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Tunisia – Great Fish Lies Behind White Walls

Quote: "I expressed a verbal appreciation of the fascinatingly first class highways in my passable high school French. Abdel responded with a hint of a gloat that the country was as good as anything in the West of Europe. I would have agreed with the comparison had he not pounded a few shallow pot-holes and flown past a couple of beggars at a malfunctioning traffic light...."

I left the southernmost country in Africa destined for the most northern nation on the continent. The strange thing was that the cheapest options available involved spending a few hours outside the continent in a stop-over either in Paris, Rome or Dubai. I chose to mount Emirates given the pleasant experience I had the last time I flew on this airline, the highlight being generous space in economy class which I find to be a must for a lanky individual on a long-haul journey.

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Peprah: Intrigues of a Ghanaian Funeral

QUOTE: "My grandmother's funeral in Ghana span a number of days. I learnt a lot about my people but the Westerner in me wondered 'Don't this people work?'"

Late last year, I travelled through Europe and was intrigued by countries like the UK where they have efficient public transportation systems. It is no wonder that a little mud island managed to conquer large parts of this world. It got me thinking – is it that we Africans just can't get things right, or perhaps are we comparing ourselves to a western way of living which is clearly not a natural way of life for us.

When my father left us in Ghana in early 1982 to move to SA, we couldn't go with him because my mother was pregnant. While he was away, my parents' friends, neighbours and relatives were more than willing to assist. I remember many an aunt coming and bringing food over. I noted the same thing when we moved to Umtata; it is inherently African.

On my return from Europe, I heard that my grandmother had passed away. We attended the funeral a few weeks later. Even though it was a rather sad occasion, it was a fantastic experience because I learnt quite a bit about my people.

The funeral activities began on a Wednesday when we went to the family home where we sat and talked for several hours. Later that evening my gran's body was brought to the house.

Ashanti's hold the dearly departed in high regard, so prior to burial a body is well 'prepared' for passage into the afterlife. With my grandfather having passed away decades ago, my father was responsible for this process.

First, some palm kernel is chewed and used to prepare her hands and feet, the old school manicure and pedicure. Some lime is provided which is cut in half and used under the arms to eliminate odours. Thereafter they take a bucket, sponge, soap, towel, chewing stick (old school tooth brush) and lotion; she gets a good washing. She then gets dressed with some beads around her waist called Amoase and very stylish cloth before being laid on her kete (mat).

The following day was the burial day. We all wore dark brown and black cloth and arrived at the family home at 6.30 a.m. where we said our goodbyes. I expected something to happen, but nope, we just sat as people played drums and sang quite badly. At noon, there was a church service where after we made our way to my gran's village where she was to be buried in the royal cemetery. We once again sat around my cousin, the Chief's house for a few hours because members of the royal family are buried at a certain time in the evening.

Friday was a day off and on Saturday we dressed in red attire which was to symbolize the fact that we were serious. Ghanaians are such generous people and I now understand why life insurance isn't big in that country. My uncle and aunts spend so much time going to funerals and I now know why. People sang, told Nana Mary's life story, and much money was donated by those that attended to help the family with the costs of the funeral. Each donor was named together with their connection to the deceased. This is what it is all about; looking after the elderly, the young and your fellow man. We then spent plenty of time doing a traditional dance called Adowa. On Sunday, we went to church dressed in white to give thanks for the 94 years of her life.

All days were well attended and the Westerner in me kept on wondering "don't these people work". But still I say, as an Ashanti raised in Xhosaland, we Africans are rich in heritage and innately humane.

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African American at a Zulu wedding

"One of the best ways to enjoy Africa's vibrancy is by attending a traditional African Wedding. Electrifying, emotional, spellbinding, beautiful, dramatic are amongst the many adjectives I would use to describe what goes on...."

Earlier in the year, I set off to pursue one of my life long missions; to live and work in Africa. And so it was that I, Juanita Nene Ceesay, a girl born in America to African parents, left the confines of my secure life in New York to venture into the unknown world with only two suitcases to my name.

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