Kaya the Diviner

In Accra, The Art of Travel Spring 2015, Strangers by Rachel2 Comments

Apparently, Ghana is ranked one of the friendliest countries in the world. Ghanaians are well known for their hospitality and extroversion. As an introvert and a female, I found this intense welcomeness towards foreigners very off-putting at first. Even now, I sometimes have trouble understanding why Ghanaians will come up to me and play the 20 questions game. The possibilities flicker through my head–I’m either in trouble, he/she is trying to sell me something, or he/she is just genuinely interested in my background. The latter is usually the correct answer.

There are also times when I am incessantly hit-on by Ghanaian men in nightclubs. “You are my best friend!” one will say. “Best friends make time for each other.” I always ask myself, how can this complete stranger say we are best friends? How many best friends does he have?

No matter how many words we exchange, our lives are still completely foreign to one another. I can go down the list and describe my hometown, my college, my interests, and the Ghanaian college student can do the same, but since we are from such different places it is hard to break down the stranger-barrier. Our imaginations can only do so much, unless you meet a stranger who can actually see your past and future.

Last weekend, I traveled up to northern Ghana near the border of Burkina Faso. We were all taken to different diviners to have our fortunes and futures told. My diviner, named Kaya, did not speak english and so his translator sat to the left of me as I kneeled on a rug, parallel to Kaya. We were all sitting in a mud hut in a very small community outside of Tamale. The room was filled with melted wax candles, books, wooden chairs, and different objects decorating the shrine. There was a huge pile of sand in front of Kaya, and once I whispered my wishes and dreams into a 5 Cedi bill (something along the lines of “I hope the rest of my life remains this weird”), he started doodling with his fingers. Once the marks in the sand were placed, he precariously stacked a couple of bones on top of each other and had me whisper my name four times into a bowl. He placed the bowl over the bones, draped my hand over the bowl, and started chanting. I lifted my hand, and Kaya lifted the bowl, and the bones were completely scattered in different positions. Kaya started to tell me everything about my life.

The translator said, “Your mom loves you so much.” Ok, I thought. They are definitely telling the truth. I’m obsessed with my mom.

He kept going. “Were you just in the hospital?” Yes, I had pretty bad food poisoning… “Has your dad sent you money?” Yeah, he sent me a small check in the mail for a treat. “You and your sister fight a lot but she loves you dearly.” Well, yes we definitely fight a lot…

And then Kaya screams. “YOU ARE GOING TO BE THE RICHEST WOMAN IN THE WORLD! DO NOT FORGET ABOUT ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”


  1. Rachel,

    This seems like an amazing experience. I especially liked the part where you wished for your life to stay as weird (and maybe unpredictable?) as it has been so far. In fact, just earlier today, me and my friends were in a shuttle from Prague to Budapest that took us through the Hungarian, Slovakian, and Czech countryside and we realized how unique our experience is. Who else can say they lived in the Czech Republic for four months? But now, reading your post, I realize just how much different your study abroad experience must be from mine (or anyone in Europe or Asia’s for that matter). It’s interesting that Ghana is ranked one of the friendliest countries in the world as well because it seems as if Czech people are usually pretty reserved and ambivalent. If a Czech man or woman came up to you and asked you 20 questions it’s most likely because they’re attempting to scam or trick you in some way, because usually people keep to themselves around here. How are you liking studying abroad in Ghana? Is it making you especially homesick or have you been adapting relatively well?

  2. This sounds like an incredible experience. I am traveling up to Peru later in June, and I plan on going to a local witch doctor – which I assume is quite similar to Ghanaian diviners? – and have my future told as well. I hope he says I will be the richest man in the world!

    People in Argentina is quite similar to those in Ghana. They come up to me and randomly start a conversation about my life with genuine interest. As an extrovert, I cherish it. I wish I could do the same thing in New York. but too bad! I hope you enjoy the rest of your semester!

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