This one is a bit outside the usual here’s what our family has been up to and look how cute the kids are type of entry. This was an experience I just felt the need to share and document to remember. Don’t worry though. There are still some cute pictures of the kids.
So we’ve all been to a street festival or two. You’ve got your Apple Festival, your Wolly Worm Festival, and so on. They’re a fantastic way to spend a day, see some people, buy some stuff you don’t need, get the requisite funnel cake and go home with grumpy kids, tired feet and a weird rumbling in your guts.
Then there’s Chale Wote. Its kind of like all that except completely different. But kind of the same. Let’s compare. Of course it took way too long to get there thanks to traffic, (same) there were tons of people (same) and it looked as if there would be no where to park the giant bus that was filled with us white people (could be the same), but then a guy in a t-shirt (not an official “staff” shirt or “parking” shirt, just a t-shirt) waves us around the barrier, into the walled off area where there’s a stage with live music in full effect and helps us back into the corner next to the kids taking barefoot PKs on each other on the dirt pitch/festival grounds. (different)
The twenty or so of us disembark from the bus looking entirely inconspicuous and blending perfectly into the local scene (sarcasm) and wander over to the row of vendors (same) to check out the local wares. (same, just look different) As we wander down the street the traditional drum beats from the main stage seamlessly dissolve into the house music blasting from the front of the “Bible House” as we walk by rows of vendors (same) selling everything from t-shirts to beads to handmade clothes to shea butter and African Santas. (we got one with a ghana flag sack on his back) (different, but somehow the same)
The music was fantastic and fantastically loud which didn’t bode well for little ears so we had to keep on moving. There was an entire block covered in burlap and tiles, artists literally painting the streets, the walls of buildings, and giant wooden structures. There were random art installations, a bicycle circus, street performers, fashion models and photographers, roller bladers, film screenings and who knows what else. We only managed to stay for a couple of hours and it was a lot to take into the brain. I’m quite certain we only skimmed the top of what was going on. And it was only the first of the two days. I am definitely excited to think about going back next year. It was quite an experience.
Did I mention that this all takes place in one of the oldest areas of Accra? The street is within an impressive stones throw from the ocean and one of the poorer sections of Accra as well. Therefore, you have not only a plethora of sites and sounds, but also a plethora of local people mesmerized by the contrast of their daily life and that of those visiting the festival. Each time we stopped to look at something a group of local kids quickly surrounded us. Mostly just out of curiosity, (they were very intrigued by josie and maddox had on his ghana kit) but they would also ask for food or water from time to time. (different) There was also that element that we were very much in the minority at this festival. (very different)
A friend from school volunteers at the JayNii Streetwise Foundation and we made our way down to their establishment for a break from the fabulous chaos of the festival. We passed by a local spot where all the guys got excited and yelled at Maddox for the love of his Ghana kit. Big grins and thumbs up. Down the steps behind the lighthouse and the view ahead is of the ocean with fishing boats settled just past the breakers. Left and right the view is of tiny tin shacks and cooking fires as far as you can see. Its a bit of a sobering sight. We had some refreshments at the JayNii compound bar (it goes to charity so we had to right) and the kids played in the sand a bit. Eventually we were treated to some drumming and dancing just before our five o’clock departure time.
Back to the bus. Tired. Head full of stimulation. Godwin, the bus driver, works some more magic to get us through spaces that a toothpick shouldn’t have fit through and we eventually arrive back at our air conditioned apartment. The kids were exhausted and so were we. It was a fantastic experience and it gave us all, Maddox included, a lot to think about. We had a good conversation about the way people live and why some have and some don’t. It was continued the next day when we drove by the Flagstaff House and he asked if the president really lived there. Massive contrast.
But I don’t want to end on a heavy note. There was so much to see, hear and do at this festival. I’ve loved seeing the pictures my friends, who were there at the same time, have posted over the last couple of days as well as some officialish photos. It just accentuates how much was going on, how much we missed and how freakin cool the whole thing was. Give thanks for the opportunities set in front of us every day.