Long time no see! Sorry. It’s just the past few weeks were not optimal for blog post writing or computer access for the matter. 3 weeks ago, I had a cold that knocked me out for a few days. Go figure. Then, the next week, all the Ghana Junior Fellows (JFs) and African Programs Staff had a wicked retreat! Us JFs were lucky enough to spend a couple days in Mole National Park, where I was like less than 50 metres from 3 gi-normous African elephants! Soooo cool! And then the next week, I was on my village stay in the Upper East region, in a sweet community in Bongo, super close to the Burkina Faso border. And this is where today’s blog post is from. Don’t worry, a lot went down the past couple weeks so I’ll do my best to make up for me absence.
Rural life is not easy. Especially in northern Ghana, where the Sun bakes the soil and the rains are never frequent or heavy enough. Despite it being difficult, it is incredibly beautiful; both the land and the community of the people.
One morning, I set out with my host mother to the field where we would be sowing groundnuts for the day. The rains had not come to prepare the land, but it is getting late in the season so it was time to take a risk and plant the seeds, hoping the rain would come that night.
I walked behind her, through the millet fields, around mud hut compounds, up and down small variations in the land for a solid amount of time. As we walked, I switched from looking at the uneven ground in front of me to the trees and field in the distance. It was already hot; I pulled my bandana over my ears. Ear sunburns, they’re the worst.
When we made it to the field, I saw that other woman from the group were already there. A woman spoke to me in Fra Fra, the local language, and my host mother translated that she said we were late. I said sorry, realising that my host mother had purposely taken me later because it would be hard for me.
Regardless, my host mother handed me a hoe, I took and handful of groundnut seeds, and she showed me quickly how to plant. I began moving down a row in the field, scraping open a hole and dropping in a single seed. As I moved down, I was told to make various adjustments. It definitely was not easy. Looking around, I saw the women move quickly and smoothly; they shot seeds into the holes like a machine. Half the time I couldn’t even see the seeds leave their hands.
The best part was the way they talked with each other. I couldn’t understand a single thing, but you could tell by the tone that it was a group of friends having a conversation. Anytime you get a bunch of women together, some good chats are going to happen.
But then, out of nowhere, all of their hoes started making a rhythm. The metal blades hit the dry, sand-like soil at the same time. They broke out in song. They moved down the field, sowing seeds in unison, singing together. All of sudden, there was a random scream of throat-singing from a woman, and although it startled me, I didn’t look up from the field and did my best to try and keep up with the rhythm. I was in absolute awe. I felt the song in my bones; I saw the way it helped everyone keep going. It was a moment I will never forget. After some time, the singing dwindled, and after some more chatting, it started up again.
The beauty of people, of humanity. Working together, living together, singing together. Looking back, I should’ve asked what the song meant, but I guess it doesn’t really matter. I think that’s part of the beauty of it, not knowing the words and just embracing the sounds. I think I’ll keep it a mystery.