Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Photos! End of Ramadan in nima

Pictures from the festival...

Miriam, Becca, and I. Ready for the festival.
(Yes we are wearing pants and scarves in 90 degree heat! crazy!)

Breaking of the fast. A day of sharing and eating...

Candidate for the NDC (National Democratic Congress),
John Evans Atta Mills, waves to the crowd

Togo and Benin adventures coming soon!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Eid al-Fitr and the black stars

The past couple of weeks have quietly come and gone. I have been keeping myself busy here in Accra and making trips to other parts of Ghana since class takes up only a small amount of my time.. I have also begun playing the bamboo flute and the Kora (kind of like a guitar made with a calabash gourd). The days are full of mini adventures and at the end of everyday, someone always says, "Man. That was a strange day" so i guess strange has become the norm while living in Legon.

Two weeks ago marked Eid al-Fitr (the end of Ramadan and the fast).

On Tuesday, Rebecca and I went with Miriam to Nima (a predominantly Muslim town in Accra) to celebrate the end of Ramadan with the principal of the school where she is volunteering. Before heading to the street festival, we were invited to his mother's home to have lunch. We sat on a wooden bench in a dirt courtyard surrounded by small cement houses. In one corner of the courtyard was a goat pen constructed from left over scrap wood. An older man was sitting in front of the makeshift gate door, choping up food with a machete. In another corner sat a series of pots, which bubbled over with oils and juices, filling the whole courtyard with delicious smells. We were brought a huge bowl of rice and chicken with 6 spoons and were not allowed to get up until nothing but bones were left.

After walking around Nima a bit, visiting Kofi's family and friends, we walked to the street festival. It was similar to the parade in Cape Coast. The chiefs were carried down the street like royalty. They were raised high in the air and protected from the sun by large red umbrellas. Hundreds of peole filed in after with a sense of organized chaos. In true Ghanaian spirit, all the people were dancing as the followed the drummers down the street.

We also followed the crowd until we reached a big stage that had been set up for the event. I realized that everyone around us was sporting red, green, and black clothing - the colors of the NDC political party. A man whose body was painted like an NDC flag ran up on stage and started dancing. People were cheering. HOw did we get in the middle of a political rally? My initial trepidation was swept away in the excitement. Put in a trance by the chanting - "Youth, power, action". Part of me was completely alert to the fact that a fight could break out at any moment. There has been some election related violence in the northern part of Ghana, which has put the whole country on alert. A man in a pink polo shirt appeared from the sunroof od a black SUV. It took me a second to realize it was none other then the NDC presidential candidate just 10 feet away from me. He waved and smiled. Obviously a bit surprised to see the group of obrunis at the celebration. It was definitely one of the biggest crowds i have ever had to push myself through, almost mob -like. That is until i went to the black star match last Saturday.

The Black stars are the national soccer team. I traveled 5 hours to Takoradi on Saturday morning to watch them play Lesotho in a world cup qualifier. We arrived at the stadium about half an hour before the game was scheduled to begin. We didn't have tickets. We joined the huge crowd at the front of the gate waving money at the men scrambling behind the glass window. Before we could figure out what was going on, we heard someone say "They are finished" (a phrase we here often in Ghana). After hearing the same thing from other fans, security guards, and ticket holders, we were still optimistic. We had managed to buy one ticket off of someone else and were waiting around outside the stadium for some kind of divine intervention. Sure enough, we mwt a man who showed us how to get inside the walls of the stadium through a gate that had been unintentionally left open.

On the other side of the wall, we tried again to get tickets from security, but no luck. Just when we were about to lose all faith, we saw an official take money from a couple of fans. We ran back over to the glass window. About 30 other people running after us. I pushed to the front (thank goodness for my height), shoved the money through the upper slot in the glass. "Mepaakyew. Mepaakyew boss." The men inside the booth were once again scrambling while other fans tried to break open the door (and eventually succeeded). The man took my money and quickly handed me three more tickets. WHOOT WHOOT! What a rush. We were jumping up and down. We bribed the man collecting tickets to let us all go in the same section and somehow were able to find "seats" in the aisle.

We definitely had to fight to keep our pseudo seats on the steps. By the end of the game i was literally sitting in some Ghanaian woman's lap with another mans feet in my face (yes he had taken off his shoes!). People were hanging on the side of the stairwell and sitting on top of the roof. It would have been a really uncomfortable afternoon, but one of our friends had brought a waterbottle full of gin. We took shots everytime there was a shot on goal. So by the end of the first half, it didn;t matter that i was sitting on someone or that someone's coke had spilled on me or that some guys feet were in my face. By the end of the game i had a black star painted on my face, a flag tied around my sholders and a bandanna on my head. We were all having a great time. The whole staduim went wild everytime Ghana scored. jumping up and down. It was great! we won 3 to 0.

I'm travelling through Togo and Benin with some friends next week and then mom and dad will be here the following week.

Pictures to come soon...

Love from Ghana!