Posted tagged ‘Accra’

“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.

“I’ve buried a lot of my laundry in the back yard.”

September 1, 2015

It will be warm and humid today, no surprise there, but the morning is still cool. It has become a ritual of sorts for me to open the doors and windows in the morning then close them to the heat of the afternoon when I turn on the AC. It is nap time for all the animals. Fern sleeps in the sun streaming through the front door while Gracie and Maddie are comfortable on the couch.

The day is pretty quiet right now. The birds aren’t singing, the leaves aren’t blowing and none of the kids from down the street are outside playing or riding their bikes. Today is their last day of summer. School starts tomorrow. Tonight will be bath night and then early to bed.

The first load of laundry is done and needs to go into the dryer. I gave in finally.

When I was a kid, the washing machine was in the cellar right next to the deep sink. It was a white wringer, the same as everyone else’s washing machine. My mother did several loads a week of laundry. It was a process. The clothes were spun in the soapy water in the barrel-like part by the agitator and then my mother put the clothes through the wringer, sometimes twice, to get rid of the excess water. Finally the clothes went hung to dry on the outside lines no matter the season. I used to like to watch my mother wring the clothes. Our machine was electric so she just fed the clothes to the rollers. I had a déjà vu moment when I first made pasta. My mother and her washing machine jumped into my head when I put the dough through the rollers. It was the same process. You even had to dry the dough.

I have it easy and I still procrastinate.

“Disbelief in magic can force a poor soul into believing in government and business.”

July 20, 2015

The rain never materialized. It will be sunny all week and today will hit 85˚. My AC has been cranking since yesterday morning, and the house is delightfully cool. I have errands today so I will appreciate it even more when I get home.

I have always believed in magic, not the rabbit in the hat magic but everyday magic like when you wish on the first star: I wish I may I wish I might have this wish come true tonight. I have never made outlandish wishes figuring the simpler the wish the more likely it might come true. At Christmas when I was young I made all sorts of wishes and most of those came true.

I have proof that magic abounds and wishes do come true. Once I was walking home from my aunt’s house. The route was through the brush beside a metal fence which joined another fence, a shorter fence. It was there I usually scaled the two fences to get to my street. I stopped to rest just before scaling. I mused while sitting and wished I had money enough for a new book. I swear I looked down and found a 50 cent piece, just enough for a new book. That had to be magic. I wasn’t on a path. I was walking in piles of dead leaves captured against the fence.

But I’ve always known, fifty cents or no fifty cents, that we live in a world filled with magic. Fireflies dot the darkness with light. The sun rises and sets in a brilliance of colors. Rainbows announce the end of the storm and the whereabouts of the pot of gold if you’re especially lucky. I sit outside in the wee hours to watch the meteor showers in August. I clap and say things like wow and amazing as those beautiful streaks of light cross the dark sky. I love shadows and how scary and tall they can look. That flowers bloom year after year can be nothing short of magic. I know science explains most things because some people need answers. As for me, I’ve known the answer all my life-it’s magic, pure and simple magic.

“Clouds are high flying Fog”

January 12, 2015

Cloudy day today, a storm cloudy day, a rainy day. When I saw the clouds, I knew. I didn’t need to look at the weather prediction. Snow clouds are different. They have an eerie light, almost a warning system. Fair day clouds are puffy and very white. Storm clouds cover the sky and darken the day. The pine tree branches look stark, even bold. A winter rain is bone chilling. I will not be going anywhere today. I am into comfort and warmth.

I started reading a Ghanaian mystery by Kwei Quartey. It is the fourth book of his I’ve read. His plots are simple: murder, investigation and arrest. But I am not drawn to his novels by the plots. It is Ghana. I love reading of places where I’ve been and of things Ghanaian. I know what dinner looks like when it is fufu and stew. The main character was riding through Adabraka, a section of Accra. I knew it well. The hostel was there as was Talal’s, a spot for lunch, for Peace Corps pizza as Talal used to call it: pita bread with tomatoes and melted cheese. A movie theater was within walking distance of the hostel as was a pretty good restaurant. Back then, if you were young and white and asked to go to Adabraka, the taxi driver would take you right to the hostel for twenty pesewas from anywhere in the city. I looked for that hostel as did my friends Bill and Peg. We didn’t find it. So far in the novel, Death at the Voyager Hotel, we haven’t a murder, a death yes but only one person believes it a murder.

A dismal day demands little, and that’s what it will get.

“One thing’s sure. Inspector Clay is dead. Murdered. And somebody’s responsible.”

December 28, 2014

The rain is back, but it’s a light rain, a tolerable rain. The day is warmer than expected. Gracie and I are going to the dump later. I also need to hit the store for a few essentials like cream for my coffee and bread. Gracie has only one can of dog food left so I’ll stop at Agway. I am not in an errand mood.

Decorating the house for Christmas is fun, filled with anticipation and memories of Christmases past. Cherished ornaments take their places in the front of the tree, and I move them around until they are just right. The tree is most beautiful at night with its lights brightening the room and reflecting in window panes. Soon enough, though, it will be time to take down Christmas. I usually do it all in one day as I don’t want remnants of Christmas hanging around, too much regret at its passing. Once I’m finished and Christmas is back in the cellar the rooms look bland. The only lights which stay all year are in the windows and in the kitchen where the shell lights and the pepper bunch light up the whole corner. After New Year’s is take down day.

