Posted tagged ‘Ghana’

“Each day has a color, a smell.”

October 8, 2017

The day is cloudy dark. Rain is predicted. It is also windy which makes it feel colder than it is. I had to shut the back door. Last night was Gracie busy. She had me up every couple of hours, and we went out at 3:30. I went back to sleep but woke up when I heard her moving around at 8:00, but she readily jumped on the couch with me, and we both slept until 10.

I did all my errands yesterday. I had a route in mind, but the cars in long lines at the lights had me reconsider how to get there from here. I should have realized they’d be lines as this is, after all, a three day weekend, sort of summer’s last hurrah. Today is a stay off the roads day as the weekenders will be driving around looking for something to do.

I can smell wood burning again. The smell has again triggered memories. I remember overnights at Camp Aleska, the Girl Scout camp in the town where I grew up. The camp was up a dirt road across from the zoo and was surrounded by tall pine trees. Paths were behind the camp and led all through the woods. There was one big room in the camp with a huge fireplace. My favorite part of the overnight was falling asleep as the fire waned and the embers glowed in the dark. I have mentioned mornings in Ghana several times. The air smelled of wood fires as breakfast was cooked over wood charcoal. In the market, huge bags of charcoal were for sale. In some villages tree trunks were slowly burned into charcoal and bags of it were for sale on the sides of the road. Even the irons were filled with wood charcoal.

At night, aunties, older women, sitting along the sides of the main road in Bolga cooked food over wood charcoal and sold it.  I remember the smell in the air was a combination of the wood charcoal burning and food cooking at my nighttime snack stops. That was the first time I ever tasted grilled corn and deep fried plantain and yam chips. Guinea fowl was rare, but I always bought it if I found it. I remember the spots of light from the lit lanterns up and down the street and the blazing embers under metal bowls filled with groundnut oil where the food cooked.

I am ever so thankful for having served in Ghana and for the memories still strong and vibrant.

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“There are no such things as curses; only people and their decisions”

October 7, 2017

The sun predicted for today has yet to appear. It is cloudy and damp. I could feel the moisture in the air when Gracie and I went out to get the papers. It made me feel a bit chilly and I wished I had put on a sweatshirt. The house, though, with all the doors and windows closed is warm.

We’re going out today, Gracie and I, to the dump, the market and Agway. My trunk is filled with trash from Thursday’s great cabinet clean-out. Gracie needs canned food and a treat or two, and I need the essentials for life: bread, coffee and cream.

My friends are coming on Tuesday for a couple of days. These are the friends I traveled with to Ghana last year. We first met in 1969 at Peace Corps staging in Philadelphia at the Hotel Sylvania. Staging is the first time the whole group of trainees get together before leaving for in-country training, and it is where we got shots, had interviews and were introduced to PC staff from Ghana. Right away we became friends and co-conspirators. The three of us skipped some of the orientation to tour Philadelphia. It didn’t take a whole lot of convincing. They were supposed to be posted in Tamale, a city 100 miles from Bolga. That would have made us neighbors. Instead, after Peace Corps found out Peg was pregnant, they were posted to New Tafo, in the south. I visited them every time I went south, and we traveled together. Just before our second year, there was an open post at my school. They were willing to join me in Bolga, and the principal agreed to make the request to Peace Corps so we became neighbors living in a duplex on the school compound. Bill had a red motorcycle. I had a grey one. We used to take day trips around Bolga. He’d take Kevin, their son, and I’d take Peg. We had adventures. I remember a couple of picnics during school holidays, one by a watering hole and another in the hills of Tongo where school boys stood and watched us the whole time. It was there an old man threatened us with the gods because he claimed we had desecrated a sacred rock by putting our small charcoal burned on it. The schoolboys said he just wanted money. We decided to take our chances. As we were leaving, Bill’s motorcycle stopped dead. It just quit running. We sort of chuckle and hoped the old man didn’t see us. The motorcycle did start right away, but it gave us pause.

“I have a very bad relationship with mice.”

October 6, 2017

When I went out with the dog, the air smelled of wood burning. It was morning in Ghana. All that was missing was the rooster crowing.

The day is again remarkable. The doors and a few windows are open. The sunlight made me squint. I felt like a mole emerging from my underground burrow. It is a day in October wearing the best of a summer’s day.

I slept in this morning, waking up at 10:30. It was close to one when I went to sleep so I was surprised by how long I’d slept. My mother would have said I must have needed it.

