Bye bye oo for the last time

Finished!

Today we said goodbye (or bye bye oo) to Abrafo, our new friends and our beautiful building.

After spending all morning franticly finishing up last minute details (like the door!), we all went to the guesthouse for our last lunch. Josephine had prepared a feast for the workers and us, complete with spicy rice, pasta with red sauce, chicken, stewed vegetables, plantains and pineapple. The tiny guesthouse was filled with people laughing and filling their plates with mountains of food.

As usual the village children gathered in a circle around us outside as we ate. Rather than shooing them off we slipped then plates of food while Josephine and the village elders were not looking.

After the feast we headed back to worksite for the last time. A tent had been set up across from the new buildings covered walkway, facing the entrance. The plastic chairs from the community center had been brought up and lined up under the shade for us.

With the community members sitting under the tent and us Miamians sitting on the porch it seemed almost like we were guarding our building. School had been let out early for the goodbye ceremony and the children filled in the space between the tent and porch, leaving a vacant circle in the middle. Drums had been set up along the newly built retaining wall, which seemed like the perfect height for the drummers to use as a bench (everything has about a million uses in Ghana).

As before, J and an entourage of our workers and other village members came dancing up the hill under the big black umbrella. In the general confusion, which I was surprised I found…you know…only natural, the progression of the Brunie Chief took its time, starting and stopping all the way up the hill.

Finally J took his seat and the ceremony began. Like the welcome ceremony we took turns shaking hands, pour/drinking spirits and dancing. Over the previous week a dance troupe had been practicing near the worksite and two of the Miami students had informally joined the group. Miamians and Abrafo community members cheered loudly as the two students came out wrapped in Ghanaian fabric and danced alongside the troupe (you can watch a portion of the dance here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WG-KZQjW9Ko ).

J was presented with a highly decorated, carved wooden stool, a further symbol of chiefdom. In return J swung open the newly installed doors and the community elders entered the new building. The men walked around the interior nodding in approval, while some of the women sang and danced in the large room.

The ceremony ended with more dancing, a hearty thank you from the community, an invitation to return and request that next time we bring the computers needed to fill the new building.

Afterwards we stood around saying goodbye to everyone and went back to the guesthouse for a more personal goodbye to the workers. For the last time we held hands with the children as we made the long walk back.

We waited at the guesthouse until we thought the school yard would be cleared of people, we still needed to get some final shots of the finished building. The sun was setting and the buildings’ metallic roof was glittering in the fading light. We took our last pictures and asked one of the children to take a final group shot.

As we drove back to the hotel for the last time it was hard not to think that it was most likely the last time we would ever see that building. There is nothing that can prepare you for that realization. We have sweated, bled and dedicated ourselves to something that we will never see again. As much as service makes us all feel good about ourselves, it can also cause a major hole in your soul when you are ripped away from the community you have come to know and love.

Bye bye oo building. Bye bye oo children. Bye bye oo Abrafo. Bye bye oo Ghana. We will miss you.