In some ways the holidays in Ghana are similar to the holidays in America. When the holiday season rolls around the weather in America generally turns colder. Well, the same is true in Ghana. Although instead of rainstorms or snowstorms, we get dust storms. By the middle of December the Harmattan is in full affect in Ghana. Winds carry the sand south from the Sahara desert in northern Africa to create dry and slightly cooler weather in Ghana. It reminds of the “Santa Anna” weather in southern California where the weather is dry and windy. Except the Harmattan creates a visible layer of dust in the sky. It also brings cooler weather – sometimes the low temperature is in the 60s. I must be turning Ghanaian because at times I get cold!
Although the cooler weather is a nice reprieve from the hotter and humid weather during the rest of the year, the Harmattan comes with a couple of annoyances. Your throat and mouth become very dry. If you’re not careful you will get sick (maybe that’s why the Peace Corps gave all volunteers a flu shot). When travelling on dirt roads (which is hard to avoid in Ghana) you will be covered with a layer of dust.
Like in American, in Ghana everyone wants a present. I can’t walk around my community without someone asking me where their Christmas present or “Xmas bonus” is. I wrote before that when I leave my community people ask me to buy them bread. I suppose it’s a similar concept. Unfortunately my modest Peace Corps living allowance doesn’t permit me to buy a Christmas gift for everyone in my community. That said, I did buy some small gifts for people living in my house.
The day after Christmas, or Boxing Day (yes, Boxing Day is a holiday in Ghana), my landlord’s clan, the Nyive clan, met outside the house for a Boxing Day meeting. There are 8 different clans in my community, although if nobody told you would probably never notice. My community seems pretty homogenous (though maybe I’m not very observant?) I suppose since my house is on the Nyive clan’s property, I’m part of the Nyive clan by default. In short, the meeting consisted of discussing community issues and clan issues. After the meeting everyone in the clan got a bag of rice, bottle of soda, and a pack of biscuits as their Xmas bonus. Finally I took a photo with the clan elders.
Between Christmas and New Years I went to a monkey sanctuary about an hour drive away from my community. The big attraction at the sanctuary is to by able to feed bananas to mono monkeys. If you’re lucky they will even crawl on you while eating. Unfortunately a group of tourists had just left as I arrived, so the monkeys were full from the previous group.
New Years seemed like a bigger deal than Christmas in my community. On New Years Eve I went to church and it turned out to be a marathon session. I arrived at 7pm and the service lasted until 1am. To some people that may sound like a torturous way to kick in the New Year, but most of the time was spent singing and dancing so it was actually fun and entertaining. Another reason I was happy to be in church for New Years was because the shopkeepers in town will sell fireworks to anybody and I’d rather not be in town with ten-year olds wielding explosives. After the service we paraded around town with more singing and dancing. I spent most of New Years day recovering from the previous night. I usually hit the sack before 9pm, so staying up until 2am was a big shock to my system.