After school on Friday my headmistress invited me into her house for an end of week beer. She said that she and her husband were going to a wedding at the Accra Catholic Cathedral on the Saturday. She asked if Alexis and I would like to come along as well. This surprised me because neither Alexis nor I knew who was getting married. Come alone anyway I was told; anyone can turn up to a Ghanaian wedding. I got home and told Anne, our other housemate, about the wedding and she decided she would like to come along as well.
The next day we dressed up in our best Ghanaian attire and set off for the cathedral. We met my headmistress and her husband on the way and had a drink with them beforehand. We arrived at the cathedral at 10:15am. The wedding was supposed to start at 10am and (surprisingly for Ghana) had started on time so we were a bit late. In front the altar were the bride and groom sitting on throne-like chairs facing away from the congregation. To our right was a gospel choir which sang throughout the service. The bride and groom were dressed exactly like they would have been in the UK and many of the guests were dressed in similarly western attire. At first I thought this would make even more conspicuous as we were the only white people in the building and we were one of the few who dressed in Ghanaian outfits. I need not have worried though because as the ceremony progressed more and more people turned up and more and more were dressed as we were. After a (surprisingly quick) 2 hour service we then left the church. The bride and groom walked out down the aisle to the wedding march and then the photographs started. We were a bit concerned about the photographs because we did not know anyone at the wedding apart from my headmistress and her husband. When Alexis and I have our wedding photographs I want to know everyone who is in them and not have some stranger staring back at me. Our worries were unfounded though as the photographs consisted of the bride, groom and close family. Next was the reception. The bride's parents did not know we were coming until that morning so we did not want to intrude on the reception. Again we were told that anyone can turn up to wedding receptions in Ghana. After the photographs were completed we walked into one of the receptions halls next to the cathedral and were confronted with a huge display with a three tired cake in the middle. We milled around for a few minutes and then were each given a small plastic bag, inside which were biscuits and cakes. This, we subsequently discovered, was the wedding breakfast. They were rather like party bags which explained why the number of guests at the reception was not fixed. After a few more minutes the newly weds performed their first dance and then half an hour later everyone left. The reception was over within an hour. We waved the bride and groom off and then walked home. We were back by 3pm. A short and sweet experience!
Aburi Botanical Gardens
North of Accra is the Blue Mountain Range. These mountains have been very popular since colonial times due to the relative coolness and low humidity. As it is starting to really hot up here we thought we would spend a weekend away in some relatively comfortable weather. After getting a tro-tro from Accra, through Medina to Aburi we arrived at our hotel. From there a short taxi ride took us to the entrance of the Botanical Gardens. It was a hive of activity and there were various groups of people on the lawns. We went in and looked around the rather disappointing displays. It was more like an unkempt British park than a National Trust property. There were some interesting trees but we had walked around it 30 minutes later by which time, even in the relative cool, we had worked up a thirst. While having a drink in the restaurant we suddenly heard a tannoy start. Then another and then another. It turned out that the hive of activity was actually several religious groups organising themselves ready for some preaching and the tannoys were so they could spread the word of God. We have nothing against this but when someone with a megaphone is shouting very loudly for a long time in one of the local dialects it can soon become a rather unpleasant experience. We soon left the gardens and walked back to our hotel. On the way we passed some curio stalls selling traditional African art work (masks and the like) and after some hard haggling we bought several pieces. That night the heavens opened for the biggest storm we have experienced so far in Ghana. We were in our hotel and not unduly worried about its intensity. That was until 1am when our room sprung a leak right over the bed. We complained to reception and moved to a smaller room. Not a pleasant experience in the early hours in the middle of a storm! The next morning we got up (laughed at the activities of the middle of the night that seemed a distant memory) and went to Mampong. This means large town in the local dialect which is somewhat misleading as it is rather small. It does have one important feature though as it is the site of Ghana’s first cocoa farm. (Ghana is the 2nd biggest exporter in the world and is where Cadbury’s gets most of its cocoa.) After turning up at 10am the gates to the farm were locked with no visible sign of opening times. After sitting and snoozing for an hour a local guide finally turned up and showed us around (it was meant to open at 7!). It was very interesting to see the process cocoa goes through before it is exported. After finishing here we then got a tro-tro back to Accra. We wanted to be back before Sunday in time for the Ghanaian elections.