Tuesday, November 11, 2008

When I arrive somewhere new, it always seems like within the first couple of weeks there are 1 or two people with whom I feel some kind of connection. And often, that connection develops into a strong friendship that lasts for years, it seems. When, at the beginning of my junior year, I transferred schools while getting my bachelor’s, I was living off-campus and in a major (accounting) that really wasn’t the best match for me (other than that I kind of love math and it comes easily). Within the first few weeks, by chance, someone who was in one of my non-business classes was entering the apartment building I lived in while I was going out to make a phone call (alas, I had no phone yet so needed to go out to the parking lot pay phone to call my sister and relieve my homesickness/loneliness). We talked briefly in passing, and then got together for a cup of coffee after I finished my phone call. Anita and I were buddies for the duration of my time in Whitewater, and we’re still in touch. I’m still in close contact with several friends from Peace Corps days. I recently wrote about Samuel, a Liberian I’ve known since 1993 when I was in Cote d’Ivoire. Etc. etc.

But for some reason, I haven’t made that connection here, yet. There are people I’m friendly with – but there’s a structure, or a hierarchy or something that seems to prevent anything deeper from coming about. It’s unusual for me – usually I make my friends through work or school, or whatever my normal, daily activities are – a few people with whom I can hang out, laugh and relax, share a beer, talk about work, have deeper conversations about life, religion, culture, values, etc. But that hasn’t been the case here. Maybe that’s good – I spend more time alone, and as someone recently pointed out, I get a chance to reflect on my relationship with Africa. But, this isn’t what I’m posting about this time – I just like to digress from time to time. (Or, since I’ve taken two paragraphs with digression, maybe I should just say it is part of this blog posting.)

I do have some friends in Ghana – and I’m lucky that a few have been able to come visit me.
Just a couple of weekends ago, Saka was able to come for a few days. He lives in Kasoa – the town close to Buduburam, and he is in charge of the group of blind people with whom I worked sometimes, and he helped me to follow up and visit the people with disabilities in Kasoa, and he helped me find my way around to the families of our deaf students who lived in Kasoa so we could visit them. He ended up being on the Board of Directors for the school for the deaf as well as running the income generating project that was established for the deaf school so that the lunch program would be able to continue more independently after I left. He’s partially blind and his wife is totally blind, and they have 3 beautiful kids. Their son, who is now two years old, was born while I was on the camp, and I was able to attend his outdooring.

The problem is there’s not much to do up where I am now. In the south, there was always the beach – and not much further were some “castles”, the rain forest canopy walk, etc. Here –there’s not much. The PCC is a beautiful, peaceful place. But on the weekends when I have time off – there’s not much else to do, which is fine, but when there are visitors, it’s sometimes nice to have an activity or two.

However, there is a monkey sanctuary not too far away, and this is what I’ve tended to do with a couple of my visitors. The best part for me is the walk through the forest – there are mona monkeys and black and white monkeys, but the main thing for me is just the walking, the huge trees, the flowers, the smells of it all, feeling the trail under my feet, listening to the forest sounds.

So – that’s what Saka and I did – and we took three of the older kids from here with us –

Evans, who has cerebral palsy and I can’t understand most of what he says, but he’s a funny, friendly guy; Ayuba, who has Down’s Syndrome and can look very serious as we are all walking along,

but at the same time has a beautiful, infectious laugh; and Zacharia, who’s non-verbal and is one of the hardest workers at PCC and also has one of the most constant, largest and beautiful smiles.

We started in the market at the stand where I love to get lunch about once a week – watche (sounds like watch-ay), rice and beans cooked together, with some tomato stew usually added, some Shitto (hot pepper stuff), gari, spaghetti – and maybe meat or fish or egg.

Mmmm, delicious. Then the taxi ride – 4 of us squeezed in the back, Saka, with the longest legs, in the front.

The road’s not paved for part of the way there, and if you take a wrong turn, or are directed down the wrong road, you still get there, but it takes about twice as long and on a road that’s 4 times as bad. This second option was the way our taxi decided to take.

Even before our taxi finished rolling to a stop, a guide was already making his way to us, and almost as soon as we were out of the car we were making our way down the trails.

The monkeys are welcome in the village of Boabeng. On some of the houses, you can see scratch marks below windows where monkeys are welcome to climb in and help themselves to some of the family’s food. Check out the website to understand some of the beliefs about the monkeys and why people in this village feel about them as they would about cousins or other family members.

Certain monkeys have certain families to whom they pay regular visits. The people in the village know where the monkeys tend to hang out, they know if there have been births or deaths, and if there’s been a death, it’s mourned, and the monkey is buried in the monkey cemetery. The guide took us through the forest,

found some of the monkey families, led us to the monkey cemetery,

showed us some of the impressive trees, and led us back to the village.

there were a few monkeys in the trees - right above our heads -
when we got back to the village

Our taxi took the more direct route back to Nkoranza.

Saka, who’s muslim, went to find a mosque where he could pray while I took the guys out for some cokes (but forgot to take a picture of us with our cokes) while on the way back to the PCC.


At 6:18 PM, Blogger Rick said...

Sounds like a great trip to the monkey sanctuary. I enjoyed the photos of all of you together, and was wishing I was tagging along. Of course, I would have had my binoculars scanning all those incredible trees, searching for birds! I was curious what kind of monkey was in the photo, and the best I can figure it was a Campbell's Mona monkey. Awesome that you saw them.

At 10:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually saw monkeys in these pictures. I must admit I never heard of a monkey cemetery and it was also interesting reading about the monkeys using the link you included--thanks for that.



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