Posted tagged ‘Goat’

“Never complete. Never whole. White skin and an African soul.”

November 4, 2016

If I pulled out that dusty old dictionary of mine and looked up autumn, I’d find it is a noun defined as,”the third season of the year, when crops and fruits are gathered and leaves fall, in the northern hemisphere from September to November and in the southern hemisphere from March to May.” The words in the definition just aren’t enough. What about autumn’s almost indefinable beauty? What about autumn’s colors, its cool, sometimes cold nights, and its warmer mornings? What about a perfect autumn day? Well, I’ve got that one covered: today is the perfect autumn day. The sun is bright. The sky is deep blue but has a few wispy clouds for contrast. The air is warm, long sleeve shirt warm. A slight breeze is enough to drop the brown leaves off the boughs of the oak trees. They slowly flutter to the ground as if they know their time is done. Today is a day to be out and about.

I met two former students the other day. We did the pleasantries and caught up with one another. I met one’s baby and another’s nine year old. They asked what I was doing to stay busy. I described my life as a sloth and I mentioned traveling. They wanted to know where. “Africa,” I told them. “Wow,” was the response from each of them and both mentioned how exciting Africa must have been. I told them about the elephants. Seeing those elephants was nothing short of amazing for me, and they thought seeing elephants had to be the coolest thing.

Those conversations got me thinking. Elephants and game parks aside, going back to Ghana is almost commonplace for me. Were I to go to Mali or Botswana, I would think of each as an unbelievable trip to Africa. Ghana is going home. It is familiar again. I get to see my former students, and we are at ease with each other, the sort of ease which comes from years of friendship. I am not surprised by what I see. The rooster wakes me up, but I can always go back to sleep. I enjoy goat and Guinea fowl as much as beef or chicken. I know Ghanaian food is spicy hot and best eaten with my hand. I am adept at noticing and walking over deposits left by goats and sheep on the streets, the walkways and in the market. All the smells are Ghana to me. Ghanaians smile at me, and I smile back. I even greet them in Hausa and a bit of FraFra.

Though Bolgatanga is bigger and far busier, I just think of it as home. It being in Africa is merely serendipitous.

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“He looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food”

August 4, 2014

The sun is back after a three-day hiatus. I was on the deck earlier to fill the feeders and noticed how wet all the wood still is. I hope the sun stays warm enough to dry everything. Usually this time of year the fields near the marshes have turned brown, but this year has been so cool even those grasses are still green. August is generally the hottest month but not yet.

Yesterday Peapod came so the larder is full again and that got me to thinking about food, Glorious Food. I eat a lot of different foods that I never even knew existed until I was an adult. My mother fed us what we’d eat and seldom experimented with our taste buds. We were kids and kids didn’t taste. Kids looked. I know what our reactions to hummus and guacamole would have been. They look like baby food, ejected baby food, and we would have made disgusting noises and pushed the dishes aside. They happen to be two of my favorites now. We only ate white bread. I never buy it now. I buy grainy breads, naan or pita breads. We would have rejected naan and pita. They’re round. Bread wasn’t round. It was sliced. Vegetables were unknown territory aside from potatoes, carrots and green beans. We liked meat. Hamburger was common in so many different dishes. We never cared. They all looked and tasted good. If you had told me I’d eat goat, eel and bushmeat when I was older, I would have been horrified. Even as a teenager I never expanded my palate. There was little opportunity for that. Chinese was the exotic food in town. The start of my food journey was Ghana.

It was at my live-in where we each stayed with a Ghanaian family as part of our training that I became an adventurous eater out of necessity and cultural sensitivity. On the porch outside my room was a table and on the first night dinner was put on that table. It was some sort of meat, a soup and something gelatinous. No one was there to explain what I was eating. I figured I had to use my hand as there were no utensils so I broke off a gelatinous piece, dipped it in the soup and cautiously put it in my mouth. No chewing was necessary. It slid right down my throat. The meat tasted okay but it was fatty and bony. The soup was pepper hot but not too pepper hot. I ate most of the meal because I didn’t want to offend my host family.

We got comfortable with each other and family members started to sit and eat with me sharing the common soup bowl. I found out the gelatinous blob was T-Zed, the northern Ghanaian staple food, and the meat was goat. I wasn’t bothered at all by the goat or the blob. By then I had spent three or more weeks in Ghana and I just ate what was put in front of me. I did have favorites and I did have foods I didn’t like, never liked the whole time I was there, but I tried everything. My palate expanded exponentially. I even liked grasscutter aka bushmeat and scientifically known as the greater cane rat (Thryonomys swinderianus). It is considered a delicacy. I ate it with bread.

“…it was so rich and exotic I was seduced into taking one bite and then another as I tried to chase the flavors back to their source.”

July 25, 2013

Okay, this may be difficult to believe but it is actually chilly and damp. That’s right: I said chilly. It is 66˚, and I’m loving it. All the windows and doors are opened, and Gracie is in and out at her pleasure. The day is dark and cloudy. It’s a candle sort of day, and I have a few lit in here and some of the electric ones lit in the living room. They shed just the right amount of light and make the house feel cozy. The candle closest to me flickers and its flame moves with the breeze. The scent of this candle is coffee.

