Posted tagged ‘market day’

“I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up that I was not happy.”

September 9, 2018

I slept late, until close to ten. I swear it is because subconsciously I knew the weather was the same as it has been. That I had to snuggle under the warm comforter last night was reason enough to stay in bed, but I dragged myself downstairs, let Henry out, started my coffee, went to get the papers and fed Maddie and Henry. The morning ritual changes little from day to day. The grey clouds change little from day to day. The dampness changes little from day to day. This is my world right now. The only bright spot, figuratively as we haven’t seen the sun in eons, is I have more books to read, more books to take me away from the daily chores and the weather.

Every Sunday I chat with my sister in Colorado. Today she asked me if I had done my laundry yet. I haven’t.

When I lived in Ghana, I never had sloth days. I was always up early and dressed early. Coffee was first then breakfast then teaching. It was a daily pattern just as my days now have a pattern, but every day in Ghana and the pattern of every day was amazing. Roosters often woke me up. I could hear my students sweeping the school compound then I could hear water flowing from the taps into their metal buckets as my students stood in line for their morning bucket baths. I often had my second mug (giant mug) of coffee sitting on the steps in the front of my house. Small children walking to school stopped and greeted me. “Good Morning, Sir.” English was new to them, and they were learning greetings first, the same as I did in French and Spanish. Their teacher was a man. If it was market day, I went into town. I loved market day. It was like a country fair and even more but without the rides. I loved wandering among the tables, among the rows selling everything: fruit, cloth, chickens, eggs, vegetables, juju beads, pots and pans and bruni wa wu (used clothing translated as dead white man’s clothes). Sometimes I found a treasure. Once it was a small watermelon.

“There was nothing like a Saturday – unless it was the Saturday leading up to the last week of school and into summer vacation. That of course was all the Saturdays of your life rolled into one big shiny ball.”

June 11, 2016

Saturday for my whole life has been the best day. When I was a kid, Saturday was our day to roam the town or to see a movie or to sit and watch Creature Double Feature on TV. Those were the days of black and white movies from the 50’s with cheesy special effects. We didn’t care. We loved those old B movies, and even now, I’ll watch them. I’m never critical. They are fun to watch. Some Saturdays we were out all day rambling. We’d pack a sandwich and some cookies in a brown paper bag knowing we’d be gone most of the day. We followed the railroad tracks, walked to the zoo or watched the dairy cows. We looked in the windows uptown and into the fire station as we walked by it. On warm days the firemen sat on wooden chairs right outside the bays where the fire engines were. We’d walk through the school yard empty of kids. We’d get home in the late afternoon. The winter meant the matinee. I don’t remember ever caring what the movie was. I remember standing in front of the glass display case trying to decide how to spend my nickel. The candy had to be tasty but more importantly, it had to be long lasting. I think my brother chose candy by its projectile possibilities.

When I was a teenager, Saturdays meant sleeping in. During the day I’d hang around or meet up with friends. I remember roaming around Harvard Square, going to the museum and checking out stores. Back then Harvard Square was unique and the stores were not chain stores. I remember we ate at the Wursthouse a few times. I haven’t been to Harvard Square in years except to drive though to somewhere else. It has lost its identity. It is the same as anywhere. On Saturday nights we’d sometimes go bowling. I was never a good bowler, but it was fun.

Saturday nights in college were party nights. Some of my memories are still hazy. We’d find a spot, park the car and party. Those were the days of cheap wine.

In Ghana, Saturday usually meant going to town to shop in the market or at the small kiosks which sold margarine and instant coffee in tins. I’d carry my woven bag and fill it with onions, tomatoes and eggs. Once I found a small watermelon my tomato lady had saved for me to buy. I never saw another one.

When I was back home, Saturday still meant sleeping-in and food shopping, but at a supermarket with too many choices. I’ve always hated food shopping and shlepping in the bags.

