Food

Let me state the obvious. The food here is different. What I hadn’t realized is how acclimated to the food I have become until I was talking to a friend on the phone and described my dinner. Later in the conversation I asked him how he was doing he said “My food is better.”

 

‘What was wrong with your food?” I asked.

 

He replied “Nothing it’s better than yours. No leaves or fish eyes!”

 

I had said I was having vaata jenta, leaf soup and fish. I mentioned picking out the fish eyes because Ghanaians often mash the whole fish into the leaf stew. I was just use to it.

 

First many of the ingredients are different.  The greens are leaves or kontumari.  The corn is not sweet but ferments easily. Fermented corn dough is used in many dishes here. Garden eggs are a bit bigger than an real egg. They are yellow and they are shaped like an eggplant. (There is a photo on m flickr account) They are a bit like an eggplant in texture but they have a stronger almost bitter flavor. There are some seeds, agushi i think, that are ground up into a flour and used to thicken stews. Although I recognize some of the fish the fish is usually dried or smoked or salted. Goat meat is very popular as well as bush meat. Bush meat is any wild animal like grasscutter or antelope etc. Papaya is one native fruit.  The yam are like no yams I have ever seen so i’ll put them here in different foods! And casava, I like boiled casava very nice texture and flavor. The snails here are huge, as big as my fist. They do not taste as slimey as the ones back home. Oh yes and palm nuts and shea nuts.

 

There are also many familiar foods here. Mango, pineapple, oranges, limes and lemons, banana and apples. But the apples are imported and I have not yet eaten them. Chicken, beef, and salmon are familiar sources of protein. Thank goodness there are tomatoes. The other vegetables are carrots, okru (okra),(flickr photo) onions, garlic, cabbage, american or green peppers, peppe or chili peppers,  potatoes, corn on the cob, string beans, lettuce and cucumbers. There is white rice. A whole array of beans can be found at most markets. There are also many kinds of flour, corn flour, wheat flour.  Many familiar spices like nutmeg, black pepper, salt, and others. One fresh fish are small small crabs. they are no bigger than the palm of my hand. I will have to watch a Ghanaian eat them to figure out where the meat is!

 

Preparation of the food is very different.  My sisters in Suhyen cooked on a coal pot, used a grinding bowl and long metal hooks to help them cook. The coal pot is a stove. It’s black metal.  The base is a cube with one side open and the top open but covered with a grate. Four pieces of metal extend out and up from the sides of the base making the cradle for the coal. The shreaded shells of the palm nut (as kindling) are put in the base of the coal pot. Coal is put on top with small small palm nut kindling. The kindling is full of oil so they light quickly and burn long enough to get the coals going. The kindling is help along with a fan. My sisters would wave the fan so fast to make the fire burn hot and once the coals started to catch they would wave even faster! Finally the coals are going and they set the pot right on top of the coals.

 

The grinding bowl is wood and has ridges about a quarter of an inch apart all on the bottom and sides. There is an hour glass shaped pestle.  Each end fits nicely in the palm of a hand. I have seen my sisters and the girls at school use this grinding bowl and pestle to puree tomatoes, steamed garden eggs, garlic etc. It works as well as a blender if and this is a big if If you have the skill necessary to do it. I watch them and it looks like they are doing this elaborate dance along the sides and bottom of the bowl with the pestle and the food. It’s very cool. I will learn.

 

Many foods like fufu, banku and tee zed are stirred.  The home sized pot that they are cooked in has a handle on either side. the long metal hooks are hooked around the handles then the other end is placed on the ground. My teacher, Agatha, then sat on a stool in front of those two metal hooks and put each foot on one. when she did this the pot tipped just enough so she could then stir the tee zed.

 

Fufu, banku, kenke, tee zed and rice balls are all big sources of carbohydrates. Yam in the south and casava in the north are also carbs. These are often served with a stew. It’s not really a stew like we imagine but rather a mixture of greens, veggies and oils. The veggies are pureed in the grinding bowl then cooked in the oil with the greens. The meat or fish is cooked over the coals then put beside the carb and the stew is in the bottom of the dish. Sometimes the fish is smashed up into the stew like the example in the beginning of this blog.  If you go to a chop bar and you order one kind of carb, the kind of stew and what meat or fish you want. The stews are kuntumari, ground nut, palm nut, and light soup here in the south.  This can be eaten with hands. Amazingly Ghanaians and older PCVs can eat all the stew with their hands and scooping with the carb.  I cannot do that yet so i use a spoon to finish my soup.

