Posted tagged ‘Accra’

“A man’s palate can, in time, become accustomed to anything.”

May 7, 2022

The morning is ugly. The rain comes and goes. The high will be in the low 50’s, and the day will stay rainy. I’m glad I have nowhere I have to be. The house is warm and the coffee is hot. I have harkened back to my childhood and am watching Monster from the Ocean Floor, a 1954 black and white science fiction movie. All I’m missing is the Rice Krispies.

The dogs watched from the deck while two spawns of Satan chased other from tree to tree, branch to branch. I figure the chase is a prelude to romance. Ah, spring!

Puddles were always inviting. When I was little, I loved stomping in the water until the puddle disappeared. I always rode my bike through puddles. I’d raise both legs off the pedals and watch the water spray into the air on each side of my bike. It was a bit like the parting of the Red Sea.

When I was a kid, I remember being excited when I started reading chapter books. Gone were the chickens, the hens, small animals and the colored pictures of the Golden Books. Because the chapter books were long, I always used a bookmark to keep my place. I thought it a sin of sorts, a sacrilege, when people dog-eared pages. I still use bookmarks. Some are official while others are just torn pieces of paper. My current book mark is from a bookstore no longer around. It is ephemera.

My father liked spaghetti with stewed tomatoes. That was the way his mother cooked it when he was a kid. He always said the only places for garlic were shrimp scampi and garlic bread. He didn’t like Romano cheese, only parmesan, but he was easily duped. As long as he didn’t see the garlic or the Romano being used, he didn’t taste them. I loved watching him eat Chinese food. He’d keep his handkerchief close so he could blow his nose and wipe his eyes, effects from the amount of hot mustard he used. He often chose foods with his eyes. He wouldn’t eat hummus. He said it looked like wallpaper paste.

My palate expanded when I lived in Ghana. I was introduced not only to Ghanaian food but also to Lebanese and Indian. Hole-in-the-wall Lebanese restaurants were all around Accra. The food was cheap so I ate a lot of Lebanese food, mostly for lunch. Indian food was a treat. The one Chinese restaurant in Accra served its Chinese food with a Ghanaian twist. The flavors were unique. We always ate outside on the veranda. Eating there was a bit expensive. Even the taxi ride was dear, but we didn’t really care. We were on vacation when we went to Accra, the big city, the city of cars and lights and street markets. I knew the city well, but being from the Upper Region, I always felt a bit like a rube, a country cousin.

“The Peace Corps is guilty of enthusiasm and a crusading spirit. But we’re not apologetic about it.”

October 16, 2021

Today is warm, 72˚. Clouds are around but not enough to block the sun. The breeze is slight. I’m hanging around the house and doing a few chores. Despite the lovely weather, I’m putting in the front storm door. I have to move it from the cellar one step at a time as it is so heavy. Both dogs love to stand and watch so I like to keep it opened. Nala stands on her back toes for the best view. Every time I go to the front yard they keep track.

My things to be done list has ten items. I figure I can cross off four of the items today. The laundry and the dump are both on the list. They are perpetually on the list.

Nala is wearing her Red Sox neckerchief. My team lost last night, and I’m hoping Nala brings them some luck. Henry won’t allow me to put one on him, but I have several for the different holidays so I’ll keep trying. They were Gracie’s. She didn’t mind. Last year I bought a costume for Henry. It is a gray spawn of Satan costume, but I never got close to putting it on him. I’m hoping Nala will wear it if only for pictures.

Today is a Ghana day. I’m taking you back to Koforidua, towards the end of training: weeks seven, eight and nine. The first week there we were all together. We had hours of language each day. The last two weeks we were divided into secondary school teachers and training college teachers. We student taught during those two weeks. I remember going to the spot, a bar, on the corner of the road to the secondary school. We walked through the rain forest from our school. We had a daily stipend so we took turns buying beer which I hate, but I drank it anyway. We played a few drinking games. I remember singing on the way home. On the weekends we were free. A few of us hitched to Accra. A Mercedes picked us up. The owner was Arabic, and he owned mosquito coil companies. He gave us a few.

In Accra we stayed at the hostel for 50 pesewas a night, about 50 cents in those days. I remember wandering the city and getting to know it. Accra was small back then, and most nights were quiet. I love walking at night. I always felt safe. I had favorite restaurants, mostly hole in the wall Lebanese restaurants, cheap and delicious. I went to the movies. One theater was close to the hostel while the other was across the bridge and further away.

