Nantong Village

The Village of Nantong

For the next few posts on this website, I’ll be sharing my time in Ghana with my partner, Chief Suale.

On our way to Nantong.

Billows of red, dust trail behind our car as it barrels down the dirt road. We’ve been traveling for over an hour into the bush to visit with family and the elders of the Nantong village.

Family is all encompassing in Ghana and good friends are often called uncles, aunties or grandfathers and grandmothers.

 

The Family

There is an inclusivity in Tamale that is incredibly comforting and welcoming.

When you’ve been away in America for some time, (some family members consider a couple of months a very long time) it’s necessary to see all your family and when I say all, that means many people; consisting of immediate, extended family, friends and friends of friends. Even people that may not know you, greet you as family.

Welcome sister!

or

My wife, welcome!

Visiting one of our grandfathers.

Yes, that’s right. There are men other than my husband that call me their wife. Of course I’m not literally their spouse, it’s an expression; a term of affection. There are also women who say to me:

How is my husband doing?

or

Give my greetings to my husband.


Connection

To say this was jarring when I first heard this term of endearment is an understatement. But over time, I realized that this figure of speech is about unity.

Meeting on of our uncles.

I’ve come to understand that the people of Tamale have a deep sense of connection; the web of connectivity that binds us all. I feel this whenever I’m in Ghana. Their relationship to the earth is profound and this heartfelt reverence for the land and all living beings is apparent.

My husband tells me stories of the Dagomba tribe and the reoccurring theme of being each other’s keeper; that every living being on this planet has its purpose and place. We must look after each other; animals, humans and Mother Earth.

Young boys hearding goats along the roadside to Nanton.

It’s not only a necessity, it’s part of our purpose. Every time I hear him express these beliefs with passionate conviction, my heart swells and my love for him  overflows.

As our car maneuvers around large potholes in the road, the radio blasts Macasio, a well-known Ghanaian rap singer from Tamale. I gaze out my window and notice rice paddies and fields of green maze rushing by while the farmers tend to their crops. Small villages consisting of mud huts pop up near the roadside as we venture on.

Children 

We stop by the side of the rode to buy some refreshments when children wearing bright, yellow school uniforms see us. Intrigued, one young girl walking with her brother stops, smiles and waves to me.

Sanega, hello! How are you?

I grin, wave back and respond:

Alaffi! Kahoola?

Which means:  I’m fine. How are you?

By the way, sanega means white person.

An expression of surprise washes over the young girl’s face. She didn’t expect me to reply in her native language of dangbali. The young girl grins and then giggles with her brother as they scamper off to class.

Children making their way to school.

A store front along the the roadside has a large crowd gathering to watch the World Cup games. Even though the Black Stars of Ghana did not qualify for this year’s World Cup, many are still avid fans of the game. Crowds spill out onto the street as people squirm to find a spot to view the match on a tiny television screen inside the shop.

Baobab

The sacred baobab tree.

We ramble up a hill where the large, sacred baobab tree stands. Often referred to as the Tree of Life, the baobab tree proudly towers above; beckoning us into the center of the village. Its massive trunk is around five feet wide and large, cyst like knots punctuate its exterior.

There is a deep sense of wisdom and reverence the baobab trees exude and this particular one at the center of village is no different. I catch my breath and gaze up towards its limbs as they continuously reach upward; grounded and yet always moving forward towards the light.

Magic 

Magic is another aspect of the baobab tree as many believe spirits make their homes in these magnificent giants. My husband shared with me how one of these magical spirits helped him when he was a young boy, but that story is for another post.

Magic! Spiritual realms of the baobab.

 Meeting with the Elders

We park our car and soon thereafter, children from the village rush towards us to say hello, extend their greetings or simply to stare; usually at me. For some, it’s the first time seeing a Caucasian person. Some of younger children weep when I come into their view because they believe I’m ghost.

It happens in the bush since foreigners rarely venture outside of the city limits unless they are working for humanitarian organizations. I try not to take this personally and the parents just laugh and reassure me. I do know that by me spending more time with the youngsters, they won’t view me as a spirit from beyond.

We saunter over towards the meeting room to greet the elders, which consists of a large one room mud hut with no doors, simply two entry ways: one from the outside and one from the inner compound. Animal skins and woven mats are on the floor for sitting and the roof is intricately woven with dried reeds and hay.

One of the elders grabs a blue chair for me to sit and Chief sits besides to me. News travels fast and more of the elders are filing in to the meeting room as curious children peer in at one of the entry ways.

We exchange greetings and Chief in rapid fire dangbali, converses with the elders more in depth about what is happening in the village and what is needed. This is how it’s done: the elders voice any concerns that may arise from the people and the Chief of that village does what he or she can to solve any issues or problems.

Tractor

Once when meeting the Nantong elders, we helped shuck corn while conversing over tractors. Tractors are a hot commodity, especially out in the bush. They also happen to be very costly. Chief and I listen intently and hear their concerns.

Having a tractor will not only bring relief to many in planting crops more quickly at the village, but it can make a difference in children receiving an education.

 At times, children are pulled out of school in order to help with the planting and harvesting of crops. Soon the child falls behind in school work, which ultimately leads to them dropping out of school. Buying a tractor is one of the possibilities to remedy this vicious cycle.

After visiting and discussing the needs of the village, it is time for us to visit Olu, a teacher at the Nantong School. We say our goodbyes when one of the elders asks us to wait. He returns with a gift of a dozen guinea hen eggs, a thank you for us coming to visit. This incredibly kind gesture touches my heart for the people of Nantong are always kind, gracious and incredibly generous.

 

School of Nantong

Children playing soccer at the Nantong school.

After meeting with the elders, we venture a few miles down to the school and ring Olu, one of the teachers. We park by an open field where some adults are playing soccer and upon seeing us, Olu trots off the field to our car.

Olu and a new soccer ball for the school.

We greet each other and I hand him a new soccer ball. Olu grins and says:

The children will be very happy. Thank you, we appreciate you both.

Small gestures such as these, mean a great deal. You never know how an act of kindness will impact someone or possibly an entire community.

Olu thanks us once again and sprints back to his soccer game and we set off down the road to visit the Secretary of the Regent Chief. There are more visitations, conversations and interactions to ensure everyone is being looked after and taken care of within the community.

After all, isn’t this what life is all about? Helping and honoring one another as we travel on this extraordinary path called life?

It’s nearly nightfall by the time Chief and I set off for home. As we cruise back to the city with the windows down and the cool breeze flowing, I’m grateful for this role, for Chief and our work here in Ghana together. For I’m continually growing through many interactions and experiences and as a result, my heart expands with even more love, compassion, guidance and understanding.

Girls playing soccer at the Nantong School

With gratitude,

Napag Stacy

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