Saturday, September 26, 2009

Update from Otuam

I can't seem to upload photos on this ancient computer, and I have such wonderful ones! They might have to wait until I come home.

Suffice it to say that there is no running water here. Children fetch it at 5 a.m. in a bucket on their head from the bore hole about a half an hour's walk out of town. After my initial horror and burst of tears = my favorite two things in the world are a hot shower and a hot bath = I have learned to adapt quite well. I can bathe my whole body and wash and condition my hair in one bucket. A second bucket is a guilty pleasure, bearing in mind the poor little kid who had to fetch it on her head before school = and I pour the water with a smaller bucket down my back and feel cool the only time all day. bearing in mind there is no air conditioning.

Though i have given up many conveniences, I am learning so much about these people who, by our standards, are dirt poor, yet they have such dignity, honor, humor, and hospitality. I have fallen in love with Otuam and its people. I have promised to bring water to them. The pipes are already there, and our house has a shower and toilet. There's just no water in them since the pipes died a few years ago, so it's not like they have to dig hole for new pipes. I think some of them are broke, or the water pressure is bad. I am not sure.

Peggy and I have received an astonishing offer for movie rights, and if this all comes to pass, our first job will be to bring water to Otuam, in the form of several more bore holes scattered throughout town so the kids don't have to walk so far, while we have engineers study the piped water situation. That is our vow. Peggy says the ancestors living in her royal stool know this, they have heard us say it, and they will be doing everything in their power to make it happen for the people of Otuam. Given the offers we are getting in the media world, I don't doubt it.

Yesterday was Peggy's gazetting, the occasion where her kingship is made official in front of the house of chiefs, a stern looking group of toga clad elders on a platform. They had just sacrificed a goat, thank God before I came on the scene, and its blood was flourescent red by the door. We had brought a goat as a gift of thanks to the chiefs. It was tied to a post on the platform, and I was praying I wouldn't have to see its throat cut. I wanted to untie it and run away with it, but I don't think these people would have liked that.

Luckily, there is only one goat sacrifice required a day. So i didn't have to see anything awful.

Peggy's brother killed two chickens in the kitchen this morning that villagers had brought yesterday as a gift, and that was bad enough. The cook was sitting on a stool plucking them.

That's all for now. more as soona s possible! Love from Ghana, Eleanor

Friday, September 18, 2009

Welcome to Otuam

So here I am in Otuam with the new female king, Peggielene Bartels. Actually I am in Winnaba, a few miles away at an internet cafe with ancient huge computers. There is no running water in Otuam - one of the many things King Peggy wants to fix. For the next month my shower will be pouring a bucket of cold water over my body. I was horrified to learn this last night, when i arrived after 24 hours of traveling, grimy and sweaty. I cried. But I did it, dipping my head straight down in the bucket to get the hair wet first, hoping no microbes would swim into my ears, mouth, or nose. And it actually worked. I felt really clean afterward using only two buckets. I have to bear in mind these buckets are carried from the next village on the backs of children.

We had a council of elders meetin today, outside, as King Peggy presided. There are many issues she must address, as she says again and again, "I have a lot of work to do."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Off to Ghana with the king, Peggielene Bartels!

I am leaving soon for Ghana with my friend, King Peggy of the Otuam. Perhaps you read about her story in today's Washington Post Metro section.

It will be a fabulous adventure, probably the most wonderful of my life. In addition to a different culture, religion, and traditions, I will be able to witness firsthand the challenges of a female ruler fighting prejudice and chauvinism.

The Washington Post Magazine will run my article as a cover story some time this winter, and they are sending a photographer for two or three days to capture images of colorful royal ceremonies. And, of course, there will be a book.

So far the only bad news it that I lost my malaria pills. They were so important, life or death important, that I put them in a very special place last week, and I forgot the special place. I had to get more, and insurance won't pay for a second batch if you were dumb enough to lose the first. $240 later, I now have malaria pills.

Well, I have to finish packing and leave for the airport. You can keep in touch with me through the comments section of this blog. I look forward to hearing from you. I am not sure how often I will have internet, but at least once or twice a wekk, I hear. We have to drive to another village an hour away from King Peggy's village.