Traditional welcome 06 Sept 08 (an oldie but goodie)

Today was a very good day. B.J. and Jennifer both texted me saying they had a good day too. After breakfast I went for a walk. I stood in the middle of the African savanah looking out over the tall grasses and was overcome with the joy of actually being here in Ghana. It took so long. I went through so much, good and bad that it is finally time to enjoy that I am here. Simona called me later in the morning and said to come and greet her grandmother. Abigail, Evelyn, and Doris went with me. I got a traditional welcome from Simona’s grandmother. She took me inside and then had me make the welcome drink. First Simona had me wash my hands. I put my hands over a bucket and she poured water over them. I rubbed my hands under the water. Then she handed me the calabash with about a quarter of a cup of millet flour in the bottom. She instructed me to remove my sandals and to place the calabash on the floor between my feet. I held the calabash with the sides of my feet. Next she showed me how to mix water with the millet. She poured about a quarter of a cup of water into the millet and with my right hand I mixed it together. When that was mixed she poured more water and I mixed again. The third time she poured about a cup of water in and I mxed the flour into the water creating a milky white liquid specked with brown and black. Now it was time to drink it. I asked was I supposed to share after I drank but she said no. I took a sip. It was bitter and spicy at the same time but somehow refreshing. Then I was given a small spoon and I scooped some of the flour off the bottom of the calabash. The flour was even more bitter and spicy. I drank some more liquid. Simona’s grandmother said I did not have to drink it all because I was not accustomed to it. Now we could visit. I tried some of my buili and Simona translated but we did not talk much in that formal setting. Simona then said she would take me to their traditional house. I asked if anyone lived there and she said only her other grandmother. But even if no one lived there it was the home of their grandparents and those before them so they would not destroy the buildings. On the way to the traditional house three women were working under the shade of a big boabab tree. They were pounding beans and shea nuts to remove the shells. I did speak some buili with them and managed to get some of my points across. then Elizabeth said in English “You want to learn our language!” To which I replied “Ah” and nodded my head. They were using a large pedstle to pound. The beans were in a hollowed out tree trunk. It was just the right height to stand and to pound the pedstle into it.Elizabeth let my pound. After the shells were removed another woman was winnowing to remove the shells. When I see the Ghanaians working I am amazed at the grace and ease with which they do the work. The arms and torso of the woman who was winnowing flowed with the direction of the wind. It would be a lovely move in a Ghanaian ballet. The boabab tree they were under had fruits hanging from a cord. They will be ripe in late Sept or early October. I will report on them. I did not bring my camera. One of the girls mentioned it and the women said I could return. Since I will be here for a long time I want to participate in many of the activities before I become an observer. I am not a tourist coming to snap photos but a community member. As a community member I want my photos to be a reflection of the life I know here. We then walked behind the new home and looked at the traditional home. Although I can’t describe it well enough, I will try. I will take photos another time, The interiro and exterior walls are mud. I do not know what the framework is made of. That will be a future assignment. When I got close to the walls I saw that there was a patterned etched into them. Simona said that they used sticks, stones or even fingers to create the design. Some of the walls also had black geometrical drawings or paintings on them, both the inteirior and exterior. The windows were square or rectangular and entrances were also round. The home consisted of a group of rooms joined together by a wall. Some rooms were for sleeping, others were for cooking. Some of the flat roof tops were used to dry crops and sleep on during the very hot season. The other roof tops are thatched. There were also silo’s for grain storage. With thatch covers that look like tropical hats! Some of the house is in disrepair but about 1/3 is still maintained and Simona’s other grandmother lives in it. We returned and Simona’s grandmother was sitting under a tree. beside the tree was a platform made of large branches with a roof of millet stems. The stems are there to dry to use as kindling and they give shade for people sitting on the platform. I sat on the platform and visited with Simona, her grandmother, her mother and a couple of other women. They were removing leaves from one of green leafy plants they put in stews. At first just Simona’s mother and her grandmother were plucking the leaves but as other women came by to say hello they joined in. It was a good day.

-vc

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