08.07.2010 - 10.08.2010
Ghana is a beautiful country that has everything to offer in terms of beautiful scenery: lush green rain forests, golden sandy beaches filled with exotic palm- and coconut-trees, big modern cities with a strong traditional twist, etc. But what really makes Ghana beautiful are its people. So, here is a dedication to all the lovely and caring people we met and will never forget.
And when it comes to never forgetting that someone special you meet, we would surely have to start with the wonderful Simon a.k.a. The President, a.k.a. Adabato Ameyibo (Crazy Black Person).
He was introduced to us as our coordinator, but it took only a few minutes for him to turn into a really good friend. Simon has the biggest character you will ever meet in one single person and because one adjective would not do him justice, we decided to come up with a whole alphabet of adjectives to best describe him:
A for African and therefore B for Black. C for Committed. D for Determined. E for Energetic. F for Fun. G for Ghanaian; despite living in South Africa with his family, he will always remain 100% Ghanaian. H for Humour/ Heart-warming. I for Inspiring. J for Jovial. K for Keen (to always strive for better). L for Loving. M for Mischievous. N for Nice. O for Outgoing. P for President/ Passionate. Q for Quirky. R for Raconteur/ Rare. S for Spirited. T for Touching/ Tenacious. U for Unique; there is no one like him. V for Vehement/ Vibrant. W for Worldly. X for XXL, the size of his personality. Y for Youthful. Z for Zealot, always ready to give.
Next in line for some serious gratefulness is of course our Host Family. The last week of travelling would have been a dream for anyone wishing to experience more of what Ghana has to offer, but we felt something was missing for us to truly be able to enjoy it to the fullest: the welcoming and caring nature of the people of the Volta Region and in particular our Host Family. Ben calculated that without the weekly trips to Accra and the travelling, we only lived with them for 2 ½ weeks through out our stay in Ghana, but they touched us in so many ways that it was more than enough for us to feel home-sick during our last week. We still receive regular phone-calls from them, which never cease to make us happy.
There's our African mother: Mme Celestine with her bigger than life personality. Whenever we would walk into the room we would be greeted with cuddles and excited “Auntie/ Sister Yawaa! Kwamé!” usually followed by “how are you?”, but also just like that, to show her happiness of us being there with her. She works as a nurse at Denu Hospital and one day after her work-shift we told her how beautiful the clothes were she wore that day. She laughed and said: “Ok, I make you one!”. We never could have imagined that she was serious and were therefore rather surprised when the local tailor, Mr. Ben, came to take our measurements. And even more surprised, when it turned out that the beautiful clothes he made us were on Celestine's cost, as a present. And what better souvenir can you possible ask for?
Celestine's hospitality and generosity knows no limits. During the day she helps people for a living and in the evenings and weekends she helps people out of the kindness of her heart. The house and compound (that houses around 20 people!) belongs entirely to her and her husband, who works in Ho and whom we never had the chance to meet. In Ghana, people naturally care for one another and no family member will ever be left behind. It was therefore really nice for us to live with one big African family
Celestine seems to be everyone's (favourite) aunt at the compound, which means that everyone we met were almost always cousins and all of them just as loving and caring. These short entries do not do all of their wonderful characters justice, but they should nevertheless be mentioned as they all left a mark on our lives:
Bless (25), or Yayra in Ewe. She was the one who seemed to be in charge of us and whom we spent most of our time with. We'll always associate her with the now famous phrase: “Eat all!” whenever she served us her humongous quantities of food. And when we complained about it being too much, she always jokingly replied: “I want you to be lolo before you go back!”, which she almost achieved
Portia (18) or Ewoenom in Ewe. The day we met her, she came up to us and said: “I really want to know your name” and from that moment on, we became really close. She always took over whenever Bless was busy and as opposed to Bless, she took pride in doing everything herself without wanting to ask for any help.
The one thing that characterised Portia was her ever present smile and laughter, which made her a very likeable person as well as someone who was easy to tease:
the day we helped out on the family's farm together, Emilie was joking that Portia was a lazy person and that instead of giggling all the time, she should work harder. She found it very amusing, so Bless decided to scare her into working more. We all knew that her mobile phone was a wreck that could only receive calls, though without knowing who the caller was as the screen was broken. We therefore decided to call her up behind her back and whisper the words 'lazy person' in Ewe into the speaker, before turning the phone off. From far we could see a rather shocked Portia looking confused across the farms for the mysterious caller. “I think someone from the village just called me and said I was lazy!” and she immediately worked harder!
