Sunday, November 13, 2011

Days 1290-1291: Secret Parties!

Friday, we recovered.  I think we ate pizza and watched Ratatouille.  But then, that's just statistically a good guess as to what we did.

Saturday was kind of a big day.  My mom had noticed that they were setting up a market on the lower campus, and so Saturday morning my folks were going to take Ruth there to look around while I caught up on some more work (if you must know, I started reading Osiel's Obeying Orders).

Then I got a call from my Dad telling me I needed to come down to it, as there was a huge celebration going on.  I heard Ruth say, "I saw a king!"  So I rushed down.

The first thing I noticed was that it appeared to be a major royal event sponsored by MTN.  And people say that tradition and modernity can't mix.  Pfft.  That tent you see on the left of the photo was signing people up for MTN mobile service through the whole thing.

It took a bit to figure out what was going on.  I'd missed out on the big parade when most of the VIPs came in, but fortunately, chiefs kept arriving (often interrupting the announcer, who was trying to keep things moving forward with random chiefs who couldn't be bothered to show up on time barging through and needing some pomp and circumstance).

Anyway, like I said, it was all very impressive - "I saw a princess! With a silver tiara (more of a headwrap with silver threading - Ed.)!" "I saw a queen, and you know what?  She threw candy at me!" "That man with the golden staff must be the king." "No, sweetie, I think he's the linguist, sort of like the king's herald." "No, I think he's the king." - but it was a bit hard to figure out what it was all about.  Part of it was language barrier, and part of it was that everyone around seemed to think of it as common knowledge - we'd ask, and they'd be like, "oh, it's just the [word I don't know]."

As near as we could figure out, it was part of a celebration of the founding of Akuafo Hall - "The people in green are the ladies in waiting!" "Sure - they're wearing green though because that's fabric for the residence hall they live in." - which was given a large grant back in the day from the cocoa farmers' associations.  So we think this was the durbar (gathering/procession of chiefs) to celebrate that and elect the "Farmer King" and "Queen Mother" of the hall.

Anyway, it was fun to watch!  And made up a little for the fact that, due to a date change, the Sunday Adae festival in Kumasi, where the Asantehene (King) meets with his subjects was the same weekend that we were in Tafi.  But this way at least Ruth got to see a king with a golden crown.  And for the rest of the week she kept wrapping herself up in sheets with one shoulder bare, emulating the way the "princesses" wore their robes.

After that, we did in fact go over to the market, where Ruth had a ball getting her hair braided, and my dad talked highlife with the guy who owned the beauty school whose pavillion we were in.

That night, my folks went out for Nigerian food with the Fulbrights across the hall (Bill and Theresa), and Ruth and I went to a SUPER SECRET HALLOWEEN PARTY.  I'd been invited to bring her to it on the condition that I not share too many details (especially in advance).  And my mom had brought with her some fairy wings and a fairy tutu, so Ruth even had a costume to wear.

I felt a little bit bad for her.  As I'm not an employee of REDACTED and everyone else there was, talking to the adults was fine and people were friendly but it was clear that they knew each other well and were more being polite to me (can't fault them for that!).  So a bit awkward, so I can deal.  But most of the kids were kids of the employees, and so clearly knew each other well.  Ruth spent a lot of time running up to everyone, explaining that she was a fairy, and asking, "what are you supposed to be?"  Some of the older kids kind of snubbed her, but mostly they were like the adults - polite, but she wasn't part of their group.

Still, she seemed to mostly have fun, so I'm probably projecting awkwardness that a 3 year old doesn't really feel the same way.

They had pinatas (separated by age), but Ruth balked when it came time to hit hers and just watched/grabbed candy when it was broken.

One of the cool things, though, was that they had a "trunk or treat," which I'd never heard of.  What it ended up being was that, in the parking lot, a bunch of folks had decorated the trunks of their cars - pretty elaborately! - and the kids went from trunk to trunk getting candy.  People really went all out - costumes, light shows, smoke machines, etc. and Ruth seemed to think it was all pretty cool.  She especially liked the 70s-themed one.

After trunk-or-treating (and eating some of the candy), we waited in line for the "non-scary" (lights on) run through the haunted house.  Kudos to the work put in by the folks who did it, but even the "non-scary" run was pretty scary for the little ones.  Ruth was the youngest to brave it (Melissa!  She really wanted to go, and they said non-scary!) but all of the kids on my run flipped out a little at the "scary doctor."  They had not turned the lights on in his room, and it was frankly pretty creepy - a patient tied down spreadeagled and moaning/writhing on a medical cot, the "doctor" with a bloodstained lab coat and glow-in-the-dark butcher knife, etc.  Ruth needed to be carried the rest of the way (and reassured that we were leaving as quickly as we could) and one of the other girls (about 7 or 8) who had gone in without her parents held my hand the rest of the way, too.

Afterwards, I was more or less able to convince Ruth that the scary doctor was really a nice man who was only pretending to be scary, and we called George and went home.  Poor George - by now, Ruth had warmed up to him, and monologued to him about the party the whole way home (especially about how the scary doctor was just pretend), but I think George didn't quite understand that she was trying to talk to him instead of talking to me.

Plus, you know, scary doctor, but she thought the scary clown was hilarious.

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