Today I woke up at 8. I had two cups of coffee and two pieces of Scali bread toast. I have no plans at all for the day. I’m thinking it is finalize the deck day. I’ll put down the rug, clean the chairs, water the plants, start the fountain and then ceremoniously bring the Travelocity Gnome and the plastic flamingo to their summer homes. They inaugurate deck season every year.

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

April 27, 2014

Today is the same as yesterday: rainy and damp, the sort of damp which brings a chill. It’s socks and sweatshirt weather.

Today while I was watching the rain fall I realized I have seen wonders all of my life. When I was a little kid, falling snow was mesmerizing. Each flake fell gently and silently and glistened in the street light. I watched from the front window to make sure the street was getting covered. That gave me hope for a snow day. Thunder and lightning never scared me; instead, I was delighted. The flickering black and white TV screen was like magic. Every day brought delights some as lowly as a grasshopper caught in a jar and others as lofty as an airplane with a white tail.

When I was older, a teenager, the wonders didn’t cease. My friends and I wandered Harvard Square, went to museums and watched movies at the Orson Wells. We rode toboggans at the golf course and went to drive-in movies for the fun of it. We celebrated Mardi Gras on the third floor of the library with our forbidden food. We felt like rebels. We were there to watch the start of the space race. All of my science fiction stories were coming to life. It was amazing.

College was the wonder of learning new things, of being on my own and of meeting new people from all over the place. My insular life started to disappear. I began to look way beyond my boundaries wondering what was there for me to find. I wanted to experience the unfamiliar, the unexpected and even the uncomfortable.

I couldn’t believe I was actually living in Africa. Everything was a wonder: the colors, the smells and the sounds. Each bus ride was an adventure. Market day was the most fun. I wandered the stalls, bargained and picked out my chicken. The amazing became the commonplace, and I loved every day.

In the summer, I watch the fireflies. In August I sit outside for the meteor shower. I still watch snowflakes fall under the back light. I love Christmas. In my backyard the trees have white lights which shine every night. I love looking at them through the windows. They give the yard a bit of fairyland.

It seems wonder stays with us all of us lives.

“alone doesn’t mean lonely. It just means alone. It just means that for now, you’re on your own, and that’s not a terrible thing.”

August 30, 2013

Somewhere off in the far distance, I can hear a dog bark, barely hear that dog bark, but Gracie feels it is her responsibility to respond. That she is standing on the deck directly under my window is of little importance. A dog does what a dog wants to do.

Last night was so chilly I shut my downstairs windows. My feet were even cold. Yesterday was fall. I don’t care that it is still August. Fall drops in now and then to get the lay of the land and last night was one of those visits. Today isn’t much better. It’s still chilly and damp. School should start on a day like today.

My friends are leaving for Ireland on Tuesday. My other friends are going to Ghana in the middle of September. I feel like the poor relation. I haven’t even been to Hyannis lately.

I called Rose Atiah, one of my students, this morning. I needed a Ghana fix, and Rose is always good for a conversation. She said it was getting ready to rain, and I could picture exactly what Bolga looks like with an impending storm. Rose said she was doing nothing, and I told her I was doing nothing as well. We chatted a bit more, and Rose said she would pass along my greetings to Agatha, Francisca and Bea. Hearing a Ghanaian accent always gives me a bit of a lift, and I love that Ghanaians pass along greetings.

Sometimes I feel like a bit of a hermit. With no reason to go out, I don’t bother to get dressed. I make my bed, brush my teeth, do a cursory wash of hands and face and then let the day while by me. Today could easily be one of those days, but I have no choice but to go out to the pharmacy. Gracie gets to come because it will be cool enough in the car for her.

When I finally got to my house in Ghana, I was living alone for the first time in my life, and it was a difficult transition. During Peace Corps training, we had been herded and kept in large groups, and we had each other, but now I had no one to talk to about how I felt, no one who understood what I was going through. I was homesick, doing a rotten job in the classroom and an object of curiosity for my students and just about everyone in town. I fled to books and checked for mail every day at least a couple of times. I was starved for conversation and companionship. I was miserable. I don’t know when that began to change, when I knew I was home, but change it did. I loved living alone. It was fun going into town and to the market. People greeted me all the time, and I returned their greetings. I was madam, a teacher at the school, and that was all.

