Yesterday’s weekend (2 weekends ago) our group traveled to Kumasi, the 2nd largest city in Ghana. Kumasi has a lot of history and is the hometown of the Asente King/Chief, the biggest chief in all of Ghana. Although it is only 272 KM from Accra to Kumasi, the drive took about 5 hours. We left Friday morning at 6 am, and for some reason a few of us tried to pull an all nighter Thursday night and go out all night and not sleep….but we ended up getting back around 430. That night, I slept an hour in my bed, and five hours on the bus. Who needs a bed or a pillow when you have air conditioning!?

We got there and headed to a place called Bonwire, which is a Kenti Cloth /production site. It’s the most popular fabric that is produced in Ghana, but is rather expensive relative to the cloth you see sold in markets (imported from China). Outside, we were by people who handed us their items trying they to sell us things. At one point one of them took off my shoe and tried to trade for it. We almost agreed on a deal, but then I got nervous walking barefoot in Africa. I did end up trading my sunglasses (that I got for free in the states) as a part of a package deal for some cloth. #winning! The sellers there were very persistent, as some chased after the bus as we were on our way out.

Then, we went to some other little village area where they stamp cloth with different . Each symbol has its own African representation. Some stand for “returning to your roots”, “believing in god”, “freedom”, etc. Then, there was one stamp that was of President . Haha

That night we walked to the Tech University of Kumasi to check out their campus. It was nice and very green. I ended up running into a friend who went to UG-Legon.  We went a hang out spot called “ Tavern”. It was awesome to see the amount of guys dancing and drinking even though there wasn’t a female with in 20 feet of the dance area. We watched them azonto as we laughed about how slim the chances of there being 15 guys in the US, all drinking and dancing with each other and all having a great time. After some time we joined them and failed to learn to how to Azont well. Yet again.

The next day we headed to the Manyia Palace for a tour. I had already been there in my recent trip to Kumasi the weekend before, but the tour of the SAME exact PALACE was ENTIRELY DIFFERENT. But, it was better, so I was happy!

Then, we went to some sweet hut/palace where the Ashanti queen use to live. My favorite part of this place was the that were once used as a form of communication (mostly during war I think). The drums would be start off being beaten there, as surrounding towns would bang their drums and relay the message until it got out to everyone. The guide explained to us that it would take 20 minutes for a message to be relayed from those drums to the Ivory Coast. That’s pretty cool. There’s been several instances where it’s taken me over 20 minutes just to log onto my Gmail account here.

Next, we headed to the largest open market in all of West Africa! It was pretty . It was kind of like the Mall of America, just all outdoors, with one floor, in Africa, and with out dip and dots and Lego Land. A few of my friends were lost for a little (whoosies). I saw a Vikings jersey and a bunch of throw back Nike tracksuits for sale. It was similar to the huge market that we visited in Benin. I had a feeling most of the 2nd hand clothes there came from China.  Everyone I walked I heard, “Obruni! WopE Den?” Which means, “White person, what would you like”. By the end I started responding, “Obibani mepE Ghana paa!”, which means, “African, I like Ghana a lot!” (In Twi, the English translations of “I like” and “I would like” are the same).

Then, we headed to taste the BEST FUFU IN THE WORLD! When we got to the restaurant, some old men drinking called us over to ask what so many Obruni’s were doing at a local spot. I spoke in Twi and this guy became very happy. He was so excited that I was loving Ghana, learning the language, and eating fufu that he gave me and my friend 40 Cedi! He gave me his e-mail address (that didn’t work), and asked to take his with me. Then, I ate some delicious with fish and BUSH MEAT. The grass cutter tasted yummy, except I think I prefer chicken.

The next day, a few of us stayed in Kumasi as our group headed back. We wanted to go to the Soccer match and watch Asante Kotoko vs. the Accra Hearts. Those are by far the two most popular teams and we heard the game was going to be CRAZY. Our friend went and bought tickets 5 hours in advance, and he said even then the stadium was crazy.

Kotoko is either the first or second most popular Ghanaian soccer team. I’ve noticed that Ghanaians LOVE to see foreigners supporting their country. When I azonto in the middle of the market, everyone laughs and cheers and pretends like I know what I’m doing ( I don’t). When I wore a Ghanaian flag on Independence Day, I got a lot of cheers, too.  When I unexpectedly speak in Twi, Ewe, or Ga, it always provokes a smile of excitement. They also love it when you support their favorite soccer team. We all got geared up for the big game so we could make friends easily.

