a king bed with wooden railings around it, a few steps up, a mattress, a low mosquito net and a tin high roof that would not have helped against rain, and only blocked out the stars... few though they were through the thick canopy. So the four of us crawled under the mosquito net, ate some fried rice we had bought by flashlight beams, and tried not to think about how utterly alone we were. The night was uneventful, fortunately, but the whole place reminded me way too much of a Thai horror movie I'd seen and so I was pretty creeped out and as Anna could attest to, a bit jumpy.
Around 5 the next morning we aroused, still in darkness, got dressed, packed up, at a little bread we'd bought out of the taxi window on the way there, and went down to the lodge. Getting to the canopy walk by 6 or 6:30, the whole place was ours, and even our guide had to go to leave us to open up the exit, as we were the first tour of the day. Considering that the previous day we had talked to some Californians who were not all that impressed by Katkum- having been on a tour of 40 and therefore pretty much ushered through the series of rope bridges, I considered us very wise to have stayed overnight and gone so early. The canopy walk is incredible. Suspended between the tops of very tall trees, above the mesh of green vines and branches but below even greater limbs- in the mist of the morning, in the cool of the day, the sun eventually rising, out above the distant treetopped hills.
A monkey scooting up the long smooth stretch of trunk to the awaiting fruit above- followed by another, and another, and another- funny fuzzy little creatures in their own domain just doing their morning thing. Then they jumped from one tree to a shorter one and scooted down that one's trunk. Apparently there are many kinds of monkeys in the park as well as some forest elephants, however they are very shy and we were counted as lucky to have seen anything "wild" at all.
Imagine the perfection of that moment- sun rising, monkeys climbing, four little humans on top of the world- and for those of you who know me well, that is exactly where I like to be- the fresh air, the long day ahead, the pure white satisfaction of having gotten myself there.... with a ton of support and guidance and reassuring and trust and wisdom from so many many people. So here is a little shout out to everyone who helped me- teachers, relatives, friends, AFS, YES, Bra Bush and of course, most importantly my beloved parents. Thank you for giving me this, for letting me go, for teaching your fledgling to fly- and look where I have perched. I wouldn't let you down if you could see me now, here in the treetops, here in the world, in the beauty and the sorrow of reality- out here, where I belong.
The Ride Home
...don't remember much...