Archive for May, 2011


I awoke to the sun rising, a cool breeze, chicks chirping all huddled together under their mother’s wings, and the death of an orphan goat that Teacher (my landlord/host father) had been nursing with baby milk solution since its mother died of what was thought to be malnutrition. The goat lost its mother about 3 weeks ago and at first Teacher expected it to die without its mother’s milk, but after a week on its own it was still alive so he decided to start feeding it milk that he bought from town.

 
 

Every day I would awake to see this goat (and its sibling) resisting death and surviving against all odds – it gave me a little hope. One thing about living around so many free roaming animals is that you see the beauty of birth and the small young ones playing around innocently, but at the same time you see the harsh realities of nature for death is always around the corner. I still remember how a few months ago I woke up to a dead baby goat in the middle of the compound floor. I asked Teacher about it and he said something like “I have to throw this away like a piece of trash, a living thing” while holding the lifeless animal by its hind leg. To be honest I haven’t seen much compassion or affection for animals here, but I could sense that he was morally troubled by the look on his face and the tone of his voice.

 
 

So while death is often present, so too is the breath of life. Walking back into the compound after seeing the orphaned goat’s rigor mortised body, I saw the smiling face of Ajigeway learning to eat porridge as her mother spoon fed her chubby face. By now she’s 6 months old or so, and I just found out that she was born the same day I moved to this compound house. To me she’s the brightest symbol of life I encounter on a regular basis. No matter how I’m feeling or what kind of day I had, Ajigeway’s big wide eyes absorbing all that surrounds her, and her little smile always brighten my day.

 
 

 
 

 
 

It’s pretty common normal for sons and daughters to stay in their parent’s house up to their early 30’s until they finish school, save enough to buy their own house, or rent a place (more common for men as women move to the man’s side of the family when they marry). It’s also common from what I’ve seen and heard to have your elderly parents live in your house, as well as other extended family like cousins, aunts, uncles and their children. Extended family is much more valued and important here than I’ve seen in Canada. Here if you’re my 3rd cousin then we are “from the same house” and I’ll refer to you as my sister or brother. The point I’m making is that because of how family is organized and how the living arrangements are, this small girl Ajigeway is surrounded by a number of people besides her parents who show her daily love and affection – I think this is an area back home where we tend to be underdeveloped.

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Sitting at farmer group meeting for 2 hours with little translation, an older man (60+) stood up and was talking in the local language Kasem, I started to think about an old friend of mine who volunteered at an old folks home simply playing cards with them. How I admired my friend for building relationships and bringing some happiness to their lives before they die, while learning from their wealth of knowledge and experience. It made me reflect about how lucky I’ve been to still have my grandmother and grandfather in my life, and the times we’ve spent together.

 
 

Later that night I met this guy while waiting for my guinea fowl to be cooked. At first he seemed to just be someone that might have been tipsy who likes to meet and talk with whites (some of this not far off), and although he was Muslim by his name and he identified as one, I suspected he had been boozing because of his glossy looking eyes. He asked me to buy him a guinea fowl which lead to some joking back and forth, then he eventually said something like “you people there live in heaven” (referencing Canada) which I came back with saying not all people, some live and die in poverty which he argued wasn’t true and we jokingly argued about him never being to Canada so how could he know.

 
 

Anyways after all the joking his tone changed to a more serious one, and he told me that he laboured all day for 5GHc (about 3-4$). He said, “Look at me. Do I look like I have money?” By the looks of him he didn’t. He also said how he has to pay for his kids school feels, and how he’s paying for his daughter to attend a private school because the public schools aren’t very good – I agreed based on what most Ghanaians in the North say. Under the street light I could see the honesty in his eyes; he continued saying how he doesn’t want his kids to have to live like him, to go through what he went through (little education, a working class labouring job in construction since he mentioned digging with a pick axe). We had been joking the majority of the time and his face still had the remnants of a faded smile. But, by this time he wasn’t trying to get me to buy him anything and I could feel the sincerity in the face to face, no B.S., connection between two people from different worlds going different directions – I was buying a grilled 2 fowl that each cost double his hard earned daily wage, simply because I enjoy the luxurious taste and want to share it with the out of town visitors I’ve been with all day; he was heading home after a long day of work to eat and rest. We parted ways shaking hands and he said with a smile, “I hope we meet again” and also asked/said that god should bless us all. I agreed with him, returned the smile and wished him a good night. There are no strangers in Ghana, only people you haven’t met yet.