Before the match, I headed back to the Palace where the Chief lives for the big ! The Asante calendar has 42 days each month, and there is a festival every 42 days where the Chief comes out and says  “What up!” to his as they dance and praise him. I was SO CLOSE to shaking his hand, but then his HUGE bodyguard grabbed me and pushed me 8 feet in the opposite direction. “Royalty only,” he whispered. Everyone was dressed in African wear, excluding me. I was in my Asante Kotoko soccer jersey. Oops.

After saying ‘What up’ to the king, we rushed to the stadium. People passed us and yelled, “you’re late for the game!” I was confused, as it was about 2 and the game started at 3. I could tell this game was huge because it did not run on Ghana-Man- Time. We got there around 2:30, and the stadium gates reeked havoc. We had no clue which was meant for our tickets. As we walked in crowds, I almost got pick pocketed, then, I almost got in a fight with the guy who tried to pick pocket me. I could just tell that he would have fought like a girl.

After finding the right gate, we realized it was locked. In fact, all of the gates to the stadium were and no one else was allowed to enter. We were joined by hundreds of who also had tickets in there hand, but couldn’t get in either. My friends were caught in a huge group when an officer sprayed pepper spray to get everyone to disperse! We knew a Ghanaian soccer match would be a unique experience. I guess it’s so unique that buying a ticket doesn’t even guarantee you a seat inside the stadium! Gotta love Ghana!

After realizing we couldn’t get in, we opted to try to find a bar to watch the game. As we walked, we noticed that any TV in sight had a crowd of 50+ people . We finally found a place to watch, and it wasn’t that crowded because the was very staticky. We quickly made friends with the other fans that were elated to see that cared so much about their favorite team. We sang(some songs were prayers), , and cheered as Kotoko took a 1-0 lead. Then, the Hearts tied the score at 1-1 with little time left in the game. Shortly after, Kotoko scored and took the lead! Everyone went CRAAAAAZZZZYYY! When the game ended, the streets were packed with pandemonium.

“FABROS !” (Kotoko’s cheer, which means fabulous).  “THE BEST!” people would respond. We gave hugs, high fives, and exchanged cheers with countless of Ghanaians the victory. We yelled Kotoko’s slogan, “Kum APEM A APEM BEBA!” (Kill 1000, and 1000 more will come…..which comes from the Asante armies). We held up our with pride and embraced the celebration.

OF THE STREETS!

After about 30 minutes of that, we finally decided to try to find a bus back to Accra. On the way to the station, a tro-tro stopped and offered to take us to Accra for under half the price. We were still so excited from the game that we decided to hop and go for it….not a great idea.

After about 3.5 hours of an uncomfortable, jam packed ride through terrible roads, the tro-tro stopped. Were we already there? Nope….the trotro just broke down….in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. There wasn’t a light in site. It would be generous to say that the tro-tro broke down on a “road”. I didn’t realize how bad the “road” was until I saw car lights from afar and realized it took them SO long to approach us. We hitchhiked for about 25 minutes…..with out succeeding. We almost got on the back of a pick up truck, but then finally we were able to squeeze into another trotro that stopped to help us. Trotros are packed as they are….but we were squeezing about 4 or 5 extra people on top of that.

After about 20 minutes of riding on this bumpy “road”, we were still in the middle of nowhere, but a man demanded that the “BUS STOP!” He said in a calm tone that he would like more room, and he exited the trotro. It was PITCH BLACK and around 11 pm, and WHO KNOWS where we were. This man definitely got his space once he got out. I just hope he didn’t die that night. Seriously. When he left, even the Ghanaians were laughing at how ridiculous his actions were.

We finally got dropped off at a familiar spot, and made it back to campus around 6 hours after we had left. Most of the Ghanaian’s I talked to were very shocked and confused that we would take a trotro all the way from Kumasi to Accra. They said they would never do that because it was dangerous. Well…OH WELL!

The next day I wore my Kotoko hat and made friends with a porter who was also a Kotoko fan. FABROS! FABROS! The best!

future posts include: Ghanaian talent show, filming a music video on campus, and finally making it INSIDE a soccer match.

Ciao for now!

Jeremy Kwabena Ginsburg

A few weeks back my friends and I left a birthday party and got in a taxi hoping to get home soon since we were tired. 20 minutes after we chased a cab down, told him where we wanted to go, and agreed on a price, we started questioning the driver where he was going. Turns out, he had driven in the opposite direction, and he demanded that we paid him more money than we had initially agreed on. He stopped his taxi as we explained to him that we were not going to pay him any extra money for it was his fault he didn’t know where he was going and his fault that he drove in the opposite direction for 20 some minutes. He demanded extra money (we agreed on 9 sedi and he wanted 11, but we hadn’t paid yet), so we threatened that we would just get out there and take another taxi. He did not appreciate this gesture and began yelling at us. The four of us quickly got out of the taxi to find ourselves in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere.