Last night two of my friends and I went down-Cape to Eastham for dinner. We went to Karoo’s, a South African restaurant, and it was wonderful. The waitress was perfect as were her suggestions for food and drink. For starters, I had a combo plate and could make a few changes. I went with the monkey ribs instead of two snail rangoons. They and the peri-peri chicken were my favorites. For dinner I had Durban Bunny Chow, and it was so good I left only a few forlorn potato and carrot pieces on the plate. The drinks went down easily. Sadly, we had no room for dessert. I need to go back there and try more. That ostrich sattay (their spelling) and the bobotie looked darn good, and I could manage another couple of those drinks.

When I was growing up, we never ate exotic food except Italian and Chinese. One sit-down restaurant was Chinese, and there was a luncheonette up town with mostly stools. I don’t even remember if it had tables. Other places were take-out sub shops, pizza places and a Carrol’s, a McDonald like hamburger spot. It was cheap enough, but my parents never bought dinner there. I don’t know why. Later, high school later, we all used to hang out in the parking lot leaning against the cars and drinking shakes or cokes. That town now has an Indian and a Thai restaurant and still has that Chinese restaurant as well as a wonderful Italian restaurant. It also boasts a Burger King and a McDonald’s just over the line in the next town. The seafood restaurant always has a line, but we mostly do take-out.

My first strange food was, as I’ve mentioned a million times, in Ghana during training. I didn’t eat a lot of it. No one told us what we were being served so we were all pretty cautious. Breakfast with coffee and rolls was the most popular meal. I do remember the first time I ate goat. It was at my live-in. It was in some kind of soup. I knew it was meat, but I had no idea what kind of meat, and no one told me, but I tried it anyway. Other than having a lot of bones, it was pretty good. After that, I tried just about everything. That ostrich I mentioned will be next!

“When you are at home, your troubles can never defeat you.”

September 20, 2012

The routine of daily life returns far too quickly. Each morning I am closer to my usual time. This morning it was 6:30 when I woke up; two days ago it was 4:30. Last night I lasted until nearly 10:30 before I dragged my tired self upstairs to bed.

Last year I returned to a different Ghana after forty years away. The cities are huge and filled with crowds of people and with cars caught in constant traffic jams, except for Sundays when the roads are clear. That is church day in Ghana.

I could hear the sounds of car horns everywhere. They blow a second after the traffic lights turn green which I find strange in a country where patience, like food and water, is a necessity of life. Ghana is dirty, mostly in the cities. I partially blame the water sachets, small plastic bags of pure water, sold everywhere then tossed to the ground when empty. After a while, though, I didn’t notice. I just saw Ghana: the people, the animals and the wonderful small villages and towns.

Along the roads are deserted houses made of clay. They fall apart easily when not tended. Other houses in various stages of construction are everywhere. They aren’t abandoned but in process. New houses are build over time, when the owners have money. It often takes years to finish a house.

The roads are filled with tro-tros ferrying riders from one stop to another, from one small village to the next. The driver’s helper sits by the sliding door and yells the destination. Each tro-tro is filled with people crammed elbow to elbow. People don’t seem to mind the heat.

Goats are everywhere. They stand on the shoulders of the road to eat the grass beside the road. Babies stand with their mothers. Pregnant goats waddle. At night, the goats sleep on the same shoulders where they spent the day. I never saw a goat which had been hit by a car. Drivers are careful.

Along the road, villages and small towns appear out of nowhere. Speed bumps are the only indicators. They slow drivers down going into and out of each village, even the smallest. In between the villages I saw women carrying bundles of wood, bicyclists riding along the side of the road and children with buckets both filled and empty. Many times I never saw their destinations and wondered where they were going. I guessed there were isolated compounds somewhere off the road. Hawkers are everywhere. If you stop, they come to the windows hoping for a sale. Off their heads come their trays. Some are filled with oranges or bread, groundnuts, water sachets or dried fish. At toll booths, the hawkers sell wares particular to the region. Near the water were shrimp, octopus and snails. The food I wanted was a sweet donut. When I found some , I bought two. They used to be a roadside staple. Now they are rarer. The other food I miss is toasted coconut balls. They were delicious.

The Ghanaians are wonderful, friendly people. When you speak to them in a local language, they smile from ear to ear and often clap. They say, “You have done well.” If you are lost, a Ghanaian will give you directions or even walk you to your destination. A woman got in our car and directed us to where we wanted to go. They will grab your bundles so you don’t have to carry them. I was offered a bench every time I stopped to take a small rest. Ghana is rich in its people.

Ghana is a country of street food. We used to go into town at night for snacks and buy we’d kabobs, plantain chips or fried yams. The women, the aunties, were set up along the sides of the road behind basins filled with oil boiling over charcoal fires. Lit lanterns sat on their tables. I always liked the sight of the dark street dotted with those lanterns. Mostly that hasn’t changed, but now street food is available starting in the afternoons. I bought tasty sausages and kabobs, often with fried onions. I bought kelewele and yams and bread, delicious butter bread, and rolls for my sausages. Many small kiosks now dot the sides of the streets and sell food. They all have painted names on the front and most boast they are the best: the best meat, the best kenkey and the best of just about everything.

Last year Ghana was new again. This year it was familiar. It felt far more like home, the way it had all those years ago.

Salutations!

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!