 

I have also had kenke with tomatoes and onions cut up or rice with the same and some fish. I will mix my veggies and fish into my rice. I eat the kenke by taking a piece of Kenke in my right hand and adding some tomato and onion then eating it all.

 

Beans are also popular.  I have had the PCV favorite of red red. It’s beans in palmnut oil which is red and fried plantains which are red somehow!  It’s very good and not too spicy!  There is also waachi which is beans and rice with meat or egg.  Chicken and rice is often served to us when we go to a dignitaries or for special occasions. There are fast food and they have jollof and fried rice. You can get either with egg or meat. The fried rice is really not like American chinese fried rice it’s more Ghanaian chinese! Last night my fried rice had cut up hot dogs or what the Ghanaians call sausage.

 

What I crave the most are veggies. The Ghanaians eat veggies but not very much at one time and often they are pureed in a stew. It’s nutritious for sure but I miss the taste and texture of individual veggies. Even when they are not pureed there is very little veggie to carb. For example, on my last night my sister, Portia, made me spagetti.  A large bowl of pasta, some oil on it and garlic and onions. Then cut very small and scattered through out the pasta were specks of orange, green and red – carrot, american pepper and tomato. It was tasty. I am not complaining but just explaining. I think veggies are expensive to buy compared to the carbs so they use them sparingly. And I think in their active lifestyle they burn a lot of carbs.   Even cooking and washing clothes takes much more energy than we use and add to that the fact that they walk a lot more than we do and that farm work is very labor intensive you get people who need carbs.

 

I will continue to eat Ghanaian food and enjoy it but I will also be happy to be cooking for myself and eating more veggies.

-vc

 

 

At the KSO – 20 Aug 2008 – 24 Aug 2008

 

Today and for a few days I am at the KSO in transit from training to my site. I have a boil on my left butt cheek and traveling is not much fun at all so the PCMO said I could rest here for a few days. I’ll describe the KSO.  It is a walled gated home. That is not so unusual in Ghana. The middle class and upper class all have walled and gated homes and even the lower class their homes are around a central courtyard with a locked gate into the central courtyard. Still it feels a little elite.  The grounds are beautiful. I am sitting in a screened gazebo. There is a cool breeze coming in and birds are singing. There are lizards running around and the larger ones are doing their spontaneous push ups, a quick check of all parimeters then run off routine. I have even seen a couple of butterflies. There are concrete paths through a somewhat grassy lawn. It’s the rainy season. I assume there is no lawn during the dry season. The trees are big and shady. Someday I will know their names, I hope.

 

You enter the house through a large screened porch. The porch has a sofa and many chairs. then you enter the main house and there is a suken part to the livingroom. The very large sectional sofa is there as well as the dining table. The kitchen has two refridgerators. One freezer is filled with ice cubes. oh baby yes ice cubes! I have been drinking ice cold water for two days now. There is also a stove with an oven and a sink with running water. Mike the PCVL*, has his own room and bathroom.  We have two rooms to share. I am in the sickbay. Where is Mr. Spock when I need him?  It has two large double beds and then there are mats that people can spread around. I slept on a mat last night with two people in the beds and three people on the floor.  There is no air conditioning in the sickbay which is why  I like it. Air conditioning bothers me more now than it did in the states. And the best of all we have two bathrooms and two count them two showers. real live showers.

 

Mike, the PCVL, is very laid back. He makes everyone feel welcome when they arrive and then pretty much leaves us alone. But somehow in his laid back style he manages to run a tight ship. It’s quiet at night and the place is pretty clean. The place is very restful. It is a nice break between training and moving to site.

 

-vc

19 Aug 2008 – Swearing in Ceremony

Today on the 50th year and 9th month anniversary of my birth, I swore my oath to become a PCV. PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER!  I have survived many hours of boring and loooong training sessions. I have also enjoyed many sessions. Laughed with trainers and other trainees, now PCVs. I have moved 6 times. Traveled to at least 5 cities or towns in Ghana. I have used tro tros, PC vehicals,  line cars, taxies, and state buses to travel around. Eaten fofo, snails, dried and salted fish and tons of chicken and rice. I have even had a Coke or two. I have greet people  in my neighborhoods. I have corrected children Yen fremay obruni ya fremay auntie vicky. They do not call me white man, they call me Auntie vicky.  As the above twi shows I  can’t spell in twi but I have at last found a langage I can spell in – Buili.