 

Then, the driver got out of the car, too. He demanded, “You will pay me money!!” We didn’t find it necessary to pay him for taking us farther away from our destination. We just wanted to go back and get to bed. Then, the driver got pissed. He stormed into his car, yanked the door open, and reached under his seat. At this point in time I was a little drunk and very tired, but I became pretty nervous when I didn’t know what the #$&% he was going to take out of his car. He comes out holding a 4 inch empty bottle of whisky in air and barks some gibberish at us. Unfortunately, I was unprepared that night. I had left my stun gun and my rape whistle in my dorm room. What bad luck! He shattered the bottle on the ground and held it up like a madman (he was, indeed, a madman). At this point, my logical friend, Tom, cooperated and said we’d pay him. He ended up paying him 4 sedi(between 2-3 US dollars).

 

So, now we’re stranded in the middle of a street around 1 in the morning and we have no idea where we are. The madman drove off, and as we tried to find another cab, we noticed our friend had gone missing. We tried calling him over and over. No answer.

 

About 10 minutes later, our friend returns with a pack of about 6-8 bulky Ghanaians eager to beat the sh*t out of this taxi driver. They galloped like a unified team that had just cleared the bench/dugout, eager for a fray with their rival team without the presents of an umpire….only to realize that the opposing team (consisting of only one person) had magically vanished.

They yelled in frustration,

“Where’s the driver!?!? He’s gone?! You didn’t get his license plate?!” I honestly believe if the taxi driver had not left, he would have been almost killed by these men and left in critical condition. Every 5 minutes, another man or two would come and yell, “Oh! Where’d he go?! He’s not here?!” It was as if our crazy driver had just been caught having an affair with ALL of these guys’ wives. These guys were so focused on finding this guy and beating him up they didn’t realize that we were still stranded and had no idea where to go and how to find a taxi. Then, they stood there confused, debating with themselves whether or not there was a chance the driver would return.

When I was telling this story to a Ghanaian friend of mine the next day, he said had the driver stuck around, he would have beaten him up, left him there, a stole his taxi, and parked it randomly on campus. This came from a soft, peaceful, skinny, friend mine who has braces (everyone knows braces are NOT intimidating).

 

About ten minutes later, the men walked us to a near parking lot and helped us get a cab. When we got there, the crowed of people were still asking about the driver. We got another taxi, rounded third, and headed home. It took us 15 minutes on the way there, and over two hours on the way back. That’s Ghana for ya…

After a 35-minute ride back, we finally reached home. No play at the plate. SAFE!

Ghanaian Hospitality

Like most studying abroad I traveled over seas

Cept I don’t look like the locals, and they all notice me

Cause my different color skin but I still try to fit in

Getting called out in public and responding with a grin

Learning all sorts of things, about the culture and traditions

It’s not inept, weird, or worse, it’s only different

I’m so blessed with my position, though mosquitoes keep me itching

There’s limited air condition, but I stay optimistic

The heat’s got sweat dripping, it ain’t easy to adapt

I can strive for integration but I will never be black

Replacing technology and for experience and conversations

You can learn so much from others’ telling stories it’s amazing

The inconveniences are drastic but it’s easy to look past it

When they’re swallowed by the aspects that make life here so fantastic

It’s sad seeing those with conditions that ain’t the greatest

can’t make em instantly rich, but I can make em feel elated

When they speak the local language, and I reply in Twi

And they laugh out loud surprised, smiling at me

I try to be open minded so my time here is best

I’m learning through life events rather than inside a desk

But my test isn’t pass or fail, more like live and learn

Appreciate what you’re born with and give when it’s your turn

Reflectin on the past, I keep my mind in tact

Thinkin ahead to the time when it’s my turn to give back

Over Easter break, on the way to the Ghanaian-Jewtopia, I left a day early so I could visit Kumasi (the second largest City in Ghana) and spend a night there with one of my Ghanaian classmates. We stayed at her aunt and uncles’ home, which seemed to be like a home base for her entire extended family. It’s quite common in Ghana for relatives other than one’s immediate family to live together. I was welcomed with great excitement. Everyone in her family raced to greet me when I arrived, smiled, extended their right hand (of course), and sang, “Awkwaaba! You are welcome!” I was surprised at the number of people all residing in this house, only to later on realize that when the neighbors heard there was a guest on its way, they rushed to their house to welcome me. About a dozen kids under the age of 14 surrounded me, grabbing at my hands, yelling “Obruni”, or “Hi! How are you!” and followed me everywhere I went. Was this just because I am white? I don’t know. Apparently families from the Ashanti region are known for being the most hospitable in Ghana.

