Sunday, November 23, 2008

Some wonderful things in the world

I am of the opinion that brass bands are one of the top ten most wonderful things in the world. Imagine my delight when I found myself today following a brass band in a crowd of people parading through the streets of Ghana as we danced to the band’s wonderful African tunes. There was procession today to celebrate “Christ the King,” and hundreds of people participated. I was, as usual, the token white girl, but I ignored their stares and joined in the fun. There is something about brass bands that fills my heart with joy and makes me want to dance. This brass band played African church hymns, and I waved the handkerchief Sister Dorothy gave me in the air like the exuberant Ghanians did. I didn’t know any of the words to the songs, but I hummed along when I could and didn’t stop dancing until we were about halfway there. The clouds that had been protecting us from the sun drifted away, and the sun beat down on us mercilessly. That didn’t stop the Ghanians from singing, clapping, and dancing vibrantly, so I didn’t let it stop me, either. We paraded up a hill and down another side, passing in front of nice houses with green lawns in their front yards.

Green lawns in their front yards? Grass is hard to come by here in Ghana, the good kind, that is. I can’t tell you how much I love grass... walking it in, sitting in it, lying in it. I miss grass almost as much as I miss ice cream, peanut butter, and running water. Some people cut through the front yards to pass more quickly to the front of the parade, and I hesitated on the edge of the gutter, torn between my longing to walk on the grass and my respect for other people’s property. Respect won, and I stayed on the dirt road with all the other characters.

And would you believe the characters I saw in the parade? Most people were dressed in their Sunday best, which means lots of vibrant African prints for both the men (as dress shirts, shirt/pants combination, or sometimes just a huge piece of fabric draped over one shoulder and wrapped around the body like Lady Liberty) and the women (who wear their African prints in different styles of a matching shirt and skirt combination that looks deceptively like a dress). Then there were the different choirs, who look like they’re about to graduate. Here, some of the choirs wear caps and gowns when they sing, their little tassels swinging about when they get really into the dancing. Other musicians dressed in normal clothes carried their instruments in front of them. They blew their trumpets, beat their drums, shook their tambourines, dinged their bells, and played their trombones while the people around them danced. There was a group of women wearing what looked like fifties nurse uniforms - little off-white skirts and jackets with turquoise trim and cream pillbox hats with turquoise buttons. They all wore black pumps and white socks. There were half a dozen or so men dressed in strange black uniforms, carrying swords and wearing funny admiral hats with a big white feather across the top like old-fashioned soldiers. When they marched, it looked like they were attempting to step in unison, but they failed miserably. They were right behind a group of nuns and priests. What a crowd! Every person present was dancing, clapping, singing, and waving their handkerchiefs in the air as though they had just won two million dollars.

And I was a part of it all! Me, the only obruni for miles around, dancing ridiculously with young and old under the hot African sun.

As we neared the church where we started, I couldn’t take it anymore. I followed Hannah over the gutter and stepped onto the grass. I took off my shoes, and felt the beautiful feeling of grass beneath my feet. The people who passed gave me strange looks, glancing at my dirty shoes in my hand and down at my bare feet that were half white and half brown from parading through dirt roads. I didn’t mind them. Green grass is also on my list of the top ten most wonderful things in the world.

I’ll admit that by the time we finished the procession, I was quite tired and very happy to sit down in a shady place. It was, however, quite an experience, and I’m glad I could be a part of it. I love trying new things, green grass, brass bands and dancing to them. This is why, when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance!

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