I woke up to nature’s alarm clock the next morning with the roosters calling at around 4:30AM. Before I knew it I could hear the village waking up as well. I heard the clanging of pots and pans, and people sweeping the floors, and getting ready for another day of village life. I laid in bed and tried to catch some more sleep whilst listening to the sounds of early morning village life. By 6:20AM I was up and ready for my last few hours in Torgorme.
When I woke up, Wanda, which after looking at my journal I realized its spelled Wondre and pronounced Wanda, had already woken up and left (for the sake of keeping these entries consistent and to not confuse people I will continue to spell it as Wanda). I stepped out of my room and saw that the Rojee family had set up a breakfast stall in their courtyard selling breakfast porridge made from barley or maize I think. A few villagers came by and bought a bowl of porridge and ate it with bread before heading out to work. Many of the kids who had just started their day were brushing their teeth from buckets and scrubbing their faces clean. The village was very much alive by this early hour.
Wanda then took me to the cloth maker’s home where I bought a few cloths. I didn’t barter here, because it did not feel right to barter with the villager.
Then came time to say goodbye to the majority of the Rojee family, it was bittersweet. I hugged and bid farewell to Aunt Eunice and Benice, and many of the kids. We took many photos, and I gave them a gift, a postcard with a message and a little thing from Taiwan so that they would remember me, just as I will always remember them with Aunt Eunice’s necklace and the Fufu making experience. They constantly reminded me to always remember them and welcomed me back to Torgorme, I invited them to come visit me in Taiwan anytime, and said that because I love Ghana I would definitely try to go back some time. Wanda and I then headed to the church for breakfast. It was a simple breakfast consisting of bread and fruits. After breakfast we had a Q & A session with the chief and elders, this was the very first time they did something like this with visitors.
The Torgorme Story/ Torgorme Life.
During the Q&A session we learned about the history of Torgorme and how village life works as well as the problems that they face and the goals that they have.
Their people originated in the Southern Sudan area where they moved to Nigeria, then to Benin then to Togo. By Togo they were being lead by a king named Agkol. He was not a nice ruler, they say he was wicked and used violence to rule and approach his people. Now there are no written records of when all of this happened because there was no literacy among the people yet, the history was all passed down orally. The Ewe soon learned of Agkol’s cruelty and poured water on to the city walls to weaken it. They soon were able to break out of the city and Agkol’s confinement. They were not followed because when they escaped, they walked backwards so that the tracks were leading to the city not away from it. This is when the Ewe arrived into Ghana. And they formed into various groups who settled into different areas.
Currently there are 3 main family lines in Torgorme I believe, and many more that extend from that to give around 8000 people in Torgorme. Character is the main factor that is used to determine and appoint a chief. A chief’s character is determined by things such as: fighting for his people, protect his people, lots of wisdom, able to find a good place for his people, and can lead his people. Elders are found to help the chief lead, they are also there to help sustain the culture, so if the chief is not there the elders fill in for him. All Elders have titles, some are responsible for the children and some are responsible for defense. The appointment of chief is usually by inheritance, and is based on the father’s family lineage. In many other villages however, the inheritance is based on the mother’s family lineage. However, if the son of a chief lacks the character for being a chief, he will not be chosen. The person who decides who is the next chief is the Queen Mother, this is because only women know when a child was born and knows the development and wisdom of a child more so than the men. The Queen Mother has the same role as the chief but only overlooks the women of the community. During ancient times she was the one who carried food and fed the men who were at war. In Torgorme the Queen Mother is usually the mother or sister of the chief, and the inheritance is matrilineal.
The biggest problem that Torgorme faces is poverty. This is because poverty affects everything, without sufficient money they cannot efficiently educate their children, and it brings down the education standards. The first schools that were established in Ghana were not meant for Black Africans, they were meant for children of white men who slept with Black Africans, and for the most part only rich people went to school, and they are still feeling the effects of this social gap. Another problem is the lack of clean drinking water and lack of electricity, there are electrical lines and water pipes connected to houses throughout the village, but when one cannot afford to pay the bills, the water and power get cut off. The conflicts that arise within the village are solved by following the national judicial system, there is no traditional judicial system that they use in Torgorme. Within the Elders is a government representative who represents Torgorme in government affairs, he is known as the Assembly Man. In some cases small conflicts are resolved by talking it out with the chief. Another problem is that they must find backups for their natural resources such as clay, fish, and fertile land, because if these disappear they will have nothing to depend on.