I was asked, “will you drink juice?!” and I replied, “sure”. 20 minutes later, the father of the house returns from the store with a container of juice. I would have been fine drinking water! I assumed they had juice…. At first I felt terrible! I did not want to make him go out of his way just to get me juice! I would have preferred water to juice, but they asked if I wanted juice so I assumed they had juice at the house and I simply accepted because I didn’t want to say no. They were all willing to go out of their way to please whatever needs I had. It seemed as though they hoped I had many requests so they could make me as happy as possible.

After getting situated and getting a lovely greeting from the entire family, I devoured some delicious fufu, which is known to be best tasting in Kumasi. Fufu is a heavy dish, and 99% of Ghanaians won’t eat it after 3 pm because it is so heavy. I was eating it at 8pm! Then, around 9pm, the brought me ANOTHER MEAL! I said I would eat some yam and kontomery(sorry for spelling) when I had arrived, and AFTER I ATE all of the Fufu, I was served just that. What I did not know that they made the entire meal (my second dinner) from scratch, fetching the leaves, tomatoes, and everything else involved from their very own garden in preparation. They did all this simply because I had asked for it. If I knew they had rice in the fridge that they could have simply heated up, I would have been happy to eat that! Yet, they had no problem at all with serving me exactly what it was I wanted, even though it required extra work, and ended up making me feel so full I forgot I had abs.

I had been asked previously if I would eat a few different foods, but it was never clear to me which one I was going to be served…..but I guess there was more than one. In Ghana, I’ve observed from my experiences that it is considered rude not to finish a dish that is served to you, for the host may think you did not enjoy the dish enough to finish it all. Luckily, my stomach and brain have been genetically modified, and eating when I am full happens to be one of my greatest abilities in life. I’ve also had an abundance of prior experience and practice (What up GINSBURG CRUISES! WOOT WOOT! YAY FOR FAT AMERICANS). I had to encourage the kids to join me at the table, since most Ghanaians traditionally don’t eat and talk at the same time. But, I became so full, I also needed an audience for motivation. These seemed to love me; I didn’t want to let them down.

After forming a fufu baby in my tummy and then showering it with another delicious Ghanaian meal, I stayed up speaking Twi with the kids, dancing, and repeatedly explaining to these 5 year olds that I can’t take them all back to America with me.

I was quite thrown off at the fact that these kids were as young as 5 years old, knew nothing about America, but were SO EAGER to go there, even if it meant going by themselves with no family. And, of all people, they wanted to come with me! I tried to explain to them that I was far too irresponsible to look out for children, especially if they barely spoke English (they probably didn’t comprehend that). I told them in Twi that I liked Ghana better than America. I asked why they wanted to go so badly. They responded, “Because it’s amazing there!” I felt terrible and I didn’t know how to respond. I explained that a fufu dinner in America at a restaurant would probably be 20 times the prices of one in Ghana. Plus a tip, too. I told them how cold it got. But, I could not convince them otherwise. It was embedded in their minds that America had no flaws. Sometimes I feel like a prick, being born in America and not realizing how many people world-wide would do ANYTHING just to go there.

I’ve had people propose to me and want to marry me and go back to America. That’s understandable… I’m so charming and good-looking and I give off such a great first impression that seems to make old women want to spend the rest of their lives with me. But, these kids wanted to join me just to go to the States and live on their own. These young kids! It gave me a lot of mixed emotions.

The next morning 4 or 5 different family members woke me up before 7 am. Yipee! The cute kids wanted me to play with them. They showed me around the house, jumped on me, and then accompanied me during breakfast. Even though I woke up full (and pregnant) I ate a HUGE breakfast around 8, and then one of the young girls told me she was preparing Tom Brown for me. “Sure….I’ll eat again?! J” Next thing you know…I’m eating again. Being called fat is Ghana is a compliment. “Hey! You’ve grown fat oh! God bless! You are eating well!” is a compliment! So, I guess the goal of this 15 hour stay was to get “FAT-OH!”.By this time I felt like I had triplets dancing in my belly.

I said my goodbyes, took some , agreed that the entire family they could come back with me to America, and left for Kumasi to do some “sight seeing”. They all wanted to know when I would come back and visit them. Maybe one day I will! I hope so.

ONE! (love)

J Kwabz

How did Jews end up in Ghana?

During our stay at the Jewish community in Ghana, I learned the story of how the Jews in Ghana came to be. There are a few theories that predict how they got to Ghana, where they have lived for about 150 years. The most common belief is that before they came to Ghana from Ivory Coast (just West of Ghana) and fled due to persecution. Before Ivory Coast, they lived in Mali, where they were also persecuted for being Jewish and had to leave. They wandered to Mali from Israel, as they believe that they are one of the lost tribes.

