Monday, May 7, 2007

The hills are alive with the sound of music...

On a hike last weekend in a forested area north of Accra, we climbed to the top of hill with a view of the valley below. It was mostly trees and other hilltops as far as the eye could see. About a kilometer away, though, we saw a cluster of red-sand colored roofs. We could hear people singing; it was Sunday so they were probably at church. We asked our guide if we could go check it out. He led us down footpath into the village.

“Can we go watch the black people dance and sing?”

We didn’t actually put it that way, but it was kind of what we meant. When we travel, we want to observe local customs and culture. Our intentions are fine; we just want to learn about how the local people – where they live, what they eat, how they entertain themselves, how they worship. But where do you draw the line between observing them and objectifying them? And how do you get a glimpse of their lives without invading their privacy?

We were a bit squeamish about crashing a church service, but as I said, we really wanted to see them dance and sing. So our guide led us into the church, and we sat down in a row near the altar. The service was in Twi (the local language) so we really didn’t know what was being said. After about 10 minutes our guide ushered us to front of the church where we were to present a small offering. We stood facing the congregation while he introduced us; then he told them we were interested in the singing and dancing.

Then the white people got exactly what they deserved.

The congregation would sing and dance, we were told, but only after we danced ourselves. So we were led down the centre aisle of the church like we were in a conga line. I did my best Elaine Benice impression – swinging my arms and kicking my feet as I followed Janet down the aisle. They clapped and sang as we made our way around the church; then we made our way back to the front and received an ovation. We put our donation in the basket and marched back down the centre aisle and on out of the church.

We could still hear them laughing, clapping and singing as we wandered off down the wooded trail.

- Mark


Jack said...

Hello Janet and Mark.
What I wouldn't give to have seen you two dancing your way down the isle. too bad no one got photos.
I'm afraid I'm too self-conscious to have done something like that.
I must say that your antics really intrigue me. Talk about getting the most from your travel experiences.
Have you started your book yet?


Anonymous said...

I'm laughing at the thought of you dancing like Elaine Mark! Remember when dad told me I danced like Elaine at Matthew and Lisa's wedding reception ? I just saw that episode on Seinfeld when Jerry makes fun of her dancing so she tapes herself to see how she "flails" about....
Great story, wish working in a library could be that zany!


Anonymous said...

Hey Mark and Janet,

I would have loved to have been a mouse in the corner watching you guys strut your stuff! What a great adventure you are having indeed!