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The International Writers Magazine:Ghana, Africa
Date of Trip: February 16th to March 31st 2012

Good Morning, Ghana!
• Gloria Pope
It has been a long night. I would have tossed and turned but, glued to the sheets with sweat as I was, motion was difficult. I’ve heard that people who are starving dream of food. I’m having fantasies of arctic-dry air


I thought roosters crowed to wake the sun. Apparently not in Ghana. They’re on task all night. If I spoke “rooster,” I’m pretty sure that what they are saying is, “GOOD GRIEF! HOW CAN ANYONE SLEEP IN THIS CLIMATE?” Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s what they’re saying. But now, at five A.M., there are others who’ve given up on trying to rest and are lined up behind the roosters at the complaint desk: the miniature goats right below our bedroom window, bleat with hunger; the dogs, also right below our bedroom window, irritated by the goats, howl a pathetic duet; and the roosters, anxious to not be outdone, REALLY ramp up the crowing and now it is officially morning in Ghana!

            By six a.m., the guy who lives, yes, right below our bedroom window, turns his cheap radio on, making sure a three block radius can hear his choice of music and the kids with the broken aluminum chair start banging the pieces against the concrete wall. Their mother starts yelling at them in Fantse and the only thing I know is that none of her words include instructions to not bang aluminum chair parts.
            At seven, the sound of water splashing on cement and children crying in protest of their cold bucket baths signals the start of a typical school day. With immaculate school uniforms pulled over clean black skin, they march off on dusty orange roads looking like stars in a National Geographic documentary. They are laughing. Their hair shines. They are beautiful.

            Ghana is predominately Christian. The businesses reflect this. Here are some of my favorite store fronts:
                                    “Pray Hard Provision Store”
                                    “Blood of Christ Bicycle Shop”
                                    “Throne of God Auto Parts”
                                    “Abundant Grace Plumbing”
                                    (and my personal favorite....)
                                    “God of Mercy Lingerie”
            We live in an apartment in an old house atop a hill which explains why all these sounds seem to be right below our bedroom window. Indeed, the whole town is below our bedroom window, so we get the full cacophony. We are two blocks from the beach, not a terribly pleasant beach, but a beach, nevertheless. You have to walk past the pigs and through a gang of adolescent boys hitting you up for money but if you make it through that gauntlet, there lies the lovely Atlantic. If you could block out the heat and the crowing and the din of music from the local bar and just concentrate on the sound of waves, you might imagine you are in Maui. Except Maui never smelled like this.
            After living in several developing nations, I have pieced together a recipe for this scent. I call it: “Parfume du puke.”

            Take several tons of wet garbage from various sources
             Add a liberal quantity of human and animal waste
            Mix with the aroma of entrails from the meat market
            Add flood waters occasionally to keep it moist
            Cook under the hot tropic sun for about 6000 years and voila!

The best coping mechanism I can think of is to shove cones of incense up your nose and light them.          

ghana Aroma aside, Cape Coast is charming. Even the ever-blaring Ghanian rock music makes the perfect soundtrack for the endless parade of sellers swaying under their heavy burdens. European “finishing schools” should have sent their young ladies to Africa for deportment lessons. Forget balancing a single book! Try navigating broken cement and stray chickens with 1 square meter of goods on your head! Many of the female sellers do this dance with babies swaddled tightly on their backs as well.

These darling kids present the picture of contentment...or coma...I can’t tell which. Their body temperatures, wrapped like that in THIS heat, must be in the hyperthermic range. Nevertheless, they are adorable; little feet sticking out on either side of mama’s waist and sleepy heads bobbing back and forth to the rhythm of her walk.

            I am impressed with the beauty of these people. I can’t count the times I have looked at one of the Ghanians and thought, “Gosh! They could be a movie star!” I see so many stunning smiles! Well, except for the militia manning the roadblock set up near the orphanage. I haven’t seen them smile yet.

            They decided to search us yesterday. Finding only school supplies in the trunk of our taxi, and not knowing what else to do, they fined our driver for wearing the wrong kind of sandals. Yup. But you don’t question the guys with the guns. Our driver, just laughed about it later and said, “They see white people in my taxi and think you will pay me extra and they want their cut of it. I told them you are not tourists, that you work at an orphanage but they don’t believe me.”

            “Religion as a business” is at a fever pitch here in Ghana. Long before dawn each Sunday, preachers start hawking their wares. Never has the invention of the microphone and amplifier been so ill used! Hallelujahs hit us with the gentleness a jackhammer. Convinced that only a massive power outage will stop them, we lie in our “pews” of pain and plot the overthrow of the Ghana Electric Company.  Then, as if the preaching isn’t torture enough, they start singing! This, I kid you not, sounds like goats giving birth. I guess. I mean, I’ve never really heard a goat giving birth, but when I do, I’m pretty sure I’m going to say, “WOW! That sounds exactly like those wailing street preacher!” *

       The sun sets, the zealots pack up their show and go home and the roosters, goats and dogs take the stage. I listen to the sounds of the village as I scoop water from a plastic bucket and pour it over my head. I feel clean....for a few precious moments...and then I start to sweat again.
            Gazing at my damp, wrinkled, somewhat gritty sheets, I groan. The nagging question begs an answer: “Tell me again why you left the comforts of Colorado and came here to suffer?” One hundred and eighty “reasons” respond. They wear ill fitting red and white uniforms and they run with joy to greet me when I walk onto the campus.

            I lie down, adhere my body to the sheets and think, “I can do this for them. I’m glad to do this for them.” Life is good.

Who would have guessed that we would actually have the opportunity to hear a goat giving birth, but we did! During our month in Ghana, our host family’s goat delivered her three kids just a few feet from our window and now I must now apologize to all the goats in the world for that noxious comparison! Goats in labor do not sound like Ghanian preachers! They are much easier on the ears!

© Gloria Pope June 2012

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