Some believe that they came from Eastern Africa and migrated over time from Ethiopia and other countries from that region. It is also possible that they are descendants from King Solomon, who was said to have black skin. No one truly knows…..so how do they know they’re Jewish?

 

Until about 80 years ago, they didn’t know. They didn’t realize that they were Jewish until one man had a vision. He claimed he saw a screen being projected on the wall showing a map of Israel and the lost tribes. Others sat beside him, but he was the only one who could see this screen. For around a year, this man could not communicate with anyone and was perceived as a crazy. It is told that he would stare directly into the sun for hours at a time during the hottest hours of the day.

Some people took him to see a juju doctor in hopes of curing his illness. But, when he got close to the juju doctor, the juju doctor demanded that he not come any closer, for he could sense that this man was communicating with God, and that he would be no help against such a powerful spirit. He advised the people to wait until he was done speaking with God, and that he would eventually be okay.

 

After about a year, the madman became normal again and could communicate with others. He began sharing his vision and telling everyone about what he saw. He explained that this was a sign explaining that they were all Jewish, and a part one of the lost tribes of Israel. They realized that their traditional practices lined up with many Jewish practices. They had been observing the Sabbath by never working and they had been circumcising their male infants eight days after they were born, commonly known as a Jewish Bris. They had also been engaging in other acts that appeared to stem from the Laws of the Torah. Many people thought he was still a madman and resisted his beliefs and remained Christian, while others followed, and established a Jewish community.

 

In the 1980’s, the community decided to find out if there were any other Jews outside of Ghana and West Africa. The “madman” wanted to find out if Israel did exist as a Jewish state, and if there were more Jews out there. So, he journeyed to Accra to look for an Israeli Embassy, but came back disappointed because the embassy did not exist at the time (there is one now…I think it just reopened in 2011). Later on, he decided to go to Ivory Coast, where they thought some Jews remained, to look for an Israeli Embassy. They were thrilled to discover that not only was there an embassy in Ivory Coast, but Israel was indeed a Jewish state. They also learned that there were Jews living in America, Europe, and all over the world. Then, they wrote a letter to the Israeli Embassy. Two years later, they heard back. Ever since, they’ve been recognized as a Jewish community and hosted several guests who have visited to celebrate Jewish holidays and enjoy a wonderful experience. The community leader, Joseph, still believes that the entire village of about 1,000 people are all of Jewish descent, though they are practicing Christians and don’t believe they are Jewish. It will be interesting to see what happens to this Jewish community in the years to come, since they are ‘losing’ many Jews due to intermarriage and conversion to Christianity. Definitely another unique and awesome experience to learn about here in Ghana!

Thanks for reading! More blog posts to come soon!

 

Jeremiah

A Trip To the Jewish Community in Ghana (this post is long)

For Easter break, we got off school Friday and Monday. I traveled far, far West, near the Ivory Coast border, to Sefwi Wiasco (pronunciation completely unknown) to engage in a Passover Seder at the only Jewish Community known in Ghana. My friend, Rachel, found out about it online when she googled, “Jews in Ghana”, or something like that. On Thursday, after class I wished my course mate a happy Easter. She replied with a straight face, “Thanks, you too. And I hope that one day you learn to believe in his resurrection.”

The day before, I ran into two Chabad Rabbi’s waiting outside my hostel searching for Jews to invite to their Sedar. You can tell the are trained to spot out Jews it’s kind of cool. It’s like they have a 6th sense that when they saw me walking they knew I was Jewish. Usually, eye contact means they’re right. And…they were.

They greeted me and handed me a box of Matzah. Turns out one of them is cousins with the wife of the Chabad Rabbi at the University of Wisconsin! Being in Ghana had made me forget about Jewography. These two said they were sent from Israel to seek out Jews, give them food, and invite them for a Seder. Chabad rabbis were stationed all over the world to do so. Pretty neat. As I spoke with one of them, Ghanaian’s driving by stopped and yelled out their window, “Hey! Are you Jew!?”

On the way to Ghanaian Jewtopia, I stopped in Kumasi and spent a night there, enjoying one of the greatest experiences of hospitality of my life. So much so that it deserves an entire post to itself. (Coming soon to an American’s African blog near you!)

In Kumasi, I visited a palace where the chiefs use to live, went to the Zoo, and saw a sacred . The zoo was kind of sad. The animals did not have the best living conditions. My Ghanaian friends’ were excited about animals such as squirrels and turtles. I found that the lizards, donkeys, and beautiful roaming around the zoo with no cage were the coolest animals there.

We visited a sword that has been stuck in the ground for over 600 years. The legend is told that the man who put the sword there stated that when the sword is removed, the entire Ashanti kingdom would no longer be unified. He also had a vision that there would be a hospital built in the area of where the sword was placed. For a long time, the sword was just stuck there, and no one knew the real meaning. A Colonist built a hospital in that area, not knowing that an Ashanti member had envisioned a hospital’s construction hundreds of years before.

