After the first ceremonies of the new Asantehene’s enstoolment, Donanne and I returned to the hotel for showers and a lunch of orange juice. In the hotel lobby we ran into Mary whom we had met at church in Accra. She was bright, young and English, working in Sierra Leone with Volunteer Service Overseas, an English version of the Peace Corps. She had driven up with one of the Ghanaian church members, a family man whom we had met.
While we had orange juice together, she asked, “Would you mind terribly if I spent tonight in your room?”
The request surprised me.
“I could sleep on the floor,” Mary said.
“You have no place to stay?”
“Well– If I stay in the room of Mr.–” She mentioned the church member. “He’ll expect me to sleep with him.”
I laughed, puzzled. Could this possibly be true? “But,” I said, “we all know each other from church.”
“Really, he will,” she said. She began to laugh, too.
“I suppose you could stay with us stay with us,” I said. “Why don’t you check with us later? Right now we’ve got to get out to the enstoolment.”
As expected, it was more of the same dancing, chanting and drumming throughout the afternoon. I went back at night to witness the end of this possibly final paroxysm of African tribal assertion. Meanwhile, I hoped Donanne had somehow connected with Mary in case she needed a place to lay her head. However, when I got back to the hotel, she and Donanne had never connected.
We slept late. We ran into Mary in the hotel lobby. She’d managed to find a place to stay. We had breakfast together and I regaled the women with more than they wanted to know about the closing ceremonies.
Returning to the room I wrote a “color piece” about the previous day’s events. It was the first of three stories I wrote about the enstoolment. My editors in Boston must have thought that ethnic splendor had totally deranged me!
Literary news. As you may know, Fred Hunter’s introduction to Africa was as a USIS officer in the Congo. Too junior to say no, Fred was sent alone to tiny Coquilhatville in the Congo’s remotest region to set up an American Cultural Center. Very lonely at first, he established the center just when rebellion was threatening the country with collapse. Finally it got very dangerous. Having written notes and letters in the midst of the challenges of Coq, Fred promised himself that someday he’d write about the experience. Fred’s memoir A YEAR AT THE EDGE OF THE JUNGLE: A Congo Memoir 1963-1964 has just gone to the publisher. It will be available for your delectation about mid-year. Stay tuned!