The weekend before I went to the stilt village, I spent my weekend at the Palm Tree Festival in the Volta region in Ghana. The trip was through the drumming department and we stayed in the hometown of a drumming professor in a small village. The trip was very fun and I felt like I was really able to understand Ghanaian culture better, especially since I was so far outside the hustle and bustle of Accra.
In typical Ghanaian fashion, we left an hour and a half late, so we got stuck in major traffic on our way there. Originally, we were supposed to travel luxuriously (in an air-conditioned bus), but since there were so few of us, we rode in a private tro-tro instead. Since being in Ghana, it’s rained about five times and on this day, it not only rained—it poured. About 45 minutes into the car ride, the ceiling started leaking in the tro-tro, but it wasn’t anything major, so we didn’t think anything of it. But, as the rain kept coming down, the ceiling eventually couldn’t handle it and there was water everywhere! I was sitting in the back row of the tro-tro with my friends Emily and Jeremy and we were the only ones getting soaked. Twenty minutes later, we were so wet that it looked like we had just gotten out of the shower. When asked what was going on by us, my Jeremy said it best: “It’s fucking raining back here.”
Needless to say, we pulled over multiple times to try and see where the water was coming from, but nothing helped. We had one person move up front, but Jeremy and me were stuck in the back in the pouring rain—you’d think we were in a convertible, not a tro-tro. Eventually, the raining ceiling started to get some other people wet, so we stopped at a gas station and the driver was going to attempt to fix the problem once and for all. The only issue was the fact that he was trying to seal the hole, but that was impossible since it was already soaked from all of the rain. At that point, I’d agreed to just suck it up and stay in the back since I was already wet, but then my friend Ally and I realized an even bigger problem than the rain—cockroaches.
We saw a cockroach crawl out of a hole in the ceiling and that was the breaking point for us. We told the professor and other Ghanaians we were with and they told us that they would switch seats with us. Luckily, Ally and I were up in the front, far away from the cockroaches, but we could still hear them squeaking.
When we arrived at the homestay, let me just say that it was exactly what I pictured Ghana to be like before I came here. We were in a small village with tiny houses and basic necessities. The house that we stayed in consisted of a single room, which is where we slept. The living room was outside of the house along with the bathroom. There was no running water, but there was electricity. The kitchen consisted of women cooking food on coals and fires outside.
The next morning, we all woke up and got dressed for the day. The whole reason we came to the Volta region was to go to the Palm Tree Festival, which consists of celebrating the palm tree for all of its uses—the leaves, the oil, the bark, the coconuts, the alcohol, etc.
We started the festivities by going a few blocks away where there was a parade to the festival site. The “parade” consisted of hundreds of people decked out in traditional ware from waist beads to kente cloth. The chief of the village was carried on a throne to the festival. I was wearing a traditional dress and I was sweating profusely since it was so hot outside—I don’t know how the men in elaborate kente cloths were able to survive in the heat.
When we got to the festival site, there were people everywhere all sitting down waiting for the speakers to begin. About 20 minutes after we got there, there was much commotion going on since the former President of Ghana, Jerry John Rawlings, was in attendance. He came up to our section and I was only ten feet away from him—he even shook my friend’s hand.
Once the speakers began, they went on for hours and hours—all in the local language. We got there around 11am and we left at 3pm and the festival wasn’t even halfway over! While the speakers took up most of the time, there were several breaks where people performed or where there were traditional ceremonies in honor of the palm tree.
Once we left, we went home for dinner. Even though I’ve been in Ghana for 3 months now, it hasn’t been that hard to find food I like. Being in Accra, I have so many options about where to go and what to eat, but since I was in a rural part of Ghana, I didn’t have any choice when it came to dinner. That being said, dinner consisted of banku (a doughy ball that is everywhere in Ghana), tilapia, little fish, and sauce. I tried the tilapia, but wasn’t a huge fan since there were bones and skin everywhere, so I took a few bites of banku and called it a day.
After dinner, we all sat outside and got to know the people in the neighborhood. There were so many people around and it was so nice to be able to feel like part of the community. Even though a lot of the people didn’t speak English, we were all dancing and drumming and having a good time—I guess it’s true when they say that music is a universal language. When we were dancing, I even got to do one of the traditional dances from my dance class, so that was a lot of fun since I actually knew what was going on.
The next day, we packed up and left for campus. Overall, I’d say my experience was very enlightening and enjoyable. Looking back, I like to describe it as my “Peace Corps experience,” because it reminds me of what it would be like to be in the Peace Corps, especially since it was such a small village with a language barrier. I really enjoyed myself and I’m glad I got to spend it with some of my close friends.
Peace & Blessings,