Hotter than the 4th of July-Ghana Independence Day 2013
We all love the 4th of July but in Ghana they all love the 6th of March. This is the date that Ghana received their independence from England. It is a very important holiday for Ghana. Just like the 4th of July in the United States, this holiday is always celebrated on the exact date of March 6th.
The Church Office Building was closed for the holiday so Greg and I decided on our morning walk that we would walk to the Black Star Square (or Independence Square) to see what was happening. To our amazement we experienced one of the most interesting events that we have seen since here in Africa.
All of the branches of the Military were represented in their full dress uniforms. School children from various schools were there in their school uniforms ready to march for the President of Ghana.
Greg and I always love a good parade. The parade was to begin at 8:00 am so we decided to stay and watch. First all of the soldiers marched into the square. As they marched they would swing their arm up to shoulder height and the other arm held a gun. There were several units with just women. They were very sharp in their uniforms and held their guns with authority. To contrast the day we took pictures of Muslim women walking in the crowds.
Here is a video we took of the march. It is a bit shaky, sorry for that. At the ended the people with the white long sleeved shirts are the students. They were amazing. We enjoyed watching them turn the corners. The band played the entire time, but the sound you hear is what was going on around us. We hope this comes through for you.
They were a full band and played with strength. The band played and marched for almost 3 hours. That in and of itself was amazing but they were also a very good band. Their drum majors were very colorful and full of energy. They had 4 drum majors and every so often we would see their batons thrown into the air very high, spinning as they flew, and back into the drum major’s hands.
When all of the military branches and school children where in their places, out in the square, a tribal chief came into view. A full entourage followed him with the huge umbrella and body guards that you would expect to see in days gone by.
While we were waiting for the President to arrive in the square Greg and I noticed a first aid station on the edge of the square. They had big shades and blankets rolled out on the ground. I mentioned to Greg that I wondered what they were for. Well it didn’t take to long for us to find out. People standing at attention out in the hot sun on asphalt with hot uniforms are a formula for disaster. After the first 45 minutes of the parade, people started to drop. I thought it would only be the young students but even the soldiers started to go. All of a sudden I saw a soldier just fall over. The first aid people ran out as fast as they could and put him or her on a stretcher and run back to the first aid station putting them on the blanket on the ground. They gave them water and let them rest. Pretty soon some of the students started to pass out. At first it was kind of interesting to watch all of the action but pretty soon my mother instincts kicked in and I started to worry about the children. I couldn’t believe they were going to stand out there as long as the adult soldiers. But after all of the full events of the morning of 3 hours the students did stand as long as the trained soldiers.
The stadium was packed with cheering citizens of Ghana. They love their country and they are proud of what they have been able to accomplish since they achieved their independence. The one thing that I am so impressed with the people here in Ghana is their patriotism and their desire for peace and unity. They love their country, their heritage, and they love God without any shame! We all can take a lesson from the people of Ghana.
We had a tragedy this week that really shook us up. The roads here are so narrow and they all have cement drain ditches (about 1-2 feet deep) along each side. Thus there is no place for pedestrians to walk. In fact, there is barely room for two vehicles to pass. We were driving slowly and a car came toward us just as we passed a man walking toward us on our side of the street. I thought I was OK but then there was a loud bang! I looked and saw that our right mirror was knocked back into the closed position. I realized then that we had hit the man with our mirror. I stopped and looked back and I saw that he was hurt.
The man came up to Debi and was holding his arm and side. He said he needed us to take him to the hospital. We have been told to avoid that as we would then be responsible for his medical bills, his food, and the money he missed from work, his family and friends support and on and on. I told him to take a taxi and gave him some money. He said he needed money for the hospital. I gave him 10 GHC for the taxi and 50 GHC for the hospital (about $30 USD). His injuries were not life threatening and I am not sure it was my fault, but we were glad that he went away. Except for the fact that he appeared to have a broken arm, we might have thought it was a sham. They do that here.
When we got to the office we filed a report and took a few minutes to unwind. This was a bit of a different experience that I do not want to repeat. One of my primary goals in my life is to get through this life without killing anyone. I still am hoping to do this.
Now back to the parade.
We were amazed that all of the soldiers had guns. The women had gun. The men had guns. We were glad that the students did not, however. I asked one of the soldiers if they had bullets. He said, “Yes we have some.” They were so casual with these weapons of mass destruction (some people have said that the AK47 is the real WMD in the world). Several times a gun would fall on the ground and the solider would just pick it up. I fully expected it to start rattling off and killing all of us peace loving observers.
It is hard to have tight security when everyone has a weapon, but I guess that is the security. Some of the older men had older weapons. This man had a cool sword.
When the president came in he was escorted by a mounted guard. These were on fine Arabian horses with banners. Of course, the president was in a black car, as were all the other important people. He came after the field was full of marchers and soldiers.
We were here at this arch about six months ago on Founder’s Day. Behind the arched stadium stand is the ocean. At the other end of the square is the Black Star Triumphal Arch. All through the program General-looking men stood at attention and watched the activity. They had a good view but I bet they were hot. We did not see any of them drop. We were on the stadium seating that lines both sides. We had a canopy over us so we were not in the hot sun the entire time.
I think Ghana lost more men to heat stroke this day than they did in the last war.
They brought out all their hardware as well. They had fire trucks, army vehicles, missile launchers, cannons, assault vehicles and police vehicles.
The President inspected the troops. He had these two really cool vehicles. At first they looked like regular SUVs. Then, of a sudden, the back opened up and the top retracted and steps appeared and he and his generals and his security detail walked up the steps and stood in the back of the vehicles as they went up and down the rows of soldiers and students. As he came to the end he would wave at the crowd. He is very popular. I think he waved at Debi! She did stand out it the crowd.
He also lit the “eternal flame” that I had a hard time getting a good picture of because the fire truck was in the way. So it looks like the flame is being put out by the firemen. We smiled to each other that the eternal flame is supposed to burn all of the time, but they are having a gas shortage as we speak. The entire country is out of natural gas. There is no hot water on Temple Square because there is no gas for the boilers. Perhaps it was all used on the eternal flame.
Like our parades and rodeos, there were lots of hawkers selling everything from boiled eggs, rice and fish, kabobs of stuff, and candy to drinks of all shorts (we did not see alcohol drinks however) and flags and toys. It was a fun day. We walked home afterwards and was it hot!
So we have one more thing to report. Next week we will write of our recent missionary experiences lest anyone doubt that we are really missionaries. In fact, our new friend whose name is Sunday, and is from Nigeria, was baptized today. We will say more next week.