Wednesday, September 2, 2009


July 25, 2009

Left Accra this morning at 9:00am. Received my drum before we left. It is super beautiful, although not perfect… there are a few chunks that I am not 100% happy with, but oh well, it just adds character right? Arrived in Dagbamate around noon… we all expected to be living in mud huts or something, but instead we are in the nicest hostel that we have seen yet! The kids here are very aggressive but absolutely adorable. There is a little boy here named Kobi who just comes up and holds your hand and hugs you and is just the cutest, most cuddly child ever! We had a very long drum lesson after lunch, but Kwasi is such an amazing teacher that it seemed to go by really fast! We each learned the bell, rattle, and small medium and large drums (which all have Ghanaian names…), plus the songs that go with them. Kwasi is a very intense yet inspirational teacher; he gave us a speech about how paying attention to your teacher is not for your teacher, but it is for you and your future. Also, that there is a young boy named Try, and you will never get to meet his sister named Success if you don’t what? Try. There is always somebody in your class who gets good marks, but you can too, because you are also somebody. These topics really get through to you when the right person is preaching them. There were times when his face was very straight, but every time he was drumming or dancing his face just lit up, and you can just tell that he loves what he does.

July 26, 2009

Woke up at 3:00am to get ready for Kwasi’s daughter’s wedding. Left at 4:30am, and arrived at about 8:30am where we were greeted with alcohol made by Kwasi himself (called Red…it’s disgusting), eggs and bread with Milo and bottles of water. At 10:30am we headed to the church where we were a part of the wedding ceremony – all sitting on the stage of the church. Unfortunately, it was at least two hours long, and we later found out that they were already married. However, they were only married in the African Traditional religion, not in Christianity, which the groom’s mother insisted on apparently. Culturally it was very odd, the sermon mentioned being submissive to your husband - an idea that Western culture would not agree to. After the ceremony we went to the reception lunch where I was happily provided with free alcohol and food. The venue was absolutely beautiful – in the middle of paradise almost, and the air was a bit misty, which just made everything look mystical. We had to leave around 4:00pm because Kwasi didn’t want us to be driving in the dark, as our headlights were not strong enough (and ironically we were pulled over by the police). We eventually made it back. This was a horrible first wedding experience. I want to elope so that I do not have to put other people through the pain and agony that I sat through today… but I want a big reception (obviously).

Wedding reception

July 27, 2009

Today we drummed from 8:00am-noon, and 2:00pm -5:00pm… Kwasi is a super interesting person in the sense that he is one of the most intense drum teachers I have ever encountered, but also because as soon as he sees you getting tired he pulls out this amazing smile that just makes you have to smile back, which actually works as a method of waking me up. He told us today that he wants us to remember everything we learned about the village EXCEPT his own daughter’s wedding because he thought it was that bad, and he went on for about ten minutes about how women shouldn’t have to be submissive to their men and etc. It was hilarious! After the drum lesson we went back to his house and he gave us all more shots of Red, which we have all discovered is gross at any time of the day (not just 8:30am). He then took us on a tour of the village. Later on in the evening, we went to get some chocolate, but instead, we encountered a bunch of kids ranging age five to fifteen approximately, dancing and drumming in the middle of the village. Girls of all ages were performing, and every single one of them was working it and was fantastic! The boys were doing pyramid tricks and kept falling, and all the other kids would just burst into hysterics every time they fell, where I feel that in Canada, the kids would be a lot more worried for their well-being. However, in Canada the circumstances are totally different and therefore kids aren’t quite as daring, especially in front of their parents.

July 28, 2009

Went to the community drum competition today, which consisted of choral singing, poetry readings, drama, dance drama, etc, and it lasted the entire day. We got to know a lot of the children in the village and talked to lots of people, so it was interesting. However, most of the topics in the dance drama were about killing, sexual, or about drugs, and although the point was that these issues are bad, the little kids still only see their role models pretending to do all these things. So, when I was doing readings in the lobby I asked a little boy to draw me a picture and he drew me a picture of a man smoking with the word “OK” all over his clothes. It just goes to show, actions speak louder than words, and children don’t always understand the point. I made an appointment for an interview with the Chief Priest at the shrine for this Saturday at 8:00am, I am very excited to speak with him! The shrine is kind of spooky – there is a fire pit in the middle that topless women were sitting at very openly, and also a man with a very inflamed thigh. I hope to check it out again soon.

