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

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1 Comment

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