Yesterday, Leandro, one half of my cleaning couple, went into two lower cabinets to clean them. I suggested he might want a mask as those cabinets are where the mice used to live. He actually had one with him as well as gloves. He started pulling out everything: the pots and pans, paper goods, Tupperware, baking supplies and dishes. He vacuumed the bottom of the cabinet as he uncovered it. He mentioned my mice must have been diabetic given the number of empty Equal packets he found, each chewed at the top. He checked the expiration date of the food he found: all had expired years ago. I didn’t even remember food was there protected by Tupperware. I was hoping he would find two of my favorite missing kitchen tools: my apple peeler corer and my old double loaf pan, the one I always used for my date nut bread. He didn’t find the pan. I was disappointed and perplexed. I can’t imagine where else I could have put it. Lee found a good size mouse nest made of paper towels, dust and pieces of cardboard. It might have been the home of the three dead mice he found, all mummified. One clogged his vacuumed. That was the only one I saw. I had him throw away some worse for wear pots and pans I never use, didn’t even remember they were there far back in the cabinet. They are as old as the house and were gifts from my aunt when I moved in. I filled the dishwasher twice.

It rained last night just after I’d turned out the lights. The window beside me was open, and I could hear drops hitting the leaves though it took me a minute or two to figure what I was hearing. That was the sound which lulled me to sleep.

This will be a quiet weekend.

“I told myself that I was going to live the rest of my life as if it were Saturday.”

September 30, 2017

During the night, I grabbed the afghan as my house had gotten so cold. This morning it was 66˚. I admit I turned on the heat for a while until the house was warmer. Putting on a sweatshirt also helped. The sun was out when Gracie and I got the papers. Now the sky is cloudy, and rain is predicted for this afternoon and evening. I have nowhere I have to be today, and I’m glad.

Saturday has always been my favorite day. When I was a kid, I had the whole day to do what I wanted. Breakfast and favorite programs were first then I was out the door. Mostly I rode my bike so I could explore more. No part of town was out of riding reach. The best end of town was the zoo. It didn’t cost anything in those days. Sometimes we’d ride to the next town over and bike around Lake Quannapowitt. Other times we had no destination. We just rode around town and checked out our favorite places like the house of the newspaper and rag man which had a huge porch and an out-building, both filled with papers. We’d check out the town barn and the horses. On warm days, the firemen sat outside the station in front of the engine bays, and we’d stop to talk with them. They’d let us go check out the fire engines. We’d ride down the hilly driveway to the schoolyard then skid in the sand along the sides of the yard just for the fun of it. I don’t remember ever being bored, even in winter we found stuff to do.

When I was in Ghana, I’d go into town on a Saturday and roam the market hoping to find something unexpected. When I’d finished, I’d sit and have a cold Coke at the one place which had a fridge. It was the last store in a line of stores on the main street. It had a few tables and chairs outside. It was there an American guy stopped to talk to me. He wanted to know where the bare-breasted women were. I was angry and horrified. I told him so. He quickly left. I never ran into him again.

When I was working, I wanted one free day to do whatever I wanted. Saturday was the perfect choice, the historical choice. Once in a while I’d grocery shop on Saturday and once a month I’d dust and vacuum, but mostly Saturday was for fun.

Now I always say every day is Saturday.

 

“There are two kinds of fears: rational and irrational- or in simpler terms, fears that make sense and fears that don’t.”

September 28, 2017

Sometime during the night it rained. I slept through it. The street and the yard were still damp when I woke up late, close to ten. The air is wet, humid. The sky is gray. There is a breeze but it does little to clear the air. Today is the last day of the heat, according to the weatherman. Tonight the temperature will go down to the low 50’s.

I filled all the bird feeders this morning. The bottoms of a couple of them had mold and the seeds were in a clump. I cleaned every one. Last I checked, the bird weren’t back yet.

Huzzah! Huzzah! The first load of laundry is in the washer. A second load sits on the floor waiting its turn. I can’t remember the last time I had so much laundry. These two full loads are testaments to my sloth.

In Ghana, I had my laundry done when I lived there and when I visited. During training we found women in the nearest village to do the laundry. Everything was washed by hand in buckets. The irons were heated with charcoal. It was the same forty years later.   On my last trip, shirts were 2 cedis, about fifty cents. Pants were four, a whole dollar. I came home with clean clothes.

I do everything I can to do nothing. My house gets cleaned and my yard is kept neat, except for the back which no one sees, and my groceries get delivered right to the kitchen. If I could afford more, I’d have my laundry done while I sat and ate bonbons.

I need bread, and I could go to the dump though I’m thinking tomorrow is the better day Just because I don’t want to go today.