 

The sense of joy I feel today is close to euphoria.  I am happy to have my life back. It was very hard to be a student again. The days were long and I never felt that I had enough time to do a good job on any project I had to do. It feels great to have all that training behind me. and even better to have setting up my new home, meeting my new neighbors and market ladies, and starting my teaching duties ahead of me.

 

The swearing in ceremony was beautiful. Our trainers worked late into the night on Monday and got up very early on Tuesday to decorate the stage and the audience area. It made me feel like they were really proud of us. The program started on time not Ghana time either but on the stated time. We had the US ambassador there, District education director from Koforiduia, Ghana district and even the local police chief. Many press were there. We had speeches of course.  Joe B and Mary announced our sites. We all walked and received our certificates of completion. Grace hugged me and Suhyen cheered loudly for all their homestay volunteers. Then those of us who wanted to said something in our new languages. I sang a song Taa Maaa Chabbe. It means we help each other. Then the best thing of all the  PCV dance troupe made up of people from my group. If I did not have the boil I would have been in there dancing with the rest of them. That was probably my biggest disappointment of training that after all the practice I could not do the traditional dance. NEXT TIME I WILL! Whenever and whereever that is.

 

We were served a box lunch of rice and chicken. We ate with our host families. Then the ceremony was over.  Lenore and I got back to       our room and said “Wow we have a whole afternoon to ourselves. Let’s take a nap!”  I think the 50+ crowd adds a new dimension to Peace Corps activities nap time!

 

I did it. I made it through this first part. The PCVRFs told us that training is the most difficult and that as hard as it is to become part of the community, to teach and to live in a new culture at least you are more in control of what you do and how you do it.

 

Watch out Sandema here I come!

 

-vc

Northern Ghana Birth Traditions – 22 July 08

Today Agatha and I talked about birth traditions in the North.  It all started because my language book asked me for a greeting at the naming ceremony and I didn’t really remembere one. Agatha, my language and culture teacher, took the opportunity to tell me all about the birth traditions.

 

When the female relatives of a woman notice she is pregnant they greet her one morning just outside her bedroom door and blow ash in her face.  It is to assure a safe birth. Agatha says it’s amazing how well these women can tell when it’s time for the pregnant woman to give birth. About 2 weeks before she is to give birth they call her mother. The woman lives with her husbands family so they call the mother to come be with her daughter. At that time the husband moves out of the bedroom and the mother sleeps with her pregnant daughter.  The in-laws call for the mother because they think that there are things a woman can only talk to her mother about.

 

The pregnant woman’s mother will talk to her daughter during the two weeks to learn how the pregnancy went and she will decide if they need a birth attendant or if the women of the house can see to the birth.  If the pregnant woman had a difficult pregnancy then the traditional birth attendant will be called.  Agatha says women often give birth just squatting down and pushing out the baby.

 

After birth only very near relatives and very good friends can visit for 2 weeks. The visit must be short. They believe if a woman talks too much after birth it is not good for her. The new mother does not leave the room except to take care of her bodily functions.  Her mother remains in the bed with her and at night. In the night after the new mother feeds the baby the grandmother takes the baby and cares for it and gets it back to sleep. Thus the new mother gets the rest she needs.

 

Baby boys remain in the room for 3 months. And baby girls remain in the room for 4 months. The room is kept warm by a portable fireplace.  This helps the baby get strong enough to face the elements.

 

Up until the time the baby can leave the room they are called the stranger. On the morning when the baby is going to leave the room someone gets up very early and goes to the soothsayer to give the baby it’s name. Then in the crossroads the person crosses three sticks for a boy and four sticks for a girl.  He pours ash on the sticks and says “You are a stranger no more. You have decided to stay with us. We name you…..”

 

In the North names are often chosen to represent and event in the parent’s life or after a family member but the parents must go to the village priest to be sure the name is the right name. As well as the name Agatha, Agatha was also given a name that means ‘Let them come, I forgive them.” This name represents her father’s feelings about someone who had done him harm in the past. 

