Life in Lawra, part 2, Come Help Us

I have came to northern Ghana visiting Mission Society friends in their ministry setting.  Read Part 1 – where Steve takes a picture of THE traffic light in Wa and gets “noticed” by the police.

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Sue and boy at Methodist School. If you look carefully, you’ll see some juju around his neck.

Lawra is a wonderful village and I begin to understand why Sue feels at home in this remote place that is so difficult to get to. As we walk around Lawra a feel a natural rhythm to the greetings people exchange
“An-so-maaa,” which means good morning.
“Oh-be-song,” the multi-purpose response to a greeting and always appropriate.

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I get caught up in the beautiful call and response feeling of their rhythm, from the bicycles riding by, the street venders you pass, the phone card sellers, the school children walking home, and people walking talking on their cell phones.
“An-so-maaa,” says a one.
“Oh-be-song,” you respond back.
“An-so-maaa,” you greet the street vender.
“Oh-be-song,” and she responds.
In the afternoons, the greeting changes to “mooona,” but the response stays the same.
“Mooo-na,” “Oh-be-song.”
My new Best Friend
But right now we are far from the peaceful Lawra, and in the regional capital of Wa during a fuel shortage, and I have just taken a picture of the only traffic light in Wa, while Sue was working the ATM.

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The ONLY traffic light in Wa and all of Upper West

Its time to catch the Tro back to Lawra. Problem is, the police officer from across the busy street is somehow now blocking our way.  He is a little upset I did not come to him and demanding to know who gave me permission to snap a picture.  Snap is the verb they use for taking a picture, but sometimes it sounds like snatch, which might be why I’m in trouble. I snatched a picture.   Police man has been watching me for some time, and describes many of the pictures I took earlier.
“I did not know I needed to ask permission” I say, apologizing. The Officer lectures me about always needing to seek per.mis.sion.to.take.pict.tures, punctuating each syllable and then loudly asks “DO.YOU.A.GREE.WITH.ME?”
There is a saying I try to remember as he is lecturing me, something about a hungry officer and many questions, but I can’t find it. So I say “I make it a practice to never argue with a man wearing an AK47.” The officer chuckles, and a moment later a huge smile comes across his face.  He extends his hand. I shake it, and we snap fingers. Together we pat our hearts and the tension is gone.
I tell him a story my sister told me from 1968, when we danced in Wa on New Year’s Eve, when I was a small boy. “Ah!”, he says, “then you are Ghanaian!” We laugh, shake, snap, pat and now we are friends. Since we are friends I ask “May I snap your picture?”, smiling, with eyebrows raised.
“Oh no, no, no, no,” he does not grant me permission. We chat a few minutes more about that single traffic light, and he tells us it is not only the only traffic light in Wa, but the only traffic light in all of the Upper West Region. We all laugh again, shake, snap, pat and then I beg for us to take our leave. “You go,” he says and motions us away and that’s when I remember it: “At times when the police are wanting something to chop, they ask plenty questions.”
The Gyil

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David playing Gyil

When we get back to Lawra, Sue’s friend and woodworker David takes me to see what has put Lawra on the tourist maps a traditional form of music based on drumming and a unique type of xylophone called a gyil. According to The Bradt Guide, the gyil is made from “hardwoods and reverberates into different sized calabash gourds.” David has two of them at his family compound, and though I try to dissuade him from using what little precious fuel remains in his motorcycle, he insists I come with him.
David’s junior brother plays the Gyil
As we are about to leave the family compound I remember the fuel I am carrying. I offer it to David, and he, thinking it actually is a small Fanta, gives it to his junior brother. I tell him no, no, no, it is fuel. For his moto. I motion for the small boy to bring it back, and take off the cap. We both smell, good I think, it really is fuel and then David understands. He smiles, and is very thankful, and quickly adds it to the fumes in his tank, as if it is thirsty.

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adding fuel to tank

On the way back he gives me a tour of his farm, and shows me his personal family courtyard where I meet another of Sue’s friends named Fortune, or Fortunate, I’m not sure which. David gives me five guinea fowl eggs, maybe for the fuel, and as we race back on his moto, I try not to let them break. I should not have let the eggs worry me, their shells are as hard as they are tasty.

 

Good-bye to Lawra, for now

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It is a deep feeling of gratitude I feel in Lawra, and the people who share Sue’s life. She has found a place to live out her days in meaningful ministry, in the village, and neighboring one where she pastors a church that was once small. In the school, and with the Peace Corps Volunteers. Her home is a place of peace, and she welcomes the traveling stranger like me.

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Sue’s House and Garden and somebody’s goats

Some months after moving to Lawra Sue was given a name in the local language. Wa-son-ti, which means come-help-us. Its not a name she hears used often, but when it is, it is conveys her meaning and purpose.
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Wa-son-ti – Come Help Us

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