I don’t mind clowns or bugs. I have a black cat. Heights don’t make me dizzy, but rides which go around and around make me throw up. Stopping at the top of a Ferris wheel isn’t a problem for me. I like the view. I don’t get the fear of spiders, but scorpions are a different story. Once I had a scorpion roaming on my living room floor, and my student killed it with my sandal. She asked permission first. I said yes because scorpions bite. Sometimes I hear noises I can’t explain. They give me pause. I lower the TV and listen. Usually I don’t hear it again. If I did, I’d pass it off as an animal or a bird. That’s the easiest answer and the one which doesn’t make me afraid.

“One should not attend even the end of the world without a good breakfast.”

September 24, 2017

We have sun and a blue sky, both among the missing for the last five days. I was surprised by how warm it is when I went out to get the papers. My lawn and deck are a mess. Leaves and branches cover both. The leaves are so wet they are pasted to the lawn and driveway. The deck is slick. I had to take mincing steps to keep my balance. I hope the leaves are quick drying in the sun.

Breakfast is my favorite go out to eat meal. I like my bacon crisp and my eggs over easy. My toast is usually rye. I love to use it to sop up the yoke. Sometimes I get French toast. I slop on maple syrup, the real stuff. I also get crisp bacon with my French toast. Some places offer home fries, but I only like them seasoned so most times I just pass.

In Ghana, my breakfast was the same every day. I had two eggs fried in peanut oil, toast and coffee. Butter was expensive so I used margarine from a tin. The coffee was instant with tinned milk. The eggs and the bread were fresh. Sometimes the eggs came from my own chickens. The rest of the time I bought them in the market. The bread was fresh and sweet. Cooking the eggs in peanut oil added a wonderful taste. I always had two giant cups of coffee, one with breakfast and the other sitting out on the steps in the front of my house. I’d watch the little kids walk to schools close to my school fences.

Every place I’ve stayed on return trips to Ghana serves a complimentary breakfast. It is generally two eggs, toast and coffee, and yes, the milk is still tinned.

I don’t often cook breakfast for myself. Usually I just have coffee and, of late, toast or an English muffin. I don’t ever use margarine, and I use light cream in my coffee. I like to indulge myself. My favorite coffee is called African blend, but I like to try different coffees. I just bought some Ugandan coffee. It was expensive partly because it came in a red striped cloth bag with beadwork. I admit I was drawn by the bag.

Peapod has come and gone. The driver was nice enough to leave freezer and refrigerator items in bags near the fridge so I’ve already put them away. When I finish here, I’ll put the rest of the groceries away. I had to be inventive to fit everything in the freezer, and my fridge is hardly ever this filled. My kitchen has become a land of plenty.

“Don’t wait, just sweat.”

September 15, 2017

It is sunny and breezy, a strong enough breeze to chase the earlier humidity away. It rained last night but not much. The temperature will stay in the mid 70’s all day. Gracie is restless and already panting, a sign the day is too warm for her. I have given her treats, pulled her onto the couch and taken her outside, but she’s still not happy. I can’t take the staring. Maddie too is impatient. She keeps meowing at me. I give her treats but they’re not enough. Both these animals feel far too entitled, my fault I know.

I got most of my errands done yesterday but not the dump. I was gone a couple of hours in and out of stores so when I got home, I was too hot and tired for the dump. It will have to be today as I have no time tomorrow.

The paper explained that older people don’t have the capacity to adjust to temperatures as well as younger people because old people don’t sweat as much, and many take medication that affects body temperature. I mustn’t be at that stage yet as I was sweating yesterday. All my life I have been a head sweater (as in one who sweats not in reference to a garment to be worn). That might already have been obvious to you, but sweater just didn’t look right to me: hence the aside. I’m glad I’m not a pit sweater. That always looks gross to me.

When I was packing for Ghana, my mother and I looked for a strong antiperspirant knowing how hot it gets in Africa. We found one with maximum protection which keeps you smelling great for 48 hours. Who could have asked for more? Well, I used it and ended up with boils under each armpit, a carbuncle, meaning a cluster of boils, a word I wish I didn’t have to learn. I couldn’t even lift my arms to write on the board. I didn’t connect with the deodorant right away as Ghana has all sorts of diseases, but I stopped using the deodorant anyway. The boils did their thing and eventually broke. I wrote the Peace Corps doctor asking for information. He figured it could be an infection or even my deodorant and said to stop using it. I had guessed right. After the boils finally disappeared, I used powder. It didn’t provide 48 hour protection, but I didn’t care. Those boils were the worst.