Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Ghana Insurance Company: Day 4

The Festival of Delight continues without pause. Though we did treat ourselves and the students to a well-timed pause by leaving the hotel compound and going into town on Market Day. Though I’ve loved the special opportunities being here with Kofi organizing things the average tourist wouldn’t ever experienced, still it was sweet to just hit the streets and wander through the market and be that anonymous traveler I know and love so well. How many markets have I browsed through in this world! From Guatemala to Ghana to Fiji, from Barcelona to Istanbul to Cape Town, from India to Taiwan to Thailand and beyond—the details change but the buzz of humanity exchanging goods, the pleasure of bargaining, the artfully arranged fruits and vegetables, are a universal pleasure.

We walked into town with various school girls who immediately struck up conversation and ended up giving us a little Ewe language lessons. Then on to the Internet cafĂ©. It had been four full days now offline and truth be told, I liked it. Opened my mail to 156 messages, only 10 or so which held any interest or importance. But nice to connect with the family, note that I had one more sign-up for my jazz course and see on Facebook that both my daughters had honored me for Father’s Day and great photos and publicly shared their appreciation for a childhood filled with Zen chanting, Bulgarian bagpipes, body slapping internet and traveling around the world in search of the miraculous. They moved me to tears knowing that they saw and valued the weirdness and wackiness of their Dad.

From there into the marketplace, always fun to browse and feel the hustle and bustle and invitation to participate in bargaining. But I already had a seamstress working on the one gift that interested me— a dress for granddaughter Zadie— so didn’t end up buying anything.

Hitched a ride on a motorcycle back to the hotel. That was fun! The breeze blowing where I used to have hair and that sense of being carefree. Then a lecture from Kofi about the structure and role of the Ghana music clubs. Similar to the groups that form in Brazil or New Orleans to prepare for Carnaval or Mardi Gras, but instead of a one-point focus, just a general sense of being prepared for weddings, funerals and special occasions. Each member pays some dues and the dues create a kind of community insurance, a fund that’s available to help any member in need. I love it!!! Put those racketeer insurance companies out of business and put it back in the hands of friends and neighbors prepared to help out. Both simple and breathtaking at once, a welcome contrast to my culture where institutions make profit off of other people’s suffering. Maybe I’ll start the Friends and Neighbors Music Insurance Company when I return. You get to belong to a group that shares the pleasure of collective music-making and create a safety net for life’s calamities as well. Of course, that would only work if hospitals didn’t charge $500 for three-block ambulance rides, thousands of dollars for an overnight stay in the hospital.

After dinner, the Nunya kids returned to show us a collection of children’s games.
Again impressed not only that they knew so many, but by the spirit in which they played— loose, fun, relaxed. I remember many years back an Orff colleague came to Ghana and brought back some delightful games to her classroom. But whereas the Ghanaian children would get out with a laugh and a smile, the American children starting yelling, “You cheated!” “Yeah! I won!!!” “I always lose this stupid game!” The teacher quickly realized that the game is incidental to the spirit. How to bring that back to our kids? Ah, there’s a question.

At the end of the evening, Kofi asked the 40 kids who had watched TV that day and not a single hand went up. That was striking. The 4 to 6 hours a day our American children spend watching TV or playing on screens is robbing them from the lessons of real-time play with their whole bodies, minds and spirits with friends. How to work that into our lesson plans?

No new questions for me, just the same ones I’ve been asking for 40 years with renewed conviction in the importance of everything I’m witnessing.

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