Happy Valentine’s Day! My day was so amazing!
It started with coffee. Yes, COFFEE! After the trotro dropped me off at La Paz, I had to wait a little while for Fred to pick me up, and I found a little stand selling bread, fried eggs, Milo, tea, and coffee. I ordered a coffee and sat under an umbrella at a wooden table behind the stand enjoying it. I drank it slowly and people watched as I sipped. When Fred showed up in a taxi to pick me up, I rambled happily about how thrilled I was to have stopped for coffee because my favorite thing in the world is going out for coffee. “Really?” Fred interjected, and I confessed maybe it’s not my all-time favorite thing, but I do love going out for coffee quite a bit and normally do at least two or three times a week, but this was the very first time I’ve gone out for coffee since I arrived in Ghana over four months ago! (Okay, what kind of life do I live to get such a thrill from something as simple as going out for coffee?)
The taxi took us back to his parents’ house, where a canopy and chairs were set up for the after-party of the engagement ceremony for his “sister” (aka cousin). They call it an engagement ceremony now, because the church wedding will follow in a week or two, but before Christianity came to Ghana, this was it. Before church weddings, Ghanaians had this exact ceremony, and voilà! The couple was married! It is basically a traditional Ghanaian wedding ceremony that everyone still observes just to keep tradition before the church wedding. The engagement ceremony was incredible to experience! It deserves an entry of its own, so I’ll write about that part later.
After the engagement ceremony and party, we were supposed to hang out with Fred’s cousin, Marion, who has recently returned from a few months’ holiday in California. She didn’t answer her phone, however, so we were unable to meet up with her. That was okay, because I did something far greater.
I went for a haircut! FINALLY! It’s been about six months since I last cut my hair, and the resulting split ends have been really bothering me lately. Fred and I met up with his friend Mavis who took us to the salon. I was SO nervous. Really. First of all, I can only remember two or three times in my life when someone other than my hairstylist Aunt Karen cut my hair. Secondly, I have long, wavy, brunette hair. Obruni hair. Real hair. Most of the ladies here have fake hair. It’s strange to me! The hairdressers here braid cornrows circling the lady’s head, and take strips of artificial hair and sew them in layers onto the circular cornrows until it looks like the lady has nice, pretty, straight hair. It’s not her real hair, however... it’s fake! If I wanted to have my hair plaited, or have extensions sewn on, an African hair salon would be the perfect place. But for a trim?
One lady washed my hair in a sink, and another one ran a comb through my hair and started to cut with these scissors that weren’t very sharp at all, like little kid scissors. She seemed like she knew what she was doing, but I was still afraid she’d screw it up somehow. I had to remind myself that it’s just hair! It will always grow back. After the haircut, she put my hair in rollers and made me sit under a dryer, where it felt like my head was in an oven. When my hair was dry, she took out the rollers and applied way too much hairspray. But my hair looked great!
I bounced out of the salon, feeling pretty and absolutely beaming. We took a cab to an ice cream parlor/bakery down the street. I was bubbling over with excitement. I LOVE going out for ice cream or pastries or anything with friends, and this was the first opportunity I’ve had to do it in Ghana. We sat at a table for three outdoors, talking and laughing. Yes, I do miss my friends from home terribly, and they are all irreplaceable to me... but it is such a lovely feeling to have new friends to pal around with in a this strange place who A) don’t wear veils and crucifixes and B) are older than 16 (but younger than 45).
I love Mavis! She’s a little quiet, but very sweet. It was so nice to spend my Valentine’s Day with a girlfriend! Mavis is single, too, so she laughed when I started talking about how idiotic men are and how much I hate all men. Of course, every five seconds I had to add, “Except Fred, dear,” so he wouldn’t take my criticism of the male species too personally. (I don’t really hate all men, by the way, but it’s sort of a Valentine’s Day tradition for me to put them down and to celebrate being single and independent.) Anyway, it was wonderful just to laugh and joke around with them. We sat for hours outside the ice cream parlor, and mmm, the ice cream and pastries were delicious!
Fred had planned for us to go out for drinks with his friend Esther, but when we returned to his house to wait, it began pouring rain! It rained and rained and thundered and lightninged, and the power went out for a little bit. By the time the rain let up and the power came back, it was already after 9, which is late for Africa. Fred said we’d make it some other time, but now he had to drive me home. We picked up Esther on the way so Fred would have someone to drive back with him. I was glad we left when we did because there was SO much traffic that it took two hours to get to my house! Ghanaian drivers are RIDICULOUS!
When I hugged Fred goodbye, I thanked him for such a wonderful day. I told him it was one of the best Valentine’s Days I’ve ever had. I had coffee. I witnessed a traditional Ghanaian wedding. I got my hair done. I went out for ice cream. I made new friends. How wonderful! I know that most of those things really aren’t a big deal, but for a girl like me who LOVES going out but who lives with nuns (who do like to go out... to church!), my word! What a great day!
I didn’t tell Fred that, as awesome as my day was, nothing will ever compare to my Valentine’s Day in 2007, when I drank wine and ate an incredible chocolate mousse dessert with my best friend, Erin, at a small but fancy restaurant right across from the Louvre museum in Paris. I don’t care how wonderful my future Valentine may be, or how many roses or chocolates or diamonds he gives me... I don’t believe any Valentine’s Day will ever compare to my Valentine’s Day in Paris.