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Monday, 12 December 2011

Ghanaian Funeral

I was asked to attend a funeral last Saturday with a work colleague, to support another colleague whose stepmother recently passed. My office were very sweet and arranged, at short notice, a funeral outfit for me (this involved buying cloth and encouraging a tailor to do something with it in just 2 days). They arranged it all in Twi so I had no say in cloth or outfit design, and in fact had no idea what it would look like until I received it! They also wouldn't let me pay, so I bought my colleagues and the tailor huge bars of chocolate as a thank you.

Saturday morning started with my alarm going off at 4am, and me finally rising at 5am (for those who know me well, they will understand how hard this was for me – and not the worst early start I faced this week!!). I was due to meet my colleague at 5.30am, but of course 'Ghana Time' came into play and it was after 6am before she appeared. We took a Tro to the village – the route took us through the hills (mountains??) which meant there was some stunning scenery to occupy me during the 2 hour trip.

On arrival we were taken to the church hall where the body was lying in state. I had been pre-warned that this would happen, and so prepared myself as best I could but it was still a shock to me. I also felt very obvious as the only white person in attendance, and felt as though I was intruding in people's grief which was displayed very clearly and dramatically.

The service started maybe an hour or so after we arrived, and lasted for 3-4 hours. This was very difficult for me as the majority of the service was in Twi with sign language interpretation. Ghanaian funerals are also very loud – the speakers they use at such events are enormous, and there is a lot of passion on display by both the religious leader and the congregation.

After another hour or so of waiting for food to appear, my stomach declared “enough” and sent me in search of food (in fairness I hadn't eaten all day and it was now around 2pm). All I could rustle up were 2 bags of plantain chips (equivalent of crisps). As I wandered back to the church grounds, I heard a commotion and soon came across a family dispute. Before long, the religious leader and the entire congregation were involved in the shouting. As it was all in Twi I had no idea what the fight was over. When things calmed down, I asked my work colleague what had happened. It turned out the fight was over a table... Very emotional/passionate day.

As we were leaving, we were invited to the home of one of the guests and members of our organisation. What I didn't know is that being invited to see a house actually means 'come and eat'. I was handed a huge plate of red red (beans and fried plantain). Bearing in mind that I had just scoffed down 2 big bags of plantain chips and was frightfully aware of a 2 hour tro trip back to Accra as well as a 12 hour trip to Wa the following day, I had to decline as I couldn't risk having a dodgy stomach. This didn't go down well – 'thankfully' the food was too spicy for me and I couldn't eat it anyway, so the other guests had it.

Two hours later (around 6pm) we arrived back in Accra. As we headed towards the tro to take us back to Circle, I received the message that I would be picked up at 4am the following morning to travel to Wa. Thankfully I had been warned that this could be the case, but it didn't make the news any easier!!!

More on that trip to follow…

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