26 July 2013

GHANA PILGRIMAGE - WEDNESDAY 24 JULY

I woke up quickly at 4:00 am on Wednesday, having sensed a flash of light outside. Surely that’s not lightning, I thought. When I opened the window, however, and peered out across the trees, I did indeed see lightning; and I felt the wind picking up dramatically. Within a few minutes, the wind was quite strong. When it blew through the leaks around the seals of our windows, the wind sang like a hurricane. Rain followed. It would stay with us most of the day.

Because of that rain, we enjoyed one of our less hurried mornings. We would stay at the offices of ADDRO for an hour, until around 10:00 am, to see if the rain would stop and if the village would be able to accommodate us. Regrettably, it looked like the rain would prohibit us and the bus from visiting some places.

Fortunately, however, the rain was also a blessing to the farmers and villages. That land needs the rain to come. The crops need the rain. The lives of these Ghanaians need the rain. The Ghana pilgrims sat around the place, and talked or checked messages or wrote or read. And, of course, some played Bananagrams. The rain continued, often in heavier downpours; where I sat protected under the porch roof, the rain was actually quite pleasant.

Then, despite the rain, we made our departure, raincoats and parkas donned. On the bus again, we made our way up the road northward. The potholes were now full of water, and the road was a muddy and broken up mess. Our intrepid bus driver forayed on.

We were on our way to Yelwoko, another village in that area; but we were headed especially to the Yelwoko Anglican Women’s Development Centre. Rob Radtke told us later that there is a new service or project there every time he visits. Our first stop was inside a low-roofed, small house, with a new mill in it. Having walked a few minutes in the rain to get there, we huddled inside and the rain sounded stronger on that metal roof.

We were shown one of the newer modern mill devices, which the women can use to mill both millet and rice. But its use with rice is especially helpful, said the main woman, because it can remove the husks of the rice, too. It is a sought after mill.

From there, we walked to a large set of buildings, where the women of the area had set up displays for us. We saw various textiles and crafts (some of which we would purchase later), and we saw the sewing patterns which the teacher used with her students. Then, one of the village women gave us quite a detailed explanation of how shea butter is made. We saw a bowl of shea nuts, then a bowl of crushed shea nuts, then a bowl of roasted shea nuts, then some sort of shea mixture, and finally the finished product of rich, creamy shea butter. Some of our number seemed to be salivating over it! 

Across the way, several seamstress students, all dressed in pink, were sitting at their beautiful sewing machines. Those girls, too, were pleased to have their photographs taken.

The Durbar, celebrating our arrival, had had to be modified to accommodate the rain. We would not be able to see some projects; and some performances and guests could not be there. But every teacher and guide and host was also thankful for the rain. The main project manager thanked us, actually, for having brought the rain!

It turned out that there was one performance group who were not deterred by the rain. The Boya dancers did arrive. With steady rhythm they thrilled both us and their friends with dramatic feet and muscle and jumping movement. Many of us were eager to reward their performance with currency, which they appreciated. Then, Bishop Jacob was persuaded to join them. In fact, I believe Bishop Jacob was quite eager to join them. He performed the same dance they had started with, and he was magnificent.

As we left that afternoon, I felt sad that we were leaving such happy and familiar territory. I know I have not experienced some of the pain and suffering of this place, but I do know some of its character. I have enjoyed these dances, these patterns, these paths, these trees, these crops and vendors and schools, these dirt roads, these beautiful people. They have shown me something of holiness, full of rhythm and tradition, full of love and respect. I am honored to have been here.

Back on the bus, again we drove back to Bolgatanga for a quick lunch and then the much longer drive back to Tamale. This last time, the pot-holed road was even more full of mud and water, and the teakwood areas were wet. We waved at the checkpoints again. We crossed the Black Volta River again. I was not only accustomed to this place; I was going to miss it.

One more thing: the good people on the staff of ADDRO were magnificent. I feel like Theo, and Hillary, and Emmanuel, have become friends. Bishop Jacob delivered some kind closing remarks, and we enjoyed his blessing. Then, we said our good-byes at the ADDRO offices, we took photographs, and we climbed aboard the bus which had been our steady transport for the past two days. It was time to drive two and a half hours back to Tamale, where we would spend a quick night and rise early in order to fly back to Accra.


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