Ghana has a dynamic and diverse culture. For a deeper meaning to understanding the way of life of the people of Ghana, the Fall 2013 Participants, on the November 1st, 2013, spent the weekend in a rural homestay in Bonwire, a village embodied in the tradition and culture that defines Ghana. During the stay with the families, the students participated in many activities of the rural folks which included attending traditional church service, funerals, going to the farm, cooking, helping out in a school, kente weaving, etc. Here are a few stories from some of the Fall 2013 students describing their experiences.
MY FARM EXPERIENCE
By Alexandra Bailey,Emory University
Alexandra Bailey, Emory University, carrying a basket of cassava
When I asked Mabena if we could see the farm, this was definitely not what I expected, I thought, as we forged a path through the forest. Lush, green flora surrounded Sophie, Natalie and I as Mabena, our host sister for our weekend in Bonwire, hacked a pathway for us with her cutlass. Her nine-year-old cousin, Janet, carried a woven basket on her head in anticipation of the cassava that would be harvested.
After about a half hour, we all arrived at the family’s piece of land. Mabena began harvesting the cassava, which involves uprooting the stalk of the cassava plant and then using a cutlass to dig in the ground beneath the stalk to find the cassava.
Sophie, Natalie and I watched, feeling helpless, as Mabena pulled, dug, and yanked cassava after cassava out of the fertile dirt. We wanted to help but all we could really do was to gather the cassava into the basket after Mabena harvested it. We asked Mabena if her family planted the cassava, and she said yes and explained that they would plant it elsewhere next year. The family had also sold all of the plantain plants to another farm. Natalie, Sophie and I examined the plants and insects around us and talked with Janet, who was helping Mabena intermittently.
After Mabena finished, she split the cassava between two baskets because one basket alone would be too heavy. Sophie, Natalie and I took turns trying our hands at using the cutlass; we basically just chopped at plants while Mabena opened a sachet of water to clean her hands and face. She used the cutlass to scrape the mud off of her flip-flops and then Mabena and Janet hoisted the two baskets of cassava onto their heads and we began our journey out of the forest.
When we reached the dirt road, Natalie, Sophie and I all took turns carrying the smaller basket of cassava on top of our heads. Ghanaians carry goods on their heads frequently and I have wanted to try for a while. Now that I have, I am even more amazed than I was before; I will never understand how Ghanaians carry such heavy goods on their heads for extended periods of time and successfully balance this weight without the use of their hands. It is truly astounding. Mabena, Janet, Sophie, Natalie and I returned home with the cassava and began preparations to make fufu, a dish created by pounding cassava and plantains. And so our weekend at Bonwire continued.
Sophie Siebach, Georgetown University, peeling plantains
Natalie Dosch, University of Wisconson- Madison, using a traditional earthern grinding bowl
SAVIOUR CHURCH REFLECTION
By Amanda Eden Freishtat, Loyola University, Maryland
Last semester I took a class at my home university called World Christianity. It centered around the concept of inculturation, the adaptation of the way Church teachings are presented to non-Christian cultures and the influence of those cultures on the evolution of these teachings. We studied Christianity in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, which were heavily influenced by colonial evangelism. Today the inculturation movement seeks to remove an imposed Western culture in which the Gospel was packaged and to develop an authentic cultural expression of Christianity that is relevant to each particular context and population. In the course, I even read Hearing and Knowing: Theological Reflections on Christianity in Africa, a book written by Mercy Oduyoye, a Ghanaian theologian. I had no idea that six months later I would observe and be immersed in the embodiment of what I studied.
Eden Freishtat, receiving dance lessons from her host sister
Saturday, November 2nd, in Bonwire Village, I had the privilege to witness inculturation. In the evening, my host family had shown me a video from their annual national church meeting with all of the different church plants meeting at the national headquarters. Because of this and the bit of dance lessons I received after watching the video, I had seen and taken part in some of their tradition, but a video could not capture what I was about to experience, just as this article cannot portray the beauty I encountered and the joy that filled my soul.
Around eight o’clock beautiful overlaying of voices singing in Twi, praising God for His goodness, flowed over the walls of the homes. I asked Juliet, one of my sisters at my home-stay, what was happening. She explained that it was part of their religious duties. Around nine o’clock a group of the neighborhood children accompanied me over to the service and before I knew it I was thrown in the middle of it all. Women were in kaba and slit, with sparkling, beaded head coverings. Some carried babies, sleeping despite the noise and commotion.
One of my host sisters, Esther, took me under her wing and told me what to do. At one point the Pastor wanted me to dance, so they prayed for me, that I would have the ability to dance well, and then began singing in English, “Everybody sing hallelujah, everybody sing hallelujah, praise be to the God Most High”. I sang along as Esther, Juliet and I danced in front of everyone.The dancing, singing, and praising continued. By the end of the two to three hour event, I was genuinely praising and thanking God for bringing me to their church community, village, and home.
Left: Eden, with their host sibling and Jesse Headman, Loyola University.
MY SCHOOL EXPERIENCE
By Sophie Siebach, Georgetown University
In the past few months that I have been in Ghana, my most memorable experiences have always involved children. My weekend in Bonwire was no different. As our group of nine girls walked down the red dirt road towards the school, families going about their day shouted welcomes and salutations. Small children stopped their playing to smile and wave, and three young boys inquired about our names, ages, where we were from and expressed amazement at our limited knowledge of Twi. As we approached the school we could hear the faraway murmur of school children.
Sophie Siebach and other CIEE Students playing with the kids
The school consisted of long cement buildings divided into rooms with open windows. In each classroom there was a blackboard and desks, waiting for an eager child to fill its space. We were told that the original plan was for us to meet with fifteen to twenty children who were apart of a program for slow learners. The slow learner program is designed to give extra help to those children who need help with English, Writing and Reading. However, news travels fast, especially with children, and a large group of children had assembled to meet the group of Americans who came to visit. As we entered the classroom forty smiling faces of all ages greeted us. We quickly met the headmaster and teacher and then went to the real reason we were there- we played. We all went into the courtyard, formed a big circle, and taught them the Hokey Pokey. Members of the community started gathering around us watching the young children and older Americans shaking their arms, legs, hands, and head and singing at the top their lungs. After teaching them the Hokey Pokey it was their turn to teach us a game- Ampe. The children crouched on their legs while a chorus of young voices began to sing a song. Ampe closely resembles ‘Duck, Duck, Goose’ and so we quickly caught on. The next game we taught them was ‘Red Light, Green Light’. The joy and laughter that filled the air was contagious. Sadly, a roll of thunder cut our games short and we said our farewells. The small hands waving goodbye from the classroom window was our parting gift and an experience I will never forget.
Kwasi Gyasi-Gyamerah, Resident Director
CIEE Study Centers in Ghana, Internationa House University of Ghana