Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ghanaian Independence Day!

Wow! Well, let’s just say that I picked a good time of year to come in the way of holidays—not so much in the 40+ Celsius heat, but that’s another story.

Yesterday, 6 March 2009, was the Ghana’s 52nd Independence Day, and we all got to be part of the festivities here in Damongo. It’s actually kind of funny, because although I have crossed a continent and traversed almost 60 lateral degrees, the major festivities are quite similar to those of Syttende Mai in Norway (sorry, probably not spelled correctly). In both countries and celebrations the school children play one of the most significant roles. And Thursday was spent getting ready at the Redemption Children’s Home.

There was an air of excitement when we arrived at RCH on Thursday. School uniforms were being washed, new shoes were to be handed out, one of the older boys even heated up an old cast-iron iron in order to press his shirt to perfection. And all through the afternoon children kept disappearing, only to reappear with clean-shaven heads. Even the littlest children knew there was something afoot, and they weren’t about to be left out.

Friday morning dawned with a flurry of activity. We Sister- and Brother-Volunteers dressed in our best and ate a hurried breakfast. By the time we were done Pastor Abraham’s car had arrived with 18 of the children too young to march, most of them dressed in their pink and white gingham school uniforms of the New Life Preparatory Preschool. They were about the cutest thing you have ever seen.

Then it was off to the ‘park’, an open red-dirt field near the center of town where football matches are played. Normally it’s fairly empty, but by the time we got there around 9am it was packed! Along two sides were a crush of Ghanaians, full of excited energy; along the other two sides were rows upon rows upon rows of pristinely-uniformed school children in a blinding array of colors. We found ourselves a spot to crouch, the littlest children up front, and after a brief word from the resident dignitary, the band started to play and the children began to march. First the girls, then the boys, school after school after school. And they marched with such precision; they had been practicing all week! Round the circle to salute the dignitary, then back to their starting places to be released to the crowd. There must have been at least twenty different schools. And all of the public-school children wore their heads clean-shaven, the mystery was solved! But the heat…

Three hours in 40+ Celsius heat is more than most adults can take, let alone children as young as 2 years of age. Long before the children’s older brothers and sisters marched, most of the younger ones had fallen asleep, curled up in the dirt. And yet they were scarcely dirtier than we, and showed it much less. It was windy and dusty, the crowd pushed close, and when I can post pictures later, I will post some of the pictures of my legs simply caked in dirt. But it was amazing simply to be a part of that crowd and that celebration. Everyone was as excited as excited could be, and so proud to catch merely a glimpse of their children—their future—marching.

Peace to you all,

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