Monday, 5 September 2016

Saliminga Sam

Saliminga Sam

Choosing a destination for your summer can be difficult and West Africa with all the stereotypical conceptions (which are wrong) mean that it is probably lower on your list of places to go than Ibiza, Vietnam or inter-railing. It certainly is different to life in the UK but that is why you go. The place and the people are lovely and outgoing, therefore, it’s best to approach Ghanaian culture with the charm and charisma of Michael Palin as well as the ‘have a go’ attitude of Karl Pilkington.

Life at home
I have been living with a Ghanaian family for over 2 months now and it’s been great to have an insight into the lives of ordinary people from a totally different part of the world.  The family are very traditional and it was difficult to adjust to the gender roles within the household at first. At home in the UK its equal roles and housework is shared, I couldn’t initially get to terms with this. I could only imagine the look on my mums face if I didn’t contribute equally to the household chores. Although, I have become a pro at hand washing my own clothes. My skills at this chore will be massive help when going back to university in Liverpool. Whilst everyone is queuing for the washing machine I’ll be in the back garden washing my clothes listening to Shatta Wale, in the rain, probably.
The family also have a whole host of animals that live around the house. I learnt early that the back door is to be closed for a reason. I left it open for no longer than 10 seconds only to see animals running around the back room frantically like they’re trying to get on The Ark and me chasing them out with a sweeping brush.

Being a saliminga (white person) from Britain it is almost certain that dancing in public induces a social phobia comparable to giving a speech in nothing but your underwear. Nevertheless, being in Ghana and embracing the ‘have a go’ attitude, has meant that I am now ready to return to the UK equipped with dance moves that would make John Travolta jealous. There is the bum bump, azonto and the shakey leg hands in the air shoulder pop dance, which, along with my snake hips, that I have been refining from the age of 18 in clubs in Cardiff, I think the bright lights of the West End could be calling me.
And what’s even better about the rediscovery of dancing is that alcohol is not needed. It would be ludicrous to suggest to friends back home that you can dance in front of people and not have to look to alcohol to be the key to losing your inhibitions. In the communities where we have had events on girl’s education, the day is always finished with everybody dancing; young and old, men and women, terrible dancers and good dancers.  

Spiderman (or Voltaire) once said, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. The role of the chief is to be the custodian of culture as well as being the leader of their community. It is endearing to see a community working together for the benefit of all who live there.

In each community we have been working in we have met the chief, each one has been different in respect to the initial meeting. In the rural areas it is customary to squat on your feet whilst clapping to greet him. There is also the custom where the chief will offer each person a Kola nut, which you must take a very small bite out of to show you trust him. Unfortunately for me I wasn’t aware of this, so when I was handed the Kola nut I ate the whole thing. It’s around the size of a gobstopper and has the taste of paracetamol. Once I started chewing I realised why all of the Ghanaian volunteers looked at me strangely. I wondered if it was a little joke they played the first time and was expecting it to be sent into a Ghanaian version of You’ve Been Framed. If so, I’ll be waiting patiently for a few cedi’s.

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