Now, there’s an exhibit surrounding the sword. But, before the exhibit existed, Muhammed Ali and other boxers had made attempts to pull the sword out. They all failed. (DUH! otherwise I wouldn’t have gone to see it) I asked if I could try….but supposedly if I were to fail, then the chief would punish me however he wanted. I didn’t want to take that risk…I promised my mother I’d do my best to make it back to the States in one piece.

I met up with my obruni friends and barely made it on the last bus to the Ghanaian Jewtopia. I had been warned by people when I told them I was going there, “Oh be careful! They sacrifice people’s heads there!” We only made it onto the bus because we gave the conductor a “Gift” of 1 sedi to let us budge the line. Fair?! Absolutely not. But, we had to do what we had to do to get there before sundown. Even if it meant a bribe.

We arrived after dark, (even though my friends left Univ. campus at 5 AM!) and found our way there. Joseph, our liaison (who we later found out had two wives and ten kids!), met us, we later met another group that came for Passover. They were a group of 6 obruni’s who were spending a gap year in Ghana in a program through Princeton University. We put our bags down in a room, and then waited.

We waited. And waited. Then, waited. After about an hour or so, we finally asked someone what was going on. They said they were cooking for us so we could have full stomachs before the Passover Seder/Shabbat service began. They served us rice (which is not necessarily kosher for Passover), and then we walked to the Synagogue around 9pm.

What was the Synagogue like?!

Ah! I thought you’d never ask! The synagogue kind of resembled an old school courthouse. It seemed to fit a maximum of 100 or so people. The children sat in the first two rows; the women sat on one side, and the men on the other. The synagogue was at the bottom of the hill, at one of the lowest point in the Jewish quarter. At the front, there were two on each side, a table filled with what appeared to be food for the Seder, and a “”. About 60 people showed up, all dressed in Ghanaian attire. At Saturday’s service, someone was rocking a bright pink tallis. SWAG! I was excited to wear my keepah, since it had been sitting in my closet lonely all this time I’ve been in Ghana and I finally had a chance to wear it! I ended up trading it Saturday night for one made in Ghana.

The service was quite interesting. I sat next to a convert who grew up in Accra but had just spent 4 years in Israeli studying at a Yeshiva. His wife was a born Jew, with Indian/Afghanistan/Polish heritage. I wonder what race their kid is going to choose when he grows up. We chatted about the differences that we experienced.

The sidurs (spelling) seemed normal. They were from America, and the service was read mostly in English, but a fair amount of Twi, or the local dialect of Twi. The rabbi was just not a rabbi, rather a “community leader”. He told the story of Passover in a tone that resembled the way pastors preaches.

Instead of making Matzah that I was use to, they prepared some sort of thick dough from plantains, ginger, and other stuff that actually tasted much better than Matzah. When’s the last time you’ve been to a Seder where they made their own Matzah? They had Matzah and Manishevitz wine, which I believe was delivered to them two weeks prior by some random Jews who like to give away free food. The community leader told the story of Pesach (he pronounced it…”Pee Za”, kind of sounded like a Korean trying to pronounced Pizza. I know that because my cousin and brother have taught English in S. Korea. #randomfacts) Instead of everyone sitting down and eating food on their plate, the ‘‘ presented each food and then gave it to a woman who went around served everyone one by one.

We first said the blessing over the wine, and then wine was served to us one by one. The children did not get grape juice. Rather, they received coca-cola.

After the Rabbi explained the story of Matzah and how if “you are Jew”, you don’t eat bread during Pee-Zah, we ate the food as it was brought to us. The evenings menu:

real , Ghanaian Matzah (pounded plantain dough-like with ginger and gd knows what…but it was TASTY!) , spicy sauce (I think instead of horseradish), (which they said represented manna from gd), (representing sweetness and I think replacing haroset), and some bitter that tasted like seaweed straight out of a polluted ocean. Everything was on one plate and was shared by everyone. The honey was a huge plate that went around and everyone dipped their dirty right hands in and licked their fingers afterwards. Germs are over rated.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Sedar plate, it consists of different foods that all has a representation from the story of Passover. I wish I knew more about it and could explain it…but they didn’t explain it in Prince of Egypt, (or if they did, I forgot) and I don’t want to spread false information. But, here’s my attempt: there is a shank bone on the Passover plate that represents the lambs of the Jews who smeared blood on their doorsteps the night before the 10th plague struck the Pharaoh and the Egyptians. That night in Egypt, holy spirits passed through town, killing the first born child of every family (including the Pharaoh’s son), while PASSING OVER the Jewish homes that had doors with blood smeared on them (Moses had previously advised them to do so). Hence, the name, Passover.

