"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Wednesday, June 30, 2004 A slow day in Ghanaland ... catching up on video editing mostly ... so I'll take this chance to catch you up on some little bits of Ghana culture (popular and otherwise) that might have slipped my previous accounts. Call it "An Obroni's Guide to Accra"
And I would be remiss if I didn't start with the absolute highlight of my trip. Forget the wonderful people. Forget the amazing hospitality. Forget the beautiful children. You come to Ghana for one reason and one reason only. You come for the...
Fan Yogurt - Among the infinte number of things that people young (way too young) and old sell in the middle of the streets to anyone driving or riding by is Fan Yogurt. They carry huge tall boxes of it on their heads and run alongside cars selling it ... defying several of what I previously thought were immutable laws of physics. One of them is that frozen things in cardboard boxes in the heat should get warm ... but these don't. Fan yogurt is frozen yogurt or ice milk that comes in little packets. You pay 2000 cedis for one, they hand it to you wrapped in an old lottery sheet, you wipe off one corner, bite the corner off and suck on it for all its worth. I thought the strawberry was good UNTIL I HAD THE CHOCOLATE. Here's a tip ... it doesn't matter how bad a day you are having in Accra, a ChocoFan will make it better. It's like really good frozen chocolate milk that melts as you are sucking it down. MMMMMMMMMMM. You can see us often sitting on tro-tros sucking on our ChocoFan like babies with binkies!
Water Satchets - Same principle as the Fan Yogurt (though healthier albeit far less satisfying). If you're from the West, drinking tap water here is not a good idea seeing as there are little critters in it that our stomachs don't have enzymes for. No worry. In addition to big bottles of water, you can buy water in satchets from hoardes of people who run alongside cars and sit in the markets yelling out "Pure Water!" Only not all the water is pure. Lisa and Rachel clued me in on this the first day ... first you have to look for the "official Ghana seal of approval" on each bag. That tells you that it really has gone through a place that actually purifies the water, not one that just puts tap water in little packets. Then ... and here's the cool trick ... try to get packaging that has more than one color on it. R&Ls theory is that the ones that can afford more colors probably have better machinery and the water should taste better. Don't know if it's all in my head, but it seems to work. (A sideline to this ... if you're a big fan of ice, don't come to Ghana ... no ice for Westerners -- it's all made out of the tap water and the critters are alive and well when they thaw out!)
Movies - People say they have American movies here, but I haven't seen any theatres with them. What they have everywhere is Nigerian movies ... which are absolutely hysterical. Picture American 1970s and 1980s B-movies where everything is WAY overacted. They are also usually pretty violent ... not a lot of gore but a lot of gunplay. My brother would be in heaven here.
TV - Accra has three channels, which carry similar programming. By far the most popular thing on TV is the EuroCup soccer, which is in the semifinals this week (I'm in the minority pulling for Greece because Schroedter's cousins are there right now). Other than that, the staples are Spanish soap operas, lots of news, the occasional made-for-TV American movie that you have never ever heard of, and lots of religious programming. Imagine my chagrin to be getting ready for church on Sunday and hear the 700 Club on in the living room. By far the best is the Ghana News. For a Millennium Development Goal nut like me, it's wonderful. You never hear news about international development in the U.S. Here ... it's ALL you hear. There's also no real crime here to speak of (other than the occasional robbery) ... and I have yet to see ONE news story about a killing or really any crime since I've been here. So refreshing after American news! The best part is the weather on the nighttime news. They play all this really funky hip-hop music for about 30 seconds with pictures of clouds and rainstorms and sunsets as an intro and then you have this really hip guy dressed to the 9s in his native garb with a big smile on his face telling us what the weather is going to be like tomorrow (basically, every day it's 82 degrees with a chance of rain). We call him the happy disco weather guy. He's our hero.