Drum Competition

July 29, 2009

Today we had only two hours of drumming in the morning, then at 10:00am we headed over to the school to give our donations. The school system, we learned, is very similar to Canada’s in regards to the subjects and rules & regulations, terms & reports. However, when we gave our donation, there seemed to be no “thank you” from the teachers, almost as though it was expected of us… as well, I headed over to the building with the three oldest groups of kids to give the rest of my jewelry to some girls, and none of them said thank you to me. The only response I received was when I pulled out a really long necklace that had big green beads, where they all said “AY!” and grabbed for it – and the girls grabbing were all of the girls that had already gotten something! I grabbed it back and gave it to another girl who had not yet received anything from me. And even as I was leaving, no “thank you” or “goodbye”, nothing! I feel like some girls in Accra would have been more appreciative, but this was my only opportunity to give my things away so I had no choice. I’m sure the girls appreciated it, but I expected at least one of them to smile or thank me at least. After lunch we had three more hours of drumming and I was exhausted. Kwasi singled me out a couple times, but that’s all right, he can’t really think that every person can pay attention for the entire time. Well, I definitely can’t anyway. We feasted at dinner for Cathy’s birthday ☺. They set up the tables outside and a table of elders came to feast with us and they supplied pop and red (of course) and lots of great food!

July 30, 2009

This morning we drummed with Kwasi, learned a new piece, it was fun… except Kwasi kept catching me not paying attention again – he was telling a story and started quizzing me and when I shook my head because I didn’t know the answer, he forced me to answer… so I guessed, and got it correct, so he went on a ramble about how I am shy and how that is not a good quality of a student . In the middle of our drum lesson, the Diviner sacrificed a goat and a chicken, directly behind us. I will never forget what I saw. I don’t really have a huge problem with their sacrifices, as I realize it is a large part of their lifestyle, but I really did not like how it happened right before my eyes. The blood that poured from the goat was very bright as well, almost a bright pink, and it never sank into the ground, and it just stayed, thick and pink. A bit later on, what looked like a leaf fell onto Derek’s head while we were drumming, but it turned out to be a snake! All the girls were standing on the benches, like OMG! But yeah I was kind of just checking out how awesome it’s colourings were. They threw stones and drums at the snake until the decapitated it, which seemed really unnecessary to me because it wasn’t a poisonous snake. After killing it they threw it away somewhere. After lunch we went to the market in Akatche where I bought two bottles of Cardinal and some Milo to take home to Canada. Once we arrived back, I went to the shrine and was talking about initiation with one of the men there that I had talked to a couple times before. I was thinking that I wanted to become a member of the shrine, but am deciding against it because it would be disrespectful to the people (whether they knew my motives or not) because I do not know enough about it and therefore my heart isn’t in it (and I just wanted to do it for anthropological reasons anyway). The shrine here is not like the catholic church, and therefore it is a bigger deal when someone joins it, and I do not want to disrespect the people of Dagbamate just so that I can have an experience. Kwasi also advised me not to join because I do not know enough about it. Kwasi then took Cathy and I to the Diviner because I wanted to find out firstly what religion meant for me, but after a speech by Kwasi I decided to change my question to a general “is my life going down the right path and am I pursuing everything I should be?” The answers that I received were first that I have a divine spirit in my head, and then that I will soon be going through a spiritual war. My life, according to the Diviner, is going the way it should be, but there is a human being who is a friend of mine that is trying to sabotage it. In the end, I have to make a pledge to the Shrine, but I am not sure what that will entail yet. And I cannot eat groundnuts because they are bad for my spirit. After thinking about things with Linda I realized that at the very beginning I was told that there is something that is stopping my performance level from being the best it can be. I immediately thought of my anxiety at the time, but they immediately asked if it was in my mind and the answer was no, and I wasn’t sure what to think. → a person stopping my performance…!? The weird thing about it was that it could have been a probability game the way that they were asking yes and no questions, but the odds of something constantly being correct is impossible!

