The challenge of finding directions to a home without road signs began. When we finally located the young man to who was to guide us on his bike, he quickly let us off the road, onto a path....and deeper into the corn fields we drove...until there was only a small bike path before us, and millet and maize fields all around. We kept wondering where this house was, when suddenly we curved around the field and there it was, completely surrounded by millet.
As we pulled in, we all exclaimed surprise at what we saw (I was with three Ghanaians who had not seen such a compound either). The architecture, I was told, is very much like that in Burkina Faso: flat roofs, so that people can sleep on top when it is hot and also dry peanuts or other foods up there; smooth buildings, made of mud, cow dung, rice husks, and other organic materials, that make for a very solid, strong smooth walls (this particular compound was over 100 years old!). Four generations live together in this compound, including a husband, with four wives, many children, many grand-children, and great grandchildren. Each wife has her own particular area, as does the husband, and the children begin to build their own areas onto the compound.
Animals are also a part of the home. As you enter, you see round structures in walls with tiny doors for hens and guinea fowl, somewhat larger areas for goats and dogs, then in the center of the compound is the place for the cows (as can be seen in the picture below).
But it's not just the 100 people, four generations, and many animals who enjoy this compound. The picture below shows the little house where the chicken and guinea fowl live. But in front of the bench, you can see a mound. That is where the grandmother is buried. There are other places as well throughout the compound where a grandfather or other family members are buried. It's a visual reminder of the generations, although prayer to ancestors is still quite strong in these parts. (We were told that if they need rain, they pray to the ancestors and rain will fall in an hour.)
Out of gratitude to Fanny and her family for all they have done for the three young men that they have helped with work and education, they presented her with a goat, which we named "Thursday" (for reasons that would be too long for me to write in this blog). Thursday made the long road trip back with us to Tamale, where he found a home with a new family. The family also made a gift of a drumming dance presentation made by a number of young men from the family and the extended community. We were privileged to watch and enjoy, although we were interrupted part way through by about fifty cows running into the compound right through the middle of where we were sitting.It was such a privilege to visit with this family and to learn a small bit about their lives. On the one hand, it was beautiful, peaceful, and serene. On the other hand, it felt like we had gone back in time quite a number of years. Someone remarked to me, "What can we do to help them?" To which I responded, "How do you know they need help? I didn't hear them complain." What feels to many of us like going back in time, to them may be a choice of remaining intentional about family and community.
[Recently a Ugandan told me that they love sitting on mats on the floor. Someone came to their house to visit, thought, "These poor Ugandans can't afford furniture!" and sent furniture to their house. But the Ugandans didn't want the chairs, and very soon, the chairs were outside in the rain and the elements so that they could continue living culturally in a way that was preferable to them. Tough for us to recognize and appreciate sometimes, but so important that we don't project our own preferences on someone else!]