Before this trip I prayed for boldness. Boldness to step out of my comfort zone. Boldness to share my faith. So at about 10pm last night when I heard some drumming off in the distance I decided to be bold and find out what was going on. I grabbed my camera and started walking in the direction of the drums.
About a mile away I came to a house surrounded by about 100 Muslim men. They were all just sitting around as the drums and flutes pounded away inside the courtyard. I walked up and began greeting them and asking if anyone spoke English. They pointed me to a man named Peter who I sat down with and chatted.
Peter is the District Executive – kind of like a county commissioner in the US. He was very willing to explain to me what was going on. That morning, one of the “small” chiefs had died (“small” refers to his lower rank and not his physical size). He was in his 60s and had suffered from sickle cell anemia. I bombarded him with questions about all the customs surrounding the death of a chief.
He explained that the drumming in the courtyard continues until the chief was buried. Then they would come outside and drum a different rhythm to let everyone know that the burial was over. “So they are burying him in the courtyard right now?” I asked. “Yes,” he replied, “Would you like to see?”
I take many photos during the day and try to sort through them all in the evening – deleting the bad ones, flagging the good ones. I’m going to try to post a favorite from each day that I take photos. The beauty of photography is that it captures a real moment – a real person. Those moments and people have real stories to tell and hopefully the photograph helps communicate the story to you the viewer. With that in mind I’ll try to give a bit of background behind each image and explain why I picked it.
One of the most overwhelming things at the hospital is the amount of people and the amount of time they spend waiting. Waiting to register. Waiting to be admitted by the medical staff. Waiting to be examined by a doctor. Waiting to pay for their prescription. Waiting to pick up their medicine. This photo was taken at about 6pm of a Muslim man waiting just outside the door of Heidi’s examining office. He was next in line and patiently stood there with his head bowed until his name was called.
This was my favorite of the day because you can see in his face just how tired he is from the wait. The negative space to the right behind him captures all that time that has been lost as he sat around all day waiting for this moment that is just around the corner.
In the same way the US hangs on to feet and pounds when the rest of the world uses meters and kilograms, the US has a different voltage of electricity in their power outlets. In the States, your plug with two long rectangles produces 110 volts at 60mhz. In West Africa, the outlets come in a variety of shapes and sizes but they all produce 220 volts at 50mhz. So what’s the big difference? Well, quite frankly, 220 will kill you – literally. I’ve been zapped by 110 before and boy does it sting, but 220 is not something you play around with. I’ve heard of grown men being instantly killed when they grabbed a hot 220 wire.
One of the must-haves that we brought were power converters. These convert the 220 to 110 and also serve as an adapter to allow the America style plug fit into the Ghanaian style outlet. Plug your American appliance into a 220 outlet and you’ll hear a nice pop and most likely see/smell a puff of smoke as your expensive electronic device is completely fried. BEWARE!
In Ghana, they have a switch next to every outlet that turns it on and off. This is a nice little safety feature. However, with Trey knowing how to flip switches (and enjoying it) we had to go around the house and duct tape every outlet and switch. We just can’t take a chance with his curious little fingers.
Here at the hospital compound they have conveniently wired every house with 110 and 220. So you get to choose at each outlet. Quite handy if you didn’t bring enough power converters.
This morning we went to Nalerigu Baptist Church where they were having a baby dedication. Apparently they keep the name of the child a secret until they have the dedication at church. The pastor then gave a mini-sermon explaining the name of the child and invited people to guess. This baby’s name means “God With Us” – any guesses? Emmanuel!
An interesting twist on this baby dedication is that the father is a Muslim and the mother a Christian. At the beginning of the service he introduced himself and said that it was his first time to come to church. He received quite a warm welcome which was comprised of everyone cheering and clapping and the piano player banging randomly on the keys.
After the service I asked Emmanuel’s father if I could photograph their family together. I ran into 2 issues:
- The sun was so bright I couldn’t see my LCD screen to see if my photos were turning out (they weren’t, they were too dark). I’ve got to figure out some solution for that problem.
- He asked for a copy of the photos – something I really can’t provide since they are digital. I tried explaining to him it was impossible but he didn’t understand. He even asked if he came back to church next week if I could get it to him then. Now that’s just great! A Muslim’s first time to church and he offers to come back and I’m gonna let him down. Just wonderful. I told him it would be great if he came back, but I was sorry that I couldn’t get him a print. I sure hope he understood. I also hope that he returns next week, but not with expectations from me.
We sure can’t complain! House #7 has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a gas stove – that is so much better than our own house in Florida! The house is furnished with the basics and even a playpen for Trey. Our no A/C training in Florida has paid off as it is quite warm and we only have overhead ceiling fans in the room for cooling. There has been a decent breeze that comes through the house though.
We brought Trey’s padded play mat of colored squares along with us. He spends a lot of time at home playing on it and we figured it was an easy way to bring a “piece of home” with us. So far it seems to be working since he likes to bring books to it to sit and read.
Our trip north from Accra took most of the day. We took a domestic flight to the city of Tamale which has a much lower baggage weight allowance than the international flights we had taken. As a result we had to leave a trunk, a carry-on, and two boxes behind in Accra. We were a couple kilograms over our weight allowance (20kg each) but whenever I asked Jimmy how much it would cost he would reply with “It’s negotiable.”
Once at the airport I was told Trey didn’t count so we only got 40kg instead of 60kg. On top of that they made us check a carry-on which brought our luggage to a whooping 80kg! The cost? $40. I tried “negotiating” but got no where. Finally, Jimmy showed up and talked them down to $30. I seem to have lost my bargaining skills from when I grew up in West Africa. I’ll have to work on those these next couple weeks.
We were met at the itsy-bitsy Tamale airport by Pat and Peggy Ozment, two missionaries working at the Baptist Seminary in Tamale, and our drivers who would be taking us to Nalerigu. Pat had a car seat for Trey and I had brought several boxes of Splenda and sugar-free candy for him. He is diabetic and was very excited to receive such goodies from America – sugar-free sweets are hard to come by out here.
The drive to Nalerigu took about 3 hours and was only paved about 1/3rd of the way. We fed Trey in the car and after about an hour he fell asleep. The dirt roads were pretty bad due to heavy rain in the past couple weeks. We had to pack shirts around Trey’s head to prevent the brain damage he would have certainly received as his head slammed back and forth in the car seat every time we hit a pot hole.
Some of the neighborhood kids met us there and helped unload the truck and bring our luggage inside. They then hung out on the porch peering in the screen door as we unpacked. Trey had a blast playing with them through the screen.
A little while later one of the boys knocked on the door and asked “Madame, may we have a book to read”. Heidi grabbed some off the shelf and let them read them on the front porch. A couple minutes later there was another knock “Madame, my friend would like a book with pictures” Heidi opened the door and he returned C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. Heidi exchanged it for a Dr. Seuss book of Trey’s and he was much more content.
Here are a couple more pics from the day. As with all of the others, click them to see larger versions: