The Flavors and Sights of Ghana

Alex here for the Ghana team's next update.  As Adam wrote yesterday, we've mostly finished up with the work on the library at the EP Basic School in Ashaiman.  In taking advantage of our time here, we decided to do some travel around the country and get to know some other sides of Ghana.  But first, the food.

Ghana has quite a unique set of foods, many of which I had never eaten or even heard of before coming here.  Many of the meals consist of a malleable ball of some type of starch served with a stew.  One then tears off small pieces of the starch and scoops up some stew.  Almost everything is eaten with the hands.  The starch is generally Banku, Fufu or Omotuo, each of which are rather distinctive.  Fufu consists of crushed cassava, which is pounded until it looks somewhat like dough.  It is somewhat flavorless, so the flavor really depends on what stew you're eating.  Banku is similar, but is made of fermented cassava and corn, so it tastes somewhat like sourdough bread.  Finally, Omotuo is a compressed ball of white rice, which is eaten with the hands in the same way as Fufu and Banku.  Common stews include goat, okra, crushed nut (peanut), and palm nut.  In addition to this staple meal, other common food items are fried chicken, fried fish, fried plantains (sense a pattern here?), rice, and Red Red (which is something like a thick salsa made with black-eyed peas, onion, red pepper, and palm oil).  The food is good, and definitely different from anything that I've had before.  We've also enjoyed a number of snacks from street vendors, which carry around huge baskets or bowls of food on their head and walk on the road, selling to drivers and passengers in the passing cars.  We've tried thin, dry biscuits (delicious), plantain chips, meat pie (Jeremy liked this one, I decided to pass), coconut, and sugarcane.  It's been quite the culinary experience.

And now, the travel.  On Monday afternoon, after working on the library in the morning, we took a Tro Tro (a big van that runs kinda like a bus, but without any regular schedule or labeled routes) to a place called Shai Hills, which is about an hour drive from Ashaiman.  Fortunately we had one of our friends from the school, Sefa, to guide us.  We got there around 3 pm, and paid the entrance fee, which came with a personal guide included.  We hiked for about two hours, seeing some ostrich and baboons along the way.  The ultimate goal of our hike was a cave on the summit of one of the hills, which afforded an excellent view of the surrounding plains and the other hills.  It was gorgeous, and quite the climb.  On Wednesday afternoon, we also found ourselves free, but this time we took a rather different excursion.  Accompanied by Joy, the Pastor's son, we took a bus into Accra, and went to Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park.  Kwame Nkrumah was the first president of Ghana, and there was a museum dedicated to him at the park.  It was quite interesting and a great lesson on Ghana's history.  After that we briefly went to Independence Square, which is a large parade ground where many national events are held, before heading back home.

Thursday was our first real full day of travel.  Unfortunately the fact that we didn't know we'd have free time led to some last minute planning, so we got a rather late start.  However, we eventually got on the road around 9:30 or so.  Once again accompanied by Joy, and after making our way to Ashaiman to meet up with him, we rode on another Tro Tro for about two and a half hours into the Volta Region to go to a monkey sanctuary.  It was quite a long ride, and as soon as we got out of the Tro Tro on the side of the main road we were surrounded by young Ghanaians telling us to get on their motorcycles in order to take us the rest of the way to the sanctuary.  A brief consultation with Joy reassured us a bit that this was actually legit, so we were each taken on about a fifteen minute ride to the sanctuary site on the back of five different motorcycles.  After we got to the entrance, we found that there was another tour group arriving just after us.  Along with the other group, five German girls volunteering with their university, a guide took us into the sanctuary and we walked around until we came across one of the four tribes of monkeys living there.  He called out, and then handed us each a half banana.  If you held on tight, the monkeys would jump all over you in order to get to the banana.  Often they would stand on your forearm while eating the banana.  It was hilarious, and there are many pictures and a video to come.  After the motorcycle ride back to the main road, we and the Germans parted ways, us catching a Tro Tro back to Ashaiman and they heading further north for more adventures.

Finally, today was another exciting adventure.  While originally we planned to take a van of 8 on our journey, some last minute cancellations meant that we ended up hiring a regular car for the day.  Along with Seth (Sefa's brother and the assistant librarian at our library), Jeremy, Adam, and I (Jessica decided to sit this one out and take it easy today) drove up into the Central Region.  We first stopped at a Botanical Garden and saw some pretty cool plants.  In additon to an enormous tree that is at least 350 years old, we also saw star fruit, cinnamon, bay, coffee, cocoa, and nutmeg trees.  The cocoa was particularly meaningful, since Ghana is one of the world's largest Cocoa producers.  Afterward, we continued further into the Central Region to a small village to see Akaa Falls.  They were gorgeous, and we got some excellent pictures (which will certainly be uploaded once we're back in the States).  Another day, another adventure complete.

With that, we've arrived at the present.  We're only here for two more days, but we'll see what we can still manage.

Anyway, 'til next time.

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