“Africa changes you forever, like nowhere on earth. Once you have been there, you will never be the same.”

The morning is another pretty one with lots of sun, blue sky and the tiniest of breezes. The house was colder than outside this morning, a sure sign of fall. I put on my sweatshirt. I’m comfortable now.

Nala stole deodorant off my bureau yesterday. I knew she had contraband when she rushed out the dog door and wouldn’t turn around when I called her. I ran out to the deck, but she was already in the yard. I threw my slippers near her. It worked the other day, but not yesterday. Luckily Henry chased her so she dropped her prize. Nothing is sacred.

When I lived in Ghana, I was close to the northern border with Upper Volta, now Burkina Faso. We used to go to Ougadougou, the capital, for the weekend. The day before the trip we’d go to Bolga’s lorry park and arrange for a car heading to Ouga to stop at the school and pick us up on the way. The driver wedged us in so he could carry more people. The road was tarred at first then it became a dirt road, a big dirt road with lorries streaming by. I remember during the rainy season having to get out of the car so it was light enough to pass through the muddiest parts of the road without getting stuck. I thought it was an adventure. I knew when we’d be close to Ouga as the paved road started again.

French is the national language, and I knew enough French to ask questions, to bargain and to order food. Ouga was a small city back then. The market was steps down from the center in the middle of the city. We stayed at a nice hotel with AC about a block from the center. I remember the hotel had an empty pool in the back. I’d walk to get breakfast each morning. Boys on bicycles with huge baskets in front sold baguettes, fresh wonderful baguettes. I’d buy Yucca soda, either green or red. It didn’t matter. They both tasted the same.

One of the joys of Ouga was French food. The only places to eat in Bolga back then were chop bars, little hole in the wall restaurants which offered only fufu or t-zed and soup, traditional dishes. The chop bars bordered the lorry park and had only a rickety table or two. In Ouga, my favorite part of the meal was always the fresh vegetables. I ate green beans, massive helpings, at one restaurant. They were lip smacking good mostly because the only veggies I could find in Ghana were tuber yams, onions and tomatoes.

I never had a visa to get into Burkina. I’d tell the border station I was going for the weekend, and they’d let me in. The guard only wanted to know if I had bam bam, which they mimed as a gun, and if my dress was long enough. I always passed.

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2 Comments on ““Africa changes you forever, like nowhere on earth. Once you have been there, you will never be the same.””

  1. Bob Says:

    Hi Kat,

    Today it’s getting warmer again. Today’s high is 91° and tomorrow the prediction is for 94°. The sky is clear and the humidity is quite low and comfortable. I always say that it’s the humidity that makes it uncomfortable except in Phoenix in August. When the afternoon high exceeds 110° which is uncomfortable even without humidity. 🙂

    I have never been to Africa and therefore I enjoy reading your reminiscing about your trips to Ghana. My traveling days may be over because my company has substituted online training for actual in person classes.

    Wherever I have been the people are all the same. They desire to be in a safe place, work hard, love their families and be left alone. Every city I have visited now has Mac Donald’s, KFC and Seven Eleven stores. One of my coworkers said that when he traveled the world as a United Airlines Pilot and later with our company, he would eat all his meals in Mac Donald’s. His logic was that he could never get sick eating Big Macs and fries. 🙂 I would quickly become sick of Mac Donald’s.

    • katry Says:

      Hi Bob,
      I’m excited when we hit the high 60’s this time of year. This week has been lovely and will continue the same through the weekend.

      When I found out I was going to Africa, I tried to find a lot of information but in those days what I could find was limited. The Peace Corps gave us stuff but it didn’t help too much so I didn’t know what to expect. Africa seemed so far away and exotic. I came to love Ghana and the wonderful Ghanaians.

      Ghana had no fast food restaurants when I lived there. In Accra, the capital, I ate a lot of Lebanese food which was fairly inexpensive. I think there might be a McDonald’s now as I know there is a KFC. I usually eat more locally when I’m traveling. I can eat at fast food restaurants when I get home.

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