Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Christmas in Ghana

Michelle Robinson

The decision to spend the winter holidays away from my family was a very difficult one, but I am eternally grateful for being able to spend Christmas in such a special way with some very unique people I have met in Ghana.

On the morning of Christmas Eve we drove out to Kokrobitey Beach Resort for our second drum and dance lessons by the Ogbonu Group. I learned how to dance (somewhat haphazardly) during the last session, so this time we switched it up and I learned how to drum.

Because drumming is a talent that takes years to perfect, we only learned 3 of the many types of ways to make sounds on the drums; the tap, bass, and slap. With these three different styles, there is an endless possibilities for beats and rhythms that you can play. We spent an hour learning and practicing different patterns until we all joined together with the dance group and played the drums while the others danced. By the end of it, my drumming partner told me I was his “superstar Michelle.” :)

I didn’t get any footage from that day, but here’s a quick video from the first lesson of a few Ohio University students dancing.  

Afterwards we spent the rest of the day at a resort on the beach, eating and relaxing in the sun. Although we were told not to bring our swimsuits, that did not stop me and a few others from venturing out into the waves of the ocean, fully clothed. The waves in the Atlantic were much stronger than I was used to, but it was so freeing to just stand in the ocean and enjoy the crashing waves with my newly formed friends.

Picture of a few of us with our Mama in Ghana, Carol Hector-Harris, a Ph D. Student from Ohio University searching for her Ghanaian Ancestors. Our arms are linked in a sign of Unity.

After coming back and showering, we got ready for our Christmas Eve dinner. I was a little sad to not be with my family because every year on Christmas Eve we have fondue, but this bar/restaurant was phenomenal. The food was delicious, and there was sushi! (Which later made others feel sick, but I loved it.)

For the rest of the night we danced and enjoyed the bar and each other’s company. I’ve gotta give a shout out to Tina Amakye, one of our wonderful guides for this trip. She picks some of the greatest places for us to go, takes care of us and makes sure we’re all happy and mostly healthy, and not to mention she’s fabulous!

Christmas Day was certainly one to remember. Unfortunately a lot of the students felt sick, so those of us that were up to it attended a morning church service at the University of Ghana Legon Interdenominational Church. It was much different from the strict, Catholic Church service that I’m used to. There was a lot of choir singing and people were very moved by the music and the message. The sermon lasted about an hour, but it was very interesting to see a pastor preach with so much urgency and power.  The service ended up taking around 3 hours. Because we’d been getting a little amount of sleep and running nonstop, a few more people felt sick after church and couldn’t continue on to the party that we had planned next.

The rest of us went to Honorable Kojo Yankah’s house, the founder of the African University College of Communications. The party was held in Mr. Yankah’s fenced in front yard and was planned for around 200 guests, but they kept mentioning us as the guests of honor, which made me feel very special. Two choirs were invited to sing us Christmas songs while we ate traditional Ghanaian dishes of jolloff, wackye, banku, red red and fried plantains, tilapia (with the head, spine, bones and eyes) and fried chicken.

Our Host, Honorable Kojo Yankah

The choirs voices were so beautifully harmonized that it was a little intimidating when they asked us Ohio University students to perform for them. We all gathered around the back of the house and practiced a very jazzy version of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. It was awful, but they loved it.

Later on, when we were preparing to leave, they asked us to sing one more song. We did an encore of Rudolph and then were asked to sing another. With a strange spark of confidence, Mackenzie, Joe, Ben and I sang an acapela version of Lean on Me. We were told that it would be a train wreck, but the audience loved it. Members of the choir even joined in with us, and the piano accompanied us. We did get a little made fun of for reading the lyrics off our phones though.

One of the choirs that performed for us.

When it was time to depart Kojo Yankah’s party I wasn’t ready to leave all the fun and hospitality that we’d been provided all afternoon. Both choirs came together and invited us to join them in a singing of Hallelujah. As we all mingled together in front of the microphones I truly felt the Christmas spirit, as I was singing with people I did not know but had a common bond with just because we were enjoying ourselves singing and celebrating Christmas. The celebration went on longer than we expected, as the singing turned into a dance concert and we all showed off our moves and taught each other different types of dance moves. A bunch of Ghanaians kept asking to take pictures with us, and I felt like a celebrity.

The bus ride home was crowded with a mixture of Ohio University and AUCC students, and we held a sing along with a mixture of Christmas songs and Sean Kingston. I'm pretty sure we sang the chorus to Feliz Navidad for 10 minutes straight. It was an exhausting day and I'm sad not all of my classmates could enjoy it, but I had the time of my life. 

As sad as it may have been to not celebrate Christmas with my family, I am so grateful and honored to have spent it in Ghana with some great friends and good company. It will definitely be one that I won't forget soon.

-Michelle Robinson


SFODA795 said...

Great story and adventure.

SFODA795 said...

Great story and adventure. Travel safe xoxoxo

Mary Robinson said...

Totally enjoyed your blog! So many interesting adventures!