Kings and A Sword

Trip Start Mar 11, 2005
Trip End Mar 27, 2005

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Saturday, March 19, 2005

Today Prince is off and told us he was "free to take us around" (free my foot!). I wanted to go to Bonwire but he said that would have to wait until Monday as they don't weave on Sundays and it was too late to head out today. We decide just to go to downtown Kumasi and go to the market. Prince suggests a visit to the King's Palace and we add that we want to see the sword. He gets us a taxi - which has 4 seats. The driver takes one and one is for Prince, which leaves the 5 of us in the back seat - uh, no I don't think so. We send that driver away (he's not happy) and tell Prince we need a bigger car or a mini van or something. The next taxi he gets is a mini station wagon, but it has no more seats than the first one did. Prince's level of frustration is rising - what do these people want? Finally he produces a mini van. Now we're talking! This one we hire for the total rip off price of 300,000 but what can we do? It comes with the driver and the mandatory shotgun rider. This is one rickety buggy! There are holes in the floor, a sliding door that only latches sometimes and the driver has to hot wire it to get it to go.

We arrive (thankfully) at the Palace and try to enter through one of the doors but it is the wrong entrance as the King is at home. The boys claim they saw the King himself, dressed in black robes. We wait until the driver hot wires the van again and we drive around to the other side of the Palace grounds. Unfortunately you cannot take any pictures at the Palace. We are hassled by some kids trying to sell bookmarkers with our names on them. We give in and write KAILEY on a piece of paper and agree to buy it when we come out. As we enter, the Palace looks nothing like a Palace, more like some 100-year-old farmhouse with furnishings from the 1940's. The tour is quite interesting even if the place is so hot it is stifling. I had to pay for each of us to get in, and I paid for Prince to come along. Strange, I know I didn't pay for the driver and his sidekick but they are here on the tour with us. We learn all about the current and previous kings of the Ashanti people. We also learn about the Queen Mother who must not be the King's wife. She is either his sister or his mother that holds the position of Queen Mother. If the King's wife were to be the Queen Mother, then their children would not be of the royal family. The Queen Mother has a special stool upon which she sits and also a special pillow which goes on the stool - both of which the King must provide for her.

I ask the tour director if he has any monster legends but he says the Ashanti have no monsters in their stories. The boys' French teacher has given them an assignment to present to the class a monster story from Ghana and we're having a heck of a time learning about one, let alone two. I did buy a folklore book so I'm hoping there will be something in there we can use. All their tales are about Anansi the spider and they are meant to teach a moral usually.

The tour director notices the boys are twins and said had they been born Ashanti, their names automatically would have been Ata and Ata. I asked how you tell them apart when you want to call them. He replied I could call one Atsu as a nickname which means second born twin.

At the end of the tour you must go through the gift shop before you reach the exit. The tour guide calls a man to open the shop and I realized he called the guy Ata, so I asked the gift store man if he was a twin. He was quite surprised and answered "Why, yes how do you know?" He then noticed the boys and said he would be honored to shake the twins hands.

We managed to escape the gift shop without buying anything but going back to the van we had to come up with 5,000 for the bookmarker. We ended up buying another one too with Ghana on it for 10,000 because we only had 10,000 notes on us and they claimed to have no change. One kid tried to get the Ontario pin off Shawn's hat. He was going to give it to him until I told him to trade it for another bookmarker and the kid would not trade so we still have the pin.

I notice the difference in the dress of the people in this region as compared to Accra. Perhaps it is because many of the people in this area are Muslims. The women's head scarves are now long and even the school uniforms are different.

We spent way more time at the Palace than we thought so we decided to skip walking in the market as it is the largest market in Western Africa with at least at 15 hectares of stalls. It was even busier than the ones we've seen in Accra. I think the kids would have been a bit overwhelmed by it all. We took the trip to the Okomfo Anokye Hospital on Bantama Circle to see the Okomfo Anoke Sword which according to legend has been stuck in the ground in the same spot for 300 years. The sword marks the spot where the Golden Stool initially came down from the sky and it is an important symbol of unity for the Ashanti. The story says it would be the end of the Ashanti if the sword was ever pulled from the ground. To protect it from the elements, the sword is now inside a small circular building and they charge a small fee to see it. A guide tells you stories about how people have tried over the years to pull the sword out, including Muhammad Ali. When the hospital was being built by a white man named Mr. McGee, heavy machinery was brought in to try to dig the sword out but apparently the sword disappeared, only to mysteriously reappear in the same spot a week later after the machinery had left. To this day, every sixth Sunday a chief comes to pour three bottles of schnapps on the ground around the sword and sacrifices a lamb and spills it's blood around the sword to appease the ancestors.

After heading back to the hotel, the boys hit the computers again while Kailey and I take a swim in the hotel pool. Too lazy to go back out, we went to the hotel restaurant again. This time was the first time we've seen any sign of any other guests staying here - a white man came into the restaurant and sat alone in the corner. A black couple also came in to eat. We usually have the place to ourselves.

After dinner we all went to the computer room (there are no TV channels in the rooms) while a storm whipped up outside. The hotel lost power - computers went to backup power and the diesel generator kicked in. We found out it is located outside our bedroom window. I swear we should rent our family out to any place that is experiencing a drought. We're like the Schleprock guy on the Flintstones - you know the guy with the big rain cloud hanging over his head every where he goes!

Prince invited us to go to church with him tomorrow but knowing it is an all day affair we pass. It would be neat to see though.
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