me playing with Kobi (probably should be drumming)

July 31, 2009

Drumming and dancing were both very frustrating today, as Ledzi was our teacher (Kwasi and Michael had to go to Accra). He is such a talented man, but sometimes the most talented people are not able to teach well. I just cannot seem to keep my mind concentrating on drumming and singing and dancing for 3 or 4 hours each morning and I end up getting so frustrated with everything (mainly the singing). The songs are so difficult for me to pick up, as I find it very hard to memorize sounds in a sentence, as that is all it really is to me since I do not know what the words mean. The dancing today was fun but it was so hot and for some reason I had no energy to put my all into it ☹. After lunch we went to a slave castle in Keta, which was a very powerful experience. The size of the rooms that they all had to stand in, and the bathing procedures was difficult enough to look at, let alone imagine it happening to people. They had to bathe in water and then use the filthy water for drinking afterwards. The most difficult places to look at were the dungeons of no return – people had tried to dig themselves out by picking at the concrete with their fingernails. Within maybe two minutes of being inside these rooms you start sweating so much because there are no windows to have air circulation. Basically, these slaves were suffocated and starved to death. People wrote quotes that were made by black slaves on the walls, which just made everything more emotional to look at. The perspective of a person who endured such pain while looking at the room that they might have been in is really hard to do. The governor would sit in a room at the top and look over a balcony to see which woman he wanted, and would then take her and rape her. If she was good enough, she was kept for housework, but if not, I believe she was just thrown back into the crowd. Once we got home I broke my one-day streak of being a vegetarian – haha. There was beef in the stew for the rice… However, I didn’t really care for the taste, so maybe I will try it out at home where I have food selection. Day one of no groundnuts went well. After dinner I did a lot of homework – only two more readings left!! First interview tomorrow at 8:00am! Oh, P.S. my braids are all out ☺ ☺. Washing my hair was luxurious. Also, I held a baby goat today that still had the umbilical cord (which Linda told me is spelled “chord” but I’m not sure about that… thanks Dr. Sun). Anyway, it was cute!!!

holding a baby goat!

August 1, 2009

My day once again started off frustrating. I shoveled two pieces of toast into me within about one minute and rushed over to the Chief Priest’s house to only find out that he was in a very long meeting and would not be able to have an interview with me. Then we went to drumming and I found the teaching style very hard to learn from. Playing the Kagum drum beat may seem easy but it ends up being the most difficult rhythm to understand because of the starting point of the rhythm, and when people are constantly trading bells and the rhythm slightly changes, it is very hard to catch on. I become very easily frustrated when I don’t catch onto things, which I realize is a bad quality, but anyway it just made learning that rhythm really hard. Once we put the drumming and dancing together it was a lot of fun. After lunch, we went to Djolagi (spelling?), which is a small village near Dagbamate. When we arrived, and looked out the window of our van, all the children in this village just started running towards us. We sat and played with the children until Michael and Kwasi arrived. The kids are all so happy, and they just want to hold your hand, which I find slightly culturally different from Canada because 1) I don’t think we would really be that phased by all these children if they were Canadian children and 2) I don’t think the children would be as cuddly with us if we weren’t obruni. However, in the African culture people are okay with people touching eachother in the sense that men and boys will hold hands and so will women and girls. A woman named Larita came up to me and immediately wanted to be my friend and she held my hand while we walked over to the performance location. This was uncomfortable for me because of the Western idea that if two members of the same sex are holding hands, they are homosexual, and although I am not homophobic, and realize that I am in a different culture, it is still a slight discomfort as these Western ideas are embedded in my mind. The performance that was put on for us was absolutely spectacular! They performed the Adzabeko dance that we had been learning yesterday and this morning, which was amazing to watch from a perfected ensemble. The kids (ranging from age 7 to about 25ish I would say) who put on this performance were so enthusiastic, energetic, and professional with what they were doing. If you have ever been to a dance recital in Canada, you would never expect a 7 year old child to even remotely know the dance, let alone have perfected it and be performing it as a duo without mistake. It was really interesting to watch a dance be performed by Africans that we had been learning, as you never really see the finished product with our group (we aren’t so hot at transitions). The Chief of this village was wearing a long Kente cloth wrap, which must have cost so much money! Kente is a hand-weaved cloth that costs about 10 Ghana cedis for one strip! When we left for Dagbamate, the children all ran after our van until we had picked up enough speed – it was like a movie watching these kids running after us and eventually stopping and staring until we faded off into the distance… My interview with the Chief Priest is now set for tomorrow at 8:00am, so hopefully it will be good!

