Sunday, April 30, 2006

clap for jesus.

this is my list of things that I've learned to stop thinking twice about seeing and/or hearing, and in fact, will probably have to readjust to not seeing on the daily:

now, i dont know anything about the statistics, but it seems like "most" people, especially outside of the "university class" have some form of scarification- a small line on one your right cheek if you are Ashanti, lines going diagonally down both cheeks if you are from (somewhere) in the north, little crows feet from the corners of your eyes if you are the next child to be born after one dies (meaning, "may this one remain for me" supposivly if that child then dies, the next that will come will have the same marks already on them, and will have the same soul.) all this information comes to me second hand from someone in my group who researched it, and may not be 100% accurate due to faulty memory, but its interesting... sometimes if babies keep dying within the first week (in ashanti they arnt considered human until they are 8 days old) then they are considered visitors who only come to worry the mother, and after the third time she will put a large scar on the face of the dead baby so the spirit world will reject them and next time, the baby will come back with the same mark and be forced to stay because it has no where else to go.

actually, not so much witchcraft as warnings against witchcraft. most recently, a haggardly desperate Finnish woman we met at Kokrobite Beach with skinny little blond pig-braids and a rasta boyfriend took us aside and choked out some story about how all the witches on the beach are jealous that her rastaman got a white girl and we shouldn't greet any of them because they will curse us like theyve been trying to curse her ever since she moved into his shanty.
"but crazy Finnish woman, we dont have dashingly handsome Rasta boyfriends like you ("yet!" one of us jokes, but only the rasta boyfriend laughed), why would they want to curse us?"
"because they are witches. and if they smile at you its worse."
we never really found out how she could tell which ones were witches "you just know" she said.
It is a serious thing here. Theres this town in the north thats pretty much a refugee camp for women who have been exiled from their villages for being guilty of witchcraft. And Ive met a lot of people (christians mostly) who attribute the deaths of their loved ones or the salvation of other people to witchcraft.
"interesting" is all i ever know to say. because it really is.

charismatic christians
that its late at night and you and some friends are taking a stroll around campus when, as you pass the feild, out of the darkness you hear the faint sound of a voice, throaty, and strained, babbling with incredible speed something that no one can understand. then you realize its more like 15 or 20 voices, in utter silence except for each of their voices unto themselves, possesed by the holy spirit, speaking in a tounge, lifted up to God, i guess. but from the outside it sounds like a staticy television. or Children of the Corn. and it really takes getting used to to not be utterly creeped out by an akwardly spaced scattering of ranting sillouettes in a feild in the dark. and sometimes you see one of them by themselves, posessed, singing, praying, or speaking in tougnes. eyes closed, hands up, loud and totally un-self-conscious. these are normal people. Last time i was in Accra, 3 of us took a walk around campus around 10 pm and passed two heards of charasmatics and one solo act and didnt ever look up or break our conversation. its that common. you could/will be sitting in class next to these people the next morning.

possession in general: lets just say it happens a lot. At least more then im used to. Possession seems to be a staple of both traditional religion and the most popular brands of christianity here. I would venture to say i see someone get possessed by something at least once or twice a week. yup.

polygamy: Its fading a bit now because of Christianity but it is still pretty common to be talking to a woman and hear her make a snide comment about "the hot headed third wife." A lot of my generation's parents are polygamous, and even more of their grandparents are. It is considered a sign of prosperity, and was actually a pretty logical way of doing things in the old days, so it seems. I have received a few earnest marraige proposals from men whom i could rebuke with a firm "I will be no one's second wife, thank you!"

Not like full on nudity, Ghanaians are actually usually quite modest, but there are often stark naked children running down city streets, women have no qualms with breast feeding in public, anywhere, and in more rural settings, women are often topless. also, its totally common to see people, men and women, hiking up their skirts and peeing on the side of the road. well... when there arnt substantial pubilc facilities, what would YOU do?

Maybe i could call it animal cruelty?:
chickens piled in bowls carried on heads,
grasscutters held up for sale by their tales, goats on roofracks, monkeys tied to window sills, animals are tools for survival and are treated as such, with the exception, in some classes, with domesticated dogs or cats, although maame just told me a funny story about her dads nightwatchman eating their family dog after it got sick and died.

trash fires: The first time i saw this I got really scared: I was being driven from Accra to my host family's home in Nsawam and the entire side of the road was on fire! i thought a village was burning down, but as the journy continued, fires dotted the hillsides. Thats the way trash tends to be disposed of in Ghana. These days when i see the path in front of me, or the grass forrest outside of my dormetory ablaze on my way to or from class, i just continue on my merry way without giving it a second thought. funny.

funny t shirts: I dont know if its the languadge barrier, the availability/affordibility, or the still prevelant semi-illiteracy that has a hold of many of Ghanas poorer people, but folks end up wearing the craziest t-shirts around town! Manual laborers in t-shirts that say "Navy Mom" "Naughty Girl" "If softball were easy they would let boys play" "Livermore 2004" "life begins at 50"... children wearing shirts that say "Spinal Tap" "its beer O clock!" or other cruder inuendos that i am absolutly positive that even their parents do not understand but if you are me, it makes for a lot of chuckeling to myself as i walk around town.

and there are so so so many others... but i guess ill have to save those for later lists and stories...

maybe i ought to post a list about "normal" things that you dont realize arnt normal at all until you leave america. that'll happen later/never, but its a very long list.