Thursday, May 15, 2008

January 23rd 2008... ...an education of a day!




(I'm afraid this is another back-dated entry, I forgot I'd written it...!)

It started with me going to one of the houses we are renting and doing up for the staff to live in, which I am kind of coordinating. I’d had a phone call from my boss the day before. “Alison. I’m at Alan’s house. It’s Primrose and Pink. What Are you thinking?”

Oops. Well, I’d known the ‘ivory’ had come out slightly yellow, and figured once the ‘tan’ was on it would make the yellow slightly less yellow. However, they had run out of tan, so I had given instructions to get ‘Dark Beige’. So I decided to go on the way to work, to see if my boss was being melodramatic and ‘stirring the shi*’. Nope. Dusky Pink. And the yellow made the pink more pink and the pink made the yellow more yellow. Even with the very light cream curtains, it still looked, well, feminine. For a single gentleman nearing the end of his career.

So, never trust paint colours in Ghana, they mix them in the shop. With whatever they have left from the day before I think.

My driver took me back to site, and on arrival I was told I Would be going to the ‘pouring of libations’ ceremony that was scheduled for the day, and I would be taking photos. I had rather hoped I could sit in the office while this ceremony was to take place, but on the other hand was glad I had no choice in the matter and was ‘forced’ to go. This was about 8.15, and we were told it would be 8 – 9 ish. Gradually Ghanaian gentlemen in the traditional dress (I’m afraid I don’t know what it’s called... worn like a toga but either the Kente cloth or the printed cloth with significant symbols all over it) turned up and wondered around site. We all disappeared to get on, and eventually we were all called into the conference room, past the boy with the umbrella, where the six tribesmen were clustered around at the far end of the table. The PM introduced us, which was translated by Emmanuel, our enormous (but as competent as he is huge) foreman, and I am sure when he got to me the phrase ‘Mammy’ was heard. Oh well, I’ve heard it’s a mark of respect here! Second from the right stood up, adjusted his cloth to show full chest (it looked official, maybe he was just itchy?) and introduced the party – the man who goes in front of the chief wherever he goes, the messenger who’s responsibility it is to tell the community whenever the chief has a message, the deputy, the linguist who speaks for the chief, the left hand man (who was the gentleman speaking) and, “last but not least”, the chief himself. Throughout this, the chief was winding his finger in each nostril in turn. We were welcomed to the area, and told they would be doing this ceremony so that the ancestors would watch over the project and there would be no accidents or programme hold ups. Yah, opens up a Plethora of theological debates.

We then had to wait for another chief, so that was another half hour wait. Finally we piled into the cars and went the 500m down the hill to the lakeshore. There was a lovely fluffy white goat tethered to a post. The ghastly growls coming from it suggested it somehow knew it's fate. We ‘obrunis’ gathered some way back; I didn’t want to get too close, not quite knowing how my slightly squeamish self would react to the slaughtering of animals in front of me. I wish in a way I’d have had someone who could translate and explain what was happening, there was a lot of splashing of gin on the ground, some drinking of gin, a lot of chorused agreements to things, and then the slaughtering of chicken and goat. Really, it passed with little excitement. The colourful spectacle though of the chiefs sat beneath their velvet umbrellas was rather eye-catching.

So I think my second learning point of the day was something of a small insight into tribal culture in Ghana.

Now, with the formalities of pink paint (I went WITH them and chose ‘Suede’ which I have since been told is ‘looking rather good’. Phew) and dead goats (they ‘gave’ the heart to the lake. By this point, I was back in the office dealing with how we would ensure minimal accidents, in an altogether more Western way) dealt with, I could deal with the Real excitement of the day.

My first ever football match.

Egypt – Cameroon.

In the opening group C match of the African Cup of Nations. In the stadium in Kumasi. Near my house. £7.50. For seats on the halfway line.

My driver was having kittens about the traffic, but I had to change into my Ghana shirt!

I think I was like a small boy who is first taken with his dad to go and watch his beloved Arsenal or Man United. The excitement as we walked up to the ground was amazing, and it wasn’t even a home match. The stadium has been refurbished specially for the occasion too so it’s all shiny and clean, towering above people trickling towards the gates. I was taking photos like a proper tourist. Once inside the ground tho, I couldn’t sit still. I must have been grinning for England. Or Ghana, should I say!

There’s a few things that have made me giggle about this tournament. Firstly, the nicknames. I watched the Pharaohs against the Indomitable Lions, and then the Nile Crocodiles face The Bullets. I believe the Elephants played the day before, as did the Squirrels. (squirrels? I was discussing this with some American ‘soccer’ fans (yep there are some) and we were hoping African squirrels are slightly more frightening than the western version. Flying squirrels maybe?) Today, Bafana Bafana are playing (the boys the boys). Personally, I’m with the slick-sounding Black Stars all the way!

Secondly, the fact that at the start of the Mali-Benin match, as the anthems were being sung, the entire stadium was plunged into pitch darkness. For fifteen minutes. This international match that was being beamed to all corners of the African continent, live on BBCi, live on the BBC world service I believe, and probably streamed on the internet too. And the Most Polite British commentators were apologising for this, saying ‘I’m sure the problem will be rectified imminently’, trying to explain it, but, to be honest, I wonder how much information they were getting! I just had this picture of some Ghanaian in a control room somewhere falling asleep with their head on the big red ‘power’ button, oblivious to the world’s expectations.
The last thing that made me particularly giggle was the fact that the flags of the majority of nations in the cup appear to be a variation of red, green and yellow. So if you turn up at a match wearing one of these colours, you’ll be sure to be supporting at least one of the teams playing...

The atmosphere was fantastic, the sun shining, and (I say as a complete novice) the football great too! An experience I was to repeat...

1 comment:

Hawks said...

Die goat Die! (am I sick in the head??) lol x