I’m back! Ok, I’ve been back from Ghana for a little while, but I caught a cold during my two LONG flights home so I’ve been cuddled up and hiding out with hubby. Now I’m back in action, answering emails, working on albums and yes, posting more photos from Ghana.
Several people have told me they want to “hear about my trip” but until now, I’ve been at a loss as to what to say. How do I describe, in a few words, a four-week trip during which I was working and living like a local in a country like nothing I’d experienced before? Oh sure, there were parallels to my prior travels. The weather in Ghana reminded me of Florida. The economic disparity reminded me of St Lucia: huge, gated homes or resorts situated next to shacks without water or electricity.
Ghana is a land of interesting juxtapositions. As just one example, it sits along the world’s second-largest ocean but lacks an adequate water supply (desalination plants are expensive, after all). Shortly after I arrived, I compiled a list of my random observations and, to my surprise, they’ve held up, so here they are for you:
- Ghana is greener than I’d expected. Of course, the rainy season just ended. Later in the dry season (January-March), I hear it will be browner and drier.
- There is a lot of smoke in the air. Smoke is the first thing I noticed upon de-planing in Accra. They burn trash here, so I see a fire on most days.
- People — both men and women — can carry an amazing quantity of goods on their heads and they rarely drop anything. I have seen people carrying all of the following at one time or another: a four-foot-wide platter with family dinner; a 3ft wide x 4ft tall bag of bottles; hundreds of belts strapped together on the way to market; and a variety of food items for sale. Yep, that’s right, you can buy lunch right off someone’s head. I’ve had plantain chips, hard-boiled eggs with pepe sauce, meat pies, bofrut (fried dough balls), peanut brittle (better than ours), water sachets and fan ice (frozen treats) this way. Below, a cloth merchant in Edumafa.
- Animals are everywhere. Just like in Key West, FL, chickens are free range, and so are goats, sheep and all other livestock. Animals here are generally much smaller than we’re used to. Cats look perpetually like kittens, dogs are small- to medium-sized, goats are knee-high, etc.
- People hang out on the street at all times of day. Children wander and play. There’s a general feeling of safety, as a result.
- There are huge ditches on either side of the road, some taller than me. They serve a variety of purposes: People throw trash in them, urinate in them… If you’re not careful, you can fall down in one and get covered in all kinds of surprises (I know someone to whom this happened — fortunately not me!).
- When driving, people tailgate, wait until the last minute to slam on their brakes, honk a lot and make additional lanes when necessary. If you’re calm and just trust that all will be well, it is.
- Ghanaians are devoutly religious, mainly Christian in the south and Muslim in the north. They also generally have a great sense of humor and irreverence about it, however, naming their businesses things like God Gives Electronics, Jesus Loves Cocktails and In God We Trust Marble Sellers (all true business names).
- Funerals are more noteworthy and larger celebrations than weddings. These multi-day celebrations have music, dancing, and everyone with any remote connection to the deceased expects to be invited. And the caskets are something to behold: gold-plating, disco-ball mirrored sides and Cadillac styling. Below, funeral announcements posted for all to see:
A funeral weekend starts on Thursday or Friday as local women bring gifts for the family. Celebrants generally wear black and red:
Some of the women get down to the band’s accompaniment:
- Ghanaians don’t have a lot of greens in their diet. Typical meals consist of beans and plantains; light soup with a starch (ground cassava and plantain in the case of fufu); or rice with sauce. Below, my fondly remembered fufu in light soup. You eat it by grabbing some fufu, making a thumb print in the dough-like substance, filling the valley with soup and swallowing. Yes, you dip your fingers in hot soup!