Talking to Rose today brought a lot of that back. She still calls me madam.


September 8, 2012

Yesterday I was at my morning perch watching the world when the man in the compound beside me brought out two baby goats. They had been born the night before, still had their umbilical cords attached  and couldn’t stand long on their wobbly legs. They kept falling and getting back up, but they did manage to find their mother and breakfast. I watched for a long while. It was the first time I’d seen goats so young, and they were a marvel.

Today is market day so I will do a bit of shopping as I still haven’t bought any cloth. I get to one part of the market, do a bit of shopping and get too tired and sweaty to keep going. This time I hope to start out at the cloth.

We were driving to the town when we saw a huge line of men wearing white robes and black hats. They were singing. I asked the driver to park so we could watch and I could get some pictures. One man near us was happy to explain that it is a Moslem(still called Moslem here, not Muslim) organization which has three parts: women, youth and old men. Each year they have a conference at a different region. This group was the old men, all over 40. They were divided by region and they walked and sang a different song by region. We waited until all of them had passed.

Tomorrow I am meeting the old girls as my students call themselves. We are having lunch together and remembering the old times. I doubt I’ll get back here again as it is so expensive though I suppose I could get parsimonious and become a penny pincher, so not me.

The route, on Monday, will  be different than the one to come up here so I’ll get to see more of the country. We hope to get as far as Koforidua which is where I spent some time in training. I don’t know if I’ll be able to post on Monday but will if I get to the town early enough.

I hope the next stop will be the Monkey Sanctuary!


September 6, 2012

Yesterday morning the rain started around 7 in the morning and when I went to sleep around 9:30 it was still raining. We had come into town for market day, but the rain pretty much washed that away. I sat under an awning, a tin awning, at a local spot and had coffee and an egg sandwich. The coffee is still Nescafe instant and the milk evaporated, but I have built up an acceptance of my lot and don’t mind it.

The rains were so heavy yesterday that the roads to the villages washed away in places. The river overflowed its banks and inundated houses and millet fields. Even Bea and Grace, my students, were amazed by how much water was in the fields.

The main street where I was sitting was almost empty of people. The few walking had umbrellas or just got soaked. This morning was still cloudy though a bit later in the morning blue appeared only to disappear when the rain came, only small-small rain as the Ghanaians would say. It is now after 1 in the afternoon, and the sun is beginning to make an appearance.

This morning we went to Paga, to Pikworo Slave Camp. It was active in the later 16th century up to about 1840 or so. It held 200 slaves and according to our guide, they were tied to the trees much of the day. We walked up into the hills and saw the grinding rock where food was ground and bowls carved in the rock. The water trough was filled with water and we were told the water never left, even in the dry season. There was a rock, called the entertainment center, which made different sounds when hit with rocks so it was used as a drum with the slaves hitting them with rocks to produce the rhythm. There were drummers there who played and sang for us just as the slaves would have played the rock. If a slave tried to escape, he was placed tied up and naked on the punishment rock in the sun. If he survived the heat of the day despite no water he would be allowed to remain alive. Many, though, died from the intense heat of the sun. I couldn’t imagine how horrible it must have been for the slaves waiting to be taken away from their homes. Once they left Paga, they would be brought to the coast where many were shipped to America.

I will be leaving here on Monday to make my way down coast with a stop to see the monkeys then overnight in Koforidua, where I had a part of my training. I’ll be back in town on Saturday for market day and will post then.

Bolika ( Good Morning in FraFra)

September 4, 2012

My favorite place to sit in the morning is outside the gates of the house on a concrete slab of a bench under a baobab tree. The yellow birds no one can name fly around a tall palm tree and at the fruit of the tree. Their fluttering wings as they eat remind me of humming birds those these birds are larger and more easily seen. As I sit, I see small boys carrying buckets of water on their heads to and from the bore hole. Everyone stops to greet me with good morning in FraFra. I have learned to reply, to offer them a good morning, to say I am well and thank you in FraFra. If I forget a work the small boys says it for me and waits until I repeat then he smiles. The women in the compound beside my house come out to greet me every day. They are pleased when I can answer them in FraFra. I can hear roosters and see goats foraging in the tall grass. I can also hear the mumbled voices from the compound beside me. This is the nicest of all mornings.

