Two American guys over 6’3”, two American girls under 5’1”, one Ghanaian woman with fabulous hair, and two Ghanaian men with almost no hair at all. This is our multi-cultural/racial/gendered little family and we have embarked on an attempt to run a cooperative household (a la the Berkeley co-ops) while simultaneously operating a community development NGO. Two weeks into this little social experiment I wasn’t sure how it would all turn out, but now, at the cusp of a new brigade season (read: living outside of the house for about a month while coordinating student groups on community projects) I can look back and marvel at how well it all went after all.
The basis of our living arrangement here at GB Ghana stemmed from a) the fact that we started as a very small staff of only 7 who all needed to live near each other and an office, and b) the fact that both Orion and myself had amazing experiences living in co-ops in Berkeley and wanted to recreate that sense of community and family with our staff here in Ghana. Housing for such an endeavor was, I’m told, no easy task, but they did manage to find us an oddly interesting and very nice large house in the town of Baifikrom-an offshoot of the major market hub of Mankessim here in Ghana’s Central Region. Thus, the Baifikrom House was born and we all moved in little by little over the months of September and October.
To move in to a large, empty, unfurnished house in the middle of Ghanaian farm lands is quite a transition, but a welcome one for sure. Having lived the past 4 years between a Southern California suburb, a bustling college town in the SF bay area, and the craziness that was Buenos Aires, peace and quiet was a welcome shift. In my first few weeks here I quickly settled into a nice little routine of work, runs through the countryside, chai tea on the balcony at sunset, and easy nights of learning to cook Ghanaian dishes with an earthenware masher (mortar and pestle). As foreign staff trickled back in from various trips abroad we embarked on setting some structure for our household and were fortunate to have the three of the most easy-going, open-minded Ghanaians I’ve met who were kind enough to humor our odd-sounding co-op intentions long enough to genuinely start enjoying it. Our first house meetings were an interesting attempt to reconcile very distinct cultural expectations of what a household should look like and who should be responsible for what, but we managed to strike enough of a balance where everyone was mostly happy and the chores shared by all (including everyone cooking twice a week in pairs which made for some interesting fusion dishes).
By the middle of November we really found our stride as a group with house meetings being entertaining and productive, a hilarious comment box tradition, and everyone bonding on both group and individual levels. I think one favorite moment was when the whole group of 7 erupted into enthusiastic “snaps” in support of a new composting/herb garden endeavor (could have been straight out of a Davis House meeting for sure). There are even interactive charts on the Kitchen walls to remind everyone who’s cooking what day or who’s going shopping on market day for fresh vegetables (each house member has a little paper-doll version of themselves to slip into the appropriate chore slot). We even had Thursday night group activities, which never fully took off but we did manage to have an open mic reading night, some great story times, and many a mini-soccer match in the front yard.
In this way, the seven of us had an amazing couple of months as our little GB Ghana family and set the foundation for a rapidly growing but cooperatively managed household which now holds 11 people and will continue to absorb more over the next few months. Walking around Baifikrom house today, one could confidently say that yet another beautiful part of cooperative living is that it transcends borders and cultures too 🙂