Friday, July 30, 2010


I have never been more thankful for a winter birthday than today. Every dorm, school, university, whatever locale has its own birthday traditions. All of them seem to mix a bit of humiliation and pain with fun. For most young people, their friends will take them out and get them drunk. Humiliation: losing all inhibition and doing the craziest things. Pain: nursing a hangover the next morning and piecing the fuzzy memories of what you did the previous night back together. Fun: your friends enjoy watching and egging you on in your drunken madness. In Jones College, my sister’s residential house at Rice University, you are thrown into a fountain on your birthday. Humiliation and pain: being thrown into a fountain and getting soaked against your will. Fun: your friends enjoy your reaction.

Here at KNUST, the tradition is that you are “ponded” on your birthday. Let’s break the word down. A pond is a body of water and to pound means to hit or to beat. So, what is “ponding”? On your birthday, your friends publicly clobber you with buckets of water for thirty minutes! Humiliation and pain: being pummeled with water. Fun: throwing water on your friend and watching his reaction.

Without any mercy, your friends slap the water on you from all directions: left, right, from above and below. If you try to run away or hide, your friends will drench your bed with water. The only way to avoid a ponding on your birthday is to be away from school.

Today was my friend Edwin’s birthday and he made the most unfortunate decision not to go home for his birthday. At 11:30PM, his friends began to troll the hallways of the dorm. They lurked around his room and called each other periodically to see if anyone had seen any sign of him. His faithful roommate did his best to hide his whereabouts. I admittedly am a guilty accomplice to his capture. I called to ask where he was and even though he gave me false information, his response tipped off his friends and he was found. Poor Edwin was dragged out into the courtyard and the ponding commenced. You would think that in Ghana, since water can be such a scarce resource it is possible that ponding can be avoided or at the very least a ponding session would never last thirty minutes because you’d run out of water. Unfortunately, in the middle of the courtyard is a large polytank, a water reserve that can hold hundreds of gallons of water. Once captured, ponding is unavoidable.

At the end, Edwin was not only soaking wet, but you could see welts on his back like he had just been whipped! I can only think of one piece of hope that can help you withstand the pain of being ponded: everyone will eventually get his turn. So, if you can avoid it, try not to celebrate your birthday in Ghana, or it will be a wet one!

1 comment:

  1. oh my gosh-- i'm so glad that i didn't have any friends yet on my birthday!!! that would have been miserable!! i haven't really heard about this tradition from any ghanaians and i don't think i want to hear about it firsthand!!