Bugum Festival

Saturday the 24th day of November 2012 marks the fire (Bugum) festival in the northern regions of Ghana. Last year same day, I posted the history of this Bugum festival on the PAMBE Ghana web and hopes you all had the chance to read it. This year I wish to continue on the significance of this festival to the Traditionalists and the Muslims who happens to be the celebrants of this festival in local communities. To the Traditionalists, this is the period during which some of the Traditionalists make offerings to their ancestors and God, since the festival marks the beginning of a new year. Animals such as chicken, goats, cats and dogs are used in these offerings depend on the ancestral lineage. Some regard this day as the powerful day in which every ancestor is awake and every “juju” ought to be sacrificed to and to seek for protection, health, long life, more wives and children and abundant harvest. On this day, men dress warlike and chants war songs to evoke the spirits of the dead. Besides, the Traditionalist are of the view that, one great king lost his son and when night falls a search party had to light torches (flash lights) in order to search for the prince in the night. Therefore this occasion is remembered annually, thus, the fire festival is held to mark this all important night. The Islamists hold the view that following the great flood during the time of Prophet Noah, the Ark landed in the night on this day and torches were lit to enable Prophet Noah and his people to see whether they were on land. This festival is therefore held to mark this important night when the Ark landed after the great flood. Muslims regards this day of the fire festival (10th day of the Bugum Gori) so much due to a number of landmarks on past Prophets and Messengers of Allah (GOD) that are reported to have fallen on this day. It is believed that: • Allah had chosen Adam (AS) to be the father to human beings on that day. • He saved Prophet Nuh (Noah) with people in his ship (ark) on that day. • He saved Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) from the blazing furnace on that day. • He forgave Dawud (David) on that day. • He returned Sulayman’s (Solomon) kingdom to him on that day. • He gave relieve, healing and strength to Prophet Ayyub (Job) of his afflictions on that day. • He raised Prophet Issa (Jesus) to the heavens on that day. • And on that day Prophet Mohammad received his first revelation as Allah’s chosen one • Also on that day Allah made Prophet Mohammad to migrate from Mecca to Madina which is known in Islamic history as the Hijra. • It is believed that the creation of the heavens and earth was on that day. And many more.

Let’s be sure we back up all our files regularly

I think even people who are not Christian can appreciate this humour. I did and hope you do too. Jesus and Satan were having an on-going argument about who was better on the computer. They had been going at it for days, and frankly, God was tired of hearing all the bickering. Finally fed up, God said, 'THAT'S IT! I have had enough. I am going to set up a test that will run for two hours, and from the results, I will judge who does the better job.' So Satan and Jesus sat down at the keyboards and typed away. They moused. They faxed. They e-mailed. They e-mailed with attachments. They downloaded. They did spreadsheets! They wrote reports. They created labels and cards. They created charts and graphs. They did some genealogy reports. They did every job known to man. Jesus worked with heavenly efficiency and Satan was faster than hell. Then, ten minutes before their time was up, lightning suddenly flashed across the sky, thunder rolled, rain poured and, of course, the power went off... Satan stared at his blank screen and screamed every curse word known in the underworld. Jesus just sighed.... Finally, the electricity came back on, and each of them restarted their computers. Satan started searching frantically, screaming: 'It's gone! It's all GONE! 'I lost everything when the power went out!' Meanwhile, Jesus quietly started printing out all of his files from the past two hours of work. Satan observed this and became very angry. 'Wait!' he screamed. That's not fair! He cheated! How come he has all his work and I don't have any?' God just shrugged his shoulders and said, JESUS SAVES ... (Author unknown) Speaking of power outages, those of us who have electricity all the time are very fortunate. Many in Northern Ghana do not.  The complications of day to day life in this part of the world can make educating our youth more challenging, yet also give those of us with a mission to educate greater resolve each day to devote ourselves to the task.  Perhaps the self-confidence and creative problem solving skills we strive to provide our young students at La’anguum Learning Center will allow one of them to someday, help make electricity available to everybody, and power cuts a thing of the past!!

Rampant power outages

At 8:15 this morning the lights went off.  This has become the norm rather than the exception here. (I am not sure if the rest of the country also suffers such regular, unannounced power outages). Just as the power outage comes unannounced and unexpected, we are in the dark as to when the power will come back on. It could be back on and off several times during the day, come back in an hour and stay on for the rest of the day or be out all day.  Oh, power is back. Hooray!! 3:30 pm. It has been off for the 4th time today.  Hope it comes back soon. Otherwise we have to get out to the veranda and succumb to the numerous greetings and goings on of passersby. It is very hot and humid in our windowless office. But life goes on. Hooray! It is back again!  Will send this right away.

