Sunday, February 22, 2009
Ghana has a certain quality to it that is very endearing. I hadn’t been able to put my finger on exactly what that quality was, but after this weekend I think I have figured it out. Ghana has adopted a lot of culture from the outside world. They speak English, worship the bible, and even celebrate Valentine’s Day now. But Ghana has far from lost its uniqueness. Every tradition adopted has a Ghanaian spin added to it. It becomes a huge, loud, colorful and often over the top version of its original self.
Valentines Day didn’t exist here until 4 or 5 years ago. But now that it has made it to here there’s no turning back. While most of the US was probably trying to forget its existence, Ghana has been talking about chocolate day for weeks. On the 14th everything got decorated in gaudy pink and white ribbons. There were big parties on the beach. The markets were overflowing with Kingsbite chocolate and the jewelry sellers had an all time high in sales.
Democracy has made it to Ghana, and let me tell you, Ghana has the rawest Democracy I have ever witnessed. Over the weekend Anika and I ended up with our host Auntie at the Tema Teachers Credit Union Annual Meeting. After a credit talk, which can be more accurately described as a credit sermon (and I quote “May the Lord Jesus grant us credit for all”), the group had to vote on a few issues. Looking at the program I thought the points looked pretty mundane. They wanted to change their name to the Teachers Credit Union Network. But voting in Ghana is far from mundane. People were standing up and shouting, pleading for revotes, and the chairman almost had to resign because was accused of swaying the group’s opinion. All fore a name change. No wonder it took so long for John Atta Mills to be elected.
Obama is a big deal in the US. But Obama support in the US still doesn’t have quite the fervor of Obama support in Ghana. There is Obama cloth that seamstresses sew into dresses and suits. The radio plays a whole slew of Obama inspired songs. Anytime an Obruni reveals that they are American everyone shouts OBAMA! He is a son of Africa here.
And of course, religion is amplified here. Every shop has some religious inspired name like “Blood of Jesus Hair Salon.” I probably should have been clued into the intensity of religion when I walked into my host family’s house and there was Gospel music blaring, big posters of Jesus surrounded by wooly lambs, Pastor Chris the South African Televangelist and little scriptures filling in any empty wall space. This morning we got up to go to church and I was really hoping it would be a Gospel Church so I could do some singing. But we pulled up to what looked like a huge warehouse and I realized I had some Mega-church worshipping ahead of me. The sound system was not very clear so I could barely understand what the pastor was saying, and I got really sleepy in the heat, but I couldn’t dose off because there were ushers dressed in all white watching the crowd. They would wack anyone on the head who was slouching too much or not paying attention. One man fell asleep and the pastor called him out and he was removed from the service. The music was provably the best I have ever heard at a church service, very passionate Gospel. Then they said something and our host Maame was beside herself with excitement. That’s when I realized that we were in a Born Again Church and Anika and I were about to be saved. Now, I’ve never been saved before (and I’m not sure how necessary it is since I already belong to another church). But, from what I gathered, Ghanaians do not take religion or saving lightly. Well we survived and made our host Mom giddy with happiness. I think we are spending Easter either them, but I don’t really want to go back to church, even though next time we don’t have to get up in front of the whole congregation. Thank you Lord Almighty that is over. Ghana is still endearing in its enthusiasm though.