Our last week of training was at Legon University. We had real coffee in real cups. That doesn’t sound like much but trust me, it was big. We were close to Accra, just a mammy lorry ride away. We went often. We had our language tests, and that was about it for the week. At the end of that last week we were sworn in as Peace Corps volunteers. I was thrilled beyond description.

“Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.”

October 15, 2021

Today is cool at 63˚ though it is supposed to get a bit warmer. The forecast is partly cloudy, but the sky is covered in clouds. The breeze is slight. I think it is a sweatshirt day.

I made a list of stuff I want to get done, and I’ve already crossed off one of the biggest tasks: bringing the bags of litter to the car. Gwen, being diabetic, uses the cat box to the extreme. I clean it every day and empty it far sooner than I used to. The used litter bags are heavy. I almost fell down the stairs the last time I carried some to the car. This time I used my cart. It was filled and so very heavy I could only take it one step at a time down the stairs. I pushed it near the car where it sits until I can load the car later.

Today is shot day. I’m getting flu, pneumonia and shingles. They are my first pneumonia and shingles shots. The flu I skipped last year. I was in the house all flu season.

When I was a kid, we only went to the doctor if something was wrong or when we needed shots. The doctor’s office was right beside the driveway to the school parking lot and was in a big old house. His office was on the first floor. I remember sitting and waiting on a bench and looking around the hall outside the doctor’s office. There was a tall stairway with wooden stairs and a carved newel post. I remember how shiny the wood looked. The doctor’s office was at the front of the house. I remember he had a complete skeleton hanging off a hook. His desk was huge as was the doctor. He had one of those giant bellies men sometimes get. I remember he wore a vest and a doctor’s white coat, a coat so small I figured he could never button it across his belly. When I was around 10, I went to see him after I had fallen down the stairs. It was the morning after the fall. He wasn’t gentle. He cleaned the cut by scrubbing it with a gauze pad. It hurt. It hurt a lot. I was thrilled when I didn’t get stitches as the cut was already infected so the doctor slathered something on the cut, covered it with gauze and sent me on my way.

In Ghana, I had scratched an itchy mosquito bite on the top of my foot until it bled. It got infected. I went to the Peace Corps doctor in Accra. He was a good guy. He gave me two options: he could cut it and drain it or he could put antiseptic on it under a gauze pad. He told me the gauze pad would take 5 or 6 days until the cut was healed. Draining it would only mean a few days until it healed. I had him drain the infection. It hurt. Afterwards, he told me it would take 5 or 6 days until it was healed enough. I was a bit surprised as he had told me a few days. He admitted he lied figuring that was the only way I’d have it cut and drained. He was right.

P.S. I went to the deck a bit ago, and there was my stolen African statue just lying there. It didn’t even have bite marks. I hope Nala brings back the tagine next.

“What do we call this moment? A serendipity mixed into a nostalgia mixed into a deja vu mixed into an epiphany!”

September 18, 2021

The day is already 71˚, today’s high. The weather report says partly cloudy. That’s pretty accurate as the sun is in and out of the clouds, and I can see the blue sky here and there between the branches of the backyard trees.

When I put the coffee in each of the dog’s dishes, Henry went for his and Nala went out the back door. That is her MO when she steals so Henry and I went on the deck to check for the felon and her spoils. I was glad to be outside. The late morning was pleasant and warmer than I expected. Nala, always true to form, was in the yard carrying an empty cookie bag in her mouth. She dropped it, and I asked to bring it to me for a treat. She totally ignored me and started to tear apart the package and the empty papers inside. I just stood and watched and listened. I could hear the crackle of the paper. Nala totally destroyed the bag by chewing it apart into small pieces. I’ll do a clean-up later. My sister is right. I do need one of those sticks with the nail at the end you see orange jumpered prisoners using when they clear the litter on the sides of the highway. I’d like the half bag too. I just won’t wear orange.

When I was a kid, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I got asked that by relatives I didn’t see often. I guess they thought it was a conversation ice breaker. They were wrong. I had no answer because I had no idea what I wanted to be. Little kids live day by day, and I was a little kid. Big plans were made for Saturdays, the break-out days, and as far in the future as I ever looked, because the rest of the week was already taken: weekdays were school and Sunday was church and dinner. I could do whatever I wanted on a Saturday. I could go wherever I wanted. Sometimes I made plans, a couple of days before were long range plans. I’d pick a movie in winter, but on warm days I’d pick my bike or my feet and go exploring. The one sure thing on a Saturday was our supper, always hot dogs, baked beans and brown bread from the can.

