Archive for Food

Ghana in Reverse (Twelve)

Posted in GFYS, Literary Masterpieces, Loves, Rants with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2013 by ccartlidge

Thankfully, someone picked me up at the airport, because the place I’m living doesn’t exist on any map I’ve seen and the house doesn’t have an address to speak of. This part of Ghana reminds me a bit of Central America. I’m surprised at how comfortable I feel here. It’s drier than I expected. Almost so dry the dust chokes me, but I’ve heard the rainy season is coming. For now though, it’s too hot to wear actual clothes, especially when the power goes out (which is a lot) and since I only see two other people living in the house on a regular basis, I wear as little as possible. Side boob for weeks. It pains me to put on clothes to leave the house, but I can’t take a taxi naked. The last taxi I was in ran over a goat. That seems to happen a lot.

There’s a cat. Why is there a cat? I feel like no one told me about the cat. The frogs come out at night and I love listening to them, but people wake very early in the mornings and are not shy about making noise. Sunday mornings bring a parade of singing and drumming men praising Jesus, which is fucked up in my opinion.

There is no coffee. I lied, there’s Nescafé, but that’s not coffee. This is a list of all the food obtainable in the market: miniscule light green apples imported from South Africa, mangos (seasonal unfortunately), pineapples, bananas, watermelon (also seasonal), avocados, plantains, white sugar bread, white non-sugar bread, gigantic white yams, white rice, tiny white eggplants, eggs with pure white yolks because everything the chickens eat is white, white onions, yellow onions, red onions, green onions, green peppers, cassava, the greens of the cassava plant that I can’t spell and most people are allergic to so we never eat, cabbage, tomatoes, carrots, maize (the tough, non-modified kind), okra, groundnut paste (peanut butter; the women at the market are all like ‘fuck yeah the American girls are here again, bitches clean me out every time’), black-eyed peas, goat, chicken, dried fish, sugar cane, ice cream in plastic bags (everything in plastic bags), chalky chocolate, box wine, and palm oil. I did find Marmite although it molded. I might have forgotten a few things, but that is a list of practically everything that could go into my mouth for the next eight months. I forgot cheap whiskey, that’s what I forgot.

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Ghana in Reverse (Eleven)

Posted in GFYS, Literary Masterpieces, Loves, Rants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 5, 2013 by ccartlidge

There is a feeling I have about the food.

Obviously, I expected to make adjustments in my eating habits. Over the years, I’ve learned the difficult way to attempt not to be the one picky eater because I feel bad being a privileged pain-in-the-ass. A conscious one anyway. For someone like me this is very difficult (cue snare and splash), and the feeling I get is that I might be setting myself up. I’ve never seen so much sugar bread in my life, nor have I ever been fond of green peppers. The lack of running water doesn’t bother me at all, except in the kitchen. No wonder everyone cooks outside.

Theoretically I’ve got everything down, but I have a feeling my job will end up being largely reactive. That’s something, although lots of ideas seem good in theory. Do international non-profit organizations all run like this? My two roommates seem like their jobs revolve around sending emails to students or parents of students and I have no students (although I am grateful for this). We have a good time together, my roommates and I. It’s nice to have friends. I’ve heard there are other people who live in this house too, but I never ever see them so it remains a rumor. I do know that there is a cat. I did not invite him in, but apparently he was born in my closet and since the doors to the house don’t even close all the way, I can’t keep him out. Plus, he might get eaten out there. He just can’t sleep on my bed.

It’s very lush, so I was wondering when it would start raining. I’m not really surprised, but it rains a whole damn lot. It rained torrentially all day yesterday and now the road to the site is totally washed out. Of course we’re pouring concrete soon. Another bad omen. Now I take a shared taxi and walk the rest of the way, which is perfectly fine because I like to walk, but I don’t coo over children like other people and for obvious reasons they can’t help noticing the lone obroni girl walking through their village, and they have this totally adorable thing they do where they chant the same phrase at me in unison, over and over again.