Sunday was market day, and I had arranged to meet a few of the volunteers who are posted near here. I said the magic word, cheese, and they all came. I had bought the cheese in a obruni (white man) store in Tamale expected to share. When I was a volunteer food and recent diseases were our favorite conversations. They devoured the cheese and even took pictures of each other eating it. I totally understood.

When they had left, I decided to walk to the internet cafe. My back has been horrendous since last week, and I walk as if I were a mobile question mark. I walk and rest then walk and rest again. I sat down on some steps, and the man at the stall beside me offered his stool, and I sat down. He asked where I was going and i told him. He offered to take me on the back of his motorcycle, and I accepted. It was wonderful, a ride up the whole street. I was reminded of my easy rider days and remembered how much I loved the wind as I rode.

Today was the first day of school. Here punctuality is in the mind of the beholder. I went to Kantia Primary with the crayons, pencils and sharpeners I had brought. Some students were still walking to school, some were sitting and eating while only a few were at the school. The bell was rung so they started drifting in. I went to primary 1 and gave then each what I had brought. Then I went to the pre-primary or nursery school as they call it here and did the same. The kids were thrilled at the new school supplies.

Last night all the lights went out in the village and a few neighboring villages. It was pitch black. I used my iPad for light and went outside on the porch. I could hear voices and the usual night sounds, and I sat there taking it all in for the longest time then dragged myself inside the hot house. I had brought a hand fan with me so I arranged it on my face and fell asleep. A couple of hours later the light and the air came on.

I am going shopping for cloth today and may be going to Kongo to see the chief, but mostly the day is still in the planning stages. I’ll finish here and wander the town a bit.

I have noticed that it is all familiar to me now.

“Forget about being world famous, it’s hard enough just getting the automatic doors at the supermarket to acknowledge our existence.”

March 3, 2012

Gee, it’s raining. What a surprise! I was shocked when I woke up and saw yesterday and the day before and the day before that outside my window. The difference is today is warmer at 50°.

It’s sci-fi Saturday when I get to watch a whole day of TV filled with creatures whose main diet is man. Right now Manticore is picking out his entrée having already enjoyed several appetizers, nearly a whole village full.

I have to grocery shop today, my least favorite thing to do. I’ll go up and down the aisles filling my cart while in a stupor hoping to avoid conversation and the carts parked willy-nilly in the middle of the aisles. My list of what I really need is even boring, mostly household cleaning items. I can barely wait for the dishwashing liquid aisle.

You might have figured I am feeling a bit languid today. If my fridge weren’t empty, I might postpone the shopping, but I’m stuck hitting the aisles if I want lunch or dinner. Where is that housekeeper I ordered?

I used to love to shop in the market in Ghana. It was filled with colors and sounds and chattering in a language I didn’t understand but loved hearing. First, I’d make my usual stops: the beef meat market, my vegetable lady, the egg man, the pick out your chicken line-up and then I’d wander. I never knew what I might find. Some days I’d buy cloth to have a dress made. Once I found a watermelon. Usually I’d just fill my bag with onions, tomatoes, maybe garden eggs and a yam. I’d  greet everyone,”Sanda kasuwa,” (I greet you in the market), and they’d return the greeting. I was a usual sight so no one took special notice of this white woman wandering the market.

I loved market day. It was every third day, and I’d go if I could. Now I get stuck shopping in the dullest of places: Stop and Shop. I know their meat will never turn green and I won’t find a partially formed chicken when I break an egg but where’s the adventure?

“One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure”

September 14, 2011

I know it is Wednesday, my day off from Coffee, but I thought I’d post a short entry today to keep up the suspense for tomorrow’s episode of Kat’s Travels to Africa.