Even in Ghana, my Saturdays were mostly unplanned, open days, but if I was home in Bolga and it was a market day, I’d go shopping. I remember amazing weekends in Accra, the capital. I always stopped there on my way to and back from somewhere else during my vacations. It was too far for just a weekend. I stayed at the Peace Corps Hostel, cheap with breakfast. I ate in a variety of restaurants. I remember one restaurant with red booths, dimmed lighting and real napkins. It was an anywhere restaurant, but one, which happened to be, within walking distance of the hostel. I always thought it was a treat to eat there with its real napkins and leather booths. Sometimes I went to a Saturday night movie. In Accra I had choices. The best part of Saturdays in Accra was walking around the city, aimlessly. I’d stop at stalls and small markets and buy food and fresh fruit from the aunties along the sides of the road. I’d revel in the beauty of Accra and especially in being fortunate enough to live in Ghana.

Today I have no plans. Let serendipity reign!

“The time for me in the Peace Corps was easily the most formative experience I’ve had in my life.”

July 27, 2021

Some things I can easily see in my mind’s eye and in my heart, two whole years worth of things, of places and especially of people.

I have been back three times. The cities are enormous now and the main roads are filled with cars. I remember those first two visits lovingly, but I remember best my last visit when Bill and Peg and I went home to Ghana together.

Filled taxis whizzed by us on a road by the shore where we had gone shopping. We had to wait a bit before one finally stopped. We haggled but neither one of us was all that enthused for a long bidding war of sorts. We took his second offer. It seemed fair to me with the distance and all. It probably wasn’t.

I remember way back to to the late 60’s and early 70’s when taxi rides all through the city were only 20 pesewas. The most expensive taxi ride, a whole cedi, 100 pesewas, was to the only Chinese restaurant in Accra. It was a treat. The money never mattered. It was the same to go to the airport restaurant. I remember eating dinner on the top floor at a table next to a window overlooking the runway. The table was lovely with a linen cloth and linen napkins. The waiters were formal. We saw a white father sitting by himself and asked if we could join him. He said yes, and we did. Our new table was just as lovely. It was a different sort of night, in a good way. 

Being in Accra meant I was on vacation and probably on my way east to Togo and maybe Benin. When I was in Accra, I stayed on the cheap; The Ministry of Education Hostel aka the Peace Corps’ Hostel was only 50 pesewas a night. That was bed, breakfast and a wonderful hot shower. It also meant catching up with other volunteers I trained with and hadn’t seen in six months who were also staying at the hostel, also staying in the bunk room. 

I treated myself well in Accra. I ate at a variety of restaurants, very few of them expensive. The Lebanese restaurants were where I ate the most often. I also had Indian food. I ate Ghanaian food, mostly street food. I went to museums and I saw movies. I walked with my friends around the city at night. It was so quietly amazing back then. Most of the shops were closed. A few kiosks were open. A few spots, Ghanaian for small bars, were also open. I could hear the high life music from the street. The sidewalks had shadows in between the street lights. It always seemed peaceful and warm to me. I remember the men sitting on the edges of the sidewalks, talking and smoking their pipes around a small fire. 

The hostel was in a mostly residential area. I think it was on a road which ended at the hostel. I tried to find it on a trip back but couldn’t. Back then I’d just tell the driver Adabraka, a section of Accra. I was never asked the street. He’d take me right to the hostel. I’d hand him my 20 pesewas. Sometimes he’d argue but most times he took the money. My favorite was the driver who blurted, “ I hate Peace Corps they always know the right price.” I realized then I was a type. The taxi driver probably had a checkoff list: yes to young; yes to white; yes to Ghanaian cloth dresses; yes to a few Twi words including, usually, thank you. Yes, to Peace Corps.  

“Whoever thinks of going to bed before twelve o’clock is a scoundrel.”

January 29, 2019

Winter is supposed to be cold, but I think we’re on overload. Single digits are predicted for tomorrow night and on Thursday night it will be 11˚. Today is 37˚, and it actually feels warm.

