Friday, December 31, 2010

"So this is Christmas..."

I hope that all my loyal readers are enjoying the holiday season.  The hiatus from posting last week resulted from spending my Christmas holidays in the Volta region of Ghana.  Benee, our house owner, invited us to his father’s house in Kpando, one of the larger towns east of the Volta Lake not too far from Togo.  Playing the role of tour guide, Benee took us on outings every day we were there.  Christmas Eve was the eight-hour drive to arrive in Kpando late in the evening.  Christmas Day he took us to the Wli Waterfalls, an easy 30-minute walk from the town of Liate Wote.  The day after Christmas, we drove two hours down to Akosombo to take a trip on the MV Princess, the pleasure cruise that runs on Lake Volta to Dodi Island.  On our last full day in Kpando, we hiked up Mount Afadjato, the highest peak in Ghana.  The trip home on the 28th had a nice stop at the Volta Hotel for a leisurely lunch overlooking the Akosombo Dam, which provides hydroelectric power for most of Ghana.  Blog posts will come after I’ve had time to process the hundreds of pictures I took on the trip.

You may notice that this overview of my Christmas holidays doesn’t include anything particularly reminiscent of Christmas (other than this picture of one of the girls working at the Kumasi airport).  I did get a couple Christmas cards (thank you to my family) and saw a few sets of Christmas lights, but that’s as far as it goes towards the Christmas holidays as celebrated in the US.    I’ve been thinking about this since a few weeks ago when a friend back home mentioned that hearing the Live Aid Song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” made her think of me (thanks, Abee).  In this tropical part of the world, “there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time” and there won’t be pine trees and reindeer and other typical trappings of the holiday.  But while some of my experiences make me resonate with the line that “the greatest gift they’ll get this year is life”, my experience of Africa is not only of a place where “nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow… underneath that burning sun”. 

But saying that the typical media images are representative of “Africa” is the equivalent of spending a week in New York City and deciding that the entire US of A is a fast-paced, high-energy place packed with people and traffic and pigeons and high-rise buildings.  Ghana gets lumped into one big bucket known as “Africa”, a place where Westerners working in the oil industry are kidnapped for ransom (Nigeria), where a recent contested election resulted in violence and bloodshed (Cote d’Ivoire), where the north and south halves of the country are fighting over the south’s right to secede and form a new country (America… no wait, I mean Sudan). 

I do appreciate that this song (as well as the song referenced in the title of this post) might help people stop to consider that there are parts of the world where life is more of a struggle than it is for most people in the US.  In this holiday season, I’m taking the time to remember to be thankful for what I have and to share what I can with others.  Even if there’s no Christmas tree in the living room, I can keep the true spirit of the Christmas season in my heart.  Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and best wishes for the upcoming new year.

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