Music - Gotta tell you ... haven't been too impressed with music here. Emmanuel loves reggae, so when I'm with him, I get to listen to some good reggae (Robin will love that!). Other than that, the main kinds of music are (in no particular order) -- American top 20 hip-hop and rap, really bad (IMHO) techno, ultra-sappy Christian pop, almost as sappy American and British pop (lots of Bette Middler and Celine Dion and they love the boy bands here), and ... by far the funniest ... local covers of old U.S. Top 40 hits (One day I was walking down the street and heard a cover of "I got you, babe" in Ga). Even the music at church has been disappointing ... they sing mostly things right out of the Church of England hymnbook. Emmanuel and James are trying to get them to jazz it up a little with local rhytymns, but they are slow to come around. Actually, some of my alarm clock music from the Pentecostal church isn't bad ... but a lot of it is songs I used to sing at church camp. Nothing wrong with that ... unless Jesus Loves Me, This I Know isn't your cup of tea at quarter to five in the morning!
Food -- In a word -- outstanding! You have to be careful what you eat ... gotta make sure the meat is well-cooked and never have any dairy (exception: FanYogurt) or mayonaise because the power goes out pretty often and you never know how long it was out. But with a few simple precautionary rules, you can have a culinary delight daily here. I was reading somewhere (maybe it was the Poisonwood Bible), about someone going back to America after being in Africa and not being able to taste the food. I believe it. Everything here is just bursting with amazing flavor ... even the stuff that isn't really hot and spicy. And the produce ... let me tell you about the produce. Bananas and mangoes and watermelon and pineapple and fruits I'd never heard of that just explode and melt in your mouth. I've gotten used to fresh fruit and homemade bread/toast and an egg that's pretty much just out of the chicken every morning for breakfast. One thing, though ... the Atkins diet? Not gonna happen in Ghana. This place is Carb Central. Everything is fried and breaded. The only thing I haven't seen fried or breaded is the goat (the other white meat).
Radio - James gave me a radio for my room which gets BBC World, so I am a happy camper with my psuedoNPR fix (but better, because like the news here, it's heavy on the international development news. Also, it's really interesting to hear how the world reports on America ... if you hadn't caught on, we've become pretty much of a tragic and dangerous joke). But the rest of the radio is either music (see above) or talk shows. The talk shows drove me crazy for awhile because I could swear they were speaking in English and then I wouldn't be able to understand it and I thought if I just listened harder I would be able to and then ... hey... there was some more English again and then I couldn't understand it again. (All this is happening on the buses ... which play the talk shows at full blast in the afternoon). Turns out they don't stick to one language on the talk shows. Pretty much everyone here is multilingual and they switch back and forth with incredible ease. Also turns out that many people speak "pidgeon" -- which is what you would guess ... something that is barely recognizable as English but is basically angloslang. So when you listen to the talk shows, you will hear a couple sentences in English and then the conversation could be in Ga, Twi, Pidgeon, English or any number of languages. I've stopped trying to follow it, BTW.
Tomorrow is Republic Day. Nobody works. It's the anniversary of Ghana becoming a republic and joining the U.N. (It's really cool how people include that part ... it was a really big deal for Ghana to join the U.N. They really take pride in it here!). I think I'm going with Nie Aboe, Mackinnon, Ann and a bunch of the crossroaders to a waterfall a couple hours from here for an outing. We were thinking of going to Buduburam today, but that fell through. We'll go next week.
Tuesday, June 29, 2004 One of the things I find most remarkable about Christ the King Anglican Church in Mallam is something that everyone here finds most unremarkable ... how it began.
Christ the King began in James and Frieda's living room. They felt a need for an Anglican church in the area so they just called together some people and started Bible study and morning prayer in their living room. Eventually, as it grew, they contracted with Canon Oddo and Emmanuel Quartey at St. Luke's to come and provide Eucharist on a regular basis. Then a piece of property in a great location came available and the diocese helped them buy it. Then they raised the money to put the current structure of a roofed shelter with bricks up to about your waist most of the way around.
I was having another conversation with Bishop Akrofi about this today and mentioned how remarkable I thought this was and he looked at me like I was speaking esperanto. Of course they planted churches like this! Then I mentioned to him the history of church planting in our diocese -- which I believe is a good and healthy diocese -- in the past 10 years, and he absolutely thought I was joking. He was incredulous.
