In which our intrepid hero exercises with royalty

I completed my teaching practicum last Friday. It was a bit sad to leave the students who had helped me learn a lot about teaching in Ghanaian schools, but I was happy to be done with my daily 6am commute into Koforidua. I am also happy to be able to dedicate more time to language and cultural training in the community.

Now that I am no longer commuting, I have the luxury of time, especially in the morning. One of the benefits of living at the Equator is that you have pretty much the same amount of daylight all year round — it also happens to be the same reason for the tropical climate. Therefore, it is pretty much a given that the sun will always rise between 5:30 and 6:00am, and the sun will always set between 6:30 and 7:00pm.

Because of this, it becomes easy to slip into certain patterns. For example, for the first time in my life, I am awake by 5:30am every day, and most days it’s actually closer to 5am. As a result, I go to bed by 10:00pm almost every night. Because my language classes do not begin until 8am, this means that I now have between 2.5 and 3 hours of time in the morning to do pretty much whatever I want.

Most mornings, this means I get up, stretch, and do some sort of exercise. I alternate days of running with days of strength training and flexibility. My strength training and flexibility regimen is pretty basic — I do a few different types of pushups, a few different types of crunches, and some simple yoga poses, all to the dulcet tones of the BBC World Service. When I go running, I either go with my host brother or with one of my fellow Peace Corps Trainees.

Which brings us to the royalty part of our story. As part of our training, Peace Corps places us with homestay families in communities around our training site. It helps us to get used to living in a Ghanaian community and understand the structure of Ghanaian families. Most of us have fairly ordinary families — for example, my host father is the headmaster of the Junior High School here in town, my host mother sells clothing on market days, and my two host brothers both go to Junior High School.

However, my friend and fellow trainee, B.J., has a slightly different homestay experience. His homestay father happens to be the chief of Old and New Tafo. Chieftaincy is a traditional form of local government which is included in the Ghanaian Constitution, and combines many responsibilities of mayor, priest, and municipal judge. It is an inherited position, and is considered to be a position of royalty with the rights and privileges therein — including having your own private car and living in a palace.

In order to live in the Chief’s Palace, you must be a member of the chief’s family. This means that in order to live in the chief’s house, B.J. had to be adopted as a member of the royal family. And as the chief’s son, you are referred to as “Prince”. Therefore, B.J. Edwards of North Carolina is now also Prince Kwaku Piasa, Prince of Old Tafo.

I find a delicious amount of irony in the fact that a white conceptual artist from the southern United States is now a member of the royal family in an African village. As does everyone else in Old Tafo, who has to be content with living with Methodist ministers, retired teachers, shopkeepers, contractors, and school headmasters. Thus, to bring it full circle: I get up every other day, put on my running shoes, and walk down to the palace to pick up Prince B.J.