As I settle into my life here in Accra, I realise that one of the best things about living here, (and which can sometimes drive you crazy!) are the endless surprises! As my Ghanaian friends say, Ghana is the country full of surprises! Most of these are nice surprises, such as when a stranger on the tro tro decides they would like to pay for your trip, or strike up a conversation about your nail polish or something out the window, or when you get power at your home unexpectedly (this is very rare!) The other day, as I was walking home I was met by a herd of cows who were grazing on the sidewalk… I looked around. Where on earth did these cows come from? In the middle of this residential area? Although I was slightly scared of these large animals as I walked around them, they did not bat an eyelid as I carried on down the street. Best not to ask too many questions!
I am constantly surprised by the friendliness and generosity of the Ghanaian people. From Maxwell in my office sharing his mango with me, to being invited to sit with the lady outside my work selling bananas under her sun umbrella after me saying ‘medassi’ (thank you in Twi), being offered lifts to work by my neighbours who are heading that way, and complete strangers helping me cross the mad mad mad Ghanaian roads, their loveliness is always such a nice surprise.
The other evening, I decided to explore the neighbourhood at dusk by going for a jog… As I started out, I attracted the occasional stare from passers-by, or shouts of ‘Obrunie!’ (white man), people saying hello, how are you – these things happen every day here, especially if you are a white girl! As I continued down the road, I turned up the volume on my ipod so all I could hear were the beats coming from my headphones. As I neared the end of the road, my sixth sense told me to turn around, and I realised that three small boys were running after me at break neck speed, determined to catch up with me! I said hello, and asked for their names, and if they wanted to run with me. I didn’t catch their names (they spoke so quietly, and my Twi is really not up to scratch!) but it didn’t matter. Off we went. The smallest boy must have been only 5 years old, but that did not mean he could run any less fast than his brothers! So the four of us jogged around the block again, chatting about football, siblings and school. I thought the boys would be tired after all the running so I said goodbye and left them at their house, before heading back home. As I reached the corner, I realised they were running after me again! I turned around chuckling as I watched these three tiny boys sprinting towards me. They told them their mother insisted they escort me home. So somehow I had gained three little escorts and three new little friends. When I finally said goodbye to them and headed back to my house in Guava Street, I realised how much I loved little surprises like this that I would never get to experience from a run back home.
Another hilarious surprise better-than-anything-found-in-a-Kinder-egg-since-2005 was the spontaneous marriage proposal I received as I left work one evening. As I was exiting Trade Fair, a man jumped up and took my hand to ask if I was married. I said, no I was not! He proceeded to tell me that this was his lucky day as he was ‘looking for love’ and how he would treat his wife if he were married. He did not give up hope when I told him that I couldn’t marry him, and instead asked me that if any of my friends might also be ‘looking for love’ to give them his digits! Then, the best bit of all, was when I took his photo (to show to my interested unmarried friends), and he told me to take three, and choose the best one! I got to photo number three, each showing Big Joe in a different pose, when Priscilla called me from the other side of the road to tell me I should cross! Big Joe insisted on accompanying me across the road, kissing my hand goodbye and crossing back over the other way. It’s a shame he didn’t give me a ring, otherwise I may well have said yes…
When we visited Lorenell School for the first time, we were treated to a lovely surprise of being able to watch the pupils rehearse their graduation. Our community project will involve providing support and/or fundraising for the charity school, set up by one lady who is extremely dedicated to the education of children whose parents are not. Not only did we get to meet and play with the (extremely hyperactive!) kids, and have a tour of the school, but we were treated to a seat in the sunshine whilst the children rehearsed their upcoming graduation! This involved some extremely synchronised marching, beautiful readings by some incredibly small brave boys, and the best part: the dancing! All it took was one energetic man on a bongo drum, and the teeny tiny kids entered in perfect formation and gave us all a dance show! Their moves involved a lot of hip shaking, clapping, and arm waving. The Ghanaians told me it was dancing typical of the Ashanti region. I was amazed at how they remembered all the moves, and kept in time with each other. Now we have had a sneaky peek of the graduation ceremony, we can’t wait to attend the real thing!
In other news, I learnt my first Ghanaian culinary skill: making fufu! Although you can make it by adding water to dry fufu powder, some people would deem this cheating, like when you add water to a baking mix and pretend your gooey chocolate brownies are homemade… The real way of making fufu is by taking plantain and cassava, chopping it up, taking it all outside, throwing it in a giant bowl with an even larger pestle, and pounding it all together. I watched intently as Priscilla and Cecilia took it in turns to pound and add more plantain, and then do the same with the cassava. Priscilla was turning over the dough right in between Cecilia’s pounding – I was so scared for her fingers but she is a pro, no worries no worries! I had a go at it too and the girls were chuckling as they told me how African I was becoming. It was really fun! When the fufu was sufficiently pounded, the girls and I ate it all up with palm soup and salmon. Tasty and simple!