This past Sunday afternoon, I was formally presented to and welcomed by the various local chiefs in the area of Mepe. Ghanaians love ceremony and I had the honor of being the reason for one. It is customary for important guests and members of the community to be welcomed by the chiefs. The ceremony took place at the paramount chief's palace and included about 25 chiefs and a couple of 'queen mothers' (wives). I was presented by the headmaster of my school, the assistant headmaster and one other school representative. There were speeches, handshakes, where we circled the room of seated chiefs (I felt like a visiting dignitary), a traditional presentation by the school of two bottles of a special liquor to the chiefs and a ceremonial libation during which a glass of the liquor is poured on the ground at various intervals and the ancestors are invoked to assist with the welcome and assure good things for my stay here.
The paramount chief spoke for the other chiefs and then his linguist handled most of the rest of the speaking. The linguist is the chief's primary aid, so to speak, and is empowered to speak on his behalf. When the chiefs are in full regalia, the linguist carries a staff that is usually either painted or leafed in gold with a carved top having a meaning chosen by the clan the chief represents. The meaning usually has something to do with things being better accomplished in group than by someone alone. A motto perfectly suited to the Peace Corps as well.
The ceremony really did make me feel welcome and important. I thought, 'holy cow,' my job as a Peace Corps volunteer and representative of the United States government have brought me here and given me this responsibility and recognition. Part of the paramount chief's speech was an assurance that I am now a member of the community of Mepe and that their duty is to look out for me and treat me well. I used this in my own brief remarks saying that I would in turn take care of Mepe.
Actually, my headmaster asked me about one of my projects in the last few days and said he was extremely pleased with my ideas and that I should just go ahead with them and whatever else I come up with. So I feel like I am off to a good start. In recent days, a friend of mine in the U.S. has offered to get in touch with some groups that could donate to my school books for the library which is the first of the projects I am working on. This is absolutely wonderful and if any of you would like to do something similar you would be helping a Peace Corps volunteer to help the United States in its efforts in international aid and assistance for development to students who have absolutely nothing in the way of materials and resources in their classrooms. Art books, science books at the high school level, computer literacy materials and anything else would be welcome. There are charities and also various companies that will send overstock and/or used books as donations free of charge.
I am getting used to living in Africa and beginning to make a life for myself. Little by little, I hope to transmit something of the experience of being here by way of this blog.
Per gli amici italiani vi saluto da Mepe e cerchero di descrivere la mia domenica apena passata durante la quale sono stata presentata formalmente agli chiefs della regione, una venticinquina tutti assieme ad una ceremonia tradizionale di benvenuto. E' stata una esperienza bella ed impressionante. E' tradizionale per gli chiefs da dare il benvenuto a personne importante per la communita'. Essendo una respresentante del governo USA Peace Corps, vengo presentata. La ceremonia comprende discorsi dalla parte degli chiefs e della headmaster ed altri della mia scuola e da me. Poi la scuola offre due bottiglie di uno liquore speciale agli chiefs. Un bicchiere di questo liquore viene versato sulla terra ad intervalli verso la fine della ceremonia. Questa significa che gli antennati sono stati chiamati ad assistere ad assicurarmi buone cose e sicurezza qui per questi due anni avvenire.
La ceremonia veramente mi ha fatto sentire la benvenuta ed anche importante. Mi sento la responsibilita' di fare un buon lavoro mentre sono qui. Sto abituandomi ad essere qui in Africa e il mio headmaster (capo scuola) mi ha detto che gli piace delle idee che ho per i miei progetti (questi sono a parte del'insegnamento). Per questo fatto ero molto contenta. In piu', degli amici in America stanno cercando di contattare dei gruppi che protrebbero mandare libri gratis per la mia scuola. Pulire con aiuto degli studenti e fare in modo che gli studenti usano la piccola biblioteca e' il mio primo progetto. Libri d'arte mancano completamente. Sto cercando anche libri in altre materia communque.
Allora, col tempo, spero di darvi una idea di come la vita qui e un po' di come la sto vivendo io.