“Obroni! Obroni!” was something I heard everyday. These words would be shouted at me, mostly by children but sometime adults. The Twi word means in English, white person (man or woman) or foreigner. And being a pale skinned, white guy of European descent with gray hair and dressed differently than most of them, it was a give away! Honestly, in the ten days I was in Agogo, I only saw a few other caucasians or non black Africans. It did remind me of the very first time I ever saw a black person. It was in my hometown of Hazen, North Dakota on a Saturday afternoon on Main Street in the mid to late 1950’s. There was a black man in a white shirt, tie and bowler hat walking down the street right about where the bowling alley used to be. I was a young kid but I can still remember starring at him as he walked along minding his own business, very much like the kids in Agogo and surrounding villages looked at me. He might have felt out of place in the 99.99% community of caucasian northern Europeans. At first, I feel a little odd about being the “different” one but as the days went on I became more comfortable being the “different” person in the community. This also had a few downsides, like people asking for money for food or drink assuming I was a rich American or a number of people asking me to take them to the US.
These are very first kids that I met in Agogo. We were outside the office of the District Executive waiting for someone to arrive. There was a school nearby and I think the kids were out for recess, these two kids (brother and sister) wandered over to check out the new white guy in town. After about 10 minutes or so of hanging around someone came along and shooed them back to school.
This young kid lived in the settlement right next to the hotel. He and his brother would greet me most days when I was picked up or returned to the hotel. Never said much but always curious about the “Obroni” and his camera.
These young ladies were either on their way to or returning from church on Easter Sunday when they stopped to talk with me. Since I always had my camera with me, photos would become a great conversation piece. Almost to a person, every time they looked at their photo on the back of the camera, there was laugher and exclamations of delight at seeing themselves. I only saw one other person with a camera in Agogo but almost everyone has a cellphone of some type but not all have cameras on them.
Whenever I would stop someplace, it didn’t take long for a bunch of kids to appear. This group started out with a couple of kids but within seconds the group tripled in size! There would be times when I was walking down the street and I’d turn around there were be a parade of kids following me. They’d laugh and either run off or they would want to shake my hand. One of the common greetings in Ghana is “you are welcome” and they mean it like you are welcome in my community and my country. Pretty sweet when you think about it. Some of the kids would practice their English by saying “How are you?” followed by “I’m fine.” All done with a big smile on their faces.
This photo is also of a family that lived down the street from the hotel in Agogo. They were just getting ready for the day when they waved at me as I walked by. I asked to take their the photo, the woman in the back quickly slipped on her dress before I could take the picture.
This Mom wasn’t too keen on being photographed but the kids were sure into it! Look at those great smiles.
These boys were really into it too, acting just like a similar aged boys back home, goofing off for the camera.
These two little guys were waiting for a parade to start at a festival on Easter Saturday. Mom and the rest of the family were somewhere in the background but these boys wanted to get up close to the action. Adorable!
This young fella is wearing a traditional African shirt, probably for an Easter celebration. He really enjoyed having his photo taken.
As we traveled back and forth every day to the village where I met with the farmers, we would drive through some smaller villages at a low speed. The kids would call out “Obroni, Obroni” and I’d wave to them. It became part of the ritual, they’d watch for us and wave both coming and going. At times, I wish I could just melt into the background and be more invisible. And there was the pressure (well not too much) to always be friendly and the “good” American and not the “ugly” pushy, loud American!
More on Ghana next week.
Take care and be safe,