The Stars of Larabanga

Passport Perspectives, Travel Column with Jazzmine Raine

My eyes squint as they meet the afternoon sun. It’s been a full day of traveling and still another bus is left on the itinerary.

It’s 35 degrees celsius and I’m wearing a cotton, full length dress. Sweat gathers between my boobs and clings to me, only making it hotter to sit still. A part of me wonders if this trip is worth it, as I try to separate my legs that are currently stuck together by sweat. 

I’m flustered. I’ve never been to such a hot country and am slightly nervous about going to a rural village alone with just Charlotte by my side. 

The bus station is crowded. We want to walk around to stretch our legs but don’t have the energy to do so. We’ve been traveling for over 30 hours, living on dry, instant noodles and water sachets. Our final bus approaches ahead on the dirt road, eventually entering the bus terminal. Black smoke escapes its exhaust and I choke on the mix of chaos and chemicals. 

I wake up and it’s sunset. We exit the bus, with full bladders, and gaze at the sky ablaze with vibrant colors of yellow, orange, and pink. 

630 kilometers in under 40 hours with cramped necks. Yet, my anxiety from such a long journey escapes me.

We cross the road and land in front of the Salia Brothers Guesthouse – a faded, aqua-green home with a front yard filled with rocks and lounging goats. We walk through the front door and meet Muhammad, one of the twin Salia brothers. He greets us and shows us to our room, also offering the rooftop where he has placed a mattress and light blanket as an alternative in the summer heat. We jump at the idea and thank him for his kindness. Dropping our bags in the main room, we make our way back out to the main street for dinner.

Stars of Larabanga

Sitting in a small street shop, we chow down on curry and rice, sipping Sprites and watching the sunset. Our view: identical shops across the dirt road, the gorgeous sky, and children running past us in Barcelona jerseys. We ask the young shopkeeper what the commotion is all about. Barcelona is about to play a big game and the entire village has been counting down the days. Within minutes, the sun is down and we are being pulled along with groups of children to watch the match. 

We follow them down small paths and around twisted, metal fences until we reach a shack with a small door and the roar of excited children inside. The room is packed. Children are sitting everywhere – on top of each other and standing in corners where bums can’t fit. On a bench in the back of the room, they are joined by a few fathers holding tiny babies on their laps. I giggle as I feel the energy of these little football lovers start to enter my aura, growing excited for a sport I know absolutely nothing about.

One of the fathers scoots everyone down the back bench allowing a small spot for Charlotte and I to sit. Our energy vibrates as we wiggle o urselves into our seats. Ten years of friendship and I don’t think we’ve ever been in such tight quarters. 

Each Barcelona goal brings a roar from the audience. Kids jump up and share high fives. The room is hot and sweaty and I am extremely uncomfortable, but I won’t dare get up. The entire scene is so entertaining and joyful, I don’t even allow myself to step outside for air. Their beautiful smiles, their genuine excitement watching their favorite team kick butt, and the thrill of their two foreign guests joining in on the action – priceless. 

When the game comes to an end with a final winning goal from Barcelona, the kids scream with joy and leap outside, running through the village to share the news with family and friends. We follow suit and run like goons through the streets, laughing child-like and foolishly as we mimic their screams and dance alongside them. Mothers and sisters come out to clap and cheer on the excitement. It is pitch black. The sparkle from the blanket of stars overhead is the only light illuminating the dozens of innocent faces filled with toothy smiles and sweat. 

Charlotte and I ascend the handmade wooden ladder to the rooftop and lay on the mattress to look up at the stars. Mohammad is also on the rooftop listening to the radio. The village has finally gone silent and all that surrounds us is the sound of nature and the Arabic radio announcer. We slowly begin to tire. My eyes close and I can still see every star in the Larabanga sky.

About Jazzmine Raine

Jazzmine leads from a background of over 10 years in project management, social impact, and experiential education. She is the proud founder of Hara House, India’s first zero waste guesthouse and tourism organization, and has been recognized globally for her work in the sustainable tourism sector.

Her diverse career has spanned across multiple countries with a strategic focus on providing young people the tools and knowledge needed to solve global challenges. With a love for storytelling and leading social impact, she thrives when coaching students and young professionals in leading new, innovative ideas.

Jazzmine has been a key leader in many unique social projects such as Causeartist, Sustainable Travel Network, Studio.89, CanGap and Hara World. In her spare time, you will find her writing short stories and drinking chai on her balcony at 8000ft in the Himalayas.

You can read all stories under the ‘Passport Perspectives’ Travel Column here.


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