Today we visited an art gallery. There were so many beautiful tapestries, beads, masks, and paintings.
I learned that certain beads are used to wrap around girls’ waists before they go through puberty. The beads are believed to shape your waists and make you thinner. Once you hit puberty, there is a traditional celebration where you show off your beads from under your clothes and show off your body. This celebration is symbolic for becoming a woman. The gallery also had some caskets. In Ghana, people like to go out in style. One casket we saw was shaped as a train and one was a tennis shoe. They are representative of the passions of the people who passed. It is believed that when people die their spirit lives on forever, but it only remains if your body is also on earth. This is why cremation does not exist in Ghana.
After the art gallery, we drove to Aburi, an area in the mountains. This area generates all of the electricity that the country uses. On the way, we saw a funeral procession. Black and red tents sheltered hundreds of Ghanaians who arrived for the event. We learned that people have to donate money to the family to help pay for the funeral because they are so extravagant. Funerals are not only occasions for mourning; they are also places for celebration and connecting with people. This is due to the fact that the funeral is held many months after the death to let people properly mourn and meticulously plan the event. Dr. Kwami told us she has been offered jobs on multiple occasions at funerals! She also mentioned that wealthier people are known to have their outfits changed several times to show off their wealth after their death.
As Uncle Solo drove us up the mountains, we passed Bob Marley’s old house! We also saw a man asleep in the back of a truck… We were not completely convinced that he was still alive, but Dr. Kwami told us otherwise. We got to see the whole city of Accra from the top of the mountain. It was incredible. One major thing I noticed today was the stark stratification of wealth between people here. Nice, large houses are gated with barbed wire that rest right beside small houses that are falling apart.
We finally got to the top, and we visited the Aburi Botanical Gardens. Before the tour we had a delicious lunch of the normal rice, chicken, and plantains, but they also provided beans, which were so yummy. There was also fish, and Amani and I got to try the eye!! It wasn’t that bad, but I didn’t enjoy the hard spot in the center.
During our tour, we saw so many beautiful flowers and trees. There was one plant that closed when you touched it. We also got to see cocoa trees that were brought from South America, and cocoa is now one of the largest influences in the Ghanaian economy. The person who brought the seeds over had to do it illegally buy eating them and then pooping them out! Our tour guide was extremely patriarchal and a bit sexist, which frustrated many of us. He kept talking about how women are weak and men are strong, how men have to do everything for women, how women are fragile like flowers, and much more. I had to remind myself that he thinks that way because of the way he was raised and how his culture taught him to view gender roles. I could not be mad at him because he was genuinely not trying to offend us; rather I had to direct my anger at the society that enforced those ideas. At one point, our guide showed us a hibiscus. He went on and on talking about how women should like the hibiscus and know its name because we are like it. He asked all the girls on our trip if we liked flowers, and we all just stared at him speechless. Then Jake broke the silence by stating, “I like flowers!!” We all laughed as our guide stood in disbelief. The guide was difficult to listen to and respect, but Jake broke the awkwardness and made it a funny experience that turned into a good memory rather than a bad one.