Ghanaians are very hospitable people. When we arrived in Ghana, we were greeted by Daniel, who insisted that we should eat something and meet Bright since we would be working with him that week. When Rita arrived at the end of the first week, we greeted her with an entourage at the airport.
Rita decided to live with us at Daniel’s house since it would be easier to drive to work if we did not have to stop at her parents’ house. This meant that Rita would visit her family the next day, and we went with her. In Ghana, it is not uncommon for members of the extended family to live in the same house, so we met Rita’s father, mother, grandmother, and three of her brothers. It is a custom, upon welcoming a visitor into your home, to offer that person water and ask about the place from which that person came. Rita’s grandmother initiated this custom, and after a brief explanation from Rita, we understood how to properly greet guests. We shook hands with everyone (her family lined up to shake our hands, kind of like two teams shaking hands after a sports match) and the conversations began. Rita said this was her first visit home in two years, so everyone was happy to see her. Her parents live in Dzorwulu a couple blocks from the Familycare Pharmacy where we worked during the second week, so we saw her family many times.
After spending time with Rita’s family (and dropping off two suitcases full of American souvenirs), we drove to Adenta with Charles to see Cynthia’s parents, who wanted to meet the ONU students. The drive took a long time because there were several traffic jams and we were seating a lot by the time we arrived. Cynthia’s parents greeted us with the same customs, but we were offered sangria instead of water. Courtney thought it was just fruit juice and she filled her glass to the top, and then she was surprised to find there was some alcohol in the beverage. The sangria was cold, though, and any cold drink would have been just as refreshing.
After these visits, we stopped at the Accra mall. The mall is pretty new (it was built within the last few years) and it resembles American malls. It has some clothing stores, an electronics store, a grocery store, and a food court. The food court has American food – pizza, fried chicken, and ice cream. Pizza has become the go-to option if we feel sick since we know it is a safe option. The mall was a nice stop, but it is a lot smaller than most American malls. Regardless, it is a popular destination on the weekend and traffic around the mall is terrible.
The Accra mall – it reminds us of malls at home.
So far, we have eaten with Rita’s family and friends for many meals because everyone knows she is back in Ghana. We have eaten at her parents’ house a few times, which Courtney really enjoys because Rita’s mom makes kelewele (fried plantains, which is probably her favorite Ghanaian food) and a stew with vegetables and fish (which tastes like the filling for a stuffed pepper when eaten with rice). We learned that before you begin eating, it is polite to invite the people around you to join (you just say, “I invite you,” and you can eat your food).
We have also spent time with Lorraine, one of Rita’s good friends who took us to the Art Center market. At the market, we bought cloth so we could have dresses made while we are here and Courtney bought a lot of t-shirts as souvenirs for her family. The market was not very busy because it was Sunday, so all of the vendors swarmed us as soon as they saw two white girls. Rita and Lorraine were able to barter for us, which was really helpful.
Courtney examines a cloth to purchase at Art Center.
Another of Rita’s friends, Andy, learned that we want to try fufu before we leave. We have already tried banku, which is similar to fufu. Banku is a starchy ball of dough made from corn that is served with stew (okro stew with which fish, in our case). Nicole liked banku and Courtney did not, but Courtney still wants to try fufu since it is one of the most popular Ghanaian dishes.
Banku. The ball of dough is on the left and the okro stew is on the right. To eat it, you gather a piece of the dough with your fingers, then use it to scoop up some of the soup and swallow it without chewing. It’s a different eating experience from home.
Nicole eating banku, which she thought was tasty.
However, when Andy took us out for dinner, it was too late for fufu because they stopped making it for the day. We tried waakye instead (rice and beans with meat – chicken for Nicole and fish for Courtney). Unfortunately for Nicole, something in the waakye made her sick that night, so she hopes she won’t have food poisoning again this month. We were warned that we would get sick at some point during this trip, so this didn’t disrupt any plans – just some sleep for Nicole. The next day, no fewer than a dozen people inquired about her health to make sure she was okay.
We are grateful and a little surprised at how Ghanaians will go out of their way to make us feel welcome, whether it is Daniel opening his home to us for the month, Rita’s mother cooking a delicious meal for us, or Bright leaving the pharmacy in the middle of the day to take us somewhere (too bad we can’t do that at home). All of the hospitality really enhances our visit in Ghana.
Well, we could live without the awkward marriage proposals.
Auntie Nicole and Auntie Courtney