Every day, I'm struck by how much we have to learn from each other. If I recall correctly, our recent history with church planting is that in the past 20 years we have planted 1, maybe 2 churches (depending on when St. Francis, Wildwood and Transfiguration, Lake St. Louis, started) plus a false start in Columbia (plus the campus ministry at Wash. U. ... which technically doesn't have congregational standing but is a community of faith!). We have a big chunk of money from the capital campaign sitting in the bank waiting to be spent on church plants. We had a study we did (with assistance from the national church center desk on these things) that advised us that we should only plant a church when we had something like $400K in the bank and then only do it in an educated, white neighborhood.
Meanwhile, nondenominational churches are being planted in people's living rooms and at Starbucks by laypeople with full-time jobs. SOme of these ... maybe even many of them ... die out. But some of them don't.
Meanwhile, here in Accra -- where yes there is more of an overtly Christian culture (he says sitting across from the Blood of Christ hair salon) but there are also 9 bazillion churches to choose from -- lay people with the bishop's blessing are planting churches that are growing and becoming parishes.
I'm not saying we should completely discard the notions of church planting that have driven us so far. There is room for planting a church with Perept, $400K and a piece of property near the newest McDonalds. But it seems to me we have nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying this, too.
Emily Peach and I have gathered monthly with a group of mostly unchurched folks between ages 20-38 for more than a year now for conversation about faith and social justice and other things. It's not a traditional "church plant". FOr one, the people in it have no desire to be a traditional church, but we keep coming together, and the Spirit is present ... I can tell because of the content of what happens there and also because people keep inviting new people!
I've talked with Steve Scharre and Tina Grant ... two Wash. U. students who just graduated and are staying in St. Louis for the next couple of years ... about them getting together and starting a community for postgraduates (student and nonstudent). All I've told them so far is that they have complete creative control over what it looks like. It they want a prayer group, do it. If they want Bible study, do it. If they want Eucharist, do it. If they want to have movies and discussion, do it. Shoot pool and hang out and talk? Go for it. Form the community and see how the Spirit moves. See what people get brought to it, what their gifts and dreams are and let's run with it. It can't fail, because the worst that can happen is that we'll learn what didn't work!
Now that we've got this new congregational development arm to Episcopal School for Ministry, what would happen if we identified (or even put a call out for) a group of lay people that have the gifts for connecting with people and gathering community, that have innate gifts for welcoming the stranger and communicating Christ's radical hospitality. Then what if we helped them pray through and brainstorm different ways to try to start something and what it might be ... and then just turned them loose and see what happened. For their efforts, we could send them to the congregational development pieces of ESM tuition-free as a way of supporting them. We could find ways for them to connect with each other virtually and face-to-face for support.
Why not try it? What do we have to lose? More to the point, how much are we losing now NOT trying something like this?
Monday, June 28, 2004 Life here should be slowing down for awhile. After a week of traveling, and with the possible exception of a trip back to Budruburam on Wednesday, I'm in Accra all week -- with no appointment calendar full of things to do and see.
The official use of my time is to start to edit all the video I've taken the past three weeks down into the form I'll use for the video about CENCOSAD's work (which we'll use for education and fund-raising). I'll be doing a lot of that and spent a lot of time today on it. Good news -- so far, the video looks pretty good (thanks, Ian!), the audio comes across well (which I had been concerned about), and I can get about an hour of tape into MPEG files on my computer that only take up about 600MB of space ... so I won't have the problem Steve had with the video files eating up all my memory. Bad news -- because of various factors, it takes about 3.5 hours to convert one hour of video to the MPEG format and put it on my computer. It's SLOOOOOOOW going.
But, as I was contemplating what to do with the downtime while the computer is working, I realized that I can do editing but this is also a good time to remember that I AM ON SABBATICAL. So I did some reading and then a whole bunch of writing as I try to start to figure out how all the different streams of thought I've had over the past six months come together. All in all, it's been a really good day.
Yesterday was bittersweet. The tough part was that it was Robin's and my 12th wedding anniversary and the first one we've spent apart. I did get to talk with her on the phone for about 8 minutes last night, so that was great. I can't wait for her to get here (10 days!).