This morning I woke up at six so my body is beginning to adjust to US time.  I went outside on the deck as I usually do just to get the feel of the morning. It seemed chilly to me, damp from the morning dew. It was and is still quiet with only the birds greeting the day. I saw a grey squirrel at one of the feeders, but I haven’t been home long enough to wish for a weapon.

Let me tell you about mornings in Ghana, especially in Bolga where I spent five days. The air is cool, and this time of year, the rainy season, there is a small breeze. I was awake by 6 and usually went outside to see the beginning of the day. Smoke rose from fires, and I could smell the wood charcoal.  I watched carts being pulled and pushed by small boys on their way to market. Women carried market goods on their heads as they walked along the sides of the streets. I could hear a mix of voices, conversations in FraFra, horns blowing as cars, mostly taxis, made their way up the street. The horn is an official symbol of Ghana or at least it seemed that way to me. Not moving for a nanosecond on a green light meant horns up and down the row were going to be beeped in impatience. I heard a few of those. I could see women sitting in front of the fires stirring huge pots with metal spoons. They were making soup for their morning T-Zed, tuo zaafi, a thick porridge made from millet flour which is eaten by tearing off a chunk, always with your right hand, and dipping it into a soup. In restaurants they bring a bowl of water and some soap so you can wash your hand before and after. I had some for dinner one night with a light soup and some chicken. It was in Ghana I learned to like okra, even with all that slime, but I never did become a morning T-Zed eater. I always had eggs, toast and instant coffee with evaporated milk. While I was in Bolga, I bought fruit so I could have a bowl of cut fruit instead of the eggs. I tried the eggs fried, scrambled and in an omelet, but the eggs tasted exactly the same no matter how they were cooked. The fruits were sweet and delicious.

I was usually dressed and finished with my breakfast by 8. I’d figure out my day and call Thomas, my driver, to come so we could begin our day’s adventure.

“We had so much fun in Ghana and they are really lovely people.”

August 27, 2011

The day is overcast and humid. I figure it’s setting the stage for Irene’s visit tomorrow. 80% of the Sunday flights out of Logan have already been canceled. I checked the status of mine just a while ago, and it is still scheduled. Tonight when I leave at 10:15 it may be rainy but that’s all. This morning I emptied the kitty litter and Gracie and I went to the dump then I dropped my car off at the car repair place to have some scratches and a small hole repaired. My house/pet sitter is moving in at five after she finishes work. All is ready!

I am beyond myself and wonder how I’ll get through the day. I feel like a little kid on Christmas Eve who knows it will be years until bedtime. Going back to Ghana is even exciting to say. I talked to my friend Ralph the other night and last night I spoke to another friend, Michelle, both of  whom were with me in Ghana. They were so very excited for me, and I promised a million pictures.

The first time I went to Ghana I had no expectations. Africa to me was a total mystery. Tarzan movies were about as close as I had even gotten. I read a few books before I left, including one on the politics of Ghana which Peace Corps had recommended. It was dry and boring, and none of the books on the list had pictures. My first impression of Ghana was it was a riot of colors and patterns in the clothes the Ghanaians wore. The women carrying huge boxes on their heads were a marvel. The markets were filled with the unusual: vegetables I’d never seen before, odd colored nuts and live animals. I was overwhelmed by the sights and sounds and smells I had never before encountered.

Ghana became home. Shopping for a live chicken became commonplace. Rambling through the market on market day was one of my favorite things. It always seemed a bit like a carnival to me. In town at night lanterns flickered beside stands along the roadside where women cooked and sold hand food. Plantain chips and kabobs were my favorites. Watching an auntie (an older woman) wield a single edge razor blade to peel around the top of an orange before she lopped it off never failed to amaze me. The orange, green in Ghana, was always sweet.

All of those are old images, old memories, cherished and saved in my memory drawers. Starting tomorrow I get to make new ones. Despite all my hoping, I never imagined I’d return to Ghana.

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