It’is a Boy!

It is a Boy!

Mary delivered a bouncy baby boy

This day, March 31, 2012 @ 01:00

Mother and baby are in good health.

CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Mary and her husband made a deal, which started with a bet. Mary said it was going to be a boy; her husband thought otherwise. [No facility or interest here to know the sex of the baby beforehand]. The one who won chooses a name for the baby. Thus, Mary has won the honor to choose the name for their baby. I will keep you posted. For now, we shall call him Sandow, which literally means ‘male visitor’ (Saampo’a , female visitor, if it is a girl).  Traditionally, a baby is named several days later, not right after birth. Thus, until the naming, the baby is often called by these generic names.

We are Expecting a PAMBE Ghana Baby Soon!

I ended the April 2011 field update by congratulating “the newest grand mamas and the newest couple in town!”  I have the greatest pleasure to congratulate Mary Azure (Mrs Aduko) and her husband again, almost a year later. Mary and Pastor Aduku are expecting a baby next month, around April 22nd! Mary is in top shape and worked diligently until week last Friday.  She is now on maternity leave from March 19 until June 17.  She will resume on June 18, 2012. In Mary’s absence, I will work with Mr Ibrahim Shani and Mr Wuni Mahami (new Teacher Assistant) with the children in Mary’s class. It would be an on-the-job training opportunity for Shani, the newly recruited TA and a volunteer from the community. Much more to share later. Come back soon.

Thinking Aloud

Thinking Aloud I am grounded for the next few days.  My pickup truck is not well and Peter took it to Tamale for repairs. That truck deserves a special recognition for what it has been through: the roads it has travelled, the loads it has carried and the things it has seen. It has been complaining of neglect over the last few weeks so loudly it could no longer be ignored.  As a 4-wheel-drive pickup (and an ever-ready-driver, its contribution to the choice of where we are and what we have accomplished in our program has been substantial. It is quite nice working at home for once.  However, the interruptions from people, mostly children who are sent by their older relatives to bring cell phones to charge or collect earlier ones, can be irritating.  My niece and helper at home has made a small phone-charging business with our solar system. Unfortunately, she is away until Sunday. The spread of the mobile phone here is just phenomenal! The weather is acting strange.  It is hot and sweaty most of the day and during the night, but turns cool and very windy in the early hours of the morning.  The increasing intensity of the heat and humidity is normal. But the persistence of strong harmatan winds at this time is unusual.  Global warming? The 2011 raining season was short and scanty. The rains were late coming and stopped short, causing complete failure of peanuts and other crops that needed to be cultivated early.  Yields of other food crops such as millet, corn and rice were also drastically reduced for lack of water. Thus, the “lean season” (May –July/August) is going to be particularly hash for subsistent farm families in northern Ghana, including families in our program area. The lean season is the period when food stocks from the previous harvest are depleted but the new harvest is not yet ready.  Farmers, especially subsistent farmers, are at the mercy of mother nature.  Lets pray that the rains arrive early during this coming farming season and continue regularly to November. To be continued....