Today is a lazy day. I slept until close to eleven. I took my time reading the papers and had a couple of cups of coffee. The kitchen smelled wonderful between the grinding of the beans and the brewing of the coffee. I am watching television as I write. I admit that I actually stopped watching two science fiction novels on tubi, something I almost never do. One was about the San Andreas fault and the big quake and the total destruction of LA, and the other was about a glacier from Iceland heading toward North America and causing a new Ice Age, but I just found what may be the worst one of all. It is called Star Leaf. The description says, “Three friends fight to stay alive after finding extra-terrestrial marijuana deep in the woods and accidentally provoking the alien forces guarding it.”

Last night I went to get my mail around 11:30. The street was dark except for my outside light. No cars went down the street and no dogs barked. I could have been the main character in a science fiction movie about the world after a cataclysmic event left few survivors.

When I was in high school, I used to walk home at night after evening events. I remember the silence. I remember the circle of light under each street lamp. I could hear my footsteps.

In Ghana, in Accra, the capital, I used to walk back to the Peace Corps hostel at night. I could have taken a taxi, but I liked the walk. I remember men sitting outside on wooden chairs talking in hushed tones. They seemed always to be smoking. We greeted each other as I passed.

I love to sit outside on summer nights. I watch fireflies flit through the trees. From the small pond at the end of the street, I can hear the croaking of frogs. The Katydids add to the chorus. Summer nights are the most glorious of all, nights so filled with life.

“The past beats inside me like a second heart.”

August 6, 2018

Help!! I am a prisoner in my house. Going outside could mean certain death. Okay, I admit to an exaggeration here but not by much. It is so hot and humid it took my breath away when I went to get the papers. I didn’t even stop to admire the garden. I am now safe and comfortable in my cool house. I will admire the sun from the inside out.

When I was a kid, I don’t think we even had fans in the house. My mother kept the shades down. The living room did feel a touch cooler but not by much. Sometimes we’d go through the sprinkler, get cool and wet then go to bed. I used the same trick in Ghana. I’d take my shower, a cold shower as I had no hot water, just before bed then go to bed still wet. I was air cooled and could fall asleep.

Heat never really bothered me that much when I was a kid. I was out every day all summer, even when it rained. In Ghana, in Bolga, it was always hot, even in the rainy season, but that’s just the way it was and life went on.

I have a great memory of Ghana. One of my friends was terminating (Peace Corps argot for finishing service) earlier than the rest of us were. His school was on strike so there was nothing for him to do. During Easter holiday a few of us met up in Accra by happenstance as we always stayed at the Peace Corps hostel. We decided to go out for drinks and toast our departing friend. We went to a hotel, one of the grand old hotels. We sat in the bar. There were chairs and couches with flowered cushions, not uncommon furniture in Ghana. Fans were on the ceiling and were stirring the air a bit. There was a bank of open windows behind us and outside those windows was a garden of ferns, eucalyptus and frangipani. I had been whisked back in time to a colonial hotel, like in some old movie of long ago times and places. I was living in old Accra for just a little while. Even now I can close my eyes and see the fan, the windows and me sitting on the couch, drink in hand. It is an amazing memory.

“Morning is wonderful. Its only drawback is that it comes at such an inconvenient time of day.”

October 17, 2016

Summer has dropped back to visit for a few days. Today will be in the 70’s, and it is already warm. I haven’t anything to do, but I think I’ll go out and about to enjoy the day. It ought not to be missed.

I am now sleeping to a respectable hour. Today it was 7:30. I am surprised how long it took to sleep later than 4:30 as the rule of thumb is one day for each hour. Ghana is 4 hours ahead, but it took well over a week for my system to adjust. I figure it probably had to do with the day I came home when I didn’t get to sleep until 2 in the morning, 6 in the morning for my body. A day with little or no sleep wreaks havoc on any schedule.

My oak tree’s leaves are yellow. White flowers have recently bloomed in my front garden. I have no idea what those flowers are. I know they are perennials, late bloomers and white.

Gracie loves the open front door. She sees any interlopers who dare walk on her street and barks to let them know they are unwelcome. She runs outside to bark even more loudly should a dog walk by the house. The hair on her back stands up. She looks and sounds fierce. People walk faster to get pass the house. I chuckle. Gracie isn’t going anywhere. She is stuck in the yard. Her bark is her only weapon.

