Early this morning we packed into a tro-tro (van) and headed down the coast to Elmina Castle. With the windows down, we could smell the sea as we followed the highway towards one of the most famous slave castles in the world.
Elmina Castle was built by the Portuguese in 1482, originally designed as a trading post, but quickly became a major exporting site for the Portuguese, Dutch and British in the trans-Atlantic slave trade that brought millions of slaves to Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas.
Despite recognizing that being at this site was an extremely valuable experience that taught us a lot about the history of Africa and the role that we as Americans play in that, being at Elmina was very emotional for us all.
Standing afoot the same ground where hundreds of thousands awaited their journey of no return, or took their last breath before dying of starvation or disease was eerie and heartbreaking. We had the opportunity to look out to sea where boats would dock to pick up slaves and make their way to the new world. These close quarters which were dark, poorly ventilated and still alive with the scent of the past, made us feel claustrophobic and nauseous at times.
Though a harrowing experience, we did become mini celebrities when a man (who strongly resembled Lenny Kravitz) was crafty in taking pictures that pretended to feature him but actually featured at least one of us. Greg noticed this quickly and felt upset that he wasn’t able to give his consent when the guy pretended to take a picture of himself that actually was a full on picture of Greg. This continued to happen throughout our tour and hopefully his family will get great joy out of seeing us in their photo album.
Today we were also the guests at Kobe Essiama’s (and the new Mrs. Essiama) wedding in Cape Coast. I think you might recall Kobe from our previous post – he is our driver who was coasting and replacing tires and fan belts throughout our trip through Northern Ghana. This, clearly, was a bonding experience that warrants our attendance at his wedding.
When he first invited us last weekend (no formal invitation, just casually mentioned he was getting married in 6 days), he told us if we came we would be his “special guests.” Today we found out that couldn’t have been more accurate.
When we first arrived, we realized that we were too late and had missed the church service. Instead, we got there just in time for the reception and were immediately videotaped by the official wedding videographer and placed at tables in front of the bride and groom’s on-stage high table. People seemed confused at why we were there, especially since we were extremely underdressed in comparison to the women wearing traditional cloth, men wearing suit jackets, and the children who were in color coordinated outfits. The MC quickly acknowledged us and said that we had come all the way from Lancaster, USA for Kobe’s wedding and in our honor would play just a few English songs. To a highlight a few, we heard “I’m With You” by Avril Lavigne, “I’m Your Angel” by Boyz 2 Men and a song we will not repeat the name of which was surprisingly profane and involves breaking up with your significant other. This song ironically played as the couple was walking down the aisle to be presented to the crowd for the first time as man and wife.
After about 25 minutes, we were guided outside to take wedding photos with the bride and groom, and then upon our return, we were invited, along with the parents of the bride and groom, the best man, and the flower girl, to sit up on stage facing out to the crowd of wedding guests. This, as Oduro referred to it, was called the VIP. Kobe was not kidding at all when he said we would be his “special guests.”
After the bride, groom and family members were called to eat, we followed directly after and were met with a large spread of chicken, salad, three types of rice, banku, and fufu. Due to only having a flimsy plastic spoon to consume this delicious meal, some were confused about how to eat it properly and so we had to wait until we saw Kobe just go for it with his hands to follow suit.
The wedding was more than eventful. After the bride and groom’s first dance, which wasn’t a slow dance but more of bopping around and smiling, we were invited onto the dance floor to join them. Meanwhile, Kobe was texting and answering phone calls while wearing short nike socks with his dress shoes. Since we were the only ones really dancing, people took pity on us and came to relieve of us of our embarrassment. This included several small children who should probably be the next Dancing With The Stars contestants, and a large older woman who took a liking to Jake
After Michael made a baby cry, children used chicken bones as microphones, the speaker system got turned up a little too high so that we all had a slight stroke, and we danced and took many pictures, we decided that we would head out. Kobe promised he would meet us again before we left, despite Lilah encouraging him to spend time with his wife to which he replied, “No, that’s okay. I’ll see you guys next weekend.”
It was a great day, overall. Even though the morning at Elmina was an emotional rollercoaster, the wedding was an opportunity for a new beginning, one that celebrates love instead of pain and loss. The joining of two people in marriage, which we were invited to share with them, was an opportunity to bring all of us together in peace and harmony to celebrate what really matters: union and togetherness.
We hope this blog post brings you the opportunity to reflect on the value of love and life for you and those around you.
- Lilah and Anita