31 January to 11 February 2011
On one of the rock on one of the ways that climb up the Bongo Rock, a small hillock in Bongo, there is written in bold letters, “Bongo Girls are Dangerous.” We had laughed a lot when we had read that for the first time. I asked one of the local boys accompanying us during the hike, whether whatever that was written on the rock was true. The boy had smiled and said, “I don't know.” It was as if he wanted not to say that it was true to a foreigner like me. As a man living alone in a place like Bongo, I have come across many encounters where I had to interact with girls or women. I am telling some of them.
Most of the female volunteers who are working here are almost always approached by men. It is so common and sometimes so foolish that men many times in the first meeting end up proposing marriage. In the first months many times these volunteers end up getting one marriage proposal a day. The female volunteers learn it eventually that it is not to be taken very seriously. Since Bongo falls in the relatively conservative northern part of the country, I had thought that here women might not be that bold. But there were some incidences where I received some marriage or relationship proposals.
A woman came once to the office to meet my boss. He had gone somewhere away, she started talking to me while seating on the comfortable couch. When she came to know that I am married, she started to ask me how I could stay away from my wife so long. “You must be feeling very lonely,” she said and added further, “You know my husband has gone to US and I am also very lonely like you. Therefore we can get along with each other very well” Then she told me that she would like to come with me to India. I did not know how to answer her appropriately and get rid of her, but fortunately my boss arrived in the office and the matter ended there.
A girl once entered into the office. She knew that he would be out for almost half hour, she kept on sitting in the office looking at me, while I was busy working on the computer. I thought it was the natural curiosity about the foreigners which most of the local people have, which will subside after a while. I thought that I should talk with her little bit so that she would stop staring at me. She started to talk a lot and I got bored. As my boss came into the office, the problem seemed to have solved. But I realized that it was not, when the girl boldly mentioned to my boss that she would like to marry me. I told her that I am happy having only one wife. I could not help but I had to put her off by saying that I didn't want trouble in life. Though I was smiling while saying this, she was clearly disappointed and went away in a very un-Ghanaian way without saying any good bye.
Once a lady came to my house very late in the evening when it was getting dark and introduced herself saying that she had worked before for other volunteers living in the house. In the first meeting she wanted my phone number. I did not give her my number and told her that I shall send her a message through somebody if I needed anything or a service since she lived near to my house. She then kept on coming to the house always late in the evenings when it got dark and then I had to rudely just tell her that she should not come. She stopped coming to the house afterwards.
I used to buy fruits from two small girls. The poor girls moved around the town with their worn out slippers in the scorching heat. The girls almost always moved together. They helped each other, but when it came to selling, they used to fight with each other. I told them that they should not to fight and I would buy from both of them. It was fun. I think news of Solemiya buying fruits from small girls spread rapidly and I was approached almost everyday by some small girls selling fruits. I started regularly buying fruits from the two small girls. They were bit curious about me as most of the children are. They used ask me about my wife and children etc. I had travelled for some days and after coming back, on one evening, suddenly two different grown up girls showed up at the house. I was very much confused after seeing them. “How these girls can grow so much within a span of just 15 days,” I asked myself. Though, after realizing that these were two different girls, I bought fruits from them. While handing over the fruits and taking money, they tried touched me. They were not deterred seeing my stern face and reaction and kept on hanging near the gate of the house after I went back in the room. I heard one of the girls singing and then I came out and told her to go away, she went away still looking at me expectedly.
After driving those two girls away for good, one small looking but grown up girl kept on coming to the house in the late evening when it was near to getting dark, in spite of me telling her that I did not want to buy fruits from her. She was very persistent in her efforts. I really felt sorry for her as I could see her attraction towards me but same time I could also see her innocence being small girl changing into a different phase of life. I have stopped buying fruits from these moving children now.
With most of the girls living in a not so much controlled social environment with poverty common everywhere, getting into puberty is a start of a problem here. It is not very uncommon to see young school going girls getting pregnant and bearing children in this part of the world. Are Bongo girls dangerous or the uncontrolled social environment which leads to this situation? Latter is of course true.