In all of my past Passover Seders, there has been a dry bone on a plate to represent the lamb blood. And nobody ever ate it (I‘m pretty sure). In Ghana, rather than a bone, they had slaughtered an entire goat earlier that day, and they passed out its to the congregation to eat the goat meat that represented the lamb’s blood. The meat was delicious, except I didn’t want to know which part of the goat I was eating, since the girls from Princeton trip explained that they witnessed the slaughtering earlier, and that they were surprised at how little of the goat was thrown aside and NOT cooked. They came around a few times and I ate some random parts that impressed the Ghanaian sitting next to me enough to comment. “Nice job finishing all the meat”. I think he really meant, “I’m surprised a white man like you ate the entire piece of intestine and kidney”.

The eldest men were served first, then the eldest females, then the young boys, and then the young girls. When it was time to look for the afikomen, the community leader presented Elijah’s cup and explained that the child who finds the afikomen gets to drink from the cup. The cup was filled pretty high….I remember thinking how hung-over that child would be the next morning if he downed the glass of Manishevitz. The children were called up one by one to search for the Afikomen, and after about 10-15 seconds of failing to find it, each one became embarrassed and sat back down. I was curious to where this thing was hidden. There wasn’t a lot of hiding places in the synagogue. Finally someone found it and was rewarded with a Coca-Cola, and appeared disappointed he didn’t get to get drunk. How’s that for a coke add!? Some 10 year old Ghanaian Jew finds the Afikomen and are rewarded by a refreshing bottle of Coca-Cola! I should patent that idea. Along with an add ensuring the existence of Black Jews with a picture of Ghanaians eating Matzah.

At the end of the service, everyone welcomed us, and the Rabbi offered anyone the chance to say something to the congregation. I stood up and explained that I was happy to be there, and I was glad to finally have visual proof to tell my friends back at home that Black Jews do exist. I requested the possibility of an arrange marriage, recited to link to my blog, then took my seat.

The next morning services started an hour late, and were mostly in English and Twi. There were 2 or three prayers said in Hebrew, and it was done so by the children. I think it was the Shma, Viahafta, and another prayer that I didn’t even recognize (awkward). The rabbi/leader didn’t know a few prayers, and since the service book didn’t have an English translation, asked the audience if anyone knew it. The service concluded after about 3 hours, and the leader told us to return at 3 pm for an afternoon service/seder.

After the service, we ate a delicious lunch that was kosher for Passover, and went back to the synagogue at 4pm for the afternoon service. When we got there, it was empty. We then learned that it was cancelled because they were busy and had to slaughter the goat so they could serve it at the evening seder that night. So, we opted to stick around and witness the “kosher” ! I took a lot of , but look at your own risk:don’t want to gross anyone out. It was not always pretty. I will say, these Ghanaians did not waste much of the body parts, as about 90% of the goat (minus his head) seemed to be edible. and was roasted. I thought back to the piece of goat that I ate the night before that was not attached to a bone. After watching all of the insides that they cooked, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to know what I had ate.

Was is slaughtered in a Kosher manner?

Good question. Even though “I am Jew”, I’m not sure what the exact process is supposed to be according to the Torah, so don’t think so. It was sliced at the neck, only hit once. I thought it was suppose to die instantly, but this goat died a pretty painful death as its blood was drained into a 2-inch hold right next to the synagogue. It took about 7 minutes for the goat to finally stop moving, and then they took it over the fire and began the process with the help of two young Ghanaian boys. These boys definitely knew what they were doing too. It was clear they’d done it before. They definitely can grow up quick in Ghana.

That night at the service I asked the guy sitting next to me if I could make a special request and eat the goat’s testicle. He explained that they save it and give it to the chairmen of the community. Was he sh*#ting me?

We ended up meeting two more Jewish Americans who came just for Saturday night. It was a father who was visiting his son, Eli Evnen, who goes to NYU and is studying abroad in Ghana just like us, but is stationed in Accra and not on campus. I soon learned that Eli and I had several close mutual friends. I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ve shown up on each other’s Facebook homepages as “People you may know”. Those piss me off. Unless it happens to be someone I know. He went to camp with my roommate (BOB!!!!) from Madison growing up, is cousins with someone in my fraternity (Caleb Sherman: wusup), has a sister that goes to UW-Madison (Sadie) that I’ve met before, and has the same major as my friend from camp who goes to NYU (Gouncher hope you are reading this!). Jew-ography. Wow. Small world, huh?!

The next morning we “picked” a taxi at 5 am, and after a long day of travel which included a 45-minute Easter sermon in the loudest spoken Twi I’ve ever heard on one of our busses, we arrived back on campus around 4 pm. Great success!