 

There are many good reasons for these traditions. I remember my mom taking Rebecca after the 1:00 am feeding and tending her while John and I slept. It was very good to get some sleep right after giving birth. The new mother staying in the room for 2 weeks is also a good way for her to recover and get some needed rest. and as nice as it is to introduce the new baby to family and friends a couple of weeks grace period sounds good to me! The new mom and baby will not get over tired.

 

Naming after three or four months just makes sense because of the high infant mortality rate. It sure made my heart sink when Agatha said they called the baby a stranger and then said at the time of naming little stranger you have decided to stay with us.  Keeping the baby in for 3-4 months also shows concern about infant mortality.

Oh Peace Corps Why?! 08 August 08

Personal note first: Mom thanks for the care package with the pencils, erasers, candy and the Pedro bobble head. I know how hard it was for you to buy red sox memorabilia! I made peppermint tea from some of the candy you sent. Have shared and will share the rest with other PCTs and local kids. thanks bunches!

 

Today was a very very frustrating day. I don’t know if I have mentioned much about the actual training I am going through.  Monday through Thursdays we have technical and language sessions for 4 – 6 hours through out the day in our homestay towns. So we get a break between sessions. Language, at least, is fun!  Friday and Saturdays we come together at the hub site and we all have sessions together. It’s two very long days of sitting in plastic lawn chairs listening and talking, listening and talking oh yes and waiting and waiting.

 

First frustration. Bank application forms. One of our tasks to do on site visit was to get bank application forms. I was not able to get mine because of delays with the bus. I decided to get my forms on the way home since my bank would be in a town 1 hour away. I really didn’t want to travel there using up half a day or more of my short site visit. But as things do go here my bus into the larger town was late so I had to rush to make my next connection and could not go to the bank. I of course stressed out about not doing all my assigned tasks. I worried that the PC could not open an account for me with out the forms. Other people said that they had a hard time getting the bank to give them the form. A couple of people had to go back twice.

 

So today at the start of the sessions we were asked to fill out a list with our names, the bank and the location of the bank. I kept quiet about the forms but someone else said “Do we hand you our forms with the list?” oh we don’t need forms just the bank and the location. Big up roar. Trainees right and left saying “but our TDA (Trainee Directed Activity) said to get forms.” Trainers “no it did notl It said only to get the bank and the branch location.”  back and forth back and forth. I am not sure we ever convinced the trainers but I am convinced because I looked at the TDA and it said get the bank application forms. For once I didn’t do what I was supposed to and I didn’t get bitten in the butt!

 

Today we, of course. debriefed our site visits. Debriefing is huge in Peace Corps. We had six flip chart papers hanging around the summer house.  Each paper was a different topic about our site visit. How was the journey? What surprised you? How did your language help you? etc. We all put a few words up at on each paper then two trainers read our responses. They asked up to elaborate on some of the responses. This took 2 plus hours.

 

In the review three people said either they were surprised that the people at their site didn’t speak the language they were learning or a very small percentage of people spoke the language. They were basically told oh yes the people there do speak the language you were taught. The beaurocratic mind at work. If Washington says this area speaks so and so language then the area does speak that language dispite reports to the contrary from the field!

 

Then we had a snack of biscuits and juice box. Today I got the sweet biscuits instead of the cracker like biscuits. It made the morning!

 

Then language for 2 hours. I prepared for my language test. We have been hearing about this test for weeks. And given pep talks assuring us we will pass it. Its a very big deal. Its the one thing that can keep you from going to site. Again this is a sign of the beaurocracy in Washington that runs the Peace Corps since as teachers in Ghana to do our main job we will speak english. I am highly motivated to learn the local langauge and will. Those who are not highly motivated to learn the local language will memorize the correct phrases to pass the language test then never get beyond that. Passing a test does not indicate that the PCT will continue learning the language.

 

Lunch for at least one hour and a half. It’s a good time to catch up with the people who have homestays in other towns. This week there was a ton of sharing about our site visits. The consensus is that we are al READY to live on our own. Set our own schedule. Cook our own food. Basically settle in somewhere.

 

When lunch unexplainably goes beyond the hour and a half we do begin to get antsy. We have so little unscheduled time that it’s frustrating when the scheduled time bleeds into our unscheduled time. We also have so much studying to do that even our unscheduled time isn’t exactly free. Add to that the fact we have to find time to hand wash clothes. Take at least one most likely two bucket baths a day. And we want to visit with our homestay families as well with each other. So we really don’t have much time to ourselves.

