Thursday, November 27, 2008
It is strange and disorienting to celebrate a major custom like American Thanksgiving 10,000 miles away from home. Of course, Thanksgiving is not a holiday here in Ghana, so life is going on as if today is an ordinary day. The children are off of school – for today only – but that is only because they attend the American school. We are far from the family we are used to celebrating with.
There is not the least hint of fall, or coolness in the air. It is probably 90 or so here, and definitely over 100 in the kitchen where the oven has been going all day. We will not be able to watch the Macy’s parade on TV, as we prepare the Thanksgiving feast, and we will not sit down to watch the A&M-Texas Thanksgiving Classic after the meal. Of course, this might be a good thing for us Aggie fans, as we are probably going to get thrashed! And if I am really motivated, I can listen to the game on the internet – providing the internet is working and I want to stay up until the wee hours.
But the thing I miss the most at the moment is cooking with my Mom, and my sister. We ran my Grandmother out of the kitchen a few years ago – she is now 97+ and has cooked enough Thanksgiving dinners to give her a bye for life! And now, my niece, Shannon, has joined in the tradition. I am cooking the same foods I would be were I in Atlanta, or Houston – turkey, cornbread dressing, giblet gravy and sauerkraut - but I am having to do it by myself. I cried as I chopped onions for the dressing this morning, but I couldn’t tell if it was just from the onions or from homesickness too. I think the latter. And who is here to help me decide if there is enough salt or sage in the dressing?
I called home last night to ask Mom about quantities of the dressing recipe, as I was trying to figure out how much to make for the thirty people or so that we will celebrate with today. I had just put my cornbread in the oven. I found Mom and Shannon, my 14-year-old niece, in the kitchen, with their cornbread in the oven. So it did feel a little like we were cooking together, even though we are oceans apart. I also thought about the first pilgrim women and how they must have felt the same. Homesick in the strange new land God had brought them to, missing family and friends, yet thankful for the blessings of the year. At least I have modern communications to help me connect back home!
There is one benefit to celebrating in a place where it is not a national holiday, though – if you forget anything or run out at the last minute the stores are all open! And later this afternoon, we will gather together with the rest of our Mission Society team – both Americans and Ghanaians from all over Ghana – to celebrate. There will be plenty of food – all the traditional favorites, including green bean casserole and pumpkin pie. And maybe someone will have a podcast of one of last years’ football games that we will project on the wall and watch. We are so blessed to have this new family, complete with sisters and brothers, nephews and nieces, here in Ghana and thankful to be able to gather together to celebrate.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all!
Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim His greatness. Let the whole world know what He has done. Psalm 105:1 (NLT)
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Mary Kay writes:
I spent a pleasant hour a couple of weeks ago sitting under the nim tree at the Kumasi Cultural Centre with the drum carvers. The head on Chip’s djimbe (one of the African drums) had split, and I had taken it back to the carver Wednesday to have it repaired. Of course, when we returned today before heading back to Accra, it wasn’t quite ready yet, but we were promised the wait would be “small”. Hint: one never knows exactly how long “wait small” means here, but since I wasn’t in a huge hurry, I decided I could wait for about an hour rather than try to figure out how to get it to someone else to bring to me in Accra.
The morning was overcast, so it wasn’t too hot yet. I sat under the shade tree and watched the men work on Chip’s drum, as well as other projects. And an African drumming and dance troupe was practicing in the background. A beautiful day in Ghana.
There were drums in all stages. Some whole logs were still waiting to be rough carved. One apprentice was working on the rough shaping and carving for two large ceremonial drums. The master was carving intricate detail into a beautiful drum, and several drums were awaiting new heads. There were drums of all types: beautifully carved drums that may well end up as decoration in some tourists home in the US or Europe, funeral drums covered in black cloth, ceremonial drums covered in real! ocelot or leopard skin, and much plainer, more functional drums. But all with the same purpose – to add beauty, both decorative and musical – to our lives.
I was especially fascinated by the finishing touches being put on Chip’s drum. The head had already been replaced, and was being tightened. When the apprentice started, the drum had no tone, just a dull thud sound. But he worked his way around the drum pulling on the strings, tightening them as he went. By the third time around, the strings were so taut that he was twisting them around a stick, which he then used as a lever against the drum itself to pull them tighter. It looked like at any moment the strings would break under the tension, and we would have to start over. But then, he was finished, and the drum had the beautiful ringing high pitches, and deep low tones of a Ghanaian djimbe.
As I watched, I thought about my life. Sometimes I feel stretched to the limit. I think, if one more thing goes wrong, I will just break. I can’t handle any more. But the Master Drum Maker continues to stretch me anyway. But it is in the stretching that I am transformed. The stretching strengthens me and transforms me, so that I am better able to worship and glorify God.
How has God stretched you lately?
Monday, November 10, 2008
The Ghanaians speak an English closer to British than American. A prominent feature for me coming from New Jersey is that the letter 'R' is rarely pronounced. Normally this is not a problem once you get used to it, but we found an interesting mis-transcription of our favorite Lebanese flatbread at the store this week. As you can see from the scan, what we would call "Pita Bread" is marketed here in Ghana as "Peter Bread!" which sounds the same to Ghanaian ears.