Since my last Argus Abroad, I’ve left Accra and have moved to Kumasi, a relatively small city in the Ashanti region of Ghana. Kumasi is about a five or six hour drive from Accra, but in true Ghanaian fashion, it’s not actually that far away. It’s just that all of the county’s major roads are unpaved and have more holes in them than a block of Swiss cheese. In a weird way, I’ve come to enjoy how much time it takes to do everything here. You always meet interesting people along the way and when you get anything done—such as getting to school on time, successfully eating a huge plate of rice, or surviving yet another cold bucket shower—it always feels like a huge accomplishment.
In Kumasi, like in Accra, I am living with a host family, but this time I am absolutely obsessed with my host mom, Auntie Maggie. She is a very lively and energetic 65-year-old woman, who, despite being a newly recognized senior citizen, runs her own store in front of our house, loves to chat about her ex-boyfriend, and is a true social butterfly. Every night we sit at the store eating dinner, talking, and just hanging out with the cute little girls who live next door. When there is no power—which happens just about every two or three days here—we sit inside the house and listen to music from my iPhone, which she calls my “cassette.”
Auntie Maggie and I have had quite a few hilarious adventures together. For example, when she came to pick me up, she ran around the parking lot and hugged every person in my group. Within an hour of moving into the house, she told me she wanted to take me for a tour of our neighborhood and get a drink. While I assumed she meant lemonade and water, when we arrived, I quickly realized she wasn’t talking about water—this woman meant business. After we drank beer and chatted for a while, she was ready to leave the bar and I wasn’t nearly finished with my drink. So, she ordered that we chug the rest of our beers together. Yes, I chugged a beer with my host mom less than two hours after meeting her.
On my second day living with her, Maggie dressed me in her traditional clothes, put on a new hairdo (she has at least five wigs), taught me how to feed the goats we live with (there are nine of them), and took me to her small Baptist church. As is true of most Ghanaian churches, hers had no shortage of singing and dancing. But this time, there was an added twist; the priest made me dance alone in front of the entire church and then, later in the service, called me to the podium and forced me to introduce myself to the entire congregation in Twi. Following my stellar performance, which incited cheering by the congregation and people asking me for an encore, I was asked to speak in Twi on a Ghanaian radio station. Adopting our trip’s new motto, #YOLINGO (you only live in Ghana once), I accepted the offer and had a few practice sessions for my taping with the station director. In the end, there was apparently some complication with my contract—I had no idea that I had a contract and was going to be getting paid for all of this—so the whole thing ended up falling through.
Overall, Kumasi is pretty awesome. It’s the cultural capital of Ghana, and while I’ve been here, I’ve been able to see and experience some really cool things. During one of the program excursions, we visited a local priestess to learn about traditional religion. After she took her ritual 10 a.m. swig of appatechi, the local vodka, she went into her shrine and became “possessed.” While possessed she covered herself in flour and paint, started chain smoking, threw eggs at the gate to her compound, and danced before us and with us for almost two hours. At the end of our visit, we entered the shrine and talked to the priestess. She told me she could see from my eyes that I was a strong woman with a strong heart. She also told me I was powerful and was a descendent of the shrine. Had I been from Ghana, I apparently would have been a priestess, too!
If you think I am making all of this up, I promise I’m not. Things here seem to get more and more ridiculous by the day. I’ve sung in a children’s choir at a Catholic church, had to avoid being rammed by a raging bull during a blackout, and learned important Twi words, like one that means “walking stick” and another that means “to load a gun.”
There are so many funny stories to tell and experiences to share, and I’m sure there are more to come. Once I leave Kumasi, I will head to a rural Ashanti village for 13 days. As usual, I have no idea what to expect—because if I’ve learned anything from living in Ghana, it’s that having expectations isn’t productive.