Village Stay Grand Challenge: The Results are In!

WOW.  I was overwhelmed and overjoyed at the response I got for the Village Stay Grand Challenge, especially from my lovely chapter. I received 32 unique challenges in total! Thank you for setting me some interesting, exciting, and ridiculous tasks to attempt over the 4 days that I exclusively spent in my village of Nangong-Ayili, my home away from home.

It was pretty incredible to be able to spend some quality time with the women, as they have been an ever-present support whose activities during the day have remained somewhat a mystery over the past few months. Plus, there was a wedding preparation and ceremony on the Friday and Saturday, what could be cooler to witness as a cultural experience?! I got to meet a lot more people and chill with those that have seen me around, but whom I haven’t interacted with before.

And now the accounting begins… I’ve bolded the ones I was able to complete, and given myself a star for them. Unfortunately I totally forgot to purchase the cookies last Tuesday so I was unable to devour them one by one, but I may retain the privilege for sometime in the future (I deserve 18). I had a few challenges that were real highlights that I’ll tell stories about after the list. Finally, because both chores and weddings take A LOT of time, I was unable to attempt some challenges, rest assured, they remain on my list for the next 8 days, as I’m wrapping up and spending the rest of my time here in my community.


*     Fetch the water as the women are doing

*     Carry a bucket of water on my head, minimal spillage

*     Carry a baby on my back

  • Carry a bucket of water with a baby on my back
  • Walk to the farm 7-10km
  • carry the firewood home as the women are doing

*     Set a fire using firewood

Cooking and Eating

*     Prepare TZ

*     Pound stuff for soup

  • make popcorn
  • invent a new food (Canada-Ghana fusion)

*     Make a meal for your family (Canadian or Ghana style your choice)

*     Eat what the villagers are eating and the number of times they are eating daily

  • Ask for a second bowl of TZ
  • eat okra fish again


*     Catch a live adult chicken/guinea fowl

*     have a debate with a guinea fowl (after capturing it)


*     have a full conversation without any English

*     Introduce yourself to some people who might not know you

  • Learn a traditional or legendary scary story told in Ghana
  • (and a not so scary story for Grace)

*     Make a marriage proposal

*     Show your Ghana family a picture (or the video that we posted to you on youtube) of your chapter family at SFU

*     Give everyone in your village a high five

*     Allow one of the children free reign with your camera for 1 hour

  • Take one photo each hour from the time you wake until the time you go to bed


  • Learn a local song that comes with a dance.
  • Learn a children’s song and dance from Ghana
  • teach the local kids a Canadian song and sing with them (WITH ACTIONS)

*     juggle a football (soccerball)

  • play capture the flag
  • play duck, duck, goose


*     Carry a full bucket of water on my head, minimal spillage

So Day 1, I convinced everyone that I indeed was going to follow them to the borehole, and that yes of course I would try to carry water. They then assigned me the smallest bucket, called a bombilla in Dagbani. It was purple so I liked it, and it was similar to the one I used last time I fetched water. I hoped that I wouldn’t get an impromptu bath as last time though… but success! I returned with a nearly full bucket and was telling them that tomorrow, I would carry the big one (called a gwolaga?).

So pleased with myself, and dry!

Day 2. Late on Day 1 we were informed that the borehole pumps, both of them that are close to my community, were broken. This made me a bit anxious, given that it seems there isn’t anyone specifically responsible for them, and when I asked no one seemed to know. It seems that water is going to be a scarcer commodity for my family and community for quite some time… At any rate, some water from the nearby dam was delivered to about half a km from our house, so I eagerly jumped to join, even though I was relegated the small bucket again. I vowed to them that I would take the gwolaga, and they laughed and kept walking. Firstly, we had to transfer some water to the bins beside the house where the water was delivered. I got to pick the gwolaga, partially because there was a construction crew of men standing by urging my women to let me try. SUCCESS! I managed to get it balanced on my head, it wasn’t too bad, and walked the short distance to the house…and then, as I tried to tip the water into the bin, the seemingly inevitable bath time occurred. I was mostly just laughing with everyone else at my soaked sweater (it was the morning, and still quite cold), but also knew this would not reflect well on my chances to actually carry the gwolaga back to the house. But, in the end, I was able to finagle the gwolaga, and was happily about 1/3 of the way back to the house, doing quite well, until of course the cloth that I was wearing on my bottom half started to unwind…and get tangled in my feet…and start exposing my soccer shorts underneath (and my knees! Ack!). So quickly Ruby, the woman walking beside me, coerced me into giving up the gwolaga so that I could retie my cloth. I only agreed with the intention of taking it back, unfortunately that was not the end result, and I had to settle with my small bucket for the remainder of the trip. No spillage though!

