There are periods of downtime at the volunteer house. Particularly this week as Xmas holiday has begun. In addition to the 30 children who live here, an additional 130 attend classes. With the break in place and the 130 gone for the holidays, the need to feed is diminished. Likewise, there is no necessity to prepare the kids for class. As a result, we spend more time around the place, playing cards, hanging out, or just talking. A lot of beer is consumed. Local brand Club seems to be the favourite. Water is kept in the fridge. It is served in plastic bags containing half a litre. You bite off a corner and squeeze and suck the water out. It’s a fifty-fifty call as to whether the water will taste great or have a tinge of chlorine to it. We all sweat quite a bit here during the day. Beer is drunk not to get ripped but as a non-sweet replenishment that does not remind the drinker of their local swimming pool.
While the more lackadaisical schedule at the orphanage changes the routine, the volunteers here have outdone themselves in putting together Xmas gifts for the children, the staff and the family that hosts us. The level of ingenuity is exceeded only by our dedication and love. We have combed the local markets (not exactly Cosco here) and two rows right of where the chickens are sold and slaughtered
(avoid slipping on the blood as it meanders toward the blood hole) there are cheap bracelets and earrings available in several stalls. No shortage either of
shoes, soaps, cassava root, pineapple and anything else required to make your stay in Ghana a pleasant one.
The girls combed through the market, finding plastic bags to use as loot bags and colourful native cloth that was used for ribbons. Two full days were spent segregating the gifts, sorting them into piles and bagging and wrapping them. Aside from candies and stickers brought from home, which were ubiquitous, the girls got beaded bracelets, the boys drums.
This morning, there was a deep sense of despondency permeating the volunteer house. For most, this was their first Xmas away from home and family. The hot temperature did not help as it further removed all familiarity that the vols have of their usual experience. Five hour time differences didn’t help since it was too early to call home for that TLC.
Mid-afternoon was party time. We walked the usual ten minutes to the orphanage and received the usual wide armed greeting. Step one consisted of decorating the tree that centred the courtyard. Multi-coloured paper ribbons and scrunched metallic wrapping paper was strategically placed on the branches. I noted to myself a general lifting of spirits as the process developed. The kids helped out and loud speakers blared out a repetitive afro beat. Some danced,
some played; others just hung out. A special dinner consisting of fried rice, beans and chicken was served to all. The chicken here is out of this world. To call them free range is an understatement. They were walking around inside our compound this morning and digesting in our stomachs six hours later. The birds were rounded up by the Pastor’s three children – Arnold, Methuselah and Jehosephat. Even I couldn’t make that up. Following the poultry rodeo the birds had their throats slit (missed that) and were defeathered. Before you get grossed out – our grandmas did the same thing.
The meat was meted out; the kids sat and enjoyed. After dinner, they were called up one at a time to receive their Christmas cheer. The fun began, the kids and some of the staff danced as did an Obruni (which is what us white folks are known as) or two.
We packed up and left around six o’ clock and the single, most noticeable fact
to me was that the volunteers had experienced their Christmas in a way both unexpected and unforgettable.