“Is this authentic Ghanaian music?” “Mom, this is Celine Dion.”

Coming to Ghana is like …well, there’s nothing to really compare it to. Coming to Ghana is like coming to Ghana, enough said.

This last week my mom and cousin have been here visiting some of EPI’s schools and seeing all the beauty Ghana has to offer.  It’s been a blast sharing the place I love with two of the people that mean the most to me and watching their reactions to the wonderful chaos that is all around. They have both become enamored with the children, schools, and villages EPI works in which makes me giddy. It is also nice to listen to my mom rattle off at least half a dozen questions while driving through the jungle before any of the three other people in the car have a chance to answer any of them, she is obviously excited!

The other night proved to be one of those stories that gets passed down through posterity, sort of a culmination of everything that is my mom (and I say that with all the love and admiration a favorite son has, which is a lot). We were at a nice Chinese restaurant in Accra with a few Ghanaian friends learning everything there is to know about Banku, Kenkey, and local dating (you had to be there). My mom had been talking about how much she loved Ghana and all the things she saw that struck her that day when she paused and asked Isaac (A born and bred Ghanaian) “Is this authentic Ghanaian music, like stuff you’d listen to everyday?” to which I replied, “Mom, this is Celine Dion.” To her credit it was perhaps the weirdest Celine Dion song I’ve ever heard, not that I’m in any way an authority on the subject, but did prove to be somewhat of a clairvoyant moment.

Every year MPA graduate students come to Ghana from BYU in search of an authentic Ghanaian experience. For the past two years we have setup a weekend excursion for a few of the students who wish to come a few days early and stay on Pediatorkope Island where we have an electricity-generating swing and merry-go-round. The wealth of cultural knowledge and understanding these students gain from their weekend in huts gives them a better understanding of how the average Ghanaian lives, what they eat, what they value, and how society works here. This experience can be life changing for them, but we never thought about how it would change the lives of the locals, especially the children, until we witnessed it today for ourselves. While visiting Pediatorkope Island to check up on our swing and merry-go-round, and enjoy the best coconuts ever, a few of the school girls started signing and dancing to what sounded like strange music. After a few minutes we all recognized the tune as Feliz Navidad, which, if I’m not mistaken, Celine Dion has sung more than once. This seemed out of place in more than on regard. A song with Spanish words being sung by Ghanaian girls who picked it up from American visitors who probably got it from a Canadian pop star, wrap your head around that. Don’t even get me started on signing Christmas songs under the 4,000-degree African sun in the middle of May.


In other news: my best friend in Ghana, Muftawu, has been trying to teach me how to cook real Ghanaian food. He is a great cook and an even better teacher, often exhibiting great patience at my lack of spice tolerance or cultural food awareness. A book could and should be written about Muftawu’s life, in his own words “sometimes it is funny, and sometimes it makes me cry.”