July 11th - African Funeral

Trip Start Jun 30, 2008
Trip End Aug 04, 2008

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Flag of Ghana  ,
Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday held a lot of firsts for all us.  It was our first time to travel to a village
alone, our first time attending an Africa funeral, and our first time riding in
a tro-tro.  

Our day started out in a search for a taxi that would be
able to take us to Dormaa the town right outside Emanuel's village.  We started walking from our dormitory in the
direction of Dormaa.  All the taxi's that
were going that way were already full so we tried walking the other way.  The first taxi that we flagged down wanted 15
cedis for the trip.  We tried to get it
lower but he said so the next taxi said that he could take us to the taxi
circle where we would be able to get a taxi. 
We arrived at the circle and had three or four different taxi's fighting
over which one of them would get their business.  We got into one and ended paying 10 cedis to
get to Dormaa.  Then we tried to tell him
the name of Emanuel's village to take us to the taxi stand but then he just
decided that he would take us.  His taxi
sounded like it was going to fall apart on the dirt roads leading up to the
village. We finally arrived and told us it would be another 10 cedis for this
short trip.  We didn't understand at
first but he just kept pointing toward another 10 cedis from us.  We finally paid and a young lady was waiting
for us and brought us to Emanuel's house. 

She pretty much dropped us off right in front of the house
and we all just kind of stood there not knowing exactly what we were supposed
to do.  In the front of this house, him
family set up this very large tent so that all the cooking could be done out
there.  There were a combination of
different methods that they were using for cooking ranging from three stone
method.  With the three stones they place
three stones and then build a small fire under it.  The stone retain the heat and allow for many
different items to be prepared.  They
also had a charcoal burner and inside of the house they had a gas stove.  We looked like lost sheep wondering what we
were supposed to do.

Emanuel's brother came to great us.  He told us that Emanuel was over by the
church.  One of Emanuel's younger family
members became our babysitter for most of the day.  She took us over to the church where the
family funeral was going on.  There would
be two funeral today.  This was the
official church service.  We stood at the
back of the church watching but not understanding what was going on.  We would catch an "Amen" every once in a
while.  The dress for the funeral ranged
from traditional African attire which for men is 10 yards of fabric that is
draped over them in a "toga" like way. 
For females it include a shirt and a dress both of which are
fitted.  The top is usually a sleeveless
v-neck top that is fitted throughout and a dress that resembles a mermaid
tail.  There were also men in shorts and
t-shirt and women in jeans and a t-shirt
The family funeral was not formal. 

As the mass was ending, we were explained that there would
be a procession to the grave site.  The
casket was loaded up into Emanuel's truck and driven over to the grave
site.  There was a long line of people
and a band that played upbeat music.  An
African funeral is a celebration of their life. 

We arrived at the cemetery for the burial.  The casket was lowered into the ground and
the priest said a few words.  There was a
few prayers said in Twi and the ceremony was over.  This was the only time that I saw people
crying throughout the whole day.  They
were soft tears and not the streaming tears that you often see at many funerals
in the United States. 

We began walking back toward the house and Emanuel's wife
said that we will eat and change into tradition African dress.  We were led into a smaller room on in the
house and were shown the clothes that we would be wearing.  Mitch and Cory had 10 yard of black fabric
with different designs on them.  Emanuel
showed them how to put on the garment. 
He made it seem very easy.  Marcie
had the an outfit similar to what all the other women were wearing.

We walked out to sit down to eat and we could just tell everyone's
eye were on us.  Many people were smiling
and saying how beautiful/how good everything thing looked.  However, there were many other words that
were being spoken that we could not understand. 
We were served a lunch of rice, fish, and some kind of meat.  We ate as much as we could and then just
waited.  We had no idea what to do with
the plates whether we should return them to the kitchen area or just leave them
so we just waited.  Once the plates were
taken away we got up to see what else was going on.  Emanuel then found us and told us to go sit
down again.  We sat and we watch as many
people filed in and out of their courtyard.    

About a half hour later, many people began leaving.  We decided that we should probably go to
because the public funeral was probably starting.  As we were getting up to leave one of
Emanuel's family members looked at our feet and told us that we could not wear
the shoes that we were wearing.  There
was a female family member that told Marcie that she would give her the
slippers that she was wearing.  They
refer to sandals as slippers.  She went
to her room in the house and traded her pair of Keens for a pair of black
sandals,  Mitch and Cory were not so
lucky but we continued on our way to the public funeral. 

