Tuesday, August 26, 2008

more lunch stories...

We normally bring a sandwich or last night's leftovers to work for lunch, as there's very little you can get locally that you can be confident about eating!

I'll sometimes send the driver out to get me something though... The omelette sandwiches are not too bad, or you can get some little donut-type things that are fairly nice. I've recently discovered fresh corn-on-the-cob which is lovely, and of course bananas, papaya, and avocados are cheap and readily available... (although you do have to be careful of the quantity. Soon after moving to Kumasi from Accra, before I had chance to get used to the cheaper prices up here, I gave one of the drivers 2 Ghana Cedis (about £1) and asked him to go and get 'a few bananas - for about six people' for a meeting we were having. Ten minutes later, he duly came back with a tray piled with about 20 bananas, with the same again left in the kitchen!)

So on Friday I sent the driver out to get some corn and a papaya, or pawpaw as they call it here. I came back toi my desk a little later to find the corn but no pawpaw, thought nothing of it, got in the car at the end of the day and my driver turned round with his sneaky little cheeky smile and pointed to the most enormous piece of fruit I have ever seen wedged between the seats!

Friday, August 22, 2008


Tony, the student who is working with us for six months, (and with whom I share an office) (and a house) came into the office yesterday after having been on site and asked me ‘have you seen what they’ve caught? It’s like a creature; I’ve not seen one before... like an armadillo or something’. Having been here for a year, I was fairly unimpressed – these random things tend to happen and unfortunately you get used to it! So, I just replied with ‘oh is it worth a look?’

Anyway, I wandered out, and indeed, there, hiding in a cement sack in the corner of the security hut, was a little, scaly, long tailed armadillo!

The security and some of the drivers were standing round, stopping it from escaping, and when I foolishly asked what they were going to do with it, they answered ‘they will chop it!’ Unfortunate, but true – chop meaning ‘to eat’! One of the foremen had caught it and was planning to take it home for his dinner – apparently they are sweet and tender...!

Our nurse, Agnes, who is as crazy as they come, asked me ‘Madame Aleeeeesss, have you chop one before?’ to which I almost yelled ‘NO! I have NOT chopped a flippin’ ARMADILLO before, at home we have those things in ZOOS, not on dinner plates!’

To me, it highlighted another difference in attitudes between us. I wanted to take a photo, and the guys were dragging the poor thing by it's tail to get it in a place where I could photo it. Then, when in sheer terror it curled up in a little ball they poked at it to try and make it un-curl! I tried to tell them to leave it alone, it was scared, but the concept of an animal being scared seemed alien. I guess they weren’t brought up on programmes like ‘The Really Wild Show’!

It was similar when our driver brought in a monkey to show us. They tied the monkey on a short leash to the fencing around the compound, and he seemed distressed – he was constantly running backwards and forwards, up and down the fence, at the full extent of the leash. Again, protests from me that it was ‘cruel’ just met with giggles.

It’s not the first time the attitude to animals surprised me. Often when I’m looking at a new creature someone will chase it and catch it for me to look at closer, or sometimes even just kill it if they think I am distressed by it! (Although when it comes to snakes, I can understand killing them!) There was an adorable little puppy at one of the houses the company was taking over – I was ‘coo-cooing’ at it, gently, and someone grabbed it and thrust it into my hands; meanwhile the puppy’s mum was going ballistic at my ankles!

This morning, I asked the foreman who had caught the armadillo if it he had eaten it, and he answered in the affirmative. I didn’t ask if it was smooth on the inside and crunchy on the outside...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Divine Inspiration...

I had a bit of a philosophical moment on the way into work this morning. Here in Ghana, it is the done thing to carry some kind of a slogan on the back of your vehicle, be it a tro-tro, a taxi, or an enormous articulated lorry. Often, these slogans have a religious edge to them, like ‘Trust in God’, or ‘still Jesus’, or, my all time favourite, ‘Jesus is my Lawyer’.

This morning we drove behind one I have seen before, a big cattle-wagon with it's hopeful slogan emblazoned diagonally across the back doors, in text reminiscent of an Olde-English-Circus performance. My ‘moment’ came when I realised when it was I saw it last.

It was around November time last year, soon after I had left Accra to live in Kumasi, leaving some friends I had made there, and was struggling to get used to life in Ghana’s very-second city, where I knew no-one my own age. What’s more, I had just been broken into in my house, and was struggling to cope with how relationships back home inevitably change when you move to the other side of the world!

Anyway, so on a particularly bad day my driver was driving me from work into the city to do some shopping for the houses we were setting up, and we came up behind this wagon, telling me that I should look for ‘Help from above’. Well, if I wasn’t already on the verge of tears, this pushed me there! I remember feeling silly that it took an old, falling apart truck wobbling along a half-dirt track in Ghana to give me hope that this venture of mine would turn out OK, and to remind me that I was not, and never would be, alone! I text a friend and her reply was ‘ha! I know – prophetic little suckers aren’t they?!’

So, this morning it got me thinking how different I am feeling now and how much has changed in those nine months. I’m settled here, I am used to life, used to all Ghana’s little frustrations, I know the city a little better, I know a few people. I still struggle, of course I do, I still miss having like-minded people around, but my attitude is so much more positive. I almost sometimes think ‘eh! Only a year left!’ and so much still left to see – how will I fit it all in?!

It also made me think how the most bizarre things can stop us in our tracks and make us count our blessings…!