Monday, July 23, 2007

Hospitality, Ghana style

July 17-19, 2007
Obuasi, Ghana

Like the shy smile that escapes from the stoic expression of a Ghanaian security guard or an old woman selling snails in the market, Ghanaian hospitality is unexpected. Unexpected, but once extended ultimately warm and genuine.

Take for example a recent trip to Obuasi, a gold mining town not far from Kumasi. While there a colleague and I were warmly welcomed. We were invited into homes, well fed, watered and encouraged to relax with a Star beer in hand while listening to wall-shaking loud Christian rock music. Women cooked our meals outside over charcoal pits; another woman, the wife of Bernard who took time off from his job as news editor of a local radio station to guide us, also spent hours preparing food for the guests from out of town.

Always, I ate with the men, secretly wanting to be let into the world of the women; cooking, tending to the children, knowing how they make so much from so little. A handshake, a modest bow was my only contact. After our meal made over the charcoal pit I met the women. The electricity suddenly cut out in an all-to-common blackout and we stood talking, laughing in the dark. Then the rains came, swift and unexpected. One woman handed me her umbrella; another guided me out the door.

Later that evening we were offered a ride by a man who had room in his car. The next day we drank pito, a fermented drink from palm trees with the galamsayers (illegal miners) in the bush. They too were hospitable, warm, welcoming, despite the job we were both there to do, which was tell their unfortunate story.

And then there was the legal mine worker at Anglogold Ashanti who insisted he stop the car so he could harvest some corn for us from the company’s property. Or the women we met while on a father visit with Bernard. He was there to see the child he had with another woman. We left nothing bur rather walked away with meat pies for our trip back to Kumasi.

Ghanaians are quick to socialize and to extend an offer to socialize with them by offering the best chair in the house (even if it means it comes from a bedroom at the back of the house), an overturned bowl or a stool to sit on.

Unexpected and greatly appreciated. Makes me wonder what I am giving in return. (T)

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