Sunday, June 2, 2013

Celebration x 2

So, for those that know me you know what the first of the two celebrations is - my 19th birthday! The second was our host's mother's funeral, her name is Rebecca Ama Benewa. So to make it easier I'll go day by day and explain everything that went on! 

Happy Birthday me! Last teenage year then I've got to be a big girl! Woke up to the best birthday messages. One from the fam jam, a perfect birthday card with reminder of home as it was a Philly ecard which made me smile a lot and got me all excited for my second birthday in not too long when i'm home and Nay, well what can I say...a perfect message reminding me how old I was and that I was getting sensible and serious in my life and all the amazing stuff I have to come. So, I'm done being gross and nostalgic (can you tell, I'm beginning to get excited to see everyone again - you do get a little emotional when you're away for 5 months!). Then off to school, but before this could happen, Kirsten, the best roommate anyone could ask for quickly swung out a drum hiding in our humble room for my birthday which all my friends had contributed to buy me as I have wanted from the moment we arrived to take one home! Sooo cool! Will post a picture. So then off we went to school as normal and it was fun. Kirsten took some fun pictures of us at school and then we had worship which is always a lot of signing, clapping, dancing and drumming. Then, when it is your birthday here you have to buy things for people as well as people buying you things which meant I had to buy a lot of sweets for all my 3 classes and handing them out became such a riot as other classes were trying to get one I just threw them in the air and let them fight for them. Was so funny to watch. After school, we went home and people had started to arrive for the funeral so there were lots of people milling around our house so we got changed and spent the evening cooking and relaxing with all the ladies preparing food. I think this is one of the nicest parts of culture here even if it is a little sexist. Then just before bed we went to pick up our Sunday dresses for the funeral and when we returned I was greeted with the best birthday tradition. You have to be soaked in water. So, when we returned the children attacked me with about 5 buckets of water (which bearing in mind we have to walk 10 mins to get was a big deal) so I was drenched from head to toe!! 

Oh this was a fun day! Well, interesting. We were awoken at 6ish and told to get dressed and go. Dressed in black looking reasonably smart I hope. We were guided up to the family house where Ama Benewa lived and one of the sons lives. There was a tent outside and a choir singing. We sat down and then were swiftly told to go into the house to pay our respects. We walked in and were I would say the right word is confronted by Ama Benewa literally. There she was lying in a big white bed adorned in white clothing with flashing lights around her. Just want to point out two things here: 1. She has been dead for 5 months so how they preserve I have no idea 2. Not only have I never seen a body before, I have never been told to greet one at a Ghanaian funeral so it's safe to we were a little lost. So we said a prayer and left awkwardly. Awkward is the only way to describe us here at least once a day but what can you do? All part of the experience and I can now say as a 19 year old I have seen a dead body. From there we sat and listened to singing and some preaching outside. Then the children from the school choir arrived of which 4 are our family kids, Freda, Philo, SK and little Afia so the grandchildren of Ama Benewa. We then, as teachers took them in to see her where they were to sing for 15 minutes. So many of the children were crying and the kids from our family were screaming and were literally dragged out at the end. After being so close to these kids now for 4 and a half months I just wanted to take the pain away. It was horrific. The children went home and we stayed to watch the rest which included the coffin being bought out and there being some blessing of it and some crying and some bizarre preaching. 

After this we went to the cemetery following a taxi with the coffin sticking out the back. And it was put in the grave that had been built already.  All cemented into the perfect rectangle ready for the coffin. Then they put some premade cement blocks over it and started to cement it up. This was relatively quick and non emotional after the morning so all seemed to end abruptly. Walked home with Derrick and went to see how the kids were getting on at the school. As we were walking there we were greeted by the kids coming in the opposite direction. They were all ready for their performance so we headed up to the square where all the funeral celebrations were happening, about 200 people sat watching. The kids all went into the town building thing kind of like a town hall but used for nothing except storing the funeral tents. They got all dressed in their traditional outfits and jewellery and paint and came out ready for their 'culture dance'. Will post a picture of how amazing they looked an when I'm home in a couple of weeks I'll post a video. They were amazing and I was so proud. The drumming and dancing that they performed was amazing! Can't describe it as there is no comparison to something in our culture. Only way would be a shuffling dancing walk with some funny movements of the arms but that is completely wrong because its really hard and they were really amazing and it's a really cool dance. 

After they performed we went home and ate lunch with the teachers on our porch of banku and okro soup which was delicious. Then the rest of the evening was nice and relaxed which was good since we were shattered. 

We woke up like the latest we ever have here which for me was about 7:30!! Wow! Unfortunately though, that came with a sore throat. We got told to dress in our Ghanaian outfits for church around 9 so of course we did but obviously everyone else was on Ghana time so didn't leave till like 10:30. We went up to the square for the church service. There isn't much to say about a church service other than there is a lot of shouting and preaching and singing and money giving. Sat next to Derrick and Kirsten which was not my best move as it meant I got the giggles and then couldn't really stop. Derrick is the first person we've met here our age who kind of gets it simply because he watches about 5 western movies a day and has been away from the village to boarding school. Kind of nice to finally have someone who has our back. And there ends Sunday, we did nothing except lie down all day and eat one meal which was the downfall of the day but it didn't include cabbage which are the first vegetables we've had in maybe 3 weeks so was quite happy with that. 

Weekend done. Got more to say so will do another one about our last 2 days. Sorry for the length and probably the boring ness but either write it all or don't write much. Till the next! 

Siwan Emily 

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