Kobi playing the drum

August 2, 2009

Sunday means Shrine-Day here in the village of Dagbamate. I went a little bit early to see if I could interview anybody, but that horribly failed as usual. I waited about 45 minutes to an hour for the service to pick up, but while I was wasting my time I was talking to a girl named Monica. Monica is a 22 year old Christian Ghanaian who is not from Dagbamatey, but insists that she did not move here for the Shrine, and claims to never sit by the firepit because she does not need healing (the firepit is also a fetish where the gods smoke away your sickness). As much as I would like to believe this, I see her walking around with her breasts falling out of her shirt all the time, and she always just sits and watches our drumming class for hours – every so often she might stand up and slowly flash people, but then she casually walks away and eventually wanders back. Regardless, she is a nice girl and enjoys talking to me and using her English skills. The ceremony begun with a lot of singing and some agbadza dancing. The Chief Priest shakes a bell at the fetishes, which evokes the spirits, then he blesses the fetishes with shots of gin that he first kisses. The people then call upon the priests through song/chant, and by kneeling and praying. The way the people here pray is by kneeling on all fours, touching their forehead to the ground, then tongue to the ground, then right elbow and left elbow, and stand up. After some singing, two people made personal offerings to the Shrine, including Kwasi (who’s foul would not lay still, so he had to give about $300 before the gods would accept his offer). The way the animals are sacrificed is by a man holding up the foul/goat by it’s neck, and “not strangling it.” The gods just take its life right then and there, and if once it is laid down on the ground, if it stays still, the gods have accepted the offer. About twenty people were lined up in a semi-circle to do this, and that was only the first batch of people. By this time it was about noon, and I had spent 4 hours at the Shrine, so I left for lunch. After lunch some initiations had begun, which consists of each person bringing one foul to be sacrificed, along with 2 cedis. I was told the other day that nothing happens to the chicken, but sure enough it gets sacrifice. After the sacrifice, the new member has to endure the decapitated foul’s spine being tapped on their tongue three times. Yes, that means that the blood of the foul is flowing into their mouth. Each new member then has to dip their fingers into one of the fetish bowls and lick them clean. The fetish bowls are full of gin mixed with the blood of each and every goat and foul that had been sacrificed that morning. After seeing enough, I left to get my hair done for 6 hours.