 

When we complained that Peace Corps often wastes our time. A PCV  said “Peace Corps will waste your time less than anyone else in Ghana.” Oh well.

 

After lunch today we had a nutrition session. Trainers laid out local foods. It was surprising how many were familiar to us. They briefly described the foods then let us come around and ask questions about preparation etc. This went on for two hours but actually at the end of one hour everyone was pretty much finished asking questions so we sat around until after 4:00.

 

At 4;20 we are called together again. It has been raining all day and I actually had goosebumps I was so cold.  My feet were tired from sitting. My butt was tired from sitting. And I really felt like I could not absorb another idea. Lotsu, education training leader, tells us that tomorrow we will be having the technical proficiency interviews. The groups are on the board and we will be graded on these things. I said “What! I never heard anything about this exam and grading etc.!”  Remember I said previously how much they have talked about the language test. On our schedule it says technical proficiency interviews. I imagined interviews like the ones we had for mid term evaluation. Grace finally said maybe you should tell them the areas this test will cover. So he did. I admit it. I am type A all the way when it comes to tests. I want to prepare at least two or three days ahead of time. I want to ace it. So telling me at 4:30 the afternoon before I have a test at 8:00 am the next morning puts me over the edge just a bit. FYI I was not the only one to be surprised that this was a graded test. I think everyone but the trainers was surprised.

 

Then he went on to Monday and Tuesday’s events. I again raised my hand and asked  a question. No one had covered cooking from 3:00 – 6:00 on Saturday. So I wanted to know  about it.  When we got to it we are supposed to cook something using ingredients found in Ghana. We will also be graded on this. The time is changed to sunday 11:00 – 2:00 because the other time was family cooking time. They will give us money to buy ingredients. Then judge us on four categories. etc. And we have to haul stuff to one location and all people in my town will cook together. So we will haul coal pot stoves, utensiles, food etc. Many of us have not even fanned a coal pot stove let alone cook on one!

 

I wish if Peace Corps were going to surpise us with something that they would do it in the morning when I not so tired and cranky!

 

But what I think happened today is that we had a taste of managing our own time and lives and it was hard to come back to training. i remember coming home from college and adjusting to living in my parents house with their rules. Even though my parents didn’t have tons of rules for me I had been on my own and it was hard to be  a child again. On site visit we got a taste of what it would be like to be a Peace Corps Volunteer and it was very hard to come back and be a Peace Corps Trainee again.

 

So I went to the For You Chop Bar/Spot tonight with the rest of the gang. Drank orange Fanta. Oh Fanta is big here in Ghana. They have  lemon Fanta I have not seen in the US. I ate some chop and played cards.  I had a full tummy. I had a few laughs while playing cards. So now I can almost believe that the frustrations of training are part of a master plan to make us want to move on to become PCVs.

Return to Suhyen 07 Aug 08

It is raining so hard right now I can barely think well enough to create blog entries. The rain is so wild it thrills me to listen to it.

 

I am back home in Suhyen.  My welcome made me feel sad  because I will be leaving here soon but what a welcome. Of course, as I came into town the news spread that I was back. The kids were all at my house with hugs and greetings. When my sister Esther saw me she gave me a huge hug. And Sissy came over and hugged me and started talking Twi so fast I couldn’t make out one word! Luckily Mary was there and she translated that Sissy was saying at night when she hadn’t seen me all day she was sad. Shy Irene came home from Kofo and brought me chicken and rice. I gave her a hug. And Portia was home for a visit as well so we are all here now.  Even Bright, the 13 year old boy, gave me a hug.

 

At least the training site is here and I can visit my family and friends here when I come to for other training. And maybe next year I can be a trainer and stay in Suhyen for the weeks that I train. But I will miss these people who have made me so much a part of their lives.

 

Yesterday when I left Sandema Dixie said that I could go and she would share me. Children here are much freer than children in America. Dixie knows the whole school compound and she was my tour guide while I was there. Parents do not worry about kidnapping or their child getting lost. I think because all adults take responsibility for raising the kids of the community. If an adult sees a child do something wrong they correct them and the parents thank them for it. People asked Dixie where we were going and when we would be back. They just look out for each other. I remember being a kid in Madison and going around the town much more than I would have let my kids roam 20 years later. Dixie and the kids in Ghana remind me of that.  And the older kids also pay attention to the youngsters.

