Day Nine: ‘Day Life and Night Life in Kpando’

We begin our day loading in a tro tro that probably has more rust than metal. We are journeying to the Christian Children’s Home in Hohoe where we have been the lasttwo years to see the children.I have been communicating with then during the year and they have made much progress due to the generosity of some Americans and other international donors.

Our tro tro is a probably one of the worst I have seen. I can see the pavement through a crack on the floor, the roof is made out of plywood, there are bars between the first and remainingfour rows of rickety seats and there is a dirty bathroom rug covering the dashboard. Our driver smells as if he has not bathed in a while and Maura and I chew on cough drops to overcome the odor. The engine is below our seats and by the time we have driven an hour in the tro tro our buttocks have been cooked to medium well.

The visit to the orphanage was great. The UMass Lowell nursingstudents were able to repeat their nutrition project and I could see a vast difference in their confidence and delivery. They are becoming pros.

At the orphanage we deliver some toys, clothes and books. The children rush to me and call me ‘Mama Bell.’ I think they cannot pronounce Val. They remember me from last year and my friend Francis who is a cute 11 year old boy cuddles right up to me and appears glad to see me. We play with the students, tour the new buildings and then have to leave to journey back to Kpando (my backside was further cooked on the ride home).

Today is market day in Kpando and that is a huge event that draws in hundreds of vendors selling items ranging from lovely material to local produce and disgusting dried up fish. It is a sea of humanity and you just have to ride the waves. I am soon followed by another child, Michael, who becomes my quiet companion and guide. If I lose Maura, he knows where to find her. He helps me find fans and at the end of our expedition he leads us out of the market. Words cannot describe this place so I hope to post some pictures upon my return home.

Our plan was to have one quick cold drink before returning to our hotel. The UML students have invited us to dine with them at a local restaurant that they have found and seem to enjoy the food. We decline as we are anxious for some downtime and to catch up on our email. That downtime does not come because as we enjoy the last of our beverages we are joined by our friend Edith and soon thereafter we are joined by a steady stream of Ghanaian people who want to sit and chat with the Mamas.

There is a local football (soccer) team that has won today and everyone is celebrating. We meet some nice men associated with the team (the driver and the cook) and other people either connected to the soccer team or local workers. They are interested in us and we in them. They are impressed with Maura’s status as a Queen mother and mine as the Queen of Linguistics. To us these titles seem more honorary than actual titles but we are told of the significance of these roles and even to these people in Kpando are impressed with two Queens from another village (Peki). We are amazed at the long history of tradition regarding these important roles in the village royalty. These people are truly happy to be conversing with us and Maura even receives a marriage proposal. Nothing for me’ oh well! Our brief pre-supper beverage turns into afour hour ordeal.

The music is blaring from two large speakers and we await the return of the students from their supper so they can help continue with some of the communication. Day turns into night and we apply insect repellant to prevent risk of malaria. Our new friends are very interesting and are thrilled to be ‘hanging’ out with the Americans. They have all these places and people they want us to visit. Relatives in a different village, friends and family in Kumasi (which is another region aboutfive hours from Volta region that we had hoped to visit but we may run out of time), and local dignitaries right here in Kpando.Our friends buy us a bottle of brandy and we all take a sip and some of us spill a small on the ground in respect for our ancestors. The UML students do not like the brandy so I have no fear of drunkenness but most of them take a sip out of respect for the gift of friends.Music is playing and have a dance party out in the dark with all the UML students and our friends. Two more marriage proposals occur (not for me!).

After a long night of some libation, dancing, no supper and straining to understand the accented dialect, Maura and I walk across the street to have a quick cold shower and off the bed. Tomorrow is a busy day. Our last full day in Kpando.

Read about the students’ experiences