The Buchele Adventure

This is record of the Buchele Adventure, as reported from West Africa.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

TexMex in Ghana? Check out The Tongo Oasis -

Every ministry setting is as different as the people who live it, and Dave and Ellen’s commitment to each other and following Jesus in a relational way is certainly the product of who they are. For me it has been an exhaustive few days, and I get the feeling it is pretty typical for them. The verse not by my own strength, but by faith alone[1] comes to mind. That is how they do it.


Tonga Oasis signboard

As for me I need a day of rest so on my last day we take in some touristy things, including a surprising visit to Tonga Oasis. Tonga Oasis is the beautiful, but still under construction destination that Dave and Ellen want me to see. We run into Gary, and old friend from 2009. Gary was the new guy in country we sold our old vehicle to when we were shipping out. He has now sold it but had five years of driving, and it is still going strong.  I’m glad to know the rest of the story. Such a sweet surprise this divine encounter was of running into each other in a remote place.  Gary had just stopped Tonga Oasis to say he was leaving Ghana for the next four months.


Gary & Friends

The second surprise was to see Tamales on the menu, which I had to try.


Tamales at Tonga Oasis

The tamales were actually very good, and totally worth the trip.  I feel challenged to make my own once I get back to Berekuso.    The trouble comes later when we drive to the regional capital Tamale (tom-a-lee), and I want to call it ta-mal-lee.  

[1] Philippians 3:9

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The Grandmother of Lawra,

I have came to northern Ghana visiting Mission Society friends in their ministry setting.  Read Part 1 – where Steve takes a picture of THE traffic light in Wa and gets “noticed” by the police.


Sue and boy at Methodist School. If you look carefully, you’ll see some juju around his neck.

Lawra is a wonderful village and I begin to understand why Sue feels at home in this remote place that is so difficult to get to. As we walk around Lawra a feel a natural rhythm to the greetings people exchange
“An-so-maaa,” which means good morning.
“Oh-be-song,” the multi-purpose response to a greeting and always appropriate.


I get caught up in the beautiful call and response feeling of their rhythm, from the bicycles riding by, the street venders you pass, the phone card sellers, the school children walking home, and people walking talking on their cell phones.
“An-so-maaa,” says a one.
“Oh-be-song,” you respond back.
“An-so-maaa,” you greet the street vender.
“Oh-be-song,” and she responds.
In the afternoons, the greeting changes to “mooona,” but the response stays the same.
“Mooo-na,” “Oh-be-song.”
My new Best Friend
But right now we are far from the peaceful Lawra, and in the regional capital of Wa during a fuel shortage, and I have just taken a picture of the only traffic light in Wa, while Sue was working the ATM. 


The ONLY traffic light in Wa and all of Upper West

Its time to catch the Tro back to Lawra. Problem is, the police officer from across the busy street is somehow now blocking our way.  He is a little upset I did not come to him and demanding to know who gave me permission to snap a picture.  Snap is the verb they use for taking a picture, but sometimes it sounds like snatch, which might be why I’m in trouble. I snatched a picture.   Police man has been watching me for some time, and describes many of the pictures I took earlier.
“I did not know I needed to ask permission” I say, apologizing. The Officer lectures me about always needing to seek, punctuating each syllable and then loudly asks “DO.YOU.A.GREE.WITH.ME?”
There is a saying I try to remember as he is lecturing me, something about a hungry officer and many questions, but I can’t find it. So I say “I make it a practice to never argue with a man wearing an AK47.” The officer chuckles, and a moment later a huge smile comes across his face.  He extends his hand. I shake it, and we snap fingers. Together we pat our hearts and the tension is gone.
I tell him a story my sister told me from 1968, when we danced in Wa on New Year’s Eve, when I was a small boy. “Ah!”, he says, “then you are Ghanaian!” We laugh, shake, snap, pat and now we are friends. Since we are friends I ask “May I snap your picture?”, smiling, with eyebrows raised.
“Oh no, no, no, no,” he does not grant me permission. We chat a few minutes more about that single traffic light, and he tells us it is not only the only traffic light in Wa, but the only traffic light in all of the Upper West Region. We all laugh again, shake, snap, pat and then I beg for us to take our leave. “You go,” he says and motions us away and that’s when I remember it: “At times when the police are wanting something to chop, they ask plenty questions.”
The Gyil