 

Ghana in Reverse (Nine)

Posted in GFYS, Literary Masterpieces, Loves, Rants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2013 by ccartlidge

Apparently, baboons will steal your food if you let them. Especially if you are a small human. They know we won’t do anything, they know. They know, and now I know that one must exercise constant vigilance when eating food outside in Northern Ghana. Baboons are quite resourceful. Also, hate if you want, but warthogs are adorable.

Elephants: we were probably closer to them than we should have been.

Everyone knows that while truth may form the basis of stereotypes, they are never ever always true no matter how smug, elated, or otherwise it may make someone to think that they are. One example is that not all Ghanaians are non-violent and willing to tolerate Obronis; some of them have guns and use them.

Witch camps: horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible, sexist, horrible, awful.

(Far too many people in the States have guns and use them. Even in the context of political and social revolution, the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution assumes a lot about the generalized good intentions of human nature and really is quite frightening. Angry people with guns are scary, especially when there are no deer around.)

Ghana in Reverse (Eight)

Posted in GFYS, Literary Masterpieces, Loves, Rants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 17, 2013 by ccartlidge

This is new. Now I have a million fucking roommates and I’m pretty sure I only had three a few weeks ago. Nobody tells me anything. I just got used to being alone in this giant-ass house, not bathing, and not talking for days at a time. My newest roommate arrived in the middle of the night. (11 pm is the middle of the night for me.) This is a paraphrase of what I said to her before going back to bed: ‘Here’s the bathroom, there is no running water and the toilet leaks. You could use the bathroom next door, but you’ll have to walk around or climb the wall. This is your closet, sorry about the extra clothes. Keep the door closed, because there are cats around, and the only person who loved them enough to clean them is gone now. This is your bed, sorry it’s so small. Here are some sleeping pills if you want; I didn’t sleep for two days when I arrived. Not sure how strong they are, so you could take two. Welcome to Ghana.’ The next day, I took her to Cape to eat vegan food made by Germans, talk about sex, and visit a Rastafarian who calls himself Son of Man (whose given name I do not know, he won’t tell me, although I did guess his age correctly). She moved next door a few days later. I’m pretty sure it’s because of the running water.

The kids in Ankeful are still shouting that phrase at me when I walk through. I haven’t heard it in any other community and I don’t know what it means, although I’ve asked many people. Their mothers seem to scold them for it, so I’m not sure I want to know what it means anyway. Something about money? It is starting to get less rainy now, but it is still overcast almost all the time. The road to the site hasn’t been fixed. Before I left the States, I remember the woman who gave me all those shots telling me about what I should and should not do to avoid parasites and things of that nature. She mentioned never to walk or swim in freshwater. This makes me laugh. Clearly this woman has never lived in rural Ghana or anywhere else without a fully functioning stormwater drainage system because avoiding freshwater mixed with sewage is damn impossible here, even if the rains hadn’t washed out vehicular access to a specific destination and the only choices are to turn around or walk through. Hopefully, there isn’t anything sharp down there. She also told me never to eat fruits and vegetables that I couldn’t peel. This woman could be a comedian.

Ghana in Reverse (Six)

Posted in GFYS, Literary Masterpieces, Loves, Rants, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2013 by ccartlidge

Mom has a week and a half between work in Tanzania and Kenya and I’m going to travel with her through Tanzania and Zanzibar. Dar es Salaam seems like a real city! Zanzibar is gorgeous and has delicious coffee! Addis Ababa is a confusing airport and people who speak Amharic don’t think so, which makes sense, but I still maintain that even if I can’t read the signs I should be able to navigate an airport without confusion, so I’m standing my ground on a theoretical design basis! I feel ecstatic and small.

I read King Leopold’s Ghost and The Catcher in the Rye for the first time, which is two more books than I’ve read in so many months. Finnegans Wake or The Silmarillion probably would have been better choices, for a less endemic and more time-consuming type of torture. My mother wonders aloud why I read books I know are going make me cry. I’m just not the type of person who reads a book from beginning to end when I know it’s devoid of intellectual value and/or alternative realities by chapter two (maybe three if it’s gotten good reviews). I just put it down. ‘Beach reads’ are a waste of time, in my humble opinion. No offense to James Patterson. I took a shower. Many showers in fact, and I feel guilty, but I’m fucking happy to get out and even happier to see my