I preached and concelebrated with Immanuel at St. Luke's. It was a wonderful experience. The service was hugely long because in the middle of it (right after the sermon), they stopped and had what they call a mini-harvest ... basically a fundraiser for some special cause (this time it was the building fund). They solicited donations from everyone there, then auctioned off a few things and then had an altar call for more offerings. They wanted to raise 15 million cedis (about $1600), and ended up raising alomst 19 million (about $2000) ... so that was great.
After the service, Immanuel and I went with most of the congregation to the house of a woman whose husband had died the night before. It's a wonderful tradition they have -- everyone comes over and just hangs out with the family outside the house praying and singing some hymns and letting the family feel supported ... for about 20 minutes ... and then people close to the family stay and everyone else leaves -- so there's no hassle of having to feed everyone and no details to worry about. Just everyone showing up and showing that they love and care.
After that, Immanuel and I drove to Kokrobite - this really great beach resort area -- where we met up with Mackinnon, Ann, Nie Aboe and Nie Otuo. The Ghanians thought the water was freezing, but we thought it was great. You can also rent a little shelter at the top of the beach for the afternoon for about 10,000c (about a dollar), so we hung out there for awhile. Very relaxing and just a good time with friends.
I just got an invitation from All Souls church in Budruburam to come preach and celebrate on Sunday, July 11 ... but that's Robin's Sunday in town and we're already promised to St. Luke's. I'm going to write them back and see if I can come to one of their Wednesday night services instead (and make sure they've cleared it with their bishop. Given the state of things, I don't want trouble from or to offend the Bp. of the Diocese of Cape Coast).
That's all for now. Hope you all are well. Congratulations and blesings to Teresa Mithen and Jon Erdman, ordained priests last Saturday. And also to Erin and Windy, married in L.A. last Saturday. I wish I could trilocate so I could have been with you all.
| Mike at 6/28/2004 11:23:00 AM
Saturday, June 26, 2004 Here are this week's photos. I took a lot more video than pictures this week, so there were things that I thought I got pictures of that I didn't get still shots of. None of these pictures do the scenery any justice. Western Ghana is absolutely beautiful but in a way that is bigger than any picture can tell.
Here's the trip in a nutshell, so the photos can make some sense. We left Accra on Monday afternoon, got caught in a heavy downpour but still made it to Kumasi (the second largest city in Ghana) by 9 or so. On the way, the car kept stalling out whenever we were in low gear, but it started up again every time -- very nice. The next morning, before we left Kumasi, Victor took the car to get it checked out. Turns out it needed a new fuel filter -- routine maintenance isn't something that's done to most cars around here. With that in place, we took off mid-morning.
Tuesday's destination was Bibiani, in the Western Region. After a brief stop to see some local health officials, we went to a school in a nearby township to see a reproductive health presentation, walked a bit to visit a person living with AIDS and check up on him then drove to another township for a drama presentation by the peer educators.
The next morning, we left for Sefwi Wiawso -- another district capital -- where we went to a training session for peer educators followed by a visit with a group of women living with HIV/AIDS. At the insistence of the district superintendent, Mackinnon and I stayed at "the White House" -- which is where visiting dignitaries stay when they are in town. By regional standards it's palacial. By American standards, it's about a Motel 6 ... but to us it was a palace. HOT SHOWERS!!!!! We felt bad that the rest of our party didn't stay there ... even worse when Godslove told us the next morning he was woken up at 2 am by the hotel manager needing to use his cell phone because theives were trying to break into the hotel.
Thursday, it was off the paved road, onto the dirt road and off to Sewfi Juabeso. When Josephine told the district superintendent in Bibiani that we were going there, he laughed and said "so ... you're taking them into the danger zone, eh?" Then they all laughed and we sat there like the people who didn't get the joke. I'm not sure if it's called the danger zone because 1) the road getting there used to be treacherous ... though it's a pretty level dirt road now; 2) it's pretty close to the Ivory Coast border; 3) The local tribal chiefs aren't really thrilled with us doing reproductive health education there or 4) that some of the people in the area still practice ritual murder ... a lovely little fact Josephine slipped into conversation on Wednesday afternoon -- before smiling and saying "but you should be just fine!" Josephine loves having fun with us Americans.