 

There is a great deal here in Ghana. In the USA it would cost at least 8.50 to ride a thrill ride with dips and fast curves and bellly flipping drops and fast stops. The ride in the US would last at best 20 minutes for that price. Well in Ghana for 8.50 GH Cedis you can have a thrill ride like that for 8+ hours!  I was sitting in the very back seat of a large public bus. I felt like a flapjack being flipped up off a griddle. The  people sitting next to me did not have much english. I did not have any of their language because they spoke neither Twi or Buili. Yet when we hit one huge pothole that sent us at least 6 inches into the air we looked at each other and started to laugh out loud.

 

About 2:00 pm the bus started to feel like a sauna. It had rained and even with the windows open it was very hot. The Ghanian in front of me was wearing a camo athletic shirt with some  ventilation holes in it. I could see he had on a tank under it. Well as it’s getting saunalike he removes the camo shirt. I think to myself, at last a Ghanaian is getting hot. He leans down to put his shirt away in his back pack. Oh no he hasn’t put it away and he’s putting it back on. No it’s not the camo athletic shirt it a camo fleece hoodie. He is actually  putting on a fleece hoodie in the middle of the afternoon in the middle of a hot crowded bus with no air conditioning. I could not believe it!  Later about 5:00 I look down the bus and see at least 6 Ghanians wearing hoodies.

 

Many Ghanaians rode the bus standing up. We all had a seat. I think one reason was because of all the bumps and jostling that goes on when you sit. I also noticed that they like to comment to other drivers or to encourage the driver to do this or that. Again because there are so many different languages I did not understand much of the words but the sentiments are common the world round!  As I listened to one group discussion when the driver stopped to help another bus driver with a problem I remembered the statement in one book I read “Ghanaian are loud and boisterous. They enjoyed a heated debate!” it’s true!

 

 

Glossary

Hey everyone I added a glossary of Peace Corps acronyms. Check it out.

Peanut butter and banana sandwiches

The last monday of July I was walking back from a cultural class. I was thinking about lunch and saw groundnut paste in the market. The groundnut paste comes in small sandwich size plastic baggies.  The paste is squeezed into one corner of the baggie.  It is tied and the whole package looks like a miniature icing tube.  To use the paste you cut the corner off and squeeze it out the hole.  Yes I have made smiley faces on my bread in the morning. so sue me!

 

When I saw the groundnut paste I got the craving for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. There is no jelly in Suhyen and no honey but there are bananas so I decided to buy the fixings for groundnut paste and banana sandwiches.  As I walked by the fish sellers in the market the first lady asked me what I had and where I was going. Part of being in a Ghanaian community is the common question where are you going? Often your answer is followed by advice on how to get there or at least a wish that you will go and come quickly!  I told them that I was going home to make peanut butter and banana sandwiches. I asked if they knew what that was and they didn’t. So I mimed cutting bread, spreading PB and slicing bananas on it then making the sandwich.

 

The next group of fish sellers included my sister Esther. She asked the same thing. I repeated the pantomime. One of this group said Oh I would love to try that!  I had a whole loaf of bread that I would not eat in three days and many bananas so I said I will go and come and bring some back.

 

I made about 7 sandwiches. Cut them in half. I decided to eat half of a sandwich before I brought out the rest, just for insurance. I put a napkin on a tray. Placed the sandwiches on the napkin and then covered them with a dish towel. I carried my tray to the market. They were a hit. I ran out of sandwiches long before I ran out of people who wanted to try them. 

Site Visit – First Days 04 Aug 2008

First Days Sandema – Site Visit  04 Aug 08

 

I arrived in Sandema at 10:00 pm Friday Aug 1st.  We traveled for at least 14 hours and it felt like 28! Riding on public transportation in Ghana is like riding the wooden roller coaster at Lake Compounce in Connecticut.