August 3, 2009

Last full day in the village. This place has changed my life. This morning we drummed a bit, and practiced our dances that we performed at 4pm for the entire village (and soccer team full of hotties might I add). I must say that during our performance was the worst time I had ever danced our dances, as we had not practiced for about 5 hours previous, and the Ghanaian leading our dance, Oliver, dances slightly different than Ledzi, and although Oliver is also an amazing dancer, the slight difference makes all the difference (ha…). During the afternoon I got chatting with Kwasi about my pledge to the Shrine that I was supposed to make. It turns out that the price of this pledge was a bottle of gin and two cedis. At this point, I had thought that I would not need any more money, so I had about one cedi to my name. Kwasi took me to the Diviner because he really wanted me to make the pledge so he was going to see if there was any way that I would not have to pay. This was not the case, so Kwasi paid my bottle and two cedis for me, and even tried to give me 8 cedis that he said was “my change,” but I did not accept this money as I knew that I did not need any money to get home. How nice of him though. The pledge service was a bigger deal than I thought. Every priest in the community had to come along. The Chief Priest started by shaking a bell and evoking the spirits, while i sat on my knees in front of the Priests. I was asked to kneel and pray, and then Kwasi asked me to give an estimate of how much my pledge should be worth, which i stated as 100USD, and he chuckled a little bit, so thinking I should over-estimate, I said 500USD, and was told that the correct amount told by the Chief Priest (who was told by the spirits) would be 800USD, one fowl, one goat, and one bottle of gin. When I pledged I had to hold onto some seeds (one of them was shaped like the head of a chicken, and freaked me out at first because I thought it was one)
After I was finished pledging, I went back to the Diviner so that he could ask if the gods would accept my pledge. The gods accepted my pledge, so now I am protected from the spiritual battle that I am supposed to be coming upon. I then went back to Kwasi's house where he taught me how to pray to the God Apetorku. You don't have to pray often, and you only need to pray when you need something that you feel you deserve. When you pray, you have to kneel in any corner of your room, with a shot of gin, take half the shot and pour the rest onto the ground, and then kneel and pray, and speak to him about what you would like.
After this was finished, we had an amazing feast that the cooks prepared for us and the Elders, and then some of the girls and I had some drinks. It was a great way to end off the trip.

me with Kwasi, Chief Priest, and another Priest in the Chief Priest's house (which looks like a Nollywood film..)

August 4, 2009

Today, we got up and packed everything into the vans to head back to Accra. Leaving Dagbamate was very emotional for me, as it had a very powerful impact on my life, and I feel like I learned a lot about myself while being there. During the trek home, we were stopped by the police, who wanted to check our passports, which was annoying and took a bit of time, especially because Roshanak was running a bit late for her flight, but we made it in time.
Once we arrived on campus, Linda's friend Junior from Afrikana had brought our Obama Ghana t-shirts, so we bought those and then went to say goodbye to Johnson, Aaron, and Nathan. This was also really hard for me to do. And then saying goodbye to Roshanak, my roommate for the first 2.5 weeks, was very emotional. It's hard saying goodbye to so many people that you feel so attached to who live on the other side of the country.
After Katie R, Heather, Andrea and I had a nice Chinese lunch, we headed off to the airport, in Noah's taxi, who we called all the time for rides, and he liked us so much that he offered to take us for free because we were leaving the country. Of course we paid him anyways, but he is just such a nice, kindhearted person. A lot of Ghanaian people are the nicest people you could ever meet, it's amazing what they would do for you.
The airport was one of the worst experiences ever - my bags were way overweight, and so I had to buy a check-check bag and repack everything in the middle of the airport, and afterwards, both bags were still overweight by two kilograms each. The woman was nice enough to not charge me, but then told me that my drum was too big to carry on. I was very frustrated at first because Linda had told me that all of her volunteer friends had taken drums onto the plane with them, but she would not budge - I had to check it. I started to cry, as to check another bag is 250USD. Two Ghanaian women ran over to me and were rubbing my back, and finally the woman working for Lufthanza told me she would check my drum for free. Right then and there, I had escaped 400USD of charges (250 for the extra bag, 150 for overweight baggage). Then I made my way up to immigrations, where I was informed my visa was not extended. There was a penalty to pay, but he said as long as I say please, he would let me go for free (I said please). So, at the end of the day, I should have had about 700USD on me at the airport. After that episode I just hung out and had some drinks at the bar, and eventually met up with Michael before my flight left. I was very sad to leave Ghana, the best experience of my life, but it would be nice to get home (especially after all the struggle at the airport). I slept the entire way to Frankfurt, but had troubles sleeping on the way to Toronto. It was a really nice day when I arrived, so the climate didn't really affect me much, except the breezes are much colder here in Canada.
It is good to be home, but Ghana holds a special place in my heart, and I will never forget such a beautiful country and it's amazing people.

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