Anyway, Juabeso was definitely the most primitive of the places, but it was still wonderful. They put on a big festival for our arrival, drama from the peer educators and even a doubleheader soccer match. We also did the requisite peer educators meeting and meeting with people living with HIV/AIDS. The highlight for me was getting to dance with a lot of the area children while they were blaring loud music over the concert-sized speakers while they were tearing down from the festival.
Friday was the long drive (11.5 hours) back to Accra ... but with good weather and beautiful scenery it was not a hard day.
During the week I also read The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver ... about a family of Baptist missionaries in the Congo in the 1960s. Fantastic book -- especially if you happen to be traveling through Africa while you're reading it ... but even if you're not.
Now we're back in Accra. Tomorrow I preach at St. Luke's and then ... if all goes well ... we'll go to the beach in the afternoon. Next week I'm in Accra (save for a visit to Budruburam on Wednesday, I think) doing editing of the video I've taken, some longer interviews with James, Josephine and Godslove for voice overs, and generally having a pretty easy week after three weeks of packed schedules just about every day.
This is a not great picture of part of one of the small townships near Bibiani at dusk. For the hour or two before this, we were at a public area with most of the community at a drama performance put on by the peer educators ... then we hung out and talked with some of the local people living with HIV/AIDS and some of the regional health care officials. It's all very different from Accra ... not even so much the type of houses, but the population density is so much less and there is so much more green ... but there is also much more rural-type poverty. No running water in most of these places. Electricity (you can see the wires). But hit and miss on roads and phones. We also started to see more evidence of child malnutrition as we went further west. I almost hate to show you pictures of the scenery because it was so beautiful and the pictures just don't capture it ... they're much too small! | Mike at 6/26/2004 11:21:00 AM
We came upon this several times as we walked through a small community outside Bibiani on Tuesday. Nuts are knocked out of trees with long sticks, washed and left to dry on long tables like this before they are taken to market. This was in the middle of an incredibly poor communit... mud brick houses were the best you could find (though the school was concrete block). No running water, and irregular electricity (which didn�t stop someone going around in a truck with a loudspeaker announcing over and over to people that if they didn't pay their electric bills, their power would be shut off). | Mike at 6/26/2004 11:17:00 AM
This scene was right outside a school in a small community outside Bibiani. We had just witnessed the weekly all-school educational session on reproductive health (which was a combination of some speakers, some Q&A, some testimony by the students and a really bad video that was pretty much like one of those gross-out movies we used to see in health class to convince us that major body parts would fall off if we ever had sex.) After that, school was out for the day ... but all the kids waited outside for us. And when we stepped out, everyone rushed us, just wanting to touch us ... and that's what you see in this picture, just a huge crush of kids trying just to touch Mackinnon's hand. Then when I took out the camera to take a picture, the crowd of kids went really nuts and started jumping forward knocking down and almost trampling some of the kids. We had to stop and move off the porch and try to get the kids away the best as we could. They just kept mobbing us, and I thought they were going to pull my fingers off. It was like we were rock stars ... all because we were obroni. In terms of being made to feel welcome, yeah, we were made to feel welcome, but it was also disturbing. What about being white made us so wonderful? If anything, given the history here, you'd think it would be the opposite. But its not. The most disturbing thing that happens is when you're walking around and the kids come up to you and rub their arms against your... they're trying to get the whiteness to rub off onto them. I hope they know how incredibly beautiful they are, because things like this make me not so sure they do. | Mike at 6/26/2004 11:15:00 AM
Small world. These are three kids in Bibiani who were thrilled to have their picture taken. Only check out the T-shirt on the middle one ... it's from Grant's Farm in St. Louis. You can see the STL skyline with the arch on the bottom. | Mike at 6/26/2004 11:12:00 AM
