Thursday, November 10, 2011

Opulent Obsequy

Alright, I need to tell a story real quick. And I apologize in advance that there are no pictures to accompany this story, but this was one of those Africa-spur-of-the-moment situations, when I ended up kicking myself for not having my camera...much like the race track incident with my host father in Niger.

I was hanging out with one of my coworkers; we might have been watching the Miss World pageant, I don’t wanna talk about it. But his friend called to invite him to a “function,” and my coworker kindly invited me to go with him. So we hopped in a tro-tro and headed to Jamestown, one of the oldest districts in Accra, right on the coast, southwest from city center.

When we got there, ohhh let me tell you, it was absolute chaos. Everywhere. Live bands, huge speakers, tables and chairs in the middle of the road, portable canopies, street vendors, and more people than I thought could fit on a street corner. It was like a block party on steroids. Only it wasn’t a block party.

It was a funeral. A funeral for the brother of my coworker’s friend. My jaw definitely dropped when my he told me that. Apparently funerals are a huge social event, with tons of celebrating, dancing, food, and lots of drinking.

Note: the whole dancing in the streets thing is not exactly a Ghanaian tradition—it’s more of an Accra thing. Funerals in Ghana are very festive and lively, but in Accra it’s much, much more exaggerated.

And it’s not just one at a time, either. We walked through at least 4 different funerals going on that night. How do you tell them apart, you ask? They’re color coded. The family of the deceased decides on a color that people attending the funeral are supposed to wear to show which funeral they are at. The family of the deceased, on the other hand, wears black or white, depending on the natural of the death. The family wears white if the person who died lived a long happy life, or if they were suffering and death was relief for them. And like most other countries, if the person died too young or unexpectedly, the family wears black.

I happened to be at the “orange funeral”—I however, had no idea where I was going, and wasn’t dressed for a funeral in any country. (Ratty jeans and a tank top. Great. Thanks for the heads up, guys.) It really wasn’t a big deal though. The color-thing isn’t universally followed or anything. And it’s perfectly acceptable to bring friends; although I am convinced there were some funeral crashers there. Not in the style of Will Ferrell, but just enjoying the music and food. And booze.

The nice thing too, is that you don’t have to be wealthy to throw a funeral like this. My coworker told me that even if the family of the deceased doesn’t have money, everyone in the community pitches in to help throw the funeral celebration, which you can really see. People were all so friendly, just passing out drinks and plates of food, mostly in stick form. Like sausage on a stick, goat on a stick, fried gizzard on a stick, you know, the usual. It also led me to discover my new favorite Ghanaian dish, called Kelewele. It’s pretty simple, just plantains sautéed with ginger, but its soooooooooo yummy. And it too, can be eaten on a stick. Convenience.

After walking around for a while, so I could see everything going on, my friend and I sat down to enjoy the festivities. I ended up sitting at a table with a group of women, who ignored me at first, but ended up spending the rest of the night trying to get me drunk. And nearly succeeding. Fortunately I had five months of training in Europe to back me up. Well that, and Ghanaian beer is pretty weak.

But we drank, and talked, and danced for hours. Needless to say I think this is going down as my favorite night in Ghana thus far. Hmm. My favorite night in Ghana so far, was a funeral. Weird.

In other news I got bit on the shoulder by an 8 month old baby at the beach. Man those things are dangerous.

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