Thursday, April 14, 2011

Termite Hunting and Backing a Baby

Termite hunting
When small chickens or guinea fowl hatch during the hot season, there aren’t a lot of things they can eat because they are too small. So what do they eat? Termites. During this season, people collect corn husks and manure. They add a little bit of water, and pack the mixture into a clay pot.
After the pots are packed, they put small sticks across the top, making a lid so the manure and corn husks will stay inside even if the jar is tipped upside down.
In the evening, people will put the pot, upside down, over a place where they know there are termites around. During the night, the termites climb into the jar to eat the manure/corn husk mixture.
Early in the morning, people will come and collect the pot. They remove the contents, and then the chicks scratch through it and devour the termites.

Baby Backing
“Patience, what a beautiful baby you have!” some women said as they passed me on their way to go fetch water. “I think he looks like me,” I answered. They all laughed. Abdul Salaam looks nothing like me.
They were commenting because I decided that I wanted to learn how to tie a baby on my back with a piece of cloth, which is how women here carry their children. Madame Shera offered to teach me, and her son was the one I had tied on my back.
Baby backing is pretty straightforward. You bend over and put the baby on your back, and then move the cloth so it goes just under the child’s neck. Then you pull the top part of the cloth tight and tuck it in under your armpits. After that, you pull the bottom of the cloth under the baby’s bottom and twist it in front of you before tying it in a knot.
Carrying children that way is really easy and surprisingly comfortable (although it does squish your chest a little). I was hauling firewood with Salaam on my back, and it felt secure.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Soothesayer

Several months ago I met a traditional healer on the bus, and I promised to go to her village and visit. I finally found the time to go. As I approached the house, a young woman with tiny braids and no head scarf scowled at me. “Is Amina here?” I asked her. The woman led me into the house.
Madame Amina was surprised to see me. “I didn’t think you would come!” she said, which made me feel guilty. I sat down in her room. Her walls were full of posters extolling the importance of treating people with mental disabilities (called madness or not normal in Ghana) with compassion.
After some time, she took a red powder out of a bag and held it in front of me. “Fever,” she said. The intense young lady who had led me in, Amina’s daughter in law, translated “this one is for malaria.”
Amina reached into another bag and took out a tan powder, which she said was for the stomach.
Then she offered me some of a third substance which looked like tiny pieces of charcoal. “This is for if you want to give birth,” she said. I politely declined.
As we were talking, a young woman came into the room carrying a young baby.
Amina pulled out a white cloth that had some shells and small trinkets tucked inside. She spread out the cloth, and handed the woman one of the shells. The woman took it, and then gave it back along with one cedi (about a dollar).
Amina then gathered the shells and trinkets and tossed them back onto the cloth. She stared for a moment and then started to talk to the woman as the baby crawled around the room. She did this a total of seven times, and the final time the woman was also talking.
From what I picked up of the conversation, I was guessing that she was telling the woman’s fortune.
Two men came in for the same procedure a little while later. When they left, I put a cedi into Amina’s hand. She laughed and called her son in to translate.
Here are the highlights of my future as told by Amina:
 There is opportunity for me in Ghana. A man will come to my house via motorcycle and offer me something good. This will definitely come to pass if I buy milk and millet and prepare it. I did not buy or prepare the milk or millet.
 I will be very rich. Thank goodness.
 I need to watch out for my best male friend. He is watching me and will steal from me if I am not careful.
 I am healthy and will remain healthy.
Her son pointed out a calabash that was hanging from the ceiling of the room. “See how there is nothing underneath it?” he asked me. “Some small spirits hold it. That is how you know this woman is very good.”
We ate rice and tezed before I went home.