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