 

So wait, Jeremy-Kwabena?! Are these Ghanaians really Jewish? Where did they come from? How long have they been there? You never told us the story!

 

Oops. Forgot to mention that. On Saturday afternoon, we learned about the history of the community. But, this post is long enough as it is…..

Guess you’ll just have to wait ‘til next time!!

-Yeremyahoo Moshe

PS follow my on Twitter: @Jeremyginsburg

Notes and Observations

Hey all,

Sorry for the wait! Been busy. Easter break was nice! I made it to Kumasi for a day, and then went to a Jewish community in the Western Region pretty close to Ivory Coast. I’ll write a post on that soon. For now, here’s some notes and observations I have made recently to keep your aching stomachs satiated:

I’m at the point where if I see any Ghanaian food, (99% of the time) I’ve tried it.  Since my try it diet is practically over, I’ve tried to order healthier, except most of the food sellers look at you like your crazy. If you tell them you don’t want rice and only salad, they give you this look like you’ve ordered urine flavored ice cream. Most vendors also don’t understand it when I try to explain that I want my food, and then a little dressing; not eight spoonfuls of dressing with a little food hiding underneath it. I’ve compiled a list of foods that I want to try before I leave: snail, dog, cat, snake, and bush meat. We’ll see if I can be successful. Cool/interesting/gross/exciting foods that I have eaten: Cow intestines, cow liver, cow feet, cow tenants, (they don’t waste much meat of any animal….I’ve probably eaten more parts of the body than I realize) goat, chicken kidneys, frog legs, squid, mini crabs (shell included), clay, ants (those were an accident), fish brains, oysters on stick, and a lot of mystery meats that I am told are “Beef” or “meat”. I’ve probably eaten human at one point too with out realizing it. Okay that’s disgusting. Sorry

There’s an old lady named Luisa that sells food out of a cooler down the street from my hostel. I pass by her almost everyday, and she’s always yelling “BUY MY FOOD! I HAVE PIZZA, MANGO BREAD, COOKIES, BUY FROM ME BUY FROM ME!” If you ask her to prepare something special for you, she will. Her banana muffins are luscious. I told her she was like my second mother, and she responded by saying that I was her husband. I think we gotta clear that up. I walked passed with two of my female Ghanaian friends once and she yelled at me saying I was making her “Jealous-Oh!”.

Her daily routine goes like this. She wakes up at 6 am and goes to the market where she buys all of her flour, vegetables, rice, and stuff fresh. Then, she goes home, where she cooks and bakes all morning/afternoon. She takes her food in a magical cooler container that somehow manages to keep her food warm all day long, and she usually gets to campus around 3 or 4. She sits on the street, selling her food to students (she advertises for herself) who walk by until about 9 o’clock where she goes home to go to sleep and repeat the same schedule the following day. She repeats the same routine everyday, except for Sundays. On Sundays, she goes to church first, and then proceeds with her daily schedule. She’s amazing, and when you ask about item of hers, she tells you it is “tantalizing!!”. You can place an order for a future day and she will make you what you request. You can also tell her what time you are coming back so she will stay late enough so you buy from her.

She also sells T-shirts with her own face on them. (I hope to do that one day!). I’m pretty sure I learned a rule in an Econ class that if you have to be the one selling the T-shirt with your own face on it, then you probably won’t be in the market for long. Sometimes she wears her own shirts and says, “Buy my T-shirt!” and points at her own face on her own shirt. She couldn’t pronounce Jeremy (she doesn’t know about Jeremy Lin), so I told her to call me Rejemy. She decided ‘Rejemy’ sounds like ‘Benjamin’, so I told her it was okay to call me Benjamin. She recently gave me the ‘OKAY’ to make a video/documentary on her. Once I gather a production crew we’ll make a vision. Can’t wait.

Some of the local sellers will loan you some money if you are short. I find that pretty neat. People seem to be very honest and trusting here. I walk passed them every day anyways, it’s good that they trust me. I bought a can opener at the grocery store at the mall; except when I got home it wasn’t in the bag they gave me. I went back the next day and it turned out they found a can opener left unattended and they gave me a new one when I showed them my receipt. Locals have also hissed at me (they do that here to get people’s attention) when money had fallen out of my pocket.

One night, I got a ride home with a friend, and he ended up getting stopped by the police. It took about 30 minutes to get out of, but he got away with no ticket and didn’t have to bribe the cops either. I was kind of embarrassed because I think the only reason we got pulled over is because there were white people in the car. Though our Ghanaian friend didn’t admit that to us.

Stay tuned for a post about last weekend soon!

Miss you all proportionally!

Love,

Jeremy Kwabena