Eating my way through Ghana…

9 07 2009

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For sometime now, a group of us Burkina volunteers who live prodominantly in the southwest  have been planning a trip to Ghana for during Burkina’s cultivating/rainy season. Since most Burkinabe (90%) are foremost farmers, the time before rainy season is busy and hard. Families wake up early and go out into the fields working until late afternoon only to start again the next day. The only rest comes on Monday and Friday-designated days for meetings and housework. Everyone goes to help- 6 to 80 year olds. The work is so tiring; hour after hour of bending over, flailing all you effort into breaking the tuff, red ground for sowing seeds.

In an attempt to understand more of my village’s typical life and thus needs–not to mention kill boredom since no one is in town these days– I decided to accompany my neighbors to their corn and rice plots and help out. I could tell they were really excited for me to help. I asked the teenage girl of the Ouattara family, Donkey, what I should bring and she responded with my ho (djaba in Jula) and some water (jii). I told her to come and get me at the library when they started heading out to the fields as I was told they start “close to lunch”. I wasn’t at the library but until. 930 when the family’s youngest girl came to summon me. We all marched out to the fields together assuming a line and making me feel like an african version of the Brady bunch (there were only 6 of us in total, but still..). No time was spared strategically, everyone picked up their ho immediately and went after it with super bowl vigor. I tried to play along but the wood handle on my non manual labor accustomed hands was painful. It wasn’t 30 minutes in when I saw my first blister. The oldest of the group, Sinagou, the much designated mother though she is probably still younger than me, kept telling me to slow down “your not a cultivator, take your time.” To which I pleasantly smiled thinking “Wow, they must be impressed. White girl can creve la terre.” In typical Adelaide fashion, I got a little ahead of myself. Next thing I knew I had 7 large blisters on my hand….two the big I’m going to burst and leave your hand burning size and the others the you won’t be writing for 3 days because we’ll still be there kind. Next, the 15 year old boy, Isouff, comes over to look at my hands. He pops the two big blisters and I immediately give myself a timeout a)because my hands were burning and needed to be rinsed with water b) because I was deathly afraid I was about to slap a minor. I eventually came back after some deep breaths and observation that if I didn’t help out now (as they continued with hulk like strength),, my window of showing them how appreciative of their friendship I am might close—or slam shut.  We all worked until crashing around 2 and taking a small repose under a tree where we laughed and did the jula-english vocabulary game. “Malo-rice,” “doon-eat.” After a petite nap, the work ensued with an even greater intensity than before (and I was just kinda there “trying” to both show my support and help and mask the pain of my burning blisters). When the sun started to go down, we headed home.  I joked with Donkey that she should have told me to bring gloves because “white people burn in the sun….their skin is like butter….(I know, but generalizations go a long way here)” After retiring to my home for what I thought would be my chance to text message my mother on what “proper back stretches to alleviate pain” I should do before bed, I was quickly told I needed to come to dinner with “the family.” Awww. It was actually really endearing and we even played cards after. Now that’s “brady!.”

BUT as heartfelt as day one was, after about a week of this intense cultivating, I was extremely glad that Ghana was so close on the horizon. Since cultivating outside of town occupies all, there isn’t much opportunity to start projects or even just “hang” out with people in the village. Ghana diversion was much needed and DElivered! So here is a top ten highlights on the trip that saved me (and my mains) from the summer doldrums!

1. The food

Ghana had a plethora of dairy as compared to Burkina. Street vendors could be found at every stop of our holiday selling a little piece of heaven they call “fan ice.” Fan ice’s cousin, “fan lait” is sold in Burkina however the consistencies are night and day. Though often a highlight of a Ouaga or Bobo visit (only sold in larger towns), compared to Ghana’s fan products…..Burkina’s comes up a bit watery. My daily consumption of 2 fan ices in Ghana only faltered towards the latter part of the trip as I decided to face reality and turn over the packaging to see what really made fan ice so creamy. Ummm, about 16g of fat worth of cream and lard. No joke….lard. So I decided I’d rather clog my arteries with the real stuff like street peanut butter sandwiches (Ghana bread is amazing….like halla but in Mrs. Baird’s form), fish, and mexican pizza, as I was already   starting to feel that travel, over-indulgence lethargy. Note to Fan Ice producers: this feeling could have also been brought on by my three course ordering but I blame your product for still using antiquated thickeners like lard!!