Brothers Nathaniel ('Nat' or Atsu) and Courage ( ) as well as their cousin Innocencial, or Adjele (22) were always busy with all sorts of chores and jobs, so we saw less of them than we would of Bless and Portia. They were however really lovely and always happy to see us. Nathaniel was absolutely intrigued in all the pictures Emilie took with her digital camera and always transferred all of them onto his laptop. He was also the only one on the compound that could swim as he used to work as one of the younger fishermen, so he was always keen to join us for a swim whenever he had the time. Courage is more soft-spoken than his older brother, which made it harder to get to know him. Innocencial made us some lovely armbands to remember her and Ghana by, saing softly that we were "good people" and that we would be missed a lot.
We met Sandra (26, Ewe name: Esi) from day one due to her approachable and slightly crazy nature. She would often come up to us and say something quite angrily in Ewe, knowing fair well that we did not understand a word and would feel worried about having done something wrong. She really loved seeing us compete with each other to speak and understand as much Ewe as possible, trying it out on her and she was also the person that seemed most interested about our life in Scotland, Belgium and Canada, even though she could not understand how Luxembourg could possibly be that small. Every evening she took Maths lessons on the porch in the garden, as she will be sitting exams in September. When she found out that Ben had quite a knack for everything number-related, she regularly asked him to take over and teach her. Sandra was the first to give us a lovely necklace with some beads in the Ghanaian colours red, yellow and green, so that we would never forget her and the beautiful country she came from. Ben has been wearing his very proudly every single day.
Michael (13) and Shine (5) are Sandra's younger brother and Sandra's son. Michael has the exact same crazy and outgoing nature as his older sister, but somehow it entirely skipped Shine as the little boy is as shy as can possibly be, but he is also incredibly cute. They are both in a boarding-school, meaning that we did not meet them until they came home for the summer-holidays on our last day. This is a real shame as we were really bonding with them, and especially little Shine.
Beatrice, Sandra and Michael's step-mother, is someone that we both really miss, despite the fact that she spoke no English and we never quite understood what she was telling us in Ewe. Always hard at work, she always paused whenever we entered the compound after a hard day's work at the construction site and greeted us with an excited: “Eh boa?”, meaning are you back? or a friendly: “Mia woeso”, meaning you are welcome; which without fail made us feel happy to be home again. And whenever there was a day we did not feel too well or were burnt, she would come towards us and say kind-sounding words. There was a clear communication-divide between us, but kindness needs no translation. On our last day she made us a self-made bead necklace each. Beads have always been a valued item in Ghana; a cultural heritage passed down from generation to generation, so through this gesture, we knew that we must have made an impact on her.
There were many people living around the house in the compounds that we never got a chance to bond with. This was due to many different things. Most of the time, these people were too busy with every day chores to really properly meet us; some were not able to speak English properly and the children were usually at (boarding-) school every day. Had we stayed there longer, this would have surely been a different story.
We met many people in Ghana, but none effected us as much as Simon and the members of our African family and if we could change one thing about our adventure in Ghana, it would without a doubt be to make our stay a lot longer. We would have both liked to get to know everyone at the compound equally well as well as spending more time with the kind and welcoming villagers of Denu. It must be said that the people of the Volta Region were by far the friendliest and more welcoming. This was affirmed by all of the tourist-guides and we never realised how lucky we were to reside in Denu until we travelled. The reason given for this reputation is that the Volta Region and especially the coastal area was one of the least visited places by tourists in Ghana. They therefore really appreciated any visitor that was willing to come and experience their home-towns. We also realised that many of the people there had never been in contact with Yavoos (white people) before. Especially the very smallest children, who had no television at home, were absolutely astonished when they saw us. One day, a little boy walked past us and when he saw us, he was so gobsmacked that he stumbled over some loose sand and fell flat on his face - the poor thing! But no matter how strange a sight we were to everyone, we were always greeted with a loving "Yavoo! You are welcome" or the equivalent: "Mia woeso". It is a custom in Ghana to greet everyone thouroughly whenever you pass by them, and we found it very amusing that it became a very standard conversation that always went as followed:
- How are you?
- I'm fine, thank you. How are you?
- I'm fine.
Use the words "good" or "well" instead of the standard "fine" and they usually get confused Many times we had to repeat the same thing 20 times in a row, when passing by a large crowd of people, all eager to be greeted. And when you were able to say the thing in Ewe, you of course scored bonus points. We did, however, realise that sometimes people assumed that if you could greet a person in Ewe, you could speak the jaw-breaking language fluently. We knew that Eh meant "yes"/ affirmative and that Yo was an agreement to something, so we decided to use these words after each conversation, much to the amusement of the locals. Emilie quickly learnt her lesson and had to stop using this tactic after she agreed at several occasions to marry a Ghanaian man though!