Day 4: ‘The Durfur at Peki’

Today we finally leave Accra to the Volta Region. This is the part of the journey that is tiresome because we have to re-load out bus with all the suitcases and boxes. It is another hot and humid day and the bus driver is working so hard to tie our boxes to the top of our small bus. We have come to realize that the location of our hotel is not ideal. Accra is a huge city and most of our destinations have been on the opposite side of our hotel. We have traveled 2+ hours each way in the evening and the morning and that only gets us across the city. We travel for miles but often end up sitting at traffic lights trying to not make eye contact with the plethora of street vendors. I would go crazy if I had to deal with this traffic every day.

We are headed to a fairly new orphanage on the way to Peki. It was founded by a woman from Spain who felt compelled to open an orphanage and has been able to leverage some of her connections in Spain and beyond to help support this institution. It is an interesting orphanage that houses special needs children, orphans and children of families that can no longer afford them. It appears to be a well run organization with multiple smaller buildings and nearby mango tree fields that are harvested by villagers to help support the costs of the orphanage. We are met by an assortment of children who are so glad to open our box of clothes, videos, books, beanie babies, toothpaste etc.. We hope to makethree other donations to orphanages in Ghana before we leave to return to the US.

We still have about 2+ more hours to drive to Peki. It is now 3:30 and we have been in the bus for since 10:45. We have had so much traffic today and this waste of time drives us crazy. We stopped for a while at the Kaneshie Market which was the scene oftwo episodes of the Amazing Race. It is a massive intersection with markets on all sides and throngs of people and cars. We idle but the side of the road while we wait for someone who has purchased insecticide treated mosquito nets for our malaria educationprogram tomorrow in Peki.

Our hotel in Peki is very nice. We arrive with the instructions to be ready to leave in 20 minutes. Despite spending all day in a bus we feel very dusty and dirty but there is no time for a shower. Off we go to Peki for our Durbur with the Chiefs. A Durbur is a ceremony that involves drumming, singing, dancing, greetings from the Chief and myself, a blessing with palm wine and lastly the African naming ceremony.

We are surrounded by hundreds of people from the villages of Peki. It seems like there are more children than adults. The kids are thrilled to see the American students and pose quickly for an array of photos. The drums start and the chief processes into the open area and sits in his designated area surrounded by the lesser chiefs.

There is not Queen Mother today but Maura was made an honorary Queen Mother last year so she is recognized and sits on the left side of the chief. I am recognized and after my introductory remarks are made I am asked to sit near my ‘Queen Mother.’ I joke around that I am her ‘lady in waiting’ but she hear the Chief’s comments better than me and she tells me that because I am a teaching at a University I have been given the title of the Queen of Linguistics. I don’t know if that is true but I will confirm that tomorrow.I kind of liked being a lady in waiting!

The Durbur was very surreal and like going back in time. We are surrounded by at least 500 people from the village . I can sense the energy and excitement from the people. They do not do this ceremony very often. The children sing and the young boys are beating on the drum. The music is long and rhythmic. The drums beating heavily and there is some dancing. The dancers are dressed in traditional Ghanaian cloth and dance on the dirt and small rocks. There is a cloud of dust over everything. The people steal glances at us and the children encroach upon our seats so that they can get close to the Americans.

I have to tell the crowd why we are there in their village and it gets interpreted by the chief. We invite them to our programs tomorrow but I am fearful because I have told the students to prepare a program for 50 children and 25 mothers but there are at least 10 times that much in the crowd. We have purchased about 20 mosquito nets and we have another 12 that we brought with us so we can leave over 30 nets with them.

The people are so welcoming and kind. Tonight I have been able to try the pounding of the Fufu. This is a dough that is prepared with kasava root and plantain or yam. The women have to pound these vegetables into a mush and then it becomes a dough like substance when water is added. When complete it resembles a ball of bread dough but they eat it like that with a spicy soup. When we returned at night one of the students, Jason, ordered some banku to try. This is similar to fufu but it is derived from corn powder with some kasava. He did not like the banku but found the soup not so bad until he discovered the whole fish in his bowl, head and all. The next day his stomach is a bit upset. I wonder if that will end his food trials.

It is now Day 6 and I am preparing to leave for the village to observe the student projects. They are excited to do their projects and are happy forfive days of getting to know the people because they had to modify their language in the program to match the phrases here in Ghana. Hot head means fever, waist pain is abdominal or back pain, catarrh is common cold etc. Time is short so I must go now. Thanks for your comments and emails.

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