I tried to get a picture of these two girls (sisters, I presume) for awhile, because they were so beautiful. She is barely four feet tall and she carries her sister around everywhere in the traditional way with the cloth wrapped around them both. It made me think of what Schroedter would look like trying to carry Hayden around! The elder sister agreed to pose, but the younger one was a little shy. | Mike at 6/26/2004 11:11:00 AM
This is Josephine, or "Auntie Jo" as she is called by just about everyone. She is in charge of all of CENCOSAD's reproductive health programs and our trip this past week was accompanying her on her quarterly visits to the reproductive health programs in the Western Region. Jo is amazing. She is passionate about the work and manages to pump up the volunteers and yet hold them absolutely accountable and not let them get away with giving anything but their best. Most of all, she is great at navigating all the local political systems and trying to make sure that the people are getting what they need. There is a lot of distrust about NGOs among regional government agencies ... they worry that they are going to do things behind their back and somehow cause them to lose control and even funding. Jo does a great job of navigating all the local protocol, getting disparate groups with common interests to work together and generally make the best of trying to do important work with very little money in a very difficult situation. | Mike at 6/26/2004 11:09:00 AM
This is Godslove Bansah ... he works fulltime for CENCOSAD with the Theatre for a Change groups and training peer educators. He came with us on the trip and worked a lot with the peer educators, training them in new techniques for AIDS education ... various games and ways to open up group and individual conversations. We had a lot of time in the truck together during the hours we were driving around, and had some great conversations about faith, religion and the church. He was very interested to know about "the gay bishop" ... as I find anyone who knows about it is. I never bring him up, but I end up talking about Gene Robinson a fair amount. And every conversation has been really positive. There's a huge doctrinal and cultural gap, so when I explain why I believe the way I do, it's very difficult to get across ... but all the conversations have been very positive and gracious -- and challenging in the best of ways. | Mike at 6/26/2004 11:07:00 AM
Not exactly "where's Waldo," is it? Here's Mackinnon with a bunch of the people who came out to greet us when we came to Bibiani to observe a performance of their peer educators' drama group. | Mike at 6/26/2004 11:03:00 AM
Mackinnon insisted on taking this picture so that I would be in at least one of them. Too bad the lighting isn't good. I'm standing outside a church in Sefwi Wiawso (where we were on Wednesday), where we've just finished meeting with some women who are HIV+. It's a small city that is very hilly and very, very green -- covered in trees and all sorts of plants. Very beautiful. Most of the houses are wood or mud brick with wood or rusted tin roofs. | Mike at 6/26/2004 11:01:00 AM
This is from a peer educators meeting/training in Sefwi Wiawso. The peer educators are all volunteers and many of them are young mothers with children, like this one. There's no childcare, so they just bring them along -- many of them walking miles to get to the central point where the training is held. This also gives you a good view of the traditional way of carrying a child here in Ghana -- a strip of cloth that holds the child tightly to the back of the mother. | Mike at 6/26/2004 10:59:00 AM
The Ga Mashie neighborhood in Accra serves as a lab for many of the programs that CENCOSAD initiates. One example is the Theatre for a Change program. Godslove and others who have done the program in Ga Mashie travel to places like Sefwi Juabeso and train the peer educators here in the drama techniques. When we arrived in Sefwi Juabeso, they put on a huge darbur, or community festival gathering, in honor of our coming. In addition to speeches and dance and music, there was a drama performance by the local youth peer educators -- a performance about someone who engaged in risky sexual behavior and infected herself and her family with HIV/AIDS (interestingly ... and disturbingly ... even though the majority of transmission of HIV into families comes from risky behavior on the part of the men, the majority of the dramas and videos I have seen have shown examples of women whose risky behavior caused they and their families to contract HIV. Women are definitely second-class citizens here, and especially in places like this where the tribal elders have problems with people discussing sex openly, it is easier to tolerate if the person to blame in the drama is a woman, not a man). | Mike at 6/26/2004 10:55:00 AM