One of their goals is to strengthen the relationship between Torgorme and Semester At Sea, they really want the young to become successful and to be exposed to U.S Culture and international cultures. The women want to market their products better so that they can actually earn enough, because right now it’s mainly city vendors who buy the pots for the minimum price and sell it in the cities for higher prices, thus the women don’t make much from the pots. They also want to move toward using machines to produce more pots and more fabrics. When asked if they realize that this could mean losing their traditions and culture, they didn’t seem to care or understand because they were insistent that this was the direction they wanted to take. And they do not have other real alternatives to pottery as that is the only skill the women know. This saddened some of us, and on the bus ride back we all talked about way we could help the village, and if it was possible to mass produce using traditional methods to keep their culture and traditions alive. Yet at the same time some of us felt helpless and wondered just how we would bring about these changes and help them.
In Torgorme, family and the sense of community is very strong. Everyone knows each other and everyone lends a helping hand when needed. I saw this throughout my stay as I walked around with Wanda and as I spent time with his family. We asked about marriage, and once a man and woman is 18, they can marry and do anything else they like, but if the man does not have enough money to take care of the woman, then they are not allowed to marry. We also learned that there are some people from Torgorme who do leave the village to other parts of Ghana, and it’s usually in search of better work if they are struggling financially. Wanda’s uncle and cousins for example left Torgorme and went to the U.S, I talked to them for a bit on the phone and learned that they are living in Ohio!
After the Q&A session finished, the chief and elders went to the town center to get ready for a Semester At Sea day trip that arrived as we were leaving. Then came time for the hard part, the time for us to leave, the children came out of school to bid us goodbye and I said goodbye to Wanda and Benice for one last time. We boarded the bus, and waved to the children who by then were getting ready to greet the next batch of SAS students. It was all bittersweet.
Shai Hills Reserve
We drove to the Shai Hills Reserve, just outside the village. Here we took pictures of the baboons, and then with a guide we drove off to a cave. The Shai Hills were occupied by the Shai tribe until the Dutch came and kicked them off the land and used the area for defense and resource purposes. We got off the bus in the middle of a savannah like landscape but walked toward a rocky mountain. After a bit of a hike along a rocky path we came upon the entrance to the cave. To enter we climbed up large boulders, that looked like they would come toppling down if the Earth were to shake. Then we entered an opening in the cave, where when you looked up you saw trees and vines. This was the main court of the Shai chief, and we learned that the Shai people used the vines to enter and exit the court from above. Then came the exciting part, we separated into three groups because the next part required us to squeeze between two big boulders and then hike into a Insect Bat Cave! It was a bit of a tight fit, but I got through, and entered the cave. The smell was not very pleasant and the floor was not very pleasant either, I couldn’t see anything but it felt like mud, though I had a good guess as to what was on the floor which contributed to the smell of the place as well. It was interesting to see and hear the bats. The bats were not very easy to see, I could really only see them when they were caught in the light from an opening as they flew across the cave. It was all very cool because I had remembered that I studied a bat cave ecosystem in APES class once, and thus I had a pretty good idea as to what I was stepping on. After the cave we headed back to the main entrance of the park where we ate packed lunches. Here the baboons stole some of the food and ate it all. After this we drove on back to the ship.
Before I headed into the ship I did some last minute shopping. The vendors had set up tents in front of the ship the day we arrived, and stayed there 24/7. I realized that it was harder to bargain with Ghanaians than Moroccans, my assumption is that they don’t get business from tourists very often so it’s harder for them to turn in profits. It was also here that I encountered the only unfriendly Ghanaian. I wanted to buy a T-shirt and asked how much it was, he asked how much I had and I said 4 Cedis, he grabbed me and told me to get out and said I was crazy. His friend who was selling jewelry in the same booth however stopped me and yelled at the t-shirt man and asked if I was ok and if my feelings were hurt. I was shocked and happy by this and just said I was fine, this just reminded me that Ghanaians are friendly at heart. I then asked the mean guy if I could use Cedis and US dollars together to pay, he said ok. So I ended up giving him 4 cedis and 4 dollars, a price he was not happy with, as later I needed to change shirts because it was too small, and he told me to just take the larger one and go and said “why should I even do this for you, you give me bad price.” I shrugged it off, and left Ghana with the memories from Winneba and Torgorme.
The Torgorme experience is hard to put into words. I felt and experienced things I have never felt or experienced before. I saw and experience genuine human kindness and goodness in Torgorme, it was all heart to heart interactions. I have honestly been extremely touched by Torgorme and its people and of course the children in the village.
I LOVE GHANA, and will definitely be returning sometime soon! And I most definitely recommend everyone to visit Ghana when they get a chance, it really is the hope of Africa, and the kindness and optimism in the people also gave me hope for humanity.