Friday, March 12, 2010

Sounds of Ghana

The sounds here are amazing. My first night, I was totally unnerved by the loud screeching of bats that earplugs couldn't even deaden. Last night, upon returning to the village after a few days away, I was stopped dead in my tracks by what I thought had to be fire works. I looked 360 degrees around me thinking I'd find some mischevious kids and found nothing. Silly me...I should have been looking up, up to the mountain. A brush fire had broken out on Adaklu Mountain. The snaps and crackles of the fire made it seem as if it was the fourth of July here in Abuadi. And the locusts are so loud, often one must shout to be heard over them.  Let's not forget the roosters that love to announce the morning, and the goats that sometimes sound like crying children.

I can't seem to get used to the bells from the EP Church right next door. They are riduculously loud, and don't seem to sound at any particular time everyday...but they do ring serveral times a day, everyday. Another interesting phenomenon of this church is the BLARING music coming from its loud speakers at 4:30 a.m. on Sundays. It goes for hours. They must have a limited supply of tunes because I hear what seems to be the same three songs repeated over and over and over again. No one seems to mind though. In fact, most people around here sing along while going about their business.

The church thing is something else that I can't seem to get my head around. Everyone here goes to church. There are five in the village. There is no set mass goes all day and parishoners come and go as they please. Most, however, stay for hours. HOURS. They sing, they dance, they pray and pray and pray some more. They also donate alot. I watched some people donate 4x during one two hour stint.

The churches are the nicest buildings in the village. The schools are crumbling on top of the children, literally, but one church as a sound system? When I asked Anani why classes weren't held in the churches on the rainy days, since it seemed like a very logical solution to the problem of the hole in the roof of the lower primary school that cancels classes each time it rains, he had no answer. He said its just not done.

Everything here in Ghana is named something religious. EVERYTHING. Even the taxis and trotros have scripture or psalms or pictures of Jesus emblazoned on them. He Has Risen Internet Cafe. Know Thy Lord Enterprises. The Blood of Christ Clothing Outlet. Im not exaggerating in the least. Its rather comical.

After attending church last Sunday with Anani for the two hours I could stomach, I asked him to please explain to me why Ghana had adopted the religion of the Europeans. It seemed to me that if a group of strangers came to America, enslaved and/or corrupted its people and raped the land of its resources, and laid domain for hundreds of years while declaring their divine right as decreed by their foreign religion, the very last thing I would do is adopt their religion. Again, Anani had no answer.

While waiting in trotros for them to fill with passengers at the station, sometimes for 30-45 mintues, people, always men, come along and plant themselves in the open door of the vehicle to preach, nonstop. Its torture...but again, no one seems to mind except me. Thank GOD for my ipod...yuck yuck.

Another question I can't answer for myself is why Ghana, and Africa is so far behind in development. Human civilization started here on the continent hundreds of years ago...why is it nearly 100 years behind? I am reminded of the Aboriginal peoples of Australia. How people can survive in the earth's most harsh climates, and thrive, for hundreds of years astounds me. Yet these two ancient peoples are so far behind the trend towards modernity. I'm beginning to think its philosophy and the people here are slow to change.

Here is where I am a bit frustrated with the work I am supposed to be doing here. I get the impression that the idea of volunteerism here is that someone is going to come from far away and just magically make everything better. Please don't get the impression that these people are lazy or unintelligent...just the opposite is true. They make due with an oppressive lack of resources. They have adapted to this harsh climate and everyday make a comfortable life for themselves and their families using just their knowledge and skills and the most basic of tools. But when it comes to modernity, they don't know where to even begin, so they don't. They go on as is, only dreaming about what could be but having no idea of how to get there.

When nearly the whole village is attending the school volleyball game at 10 a.m. on a Friday, like today, I want to shake them, and shout: What are you doing here? Go get a job! Do something! There is a difference in philosophy here. This is one of the very many differnces between life in America where one is told you can acheieve anything if you work hard enough, and Ghana where community and tradition are held most sacred. It is also important to point out here that there are no jobs to be gotten. When I explained to a taxi driver in Cape Coast that I had quit my job to come here to volunteer, he was astonished. He told me that if one were to lose their job here, they'd probably be out of work 8 or 9 years until another employment oppurtunity came along.

Another major breach in philosophies concerns children. The people here are poor. There is no question about it. But they keep on happily having children. Now, I'm 30, and have wanted to have children as long as I can remember, but I don't because it is not financially responsible. If you have no electricity and live in a crumbling cynderblock house with no running water and barely enough food to feed the children you already have just once a day, what business do you have having more children? It boggles my mind. But I am here as a visitor, to, I have become a Stephanie that is barely recognizable...timid and quiet with my opinion. Imagine that! Ha!

There goes that church bell again...marking what exactly? I don't know.


  1. Stephanie, I hope you are doing fine. Nothing in your post surprises me. I think that in general it takes a long time for Americans to really understand the way of life in developing countries.

  2. i'm still on the "timid and shy" part.... hard to imagine!