The past week has been bittersweet; it’s been full of ups and downs, but it was the best week I’ve had these past 4 months. Catrina mentioned in last weeks blog about the construction halt that has sadden the entire Abetenim community and for several days the workers were angry, upset, and going crazy as they didn’t know what to do with themselves.
This past Monday we were visited and informed that we must stop construction due to the regional chief of the area; the second construction stop in the matter of six months. Within days of the finish line we were both angry and saddened that we were so close yet we knew we could do nothing, but were more heartbroken knowing that the Abetenim Arts Village has come to an end and construction may no longer continue indefinitely due to one person’s political power and personal greed.
Unfortunately the chief of Juaben owns the oil factory in the next town over and wants to keep Abetenim poor to provide cheap labor for himself. Ever since Nka’s presence in this village, the local school has grown in size and attendance, more students are continuing into senior high school in nearby towns, and more young adults are able to leave Abetenim to create better futures for their families. The construction of the arts village has increased jobs that are better paying then previously provided in the area as well as hope for a brighter future. The chief has made it his personal vendetta to stop this, even threatening the local people with this second construction hold that if they do continue working there could be fatal consequences. The story can go on and on, but I’ll end it here.
Tuesday evening we took pictures on site with the workers and suggested going on a hike the following day. At first they looked at us like what do you mean? Walking in the jungle for fun?.. But it was a great hit! We were expecting a turnout of a couple of guys, but 10 of them were waiting for us the next morning as we approached the village square. We also expected 2-3 hours which resulted in 5 and ending at Akapo Spot, the local watering hole.
During those 5 hours we hiked through the jungle and saw some of our workers farmlands. We had our fair share of oranges and papayas, and the guys would clap and hit stones against their machetes as they danced and sung. They also tried smoking out a rodent from their borrow, but I don’t think he was home. We passed by farmland where they were collecting palm wine from the trees and stumbled upon a makeshift “factory” where the local women were crushing palm berries. Before heading on the last path to Abetenim we walked through Tunkumso, where the guys stopped for some Adonko and danced to “One Corner”. Once arriving back in Abetenim the guys continued dancing and singing to the bar and everyone came to their doors and windows to see what was going on, and then the party began.
In Akapo Spot, they guys grabbed the table, bench, and any metal pieces and kept dancing and making music until Collins finally set up the sound system and computer. The party then moved outside and many children joined in on the fun. After an all day excursion, Catrina and I eventually left the bar to head back to the campsite and Abass joined, asking where we’ll be going tomorrow. Our response was no where as we were beat and had somethings we wanted to get off our to do list, but all the guys enjoyed their day and took their mind off of what had happened several days prior.
Thursday we stayed local and tried to watch a movie with the guys in the afternoon, but of course, the power went out right before we started so instead we had a conversation with Frank, the Nka coordinator to find out more information about what was going on in the community. The days that followed Monday nights news were full of rumors and uncertainty if the chief actually ordered this construction hold or if it was sub-chiefs. Long story short we told him we were going to work Monday night to finish the floor slab and he said we should have, we officially had his unwritten approval.
We gathered a couple of the workers and told them we’d like to continue working that night and the next day to finish as much as possible, but we couldn’t let the whole village know as we didn’t want the chief of Juaben to hear of us going against his orders. 6 PM we walked on site and there were 7 men already in motion, the worst part though was there was a storm on the horizon. Shortly after starting we were hit with a rain storm, the guys were mixing the concrete under the patio roof and bringing it in for the slab. We continued throughout the night till 2 AM and then started at 7 AM the following day. We were able to finish the floor slab, complete the plastering of all columns, pour the bench top, complete the floor drain in front of the patio, and infill gravel around the exterior of the building. These men worked 19 hours those last 24 hours, not because we forced them, but because they wanted to see it completed as much as we did. We even had other men come on Friday to help to make sure it was completed for the community. We were extremely proud and grateful and we feel they were too. It was time to relax, celebration was coming.
Saturday was the big day for a lovely couple and the village, that’s right - we crashed another wedding. Collins, Akapo, Nemo, our jack of all trades, Ozonto dancer, and all around clown, got married and we were surprised to be apart of their version of a bridal party. This wedding felt more authentic than the previous wedding we went to in Accra and perhaps was a bit more entertaining since we knew almost everyone and had a relationship with the honoree. The event lasted all day with breaks in between and ended with us taking night shots of the building.
Time flew by this past week and with the construction hold, it threw off all our plans, but honestly I’m glad it happened they way it did. We were able to spend more quality time with the guys on the days we didn’t work, we were able to finish a majority of our todo list for the building, and I think it’s safe to say we will never forget Abetenim, nor will they forget us. Sunday consisted of taking photos, finish packing, hanging out with both the kids and the guys, going to church for Colin’s, meeting little Steveo (our worker’s child was born on Thursday and was named after myself, or so they tell me but good choice if you ask me), having my favorite local meal (Fufu with goat meat)and it was probably the best one I’ve had in this country, and of course saying good byes which was the hardest part for everyone. Out of everyone tho, the waterworks came from the person I least expected; Colin’s. This man is always joking around and always has a smile on his face, but when it was time for goodbyes he just couldn’t hold back.
And well.. there was 4 months of our lives in Abetenim. We leave behind a structure that will hopefully be used for it’s original purpose. We leave behind countless laughs. We leave behind amazing people, friendships, and memories. I will miss all the catcalls, the hi hi hi, the obroni obroni obroni, the what’s your name/ wo din de sen. I will miss the children, the nights of indomie or egg-bread, and the slow-pace of life. I will actually miss going to work and seeing the same people every single day, the laughs, the interesting conversations, and the bonds we created. The volunteers, the other groups, but especially the local workers and Abetenim - Me da ase, you will all always be apart of me. I hope to revisit Abetenim, grab a beer with the people I’ve met whether it be in New York, Germany, or Akapo. And with all that, it’s looking like a white Christmas, and I’m grateful to be able to get back home and spend it with family, my girlfriend, friends, and of course my dogs.
I hope you’ve enjoyed ArchiTuesdays, I’m sure some of the other leaders will post their experience and stay tuned the next couple of weeks as we’ll continue posting photos and time lapses from our archives since WiFi was scarce and hopefully one more event (details to follow).