day of the dead

By 5am something always wakes me up. A rooster, goat, sometimes the dogs. Sometimes chatty old men outside my window. They let me know I have an hour more of sleep before I need to get out of bed.

This morning, circa 4am, the blasting music was so resounding it shook my bed. Oh, for the love of all that’s holy, I can’t wait to move into a Muslim community. Ghanaian Christians love to meet at ungodly hours to bang on drums and sing, there is no bad time for a revival. I tried to muffle the ruckus with some Ray LaMontagne, but the music got louder as the morning got brighter. For two hours I shoved as many things on top of my head as possible, I was almost relieved when my alarm went off.

“Good morning Kofi,” I murmur, as I shuffle to the latrine. “Afiya!” he replies. “I have returned the books!” I crack a smile.

The night before my host father, who is the head master of the local primary school, informed me that my little brothers Kofi and Yow (age 13 and 14) stole 10 notebooks from his bedroom to sell. You can take a girl an ocean away from her little brothers, but the wrath of the big sister remains. I threatened to beat them to the last inch of their lives if they didn’t return the books by the next morning, among a lot of other “you are smarter than that” and “your father feeds you and puts a roof over your head, how dare you blah blah blah”.

“That makes me really happy Kofi,” I say. “I knew you would.” He returns the smile. “But Kofi,” I say before I shut the latrine door behind me. “Steal again and I really will beat you.”

As I make my way back to my room, I complain to Kofi and Yow that the Christians woke me up again. “No, no, no,” They begin to inform me. “That was a funeral.”

Oh. Pfth. My bad. My mother appears from the shadows, adorned in red and black from head to toe - Ghanaian funeral colors. “Mommy, you were at the funeral all morning?”
“Eh, yes. Come, I will show you.”

What the hell, I thought. I threw on some black gauchos and a black tank top. It couldn’t be far, the music sounded like it was coming out of our walls. My mom threw a black gypsy scarf over my head and we were funeral bound. As soon as I stepped out of the compound, I realized that everyone was in black and red. And by everyone, I mean all of Old Tafo x5. Where did all these people come from? How are they fitting in this little village? The funeral was about as close as I thought it would be. My mother and I greeted every person we came into contact with, and then up to pay our respects to the woman lying on the table, dressed in a wedding gown, arms neatly crossed over her chest. I have only been to one other funeral in my life - being so close to a dead woman gave me the chills. I didn’t know what to do. Cry? Smile? Laugh? Dance? I could have done any of the above and fit right in. Instead I swallowed, looked away and found a seat. We greeted a few hundred more Ghanaians and were on our way.

That wasn’t too bad. That is what kept me up all morning? Mortified of the idea of another PCV running into me with my gypsy scarf on, I asked my mother if it was ok for my to remove it.

“No Afiya. We have four more.”

“Four more what?”

“There are five funerals.”

Five dead people? I haven’t even brushed my teeth yet. But that does explain the surround sound.

And so we went, each funeral with its own mourners and dancers and DJ’s. And the star attraction, the white women and her gypsy scarf. Three marriage proposals, mas o menos 600 greetings and an hour and a half later, we had circled Old Tafo and all its funerals.

I only had a half an hour left before language training. Oh, how time flies when you are funeral hopping. I kept interrupting my language teacher to ask funeral questions. Did five people die this week? No, they celebrate those who have passed on every three months. Funerals get expensive, it’s more practical. So when are they buried? Not until November. Really? Where? I don’t know Mariah, can I teach about the market in Dagbani now?

Oh. Yea, mmhm. Sorry. Oh wait, but are they going to blast that music at four in the morning again tomorrow? Thats all I really want to know…


Heather said…
your use of dialogue is masterful.

also, remember when you used to be able to sleep the whole day away, circa fall 2005?

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