 

Saturday I recovered and had a small case of Ghana tummy. I think it was mostly the traveling. But Sunday was a whole different story.  Dixie is 5 years old. She is the Perpetua’s daughter. I am living in part of their house until my house is ready.  Any way after I did my laundry I went outside and Dixie found me. I asked if she wanted to go for a walk and she agreed. We had not gone far when I greeted some school girls out side mashing nions using a large     wooden mortar and pedstal. They told me that they were cooking for a party that afternoon. They asked me to sit and they would show me how they cooked.

 

Their house, Azantilow house, was having a get together that afternoon. They had been planning it most of the term. Their housemaster, Morris,  had been to my house earlier in the morning to invite me to the party. I said yes!  The girls had bought two goats and had them butchered. They were preparing steamed then fried goat meat with rice and cabbage salad. The onions were being mashed to give the meat flavor while it was steamed. 

 

I sat for about two hours with the girls. My side kick Dixie there with us as well. It started to rain and I wanted to pull in my laundry. With a promise to return and go to the kitchen with the girls, Dixie and I ran off. I pulled down my laundry and got it hung in the spare room.

 

Then I walked out to Perpetua’s store and visited with her for a bit. Her husband Kampusi, is the head housemaster at the school. She not only has a store but also bakes bread. A lot of bread! When she is baking bread the air smells delicious! It was nice to be able to sit and get to know her a little.

 

Then Dixie and I decided to go back and see what was going on with the cooking. While we ere gone they had pureed tomatoes using the mortar and pedstal as well. Now The girls were just about ready to go over to the school kitchens to cook the meat and the rice. They carried everything, including a 50 lb bag of rice, on their heads. 

 

At the kitchen they organized large pots and two places to heat them. One was a metal ring with legs about 8-10 inches high. the pot sat on the ring and the coals and wood are on the ground under the pot. The other place for the pot was made of mud and clay. It was a hollow hill. The hill was flat and open on top. One fourth of the hill had been taken away so it looked like a c when i looked down upon it. this was also 8-10 inches high. The girls took hot coals from the other fires in the kitchen. Pulled some rather long dried branches over and stuck the ends under the pot. The rest of the branch stuck out at least 2 feet. The branches were about 3-5 inches in diameter.  Then they added some kindling and fanned the coals until the branches caught fire.  The branches burned slowly. The girls just pushed them under the pots as they burned away. Maybe a foot of each branch burned.

 

They steamed the meat first. They put small small water in one of the pots, the mashed onions and some salt. They were very concerned because they had heard that Americans

don’t eat much salt. I told them not to worry I have been sweating so much since I have been here I need all the salt I can get.  They laughed and laughed at that.

 

After the meat was steamed they drained it and mixed it with a variety of spices. I could not tell what they were. Then they deep fried the meat. The Ghanaians cook meat just like I like it very very well done!  But this meat was yummy. It was crispy on the outside with interesting spices and moist on the inside. Goat meat is pretty good. But please don’t expect me to eat the hide. Ghanians do and enjoy it.

 

As the girls were getting the two pots ready to make the tomato sauce for the rice i felt a cool breeze.  I looked up into the sky and could literally see the storm clouds rushing towards us.

Everyone said “Run to the dining hall.” 

 

I was thinking what’s the big deal I’ll just stay under this lean to where the girls are cooking. One of the girls grabbed my arm and said

 

“Madam Chase, the rain is coming come this way.”

 

I made it to the dining hall just in time. Boy can it rain here. Buckets is an understatement.

 

“Bring the white lady in here” someone said.

 

Cynthia brought a chair into the kitchen workers room and I sat with them and the girls home economics teacher. Angie, the home ec teacher, had her two children with her. The baby was just seven months old. Angie was cutting the peppers, and onions for the cabbage salad so I offered to help while it rained. We chatted while we worked and I found out that Angie has a catering business. Her other son is 4 years old. You know girl talk. Morris, the house master who invited me to the party, came into the ktichen. He was astonished that I was helping prepare the meal I was invited to eat! We had a good laugh.

 

The girls borrowed my umbrella and ran in and out of the rain to try to keep the time table for the meal. When the rain finally stopped they had two pots of a thin tomato sauce boiling. It looked like they had added chicken Maggie, the boulion here, and peppe (hot pepper) to the sauce. 

 

They then had a serious discussion about quantity over quality. I was not sure why until they brought more rice that the kitchen had donated to them. Some of the girls were concerened because they did not know the quality of the rice the ktichen donated.  In the end the need to feed many people decided the question and both types of rice were used. The rice was poured into the tomato sauce and set to boil.