Rouia with her gwolaga

*     Carry a baby on my back

So  for this one I wasn’t quite sure how to approach it…I was assuming given their experience with me, that though I am pretty happy and friendly, they don’t see me as the most capable of recruits for house-related tasks. As a result, I thought that they would be hesitant to allow me to strap one of their babies to my back.. However, the biggest challenge seemed to be choosing a baby that either wasn’t completely filthy (including poopy) or wasn’t crying upon seeing me or within a few minutes of being away from mom. Thankfully I found a willing subject in Baasiru, on Day 2, who calmly got strapped in and went along for the ride for about an hour as I went and did some more errands and talked to people in the village.

so proud of my new charge!

I also had the pleasure to take Zuéda to the wedding on my back, and get plenty oohs, aahs, and squeals of excitement from women of all ages, seeing me toting this little bundle of joy to the marriage house.

Sadly did not manage to yet combine the water and baby carrying in one, but I’m not sure how much the family would appreciate a half-drowned baby so perhaps it’s better I don’t chance it…

*     Eat what the villagers are eating and the number of times they are eating daily

This is an interesting one because people here eat A LOT, and at pretty much anytime of the day. One morning, we had coco (porridge), then rice, then some different rice, then fried yams, then beans, and then TZ for lunch! It was quite the procession of food, but the thing I realised is that people have small money and buy small amounts, all share, then buy the next thing. So while they have two heavy meals per day, in the midday and evening, they are pretty much constantly either doing chores, changing babies, or eating.

*     have a debate with a guinea fowl (after capturing it)

Well, I caught a chicken, not a guinea fowl. But then I sat down on a bench that had a goat sitting on it, and conversed with it for awhile. I was trying to convince it that its face was ugly but of course it was completely ignoring me, and my well-intentioned commentary.

joyful clutching my hostage...right before it tried to peck my eyes

*     have a full conversation without any English

This happens quite frequently, but I was sitting with Fatimata, the head woman of my household, and was telling her the reason why my friends from Karaga had visited me. Between stringing together some nouns and verbs, and repetition and pointing, she got the idea finally that I wasn’t suddenly deciding to go to Karaga after all, but was describing my friends. One of the things I think that happens sometimes is that a combination of my poor pronounciation and people’s lack of expectation that I might speak Dagbani to them makes them miss the first parts of conversations.

*     Make a marriage proposal

Now when I saw this challenge, I immediately pegged it as the most sensitive one. I can safely say that I could easily be taken as serious in any number of potential situations if I were to propose marriage, so I wanted to target carefully. Perhaps a small boy, or….a baby? How to make sure intentions were not misconstrued? And besides, how to actually propose in Dagombe culture is a complete mystery to me. I had a feeble attempt of asking Ruby, one of the new additions to my family compound, how it is that people propose marriage. She didn’t get me, and thought I was asking about logistics for the wedding that day….sigh…

Well, the fact that there was a wedding proved a good opening to start a conversation about marriage with Gani, my (not so) small boy friend who’s been my partner in the running joke in the family that we are husband and wife. What better way to sneak it in than as part of the joke? He actually brought up the topic, telling me about the wedding and the fact that it would create a “pa’aa” and “yidana”, which are the words we use in Dagbani for wife and husband, respectively, and which he knows I know from the family joke. So after he had explained, and illustrated with pointing to himself and me and repeating the words, I saw my cue and said “Gani, will you marry me?”. His small English allowed him to understand, and he nodded emphatically, and pronounced in Dagbani “and then in small time we will give birth!” and  laughed which I easily joined in with, considering the idea of giving birth anytime soon, let alone with Gani in rural Ghana, is more than faintly ridiculous.

I also wanted to share my pride, at a few tasks I was able to participate in and excel at during my few days at home. Firstly, I swept the entire compound clean, and it looked beautiful and fresh and it was all me, even though the sun was hot and I was literally dripping with sweat two minutes in.

Look at that beautiful sweeping technique!

Neat and clean! So proud of my handiwork

Secondly, I shelled groundnuts (peanuts) for about 2 hours with Fatimata, and got quite the technique going. We also listened to my Canadian music from my cellphone, and she rocked out bobbing her head and even trying to sing along to some parts. Thirdly, I put myself in a position to really participate in a lot of the different bits of the wedding preparations and ceremony parts. I had a huge laugh at the groom’s party, 8ish men dressed to the nines, doused in cologne giggling in a dark room as I snapped their photo before they entered the dance floor area.

The groom's side of the wedding party. Boss.



About Janine Reid

What is Janine? -board game enthusiast -political observer -Vancouverite -questioner -listener -health provider
This entry was posted in Canadian Connection, Food, Life in Ghana, Special Interest. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Village Stay Grand Challenge: The Results are In!

  1. Mike says:

    Outstanding job Janine! This was really cool to read 🙂

  2. Kay Ochiai says:

    loving ur picture Janine! Esp. with kids:) go girl!

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