A Spiritual Lake
Thirty kilometres south of Kumasi is Bosumtwi Lake, the largest and deepest freshwater lake in Ghana, formed by a meteorite. The lake is considered sacred by the Ashanti – they believe the spirits of their ancestors live on the lake. I shared a taxi with my friend and Christoff, an Austrian guy whom we had met at the Presbyterian guesthouse.
Our taxi was met with much fanfare at Abono, the biggest village by the lake. The village elders were on hand to explain the significance of the lake, and to pocket our expected donation. They wanted 5000 cedis from each of us “to improve their village”. A group of youths surrounded us, clamouring to talk and find out where we were from. We were hungry, so they offered to make us boiled eggs, tea and bread which we ate picnic style on the ground. They watched and asked us questions as we ate.
Another elder came, and he showed us the book he had written about the lake. He wanted us to buy a few copies – we did. He told us his plans for the area, maybe a tourist centre, a campsite and a restaurant. He wanted us to promote it for him. We suggested the Internet, he didn’t know what it was. We clumsily tried to explain it to him. How do you explain the Internet to a man living in a village with one phone line and no computer? After breakfast we went for a walk along the circumference of the lake, through two villages, admiring the Baobob trees and flowers along the way.
The lake shimmered beside us, its reflection mirroring the grey-blue sky above. The lake was still, so was the wind. We stopped at a point beside the lake and talked to some local children. They tried to teach us some Twi, the local language, and we amused them by practising Twi pronunciation. One little boy carried a baby brother on his back, his little legs straddled around his brother’s legs, his little arms grasping the neck. The baby looked at us expectantly with big wandering eyes. His brother said that he had never seen white people before. We smiled at him, cooed and waved. He slowly smiled back, a slight, shy grin expanding on his face as we played along.
We decided to head back and retraced our steps through the villages. “Bruni! Bruni!” they yelled as we passed. A group of young men lounging outside a hut shouted something else. The guide boy with us told me that they were yelling “I love you”. I laughed and waved back.
Back in Abono we were accosted by another group of youths. They wanted to marry my friend. She giggled and said she was already engaged. We paid our guide a tip of 1000 Cedis and got into the taxi again. It was scorching hot and we wanted some lunch.
Later in the afternoon we went to a football game at the Kumasi stadium. The African Cup of Nations was on, and a game was being played between Algeria and South Africa. Two Canadian guys from the Presbyterian guesthouse accompanied us – they had come to Ghana just for the African Cup and shuttled between Accra and Kumasi for the games. The tickets were 5000 Cedis (just over a dollar). “Who are you rooting for?” the stern gatekeeper asked me as I entered the stadium. I made a quick decision – “South Africa,” I said. He gave me a huge grin, shook my hand and let me through.
The game was exciting, but more interesting for me were the spectators. A band rooting for South Africa played through the entire game, some of the members dancing continuously to the music. The crowd was friendly, nobody (except the players) seemed to take the action on the field too seriously. Rather, a lot of socialising took place. The beer was cheap, and snacks were aplenty. The game ended in a tie, but nobody really seemed to care. I was confused about the apparent apathy, I had thought Africans were very serious about their soccer. My Canadian friend then told me both teams had already made it to the semi-finals – “neither of the teams has to win” he told me. I now understood the relaxed atmosphere.