Farming, Laundry, A Concert, and Star Wars: The Weekend in the Village

I told Yaku that I’d like to help on the farm, so when I awake at 7:00 on Saturday, he is waiting (and has been since 4:00). I eat quickly and we head out towards the farm. As we go, many people call out to ask where Yaku is taking me. I respond with “N chela puni”–I’m going to farm. They all laugh at the idea of this white boy growing maize.

We arrive at Yaku’s plot and start to set up the wire fence of which he is so proud (most farmers use sticks with cloth ties). Many smallboys help us, including Yaku’s nephew who is infinitely interested in me:

Smallboys are an infinite resource here in Ghana. An adorable, infinite resource.

Yaku's nephew, showing off his curiousity and Big Man smock.

As we are working, Yaku’s brother Yaku comes by to meet me. He, too, laughs at the idea of me farming and asks if I am tired. I inform Yaku and Yaku that I’m the son of a carpenter and they understand that I’m ready to labour for hours.

We make quick work of the fence and head off to meet Yaku’s other brother, Yaku. I’m fairly certain that they are all named Yaku, which is nice because I’m very bad at remembering names. As we are sitting in Yaku’s living room, his children–there are plenty–stream in to see the white man. “Souleminga, how are you?” they ask. “Dagban bi, kaoula?” I respond. They laugh when the tables have turned! Thanks to APS Erin Antcliffe for that trick.

After a bucket shower and some impromptu Dagbani lessons, I retreat to my hut to get some work done and promptly fall asleep. My buddy Ahmed shows up and wakes me about an hour later. Yaku notes that I “sleep plenty” with a laugh. Ahmed and I hang out in my hut for some time, looking at some of my pictures, before Ayisha calls me out; she is going to teach me how to do the washing. This should be interesting.

She shows me the two moves involved: there is a quick scrub and a long twisting scrub. Both go over the wrist (NOT THE KNUCKLES. The first time I tried to do the washing, I turbo tore up my knuckles). It turns out I’m a natural and Ayisha quickly hands over the rest of the laundry I’ve given her.

As I wash, a crowd of people gathers in the compound; I have an audience, so I must put on a show. I make a point of showing them the red dirt and grass stains on my jeans before scrubbing with everything I’ve got. When I’m done, I lift the clean jeans out of the bucket and the crowd cheers. “You have done well, Mistah Chrees,” they tell me. I am pleased until I notice that I’ve rubbed my wrist raw and bruised my other palm. Village battle wounds, I guess!

In the evening on Saturday, I head to a concert with my friends Dan, Mariam, Elee (I hope that’s how you spell it!), Nat, and Bailey. The experience is, in a word, revealing. I’m surprised at the lateness of the show, which doesn’t start until 3 hours after the advertised time, and the dress of those in attendance. The men are all wearing very elaborate get-ups representing every fashion style from hipster to thug life (and more) and they are all dancing with each other.

I have been warned that it’s fairly normal for male friends to dance together in Ghana, but still I am surprised to see two men grinding up against one another to the beat of a hip hop song. Regardless, I am impressed with their complicated steps and flashy hand motions.

The stage is very small, and not even one section of the stadium fills up:

Panorama feature FTW

The massive Tamale Stadium...and dinky little concert stage.

Having only been to Canadian concerts previously, this is certainly strange and a source of culture shock for Bailey and I.

By the time the first act comes on, we are very tired and it is obviously about to rain, so we head out. As predicted, it begins to pour as soon as we enter the taxi. It is an interesting night, to say the least.

The following day, Sunday, is spent with Ahmed touring the village and snapping pictures. I still don’t feel comfortable taking pictures, so I gratefully pass off the camera to my friend and he goes wild. We come back to my hut to put the pictures on my computer and Ahmed asks if we can watch a movie. I dig through my movies folder to find something appropriate for a Ghanaian 12 year-old (what is appropriate for a Ghanaian 12 year-old?) and thankfully discover that I brought all of Star Wars with me. What child doesn’t love epic battles in space?

We start watching the movie and within minutes, my hut has become the Sagnarigu local theatre:

"But the knights are usin' juju! Why?"

Star Wars: apparently entertaining to young children of any culture.

The children are enthralled by the visuals and get very involved in the light saber battle scenes. They don’t understand why the good guys use juju (a.k.a witchcraft a.k.a the Force), but still they collectively gasp when Qui-Gon Jinn is killed and collectively cheer and clap when Darth Maul is defeated. I explain that Queen Amidala is the Queen Mother of the Naboo tribe and that they are fighting a trade war with a robot tribe. Surprisingly, the older children somehow understand what that means.

After the film is done, I urge the children out. They bow to me as they leave; apparently I have earned their respect by sharing this film with them. I toy with the idea of showing films every Sunday in the village. At the very least, we have to get through all of Star Wars, I think to myself.

That night, I lay down on my mattress after a coaching chat and ultimate frisbee with some other EWBers and assorted ex-pats who are in Tamale. I slowly drift to sleep, lulled there by the contentedness that comes from a full life.

-C

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9 responses to “Farming, Laundry, A Concert, and Star Wars: The Weekend in the Village

  1. This made my day. : ) Awesome work, Chris! Hope the rest of the week is super great.

  2. I am jealous of your quick Dagbani skills, and your washing skills!

    A great read! You have a skill for writing!

  3. Absolutely Love that you showed them star wars Chrees. Glad to see you are having a good time!

  4. I love how much kids can absorb of a story, even when it’s in another language (or close to one: I love when all the tiny kids who come to the PRISM show pick up on random Shakespeare or follow along with the plot. Like at the end of Twelfth Night some 6-year old was like “They’re twins! No!” when I tried to leave the stage with the wrong sibling).

  5. You were in my mind so vividly washing that laundry that my heart swelled like an African sun. ❤
    After Star Wars you should show them Harry Potter! Or Lord of the Rings! LoTR could actually probably get you through the rest of your trip there, if you showed the directors cut! : )
    Also, you are now Mistah Chrees. Officially.

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