The public funeral was an open air event.  It was set up in a rectangle with chairs
under large tents all three of the four sides. 
At the told of the rectangle was the church in the background.  In front of that was a set of speakers and a
DJ of some sorts.  Guest sat on either
side of these speakers.  The guest of
honor sat to the left of the speakers. 
In the center of the rectangle was a memorial for Emanuel's father.  It included a younger picture of him adored
with many different flowers.  All the
flowers that they used for fake and the only flowers that we have seen sold
have been fake,  The whole area was
probably about the size of a small auditorium. 

Once we got there we stood in the area where many of the
children were standing to watch.  Out of
no where someone told us to follow this usher and do what she does.  We began walking around the tents shaking
everyone's hand who sat in the first row. 
We had to have shaken at least 75 hands before we were led to our
seats.  We were seated in the first row
on the left.  As we sat down all the
family member who we had just shook hands with had all got up.  They lined up and shook our hand.  The family member would do this every time a
new group of people sat down.

We sat for 2:30 hours shaking people's hands as they walked
around the circle.  There was no way that
we could get up to ask what was going on or to find Emanuel because then
everyone would see us so we just sat and continued shaking hands.  Sometime within that time period a chief came
to show his respects.  He had a young man
carrying a special chair on his head as well as an entourage of people.  There was also a person who was just in
charge of holding an umbrella over the chief's head the whole time. 

The other excitement came when these two young girl began
dancing in front of all of us.  They were
doing some kind of traditional dance that soon turned into one of the girls
sitting on Mitch's lap dancing.  Mitch
did not know what to do and just sat there. 
One of the gentlemen sitting behind us said that he would have to give
her something but none of us had any money on us because our outfits didn't
really allow for this.  Emanuel somehow
came out of no where and gave the young girl a cedi.  We all just kind of looked around like of my

Marcie then got up to ask Emanuel what we should do.  He the said that we could leave at anytime
and that the fufu was ready for us at the house. We sat down for another 5
minutes and shook some more hands and then headed back to the house to change
and get some food. 

After changing back into our clothes we could all breathe a
little bit easier.  We sat down and were
brought three huge bowls of fufu.  This
fufu was much better than the fufu that we had tried the night before.  We began to eat and more and more people
began to file into the house

They started singing and we were in the middle of a
political rally of some sorts.  One of
the men even gave a speech.  They sang
and the only words that we could catch was about a revolution.  They have elections this year just like the
United States only they have more than just two many parties.  There are many different parties that
represent varying ideas expressed throughout the country. 

We then decided that it was time for us to leave.  We all tried to get up to leave but Cory ran
into some trouble.  It turns out that it
is rude for more than one person to get up to leave.  We then all had to sit down and Mitch went up
there to ask permission to leave.  He
then told us that we should just stay the night and continue to enjoy the
party.  After explaining that we had to
get all the way back to Kumasi he finally let us pass.  We got in a taxi that only cost us 4 cedis to
get back to Dormaa.  It then only cost us
7.50 cedis to get back to our dormitories.

We packed up all of our stuff.  Not before we fond out that we had a 20 cedis
bill for the internet at the dormitory. 
At all the other spaces you pay before you use so since we didn't pay we
just assumed that we could use the internet for free.  We checked out of the rooms and headed
towards the bus station.  There ended up
not being any large buses so we ended up taking a tro-tro into Kumasi.   

A tro-tro is similar to a 12 passenger van only instead of
12 they put in a few extra seats so that 14 people can sit in it.  It only cost a 2.50 cedis to get to Kumasi
this way.  It was first come first serve
also so we all packed into the tro tro and began our journey back into Suyani.  About an hour into our trip we ended hitting
a very large pothole and getting a flat tire. 
The we all got out of the vehicle and it took no longer than 20 minutes
to fix the flat tire with the spare that they had.

We made it into the bus station safely just after dusk was
falling.  Cory ended up meeting a girl
that was also going to KNUST so we grabbed a taxi there together.  It was not one of the Tech taxis but we would
still try to get in.  We got to the main
gate where there were guards checking taxi. 
In the end the guard ended up getting in to the taxi with us and
dropping us at our dorm.  He then left
but not before asking for money from Mitch. 
Mitch gave him 50 pesowas but he asked for more so we just ended up
giving him 1 cedis.
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kgpaterson on

If you don't go, you don't know
Great adventure. Good to see you attending to the cultural practices at the family level. More interesting than the dorm room, for sure. Keep it up.

Paapa on

LOL! I am a Ghanaian Living in the US. I really enjoyed you piece. Ghana is a great place. Enjoy the hospitality, but please also remember to avoid obvious places that may pose danger to anyone.


vivian on

I am a ghanain leaving in America for about 20yrs I enjoy your story. please visit again and tell more.

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