Today we went to the market in Bolga (really Bolgatanga, but everyone calls it Bolga). Chuku started by taking me to the fugu vendors, just to look around – they showed me a couple of fugu, and I was thinking of buying one in my size – the one I bought two days ago is way too big for me. So I eventually found a handspun, indigo-dyed blue-black one and bought it. Then they brought me handspun, handwoven strip-fabric, a big roll about 3” wide, and tried to sell it to me. I said no thanks, but aha, how about some of the handspun cotton yarn used to weave it?
Well, this occasioned considerable muttering and explanation as Chuku and I tried to get across the idea of a handspindle, and spinning on a handspindle, and wanting the yarn that comes from spinning on a handspindle (something only a crazy obruni would want, I’m sure). A hasty mix of English, Tui, and gestures followed as the fugu vendor, Chuku, and several other shopkeepers tried to figure out what I meant.
Finally, Chuku had an inspiration and asked me to bring up the photo of the handspinner on my digital camera (using the review photos function). We passed it around, and enlightenment dawned. The fugu vendor, whose name I never did catch, showed it to his father, who said he knew a village where they still spun yarn, and gave us directions to the village. More discussion, then the next thing I knew I was being presented with two motorbikes, each with a driver, and Chuku and I were to ride pillion in the back.
So off we went, me trying to look nonchalant. Or, at any rate, as nonchalant as you can with your hands clenched in a deathgrip on the back of the bike, visualizing just what your brains would look like splattered across the road. (No helmet, of course; this is Ghana, with Ghanaian traffic: crazy.) After going for awhile on flat pavement, suddenly the fugu-vendor slowed, went off the road, and started bouncing down a rumpled dirt road (more prayers), ending up at a mud-and-thatch complex. We went in, and there was the chief of the village.
We spent some time talking to him, and showed him the photo of the handspinner – he had thought I was interested in buying reeds for weaving, but as soon as we showed him the photo he said “Oh! They don’t do that here anymore – all the old women who used to do it have died, and none of the young ones wanted to learn from them – but I know someone in the next village over who still does it.”
So we agreed that the fugu-vendor would go and buy several bundles of yarn – a bundle being a bunch of yarn wrapped around a stick – and bring them to the hotel.
Later in the afternoon, the fugu-vendor turned up with two additional handspindles, which was not what I had asked for – apparently there had been some confusion – and wound up taking me to meet the spinner after all. She had one bundle on hand, and said she could spin more by tomorrow evening (I leave for Kumasi on Thursday) if I wanted more. So I said I would buy everything she (and her friends and neighbors) could spin between now and Wednesday evening.
Later, much chaffering between Chuku and the fugu-vendor, who he said was trying to cheat me. That doesn’t surprise me much – obruni here are considered fair game for inflated prices, etc. – but it is kind of aggravating. I generally don’t get too tied up in these things, since the amount you’re being cheated is rarely over $10, but Chuku was quite offended. He being scrupulously honest in his dealings with foreigners, he gets particularly frustrated with people who try to cheat people under his care. I like Chuku a lot. If you’re ever traveling to Ghana and need a guide, let me know – I’ll put you in touch with him.
Finally, met with the founder of SWOPA, a women’s craft organization in Sirigu, and agreed that I would spend tomorrow doing a pottery workshop at SWOPA. Cost is 50,000 cedis for the teaching, and 50,000 cedis for lunch for me and Chuku. Add another 20,000 for the teacher (tips are expected in Ghana, and the size of the fee doesn’t have anything to do with the size of the tip in my observation), and I get a day of pottery workshop, plus lunch, for about $13. Can’t beat that.
Tomorrow I will also try to get my blog entries posted – I tried to post them today but my Web hosting service’s database service was down. For over six hours! It’s a sad day when Ghanaian infrastructure works and American server farms don’t.