I love the syfy channel, and I love comically bad movies, but sometimes my suspension of disbelief just can’t fight the absurdity. Cars chase running people who stay in the middle of the road. Veering toward a sidewalk between parked cars is never given a thought. Standing and watching a car flying right at you in a storm is common. The next shot is always the car and a body underneath it. Storms and strange prehistoric creatures bring out the silliness more than most plot details. A creature appears. Some idiot standing in a field stays there and the next thing is he is being flown away with his legs dangling from the creature’s mouth, sort of a take-out dinner. As for me, I admit I watch anyway. I really do love the absurdity.

“But I’m really enjoying my retirement. I get to sleep in every day. I do crossword puzzles and eat cake.”

July 15, 2013

When I let Gracie out this morning, I couldn’t believe how hot and humid it already was at 7:15. When I went out for breakfast later, my glasses fogged as I was walking from the car to the restaurant, a matter of only a few feet. It was already 82˚ at 8:30, and I suspect it will get hotter. My plans for the day are to stay inside the cool house and look out the windows if I want to view the world.

Yesterday I heard squealing from my deck. I feared Miss Gracie had found herself another friend who was objecting to Miss Gracie’s attention. I went to go out to save the creature when I saw Gracie was asleep in her crate so I went to the window instead to see what was happening. I felt like a voyeur. The spawns of Satan were spawning right there on my deck. The Mrs. was doing the squealing whenever the Mr. was doing his business. It went on for a while as I could hear the squealing. When I looked again, I saw the Mrs. jump on a branch hotly followed by the Mr. I assume they went somewhere more private than my deck.

It must have rained a while last night as everything was still wet this morning. The flowers and herbs looked perky. They give the deck so much color. I still have to replace the third broken clay pot. I’m buying a larger one than I’ve had hoping it will be too heavy with potting soil and flowers for the spawn to break it again. I’ll do that tomorrow. I like having an errand or two each day now that I’m allowed to drive. I’ll go to the farm so I can pick up some fresh vegetables at the same time, and on the way home I’ll also stop and buy some fruits. I’m thinking cut watermelon, strawberries and maybe some honeydew. Sounds like a great lunch to me.

My friends Bill and Peg are leaving September 14th for Ghana. I am envious. We traveled together all the time in Ghana, and it seems strange not to be with them. Bill has a 1970 map of Accra so he is going to try and find the old Peace Corps hostel in Adabraka, one of the districts in Accra, and Talal’s, a Lebanese restaurant which we volunteers loved. It wasn’t far from the PC offices. Talal used to make a sandwich with pita bread, tomatoes and melted cheese. He used to call it the Peace Corps pizza. Talal’s was where I first tasted hummus, and I usually ordered it every time I was there. The first time I went back to Ghana in 2011 I tried to find the hostel but I just couldn’t remember where it was, and most of the landmarks have changed. I told Bill to take plenty of pictures when he found our old stomping grounds.

I’m going to get changed from my outside to my inside clothes, and I’m going to read while lolling on the couch. I will have no productivity whatsoever today. I wish you the same!!

” I don’t want to sound pretentious, but I love art, I like to go to museums, and I like to read books.”

March 12, 2013

The morning started poorly. First was a call at 8:15 which woke me up. I didn’t answer, and the party didn’t leave a message. No self-respecting person calls before nine. Ann Landers would have been horrified. Luckily, I fell back to sleep, woke up close to ten, leapt out of bed, washed face, brushed teeth, got dressed and left, before morning coffee, to a fasting blood test. I mumbled and groused the whole way. Afterwards, I got coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts and treated myself to a lemon donut then came home and read the papers. That brings us to now.

What about the weather you ask? Well, let’s see. It’s damp and, of course, it’s cloudy. Outside my window is grim: dead leaves, brown and grey branches and the clouds, always the clouds. I am going to change into my cozies and stay home the rest of the day. I have no ambition and I don’t care.

I am a member of the Museum of Fine Arts. I seldom go, but I like supporting the museum. It is my parents I can thank for giving me and my sisters and brother a love for museums. I remember going to the Peabody Museum at Harvard and seeing the outrigger hanging from the ceiling. I also remember the ape heads in jars. They were my favorites. Kids like gross stuff. The Museum of Fine Arts had the sarcophagi, and I loved that room. The Mummy had always been a favorite movie, and I imagined Imhotep having been buried alive in one of the sarcophagus on display at that museum. How neat it would have been to see him dragging his wrappings as he moved through the museum’s rooms.

On my first weekend in Accra during training, I went to the National Museum and dragged a couple of friends with me. They balked a bit, but I convinced them that a museum is always the best first stop, the place to learn more about a country’s culture and its past, but at that museum I was amazed to see so much of the present displayed as artifacts of the past. The exhibits of regalia and traditional cloth were historical, but they were also contemporary. You could still see the same cloth being worn, especially the kente and adrinka, mostly by men all around Ghana, a country of traditions.

I  have a fun memory of a museum we, my sister, my parents and I, went to in Belgium, in Waterloo. We paid our money and went inside the worst museum any of us had ever seen. The roof leaked, and there were puddles of water along the floor and in front of the exhibits, but I use the term exhibits loosely. There were half-dressed mannequins, poorly done drawings of battles and imitation drums and swords. All we could do was laugh. We had been bilked. Luckily, though, we later found the real museum. I remember being horrified by the tools the surgeons used and I remember Wellington’s bed. I was surprised he was so short. I expected him to be much taller, maybe even a giant.