 

Dixie kept asking for a piece of meat and I realized we had been there a long time. It was 2:00 p.m. when I checked my cell phone. So I took Dixie and we headed home. All the way home Dixie was talking about what she was going to have her mother make her for lunch. She never did get a piece of that meat. When we arrived home Perpetua had lunch ready for us.

 

The party was scheduled for three but I knew that it would be late because the cooking was not done by 2;00 when we left. So I decided to take a nap.

About 4:00 I went to find Dixie and ask if she would like to go to the party. She was all over it but of course had to change her clothes.  She came out of her house in the most beautiful miniature fancy dress ever.  It was blue and gold. A top with puff sleeves and a long skirt. She had on high heels. She was a cute as could be. So me and my little princess headed over to the new dining hall for a party.

 

Due to the fact that I now live in Africa I had no bad feeling about getting to the party 1 hour late. And I was right. It had not even started yet and did not begin until after 5:00 p.m. There was a nice program. Speeches, music, drumming and dancing, a song, modern dance and a meal.  Morris gave the vote of thanks and told the story of finding me cutting onions in the ktichen during the rain storm.  About 8:00 p.m. the real party was startiing. No more serious speeches, dinner was eaten so the dancing started.  I had one dance with the students I knew but then felt Dixie and I needed to go home to bed! I thanked all the girls who cooked and took my little princess home. Of course I did not know where I was going but a student lead us home and carried Dixie part of the way.

 

Bucket bath.

 

and Sweet sweet sleep. With a ceiling fan in my room! This is the life!

 

-vc

18 Jul 08

Slowly and steadily I am learning Buli. Buli had so many words and phrases that are fun to say. Ti li man ziggi chab.  Tikiti.  zum. And as blunt as the sotherners are about their bathroom needs the Bulsa are very descrete. You say “I will throw water.”  Mi li basi nyiem. On the other hand they are not so descrete because if you are on a long tro tro journey and need to throw water you can stop the driver any time by yelling from your place in the bus
“Ma saalim, Drive, mi li basi nyiem!”  Then he says yes and you get out and find a place to hide most of your self and throw your water! 

 

The thing I am having the most trouble with is the placement of verb, adverb, adjective and article.  In English you say The blue hat in French you say The hat blue and in Buli you say Hat blue the.  And instead of saying “my father’s name is Ben” you say “My father his name is Ben.”  I often forget a pronoun here or there or say blue hat instead of hat blue. 

 

My teacher and my friend, (Mi ticha ali mi n dua) Agatha is amazing. Languages are to her like computers are to me. She speaks 16 northern Ghana languages. And all the wonderful things my co-workers have said about my teaching apply to her’s. She is patient. She makes learning fun. Even making mistakes is fun. Yesterday she had me come to her house to make Saab.  Saab is similar to Fufu or Banku. It’s made from corn flour and water and cooked on the stovetop. It looks like a mound of uncooked bread dough but tastes smooth and warm. You eat all three with soup (jenta) of various kinds.  Last night was vaata ali yum jenta,  Leaves and fish soup.  There were also onions, garlic and tomatoes in the soup. People in the north eat a lot of leaves because they do not have many other greens.

 

I have progressed to making my own sentences in Buli. Peace Corps does not teach us like we learned language in school with grammer and parsing verbs. We learn phrases and some vocabulary. I have only had about 30 minutes of grammar. What happens is that i figure out the grammar like the noun, adjective and article arrangement.  Or I notice a particular word in many phrases and figure out it is an article. Agatha gives me tons of vocabulary. I have vocabulary for greetings, for traveling, for talking about myself and others, for cooking and tomorrow shopping vocabulary.

 

So just this week I have figured out enough about sentence construction to create very simple original sentences.  On Tuesday morning I had all my sentences to try out on Agatha. Simple things like how did you sleep? what did you eat this morning? How is your house? etc. 

 

What has also won my heart with Agatha is that we play games to reinforce my lessons. So much fun.

 

Agatha and I are both Tuesday born. As I said before people often have an name based on the day of the week they are born. Usually it’s a name the family uses and they also have an English name as well. People who are born on the same day of the week feel like it makes a bond between them. Agatha and I certainly are developing a bond. I think I would say she is my first African friend.

 

 

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