Also, the Ghanaian chocolate wasn’t Bad I. In fact cocoa is to this day one of Ghana’s biggest exports. Street vendors sold a chocolate-lemon that won my blue ribbon taste test.

2: Cape Coast Castle

This was our second stop in Ghana. We arrived in the evening so no time for sightseeing, though our first cab ride showed us the Cape Coast Castle which  was once one of the biggest stops in the slave trade.

Cape Castle from the interior

Cape Castle photo from cannon base

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3: Elmina Castle

Portugese (late 15th century) established this fort first to aid in gold and ivory exports but with the 16th century plantations of america starting to thrive, this fortquickly became the slave trade hub of Africa.

Elmina Castle interior

Elmina Castle interior

beach soccer (pic from castle lookout)

beach soccer (pic from castle lookout)

another pic from castle lookout

another pic from castle lookout point

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4: Crocs at Hans Cottage Botel

We stopped to have brunch here on our way to Kakum National Park. It wasn’t but about 5 minutes spent on their restaurant/lake platform until we saw our first croc. It was only after we ordered that we saw the massive guy below who had been sleeping the whole time . This place was also great for birdwatching (kinda getting into that as I’ve been told w.africa is one of the best places for it!)

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5: Spirited religious euphemisms

Though these exist in french in Burkina as well (and even in the US at urban outfitters), it was interesting seeing them in english EVERYWHERE in Ghana. From “jesus is good tailoring” to “G-d is riding with me” transport, and “call your savior beepers, ” it was evident on every corner throughout Ghana that Christianity is the way of Ghanian life. Over 70% of Ghanaians label themselves as Christians. Since early Christian missionaries established the education-religion link here, Ghanians associate upward mobility and progress (here, read cash) with the upper spirit. Ergo all the business prosperity through G-d slogans.

6: Batik and tie-dye pagnes

Once again, Burkina has pagnas as well, but tie-dye and batik (hand painted) prints are harder to find (and not as sophisticated) in bf than in Ghana. Plus their tye-dye on silk was more like Etro than summer camp. Yeaa!

7: Busua Beach, subheading: Burritos.

Beach and Burritos. Gorgeous combo. There were even some surfers here to complete the scene of beach I had been craving in land-locked Burkina.

9: Ghana National Cultural Center- Kumasi

Great nat crafts…….And quite a surreal backdrop…
Blue Band (butter comp) had a large promo event going on where they were marketing their new type of butter made especially for spreading. “Like to try some bread with our spreadable butter?”. “Why sure, I’m sure it tastes completely different from all other butters!”

I especially liked watching the wealthy, well dressed Ghanaian kids and likening them to American kiddies. They pulled the same stunts I hadn’t seen in 8 months (Burkina village kids are the most hard working and gracious kids I think I’ve ever run across). Kids making a scene because they wanted an ice cream, bouncing along in the blow up slides and jungle gyms blue band had brought in screaming and dancing to the undoubtedly new American rap song (had no clue who was singing), and showing off what mommie or daddy just bought them from the circus-like venders at the event. There was the cuttest boy in a batman costume complete with mask with ears and gold belt holding on to dad’s hand. That’s something I surely thought I’d never see in africa.

Venders try to catch passengers' attention at the bus stop (junction )

Venders try to catch passengers' attention at the bus stop (Cape Coast junction )

10. Kakum National Park

Not to bore you guys too much, but Kakum was also such a spectacle given Ghana’s past century of tree exploitation. Because of Ghana’s growing population trends, booming mining industry, and reliance upon wood for cooking, forests in this country have been dramatically reduced. What was once 8 million sq ft of protected land in the 1920’s is now only 2 million sq km.  Admiring all these trees from there 40m high 300 m rope canopy l was pretty spectacular. We also spent the night in the forest on wooded platforms….very fun!

Canopy walkway at Kakum National Park

Canopy walkway at Kakum National Park

View from 45M up

View from 45M up

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