Monday, November 1, 2010

Images and thoughts from last week with Laura

More thoughts from Laura:  

Well, I am here in Liberia but I am going to talk more about my experience last week in Ghana--

Renita has given me reading assignments :-) One booklet I am reading (as time allows), is "Against All Hope: Hope for Africa", I am perplexed that a continent as rich as Africa is not reaping the benefit of its own riches.  I am trying to understand the impact of colonialism today, the impact of the transatlantic slave trade today, and I am sure there are other dynamics, so I will keep reading . . .  I am considering the slave trade, especially after I visited the Elimina Castle and the Point of Return.  The Point of Return is located in a village/community near Cape Coast, there is a trail that leads from Sweet River, the last place the enslaved Africans washed and were shaved before they walked the last 45 kilometers to the Elmina Castle in Cape Coast, where they were held in dungeons before they walked through the Door of No Return.  Walking in my barefeet the trail that my ancestors walked, was difficult because, although I was with others, I felt alone on this journey, because no one with me could understand my pain, so I held my tears back I did not to make a spectacle of myself.  Many Ghanaians have heard the slave story many times, but me I feel the impact, Renita had her own perspective as a white woman, but I was the lone African American, it was not easy.  And it was the same way at the castle, although most of my tour group was brown-skinned like me, none of them had lived the African American experience, once again alone in a very strange way.  It is my hope that next year I will have this experience with a group of African Americans and Africans, and that we can dialogue after the tour, but for now it was lonely.

I had the opportunity to spend the day with a Ghanaian gentlemen, who took me out to have a real Ghanaian experience, so the first thing we did was stop at the roadside and drink coconut water, a little warm for me but sweet none the less, I even scraped and ate the coconut from the inside of the fruit.  We stopped at a metalworkers stand and watched him make all kinds of metal baking pans, for bread, cakes and the like.  Then we went to the waterside where the indigenous people lived and their livelihood is fishing.  There were 4 women who were happy to explain the fish smoking process to me and they were all about the photo opps!  I met one woman as she was gutting a fish . . . and then I was ready to go.  As I walked through this community, I saw just that, community--children, the men gathered, the women working, teenagers, socializing.  And then I thought, Lord you know each and everyone of these people, you love them, you understand their words even though I don't.  And you, (Lord), don't assign greater or lesser value to any of us . . . "for God so loved the world" means the world equally.  Wow!  The last note about that day, I loved hanging out with Captain Amponsah Gyima, proud to be a Ghanaian, proud to have served in the military for his country and currently working for the United Nations, and proud of his children.  He said, (something like), "my country may be poor, but I love my country and my people," that expressed the attitude of the typical Ghanaian, a very proud and independent people.

Here are just a few word snapshots of Ghana--really, really bad side roads; motorway, (expressway)-fast, slow through a town, then fast fast again; people walk along the side of the motor way; every billboard has people who look like me; police checkpoints on the motorway; every major intersection has folks selling anything and everything; businesses with names like "The Lord is My Shepherd" photo shop, "To God be the Glory" dress shop, bible verses on the back of taxis; goats along the side of the road; small herds of cattle; people selling snails and ground hogs; roosters and chickens here and there.  Oh and did I mention when you gotta "go", you can "go"  especially men, just right along the roadside.  I asked if women could do the same thing, and I was told yes just a little further away from the road in the tall grass . . . hmph, needless to say I was very careful on long trips.

I just want to say that I was blessed to spend two weeks with the Reed family.  Renita, Hannah and Noah are fairing well.  I watched Renita working hard for Partners, taking care of her children, taking care of other family stuff, taking time for herself, accommodating me and still grieving the loss of her husband, her children's father, our brother, Bob . . . I am amazed at how God has made this woman!  I see God's strength in Renita Reed and thank God for this, my sister.  Keep praying for her and the kids as they continue to walk this valley.

I will stop there, I will tell you about my experience in Liberia, next week, Lord willing.  God bless!
Laura gets her hair braided...for five hours!  Tylenol was in order.
Hannah, Noah, and I watched in amazement as they set the ends of her braids on fire.
After it was done - Laura looking beautiful although a little stupefied after the abuse her skull just took.
The next day she enjoys her first coconut water drink.  Thousands upon thousands of these are consumed every day on the side of the road.  People loudly proclaim the benefits of this drink and the seller will cut it open in front of you so you know it's fresh.
On Thursday, we spent the day in Cape Coast, the place where much of the slave trade passed through in West Africa.  Here we are at the Slave River, or some call it "Sweet River" where those captured had their last bath after walking hundreds of miles in their bare feet.  We removed our shoes out of respect for where they walked. 
Sweet River, a somber and sobering place.

From Sweet River, those captured walked to one of three castles, the largest of which is Elmina Castle, once owned by the Portuguese, the Dutch, then the British.
This sign, on the wall of the castle, proclaims the desire for such atrocities to never happen again.
The fort, across from the castle, built by the British, who didn't want to be overtaken by surprise as they did to the Dutch.  Brown house in the front right was for the mothers and children of those made pregnant by the slave owners.
Meanwhile, at home, Noah and Douglas battle a water monitor found in our yard by the dogs.  This type of monitor can grow up to ten feet!  We are thankful it was only a baby when we found it.  We aren't sure how it got into our yard as there is no significant body of water around.