Monday, August 31, 2009

Sports Day

I can hardly seem to keep up with my adventures. Each day seems to bring wonderful cultural experiences of its own. My posts are a bit behind. This is from Friday...

I used to think that Rome’s subway at rush-hour was as crowded as human beings can get. I was mistaken. Leave it to the Ghanaians to set the record for the amount of human beings that can be crammed into a vehicle. Yesterday I went along for the “sports day” with the older teens from the VOH. It was a day of friendly competitions and games amongst the various churches in the area. For some reason whoever was planning the event decided that the VOH should pick everyone up and transport them to the school were the event was being held. For some reason it didn’t seem to occur to them that one school bus could not hold 300+ people.

Ghanaians seem to disregard personal space in the first place, but never before have I been so claustrophobic. I was sitting in a bench seat on a regular school bus with 3 other teens, and people standing in the aisles leaning into our seat. I was wearing a hat, and had to look down so the bill didn’t smack someone else in the face (that is how close we were). I thought we had a full load leaving the VOH, but we stopped at least 10 times to pick up more people on the way. At one point we had to drop some people off to, so we could pick up more people on our way to this park/school. It is no exaggeration to say that there was no less than 140 people crammed on a bus with the capacity for 65 adults. When we finally arrived at the park we had to wait another two hours before the bus returned with the rest of the people it had previously dropped off.

I am learning how to wait. I do a whole lot of it here. We waited for hours for the others to arrive before the games began. Lunch was Kenkey, a massive dense ball of maize (corn) mush with a tomato sauce and a fish head. I politely declined the fish head and gave it to the girl next to me. However, I still felt like I was eating it because the smell was so strong my kenkey smelt like fish. The games began and I suddenly felt like I was at the Ghanaian version of an old fashioned country picnic. The competitions included futball (soccer), Bible quiz, groundnut (peanut) eating contests, garre (ground cassava) eating contest, gunny sack races and drama productions. I half expected there to be a hay ride as well! It was fun to watch the teens compete. I was sitting on a concrete block watching a futball match when one of the house parents called me under a shade tarp to sit so “I wouldn’t change color.” He bought me a snack of groundnuts to sample. It was me and all the older men, which felt strange. He also purchased some coconuts for me to drink the milk from when I returned home. Because, if I had them right after the groundnuts it would “worry my stomach.”

There is generally a lack of personal space concept here. At many points during the day one of the girls would come up to me and grab my arms and put it around their waists, or lean on me, or grab my hand to walk somewhere. Hand-holding between friends is practiced regularly (even between male friends). PDA between members of the opposite sex is however never permitted. You don’t even see husbands and wives holding hands. And yet there would be adult men and women holding my hand at random points throughout the day. I’m having to shed my comfort zone quite quickly. On the bus ride home the same male house parent mentioned previously was sitting next to me. At one of the stops he handed me his Bible so he could “go urinate” (which is pronounced YUR-NATE). Welcome to Ghana.

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