I bought Christmas presents in Ghana. When I travel, I always try to bring presents back, unique gifts. This trip I was especially lucky in shopping at two great places. One was Hakim’s, a jewelry store specializing in silver. The other was an artisan gallery. Both were in Accra. The gallery had every sort of Ghanaian craft. It was a fun place to shop despite the musty smell and the heat.

I actually came home with money. It was because I used a credit card at a couple of places  including the lodge. Usually, my American Express is useless in Africa. I wouldn’t even have brought it except I had to show the card I charged the flights on at the airport. I’m glad for that. Having money left over made me feel parsimonious, not an adjective ever applied to me.

The animals are sleeping. The house is quiet. It is a typical morning.

“Almost anything is edible with a dab of French mustard on it.”

June 17, 2016

Today is beautiful. The breeze is keeping the air cool. The sun is bright and shines with the deep blue sky as its backdrop. When I went for the papers this morning, I checked my front garden. Every day something new is in bloom. Today it was a tall purple flower. I don’t know its name. I never know the names of my flowers. I buy them for color. The purple flower was a wonderful choice.

Today is dump day. I haven’t yet told Gracie. She tends to get a bit excited at the thought of the car ride and the dump. It will be a surprise.

My neighborhood is quiet today. The kids are still in school. Only the songs of birds break the silence.

I have a list for today, but none of the items make for too much effort. I bought a new flag which needs to be put on the flag pole in the front yard, my new hose will be connected to the outside faucet, plants in and out need watering and I have to connect the umbrella to the adaptor. They are all silly tasks but they still need doing.

We have a place to stay in Accra. It is where I stayed in 2011 for a week. The people are wonderful, the rooms big and clean, and they’ll pick us up at the airport. There is even a Lebanese restaurant right down the street. Ghana is where I first tasted Lebanese food. We used to go to a place called Talal’s. It was close to the PC office. I had hummus for the first time there. They served it in a flat dish with hot pepper around the top of the hummus and sesame oil in a well in the middle. I also had falafel, kibbeh and tabbouleh for the first time. I came to love Lebanese food. I had it often. The fact it was a cheap was also a good draw. I still love hot pepper sprinkled on my hummus and sesame oil in the middle. What I miss here is the fresh pita they always served.

One of the best parts of my Peace Corps experience was all the different foods I ate. Chinese food was considered a bit exotic when I was a kid, and I brought that with me to Ghana. The first day there I was served what looked like leaves from the tree and a soup of unknown origins. I didn’t eat it. I ate only breakfast as I recognized eggs and bread. Eventually, though, I started trying the Ghanaian food. Some I came to love, but I never did like kontomire, that soup from the first day. It is made with cocoyam leaves. That I know that makes me chuckle a bit. I went from Chinese food to cocoyam-a huge leap.

“It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. This crisp winter air is full of it.”

October 30, 2015

Mother Nature has blessed us with another lovely day. Though not as warm as yesterday, it is still in the high 50’s, breezy and sunny. Every time the breeze blows more leaves fall and the trees become barer. I kept the front door opened and stood for a while watching the leaves flying and twirling in miniature eddies. I can see my neighbor’s deck for the first time since the beginning of summer. Fall has begun its annual wrap up to make way for winter.

I have never had the urge to go south for the winter. I am a New Englander who abides all four seasons. Admittedly, winter is my least favorite for the cold, not the snow. Ever since I was a little kid I have loved snow. I’d stand at the picture window, my head resting on my hands bent at the elbows, and watch the snow fall lit by the streetlight below my house. I could see individual flakes in the light. Sometimes they fell sideways blown by the wind. The street would disappear. I’d see the hand-rail but not the steps which led to the sidewalk now buried under snow. My father’s car was a mound of snow. When it was time, I’d go to bed hoping for a snow day, hoping to hear the whistle blasts from the fire station announcing no school. That would give me a whole day to play in the snow, to sled down the hill and to have a snowball fight.

I still love watching the snow. I go from front door to back door to see how much has fallen. My deck disappears and sometimes I can’t get the door open. I worry for poor Gracie who tries to get out but the snow is too deep for her. Sometimes I brush away enough for her to get right outside the door where she barely squats before running right back into the house.

The morning after a snowstorm, before the plows and shovelers, is always beautiful. The snows glints in the sun like diamonds. Everyone is still housebound and the snow lies untouched. It is why I stay here in the water.


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