Recently I read the book King Peggy which is the story of an American secretary who discovers she has been chosen king of the impoverished fishing village of Otuam in the West African country of Ghana. Not only was she the first female king of this village, but she discovers the dire reality: there’s no running water, no doctor, no high school, and many of the village elders are stealing the town’s funds. She also needs to find funds to bury the previous king and the longer she waits to bury him, the more she risks incurring the wrath of her ancestors.
Between my junior and senior year of high school I was selected by American Field Service to become an exchange student. I decided I would go where I wouldn’t likely travel and spent three months in Ghana.
This book helped me understand many things I saw, now many years ago. Here are my random remembrances of Ghana:
- I met the king of a couple villages. They wore beautiful kente cloths and had gold jewelry, which are signs of royalty.
- Pouring libations was a way to honor ancestors. The first drink was “spilled” on the ground to provide drink to the departed. I hadn’t realized how important this honoring was to people.
- We walked to a village and were chewing on sugar cane. I was thirsty so drank from a rain barrel and developed malaria. Not a good plan. Sometime I can tell you about the little girl I threw up on.
- You can fit a lot more people in pickups than you would ever imagine.
- I ate goat, snail, and random types of fish. One of my favorite foods was fufu – cassava that was pounded in a large, wooden mortal & pestle until it was a gooey mess that you dipped in a stew with your fingers.
- We are so insulated in language speaking. My brother, Alvin, spoke 4 or 5 languages at that time. There were MANY local dialects in this small country. Alvin had to learn a new language when he went to pharmacy school in Hungary. He now lives and practices in Washington. My uncle, Julius, is an amazing engineer and also lives in Washington.
- The Volta Lake is the largest artificial lake in the world and the dam provides much of the country’s electricity. The lake cut off roads to villages, so would occasionally have to take small boats to cross.
- Extended family is important and I was a part of that family.
- The experience changed my perspective and I want to go back.
- Something to think about – what kind of king you would be?