If you're an obroni (white person) in rural Ghana, wherever you go, you will soon be surrounded by children. Just like the crowds of schoolchildren outside Bibiani, many may not have seen a white person before and we are certainly an oddity at least (and seen as objects of adoration in ways that, no matter how I mentally spin it, I can't come out with as being a good thing!). Here, Mackinnon was looking to take a quiet break in the back of the truck while Jo and Godslove and I were meeting with the People Living With HIV/AIDS group ... no such luck. | Mike at 6/26/2004 10:53:00 AM
Blair calls it "The Ubiquitous Third World Treat" - no matter where you go, you can find Coke ... something of which Mackinnon is very glad. Here we are in a small community outside Sefwi Juabeso, one of the most deprived parts of the Western Region (just a little bit from the Ivory Coast border). There is no running water, no land phonelines, evidence of malnutrition among children - and Coke - which was given to all the peer educators to drink during their meeting. By the way, if you're wondering whatever happened to "New Coke" - it's here in Ghana, only here it's just called Coke and it's just what it tastes like. Which raises the question - did they ship New Coke off internationally when it bombed in America, or was it so successful internationally that they tried to introduce it in the U.S.? More mysteries of the universe to ponder. | Mike at 6/26/2004 10:51:00 AM
I've talked a lot about Accra but I don't think I've given you a picture like this yet. When I talk about it as being lots of sprawl, this is what I mean. This is a view of one of the nicer neighborhoods in Accra ... houses up on a hill ... but it gives you an idea of what the city is like. Mostly one-story buildings -- and just seas of them. Scenes like this just go on and on and on and on. | Mike at 6/26/2004 10:48:00 AM
Friday, June 25, 2004 We're back!
Don't have a lot of time to post because the internet is slow and unreliable this evening, but just wanted to let everyone know we got back safely from our travels to the Western Region. Long trip today, though ... we hit the road at 6 a.m. and didn't get back to Mallam until 5:30 p.m. Ghana might be the size of Oregon, but it sure isn't as easy to get around!
I'll write more about the trip later. Simply amazing what people are doing in these communities ... mostly volunteer ... to try to make their communities better. Even more amazing are the two people (besides Victor) who went with us ... Josephine (whom everyone calls "Auntie Jo"), who is in charge of the reproductive health programs, and Godslove, who works with the Theatre for a Change groups and peer educators. Watching them at work was inspiring. CENCOSAD is all about capacity building, and they do it wherever they go ... pushing people to grow, expanding people's minds, they train and teach problem-solving 24/7.
Sunday, June 20, 2004 Hello again ... I've posted 15 or so photos -- so many that you might have to click on the bottom archive link on the left column (http://revmikek.blogspot.com/2004_06_01_revmikek_archive.html) to get them all on your browser. I've got them in order from longest ago (last Sunday) to most recent (yesterday).
So today, Emmanuel and I concelebrated at Christ Church, Mallam. Instead of the sermon, they had their annual meeting. Amazing how similar annual meetings are no matter where you go -- bickering over membership numbers and the budget. But a lot of the youth were speaking up and taking part very enthusiastically, which was cool.
I feel like I have a grasp on the Ghanian Eucharistic liturgy now ... which is more Church of England than Rite I. I also have a grasp on how forgiving the people were last week!
The big event of the day was after the service. Emmanuel was enlisted at the last minute as a pinch-hitter for the preacher at a wedding at a Pentecostal church (the groom was an Anglican former parishioner of his). So, he told me that I'd be coming along -- which I thought was great.
I also thought that I'd just be sitting in the congregation (first clue this wasn't the case should have been when he told me to keep my alb on). When we get there, they escort us both to the platform where we are seated with 4 other clergy of various denominations, including the pastor of the church. I then get introduced as one of the officiants of the service (very nice .. they welcomed me both in English and in Twi).
Emmanuel leaned over to me as the wedding went on and told me that when it came time for the blessing, I'd be going down with the other clergy and taking part in it. SOunded like a group thing ... kind of the way all clergy come forward at an ordination. Sounds cool. So we all get down there and the PC pastor is singing this wild blessing and everyone is shouting lots of Amens and Alleluias (remember, this is a Pentecostal Church). As he was wrapping up, one of the church elders leans over to me and says "Now you give the blessing."
About 5 seconds later, as the words were still ringing in my ears, the room is now silent and there is a microphone being held in my face and everyone's hands are extended over the couple. I felt like I was in the middle of a Ben Stiller movie. Thank God the Episcopal marriage blessing was pretty close in my mental filing cabinet (I spruced it up some to fit the pentecostal style ... don't think it would have flown well at SMSG).
Later, they gave me about 2 minutes notice that I would be doing the benediction ... so that was easy.
Then, they had us all pose with the couple in the official wedding pictures. I still haven't actually met this couple yet and I have blessed their wedding and now am standing next to the bride in the wedding pictures. I wonder what "goofy white Anglican priest" translates to in Twi.
Well, enough blabber. Hope you like the pictures. The resolution isn't the best, but hopefully you get the idea of what you're looking at. No more posts from me until next Sunday, I imagine ... hopefully I'll have some great pictures of the Western Region then.
Here's Mackinnon all decked out in Frieda's Sunday best for her first Sunday morning at Christ the King, Mallam. She fit right in! | Mike at 6/20/2004 11:55:00 AM
Rachel shops at the Mallam Junction Market fruit stand (one of many at that market). The fruit here is absolutely amazing. It's huge and it will completely spoil you for what passes for produce in the U.S. | Mike at 6/20/2004 11:53:00 AM
Ann and Mackinnon bargain with a shopmaker at Kaneishi Market for a length of fabric. Once they bought the fabric, they took it over to Victor's wife, who took their measurements and is making it into clothes for them. This shop is a booth on the third floor of the market building (pretty hot up there). It is one of what seem like a hundred booths up there that all have pretty similar selections of cloth. But you can see what a great selection they have. | Mike at 6/20/2004 11:52:00 AM
All over Accra there are business signs with strange English phrasings and seemingly non sequitor illustrated appearances by famous Americans or others in the news. For example, there's the big smiling painting of Bill Cosby on the main Mallam road. Others are as bizarre as this one -- with a picture of W. and Osama Bin Laden chatting it up at Rogers Barbering Salon and Communication Centre. | Mike at 6/20/2004 11:49:00 AM
This is the view from the stairs leading down to the oceanfront cafe where Mackinnon and Bridget and I had lunch on Thursday. Accra is so densely populated and some of the areas are so intensely impoverished, it's difficult to believe that this resortlike location is literally 4 minutes' walk from the neighborhoods where CENCOSAD has been most active. | Mike at 6/20/2004 11:47:00 AM
Bridget and Mackinnon with the Bay of Guinea at their backs. If you look closely, you can see fishing boats on the far right. | Mike at 6/20/2004 11:46:00 AM
That's Ann and Borbi replacing the wreath left by the Lt. Governor of Maryland on the tomb of W.E.B. Dubois. | Mike at 6/20/2004 11:44:00 AM
You've read about them, well here one is - a trotro. As you can see, trotros are one part van, one part bus and one part clown car. How many people can you cram in a trotro? Well, there are legal limits, but during rush hour the answer is - however many the mate (the guy who sits by/hangs out the door taking fares and barking out where the destination is) thinks he can. Trotros stop on the street at places like bus stops, but there are also trotro stations, like this one, where people form long lines (queues, actually) for trotros that go all over the city and all over the country. | Mike at 6/20/2004 11:43:00 AM
Here is one of the schools that the UN builds (but GES administers) at Budruburam. Next to it you can see one of several fairly new ambulances that we saw just in our brief tour of part of the camp. The "Supported by the UNHCR" is on anything and everything that the U.N. has had anything to do with. | Mike at 6/20/2004 11:42:00 AM
Here is the school I wrote about yesterday that is sitting unused because of an unresolved conflict between the Liberians (who are about 93% of the camp's population) and the resident Ghanians over whom should be allowed to be students at the school. It's simply one of the nicest buildings I've seen since I've been here (admittedly, partly because it has been unused) - what a waste. | Mike at 6/20/2004 11:39:00 AM
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