David playing Gyil

When we get back to Lawra, Sue’s friend and woodworker David takes me to see what has put Lawra on the tourist maps a traditional form of music based on drumming and a unique type of xylophone called a gyil. According to The Bradt Guide, the gyil is made from “hardwoods and reverberates into different sized calabash gourds.” David has two of them at his family compound, and though I try to dissuade him from using what little precious fuel remains in his motorcycle, he insists I come with him.
David’s junior brother plays the Gyil
As we are about to leave the family compound I remember the fuel I am carrying. I offer it to David, and he, thinking it actually is a small Fanta, gives it to his junior brother. I tell him no, no, no, it is fuel. For his moto. I motion for the small boy to bring it back, and take off the cap. We both smell, good I think, it really is fuel and then David understands. He smiles, and is very thankful, and quickly adds it to the fumes in his tank, as if it is thirsty.


adding fuel to tank

On the way back he gives me a tour of his farm, and shows me his personal family courtyard where I meet another of Sue’s friends named Fortune, or Fortunate, I’m not sure which. David gives me five guinea fowl eggs, maybe for the fuel, and as we race back on his moto, I try not to let them break. I should not have let the eggs worry me, their shells are as hard as they are tasty.
Good-bye to Lawra, for now


It is a deep feeling of gratitude I feel in Lawra, and the people who share Sue’s life. She has found a place to live out her days in meaningful ministry, in the village, and neighboring one where she pastors a church that was once small. In the school, and with the Peace Corps Volunteers. Her home is a place of peace, and she welcomes the traveling stranger like me.


Sue’s House and Garden and somebody’s goats

Some months after moving to Lawra Sue was given a name in the local language. Wa-son-ti, which means come-help-us. Its not a name she hears used often, but when it is, it is conveys her meaning and purpose.

Wa-son-ti – Come Help Us

Monday, July 07, 2014

Life in Lawra, part 1: the police trouble Steve


Sue Kolljeski – The Grandmother of Lawra

I am in Northern Ghana visiting Sue Kolljeski, a Mission Society Cross Cultural Witness living in the remote town of Lawra, Upper West Region of Ghana. Lawra is a community of nearly 1100 homes, and depending on who you talk to between 6,000 and 10,000 souls. Sue has an amazing network of friends, colleagues in ministry, and people she does business with.

Sydney & Maakum

Everywhere she is known as Maakum, which means Grandmother in the local language. As we walk around, we hear people wondering who I am, asking each other in the local language, “Is that Maakum’s husband?” It was for this reason I sleep at the apartment of Sydney, her Peace Corp friend, but now the town is thinking I am Sydney’s father.

Large Boaboa Trees


Tree lined streets


And the Chief’s Cows.

Lawra would feel like a backwater sort of place were it not for the five enormous communication/cell towers that canopy the town.
It is also a village with only one of the two typical forms of public transit in Ghana, and because of its remoteness, there is a form new to me: The Yaabaa.

Yaabaa Daabaa Do – these are sure fun to ride in!

In the local language, Yaabaa is translated disastrous; a motorcycle cart that hauls cargo and turns out to be quite handy for hauling people, like us. Of course being the northern part of Ghana, motorcycles and bicycles outnumber cars and trotros 1000:1 and in Lawra, there are no taxis. I get the feeling I would see a lot more motorcycles on the road but for the fuel crisis which was supposed to end earlier this week but didn’t and now even the black market gasoline is finished locally.


The Yaabaa is multi-purpose.

Two hours away in Wa, a fuel truck arrives and we witness the long lines and high tension of frustrated buyers.

Long lines to buy fuel in Wa.

Just a block away, the mood is different: two happy young enterprising men are selling it by the half liter, in Fanta bottles.

Gasoline, for sale in small bottles

At roughly 70 cents a bottle, the experience of buying some black market fuel is too much to pass up. I buy one and the two young men pose for me take their picture.
I generally have no trouble taking pictures, but when they are of people, I try to ask permission first, unless it is of a busy intersection featuring the only traffic light in Wa.

If you look carefully, you can see a picture of THE traffic light of Wa.

Five minutes after taking that shot, a bored police officer motions for me to come. That police officer is guarding the other ATM across the busy main road. The security man at our ATM say “You no worry about that small boy,” when I ask what I should do.
We have come back to Wa for Sue’s annual pilgrimage to Ghana Immigration to renew her residence visa for another year. After paying the Ghanaian equivalent of $100 US and waiting two and a half hours, she walks away with a new stamp in her passport and Sue is legal for another year. We see a working ATM without much of a line and stop. As Sue works the ATM, I see something I’ve been looking for all day: the famous traffic light of Wa. Wa is famous for being a big city with only one traffic light, and I want a picture of it.


Can you see the traffic light now?