History of the Fire (Bugum) Festival

Purpose and History This festival is held by many ethnic groups in the Northern Ghana. Most Muslims and Non-Muslims take part in the celebration. The fire (Bugum) festival is observed by the Muslims to mark the landing of Prophet Noah’s (Nuhu) Ark after the flood. It is celebrated in the night with bundles of grass used as torches. This is the period during which some non-Muslims make offerings to their ancestors and God, since the festival marks the beginning of a new year. The Islamists hold the view that following the great flood during the time of Prophet Noah (Nuhu), the Ark landed in the night and torches were lit to enable Prophet Noah (Nuhu) and his people to see whether they were on land. This festival is therefore held to mark this important night when the Ark landed after the great flood. Besides, the Traditionalist are of the view that, one great king lost his son and when night falls a search party had to light torches (flash lights) in order to search for the prince in the night. Therefore this occasion is remembered annually, thus, the fire festival is held to   mark this all important night. Mode of Celebration As the festival begins in the night, the bundles of grass used as torches are prepared in the afternoon. Lots of foods are prepared for supper. Traditionally, family heads perform rituals by offering sacrifices of fowls and some of the prepared food to their departed ancestors. They then pray for good health and prosperity during the coming year. After supper, inhabitants assemble at the chief’s palace. The chief lights his torch first, circles it round his head seven times while calling on his ancestors to grant him and his subjects good health and prosperity during the coming year. He then throws away the torch and everybody then lights his/her torch and a procession begins amidst drumming and dancing to the outskirts of the town or village. The processions converge usually around a big tree. The torches are thrown at the tree. The processions then begin to dance back to the chief’s palace. During the climax of the festival celebration, the chief Imam (head of the Muslim community) of the village or town and his entourage will pay homage to the chief and pray for success and prosperity to mark the end of the celebration. The festival is celebrated by the Mamprusi and all other tribes and groups that have their ancestral linage to the Mamprugu kingdom including the Dagombas, Gonjas, Nanumbas, Frafras, Kusasi and Kumkombas.

A warm welcome at La’angum

Fire festival began Monday night and the following day was a public holiday, hence no school. (Will write about the Fire Festival later). I was in school yesterday. Upon arrival, the children ran to welcome me with "Mma Azimi lo, lo, lo!!!" They crowded around to shake hands with me and help with my pieces of luggage. I visited all classes to say hello but spent the longest time in 2nd grade to talk about my trip that kept me away for so long. On a detailed map of Ghana, we traced the route from Bumboazio => Langbinsi => Walewale => Tamale => Kintampo => Techiman => Kumasi => Accra. Then the deep blue sea over which the airplane had to fly from Africa to North America! The concept of distance was a bit overwhelming since most of them have never traveled to Gambaga or Walewale i.e, 16 miles or 22 miles away from their village. The children (and teachers) had so many questions about flying: is it made of wood or metal? What to eat if it takes so long to arrive? Can you make fire to prepare food inside there? What do you do if you feel like going to toilet? Can you fall out? How big is a plane? How can it fly if it is so big? Etc; etc. They were ready to forgo their break time. Discussion to be continued with the class. The teachers and I met after closing to brief / debrief each other on important goings-on since the end of October. I brought them greetings from our friends and supporters and shared the remarkable work you and many others do to support them and their work with the children at the La'angum Learning Center. It was a long but exhilarating day. I just finished a similar debriefing / briefing and a planning session with Baba. Bye for now. Will be back soon. Alice

Home at Last

I arrived home in Bongbini on Saturday night, finally. Sunday was a day of reacquainting myself, greeting and catching up with all the family and community news. I was in the office in Gambaga on Monday and Tuesday, unpacking, finding out how things have gone / are going on that require immediate attention. Paid a short courtesy call on the GES director and staff, just to say hello. Baba had an accident with his motorcycle on his way back from his weekend classes in Tamale. He had left early that morning. He had bruises on his hands and knees and one knee hurt quite a bit. Luckily, he was wearing his helmet. The front of the motorcycle was quite damaged. I advised he gets home and seeks medical attention. Fortunately, it his injuries were not too serious and he was at work the following day. Peter spent most of Tuesday working on my computer to get it to communicate with our modem so I can get onto the internet with it. Now I can send with the (slower) modem from the one company, but still not able to do so with our main one that is a bit faster. A little bit frustrating after enjoying fast internet connection until only a week ago. But life goes on, with or without internet. Alice

Still on the way Home

Friday Dec 1, 2011 I arrived in Tamale at 7 am this morning and reunited with my husband. It was a long sleepless night, as loud music from the radio and two Nigerian films kept us awake and "entertained" throughout the journey. We started off in Accra at 4 pm. I wasn't able to get a ticket for an earlier bus. But I was so keen to get out of hot humid, traffic-jammed Accra and back home I was ready for night travel. There are now several quite luxurious buses plying Accra-Tamale, Bolga and other towns in the north. I felt like I was flying business class: air-conditioned, large comfortable seats with seatbelts and lots of room to recline back, and video film for all. No chance to opt in or out. I learned there are also four airlines flying to Tamale for about 5x the cost and one-twelve the time! The catch here is luggage. Otherwise, a worthwhile option to consider. Anyway, I am happy to be back in my home tuff, with family and friends. I can't get my computer and modem to communicate with each other so I will have to send this tomorrow at an internet café. Bye for now.

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