Once we left the capital city of Accra and began our journey north from the coastal city, the geography and demographics changed several times before we arrived in our rural host village.
We arrived in Enya Abaasa early in the afternoon and went directly to our host’s house to wash up before meeting the village elders. The elders preemptively came to us and organized outside of the house before filing into the common area wearing African Dress in a traditional welcoming ceremony.
After we introduced ourselves to each elder, we sat and listened to them tell us about how they had been waiting for our arrival, and how they were happy that we were able to make the journey safely. We had not expected to receive so much attention to our arrival, and we felt honored to witness their traditional ways of making introductions, and to participate in them.
We were then each presented with a typewritten itinerary of the events that had been planned for us for the coming days.
Later in the evening, we went on a walking tour of the village before heading to the palace for a traditional, formal welcoming ceremony. The smell of wood and red crushed gravel under my boots was prominent. We saw a scattering of old country lanes with small metal roofed huts, and beyond them the rolling hills and dusk sky.
We sat quietly, and admittedly somewhat uneasily, as 20 or so kings assembled in the palace in their colorful robes and we waited to see what would come next. The room was concrete, and the kings sat on a raised area. During the ceremony, a common glass filled with ceremonial alcohol was passed around and each person either consumed or poured some on the ground at the feet of one of our hosts. We were now considered family.
The kings spoke of our purpose, and our work, and of how we would celebrate Easter Sunday with them. They said on Monday, we would begin our formal discussions about healthcare and pre-hospital emergency care.
The sense of community was awesome and overwhelming. We could tell that the work we are embarking on will impact all of us, and this community we are being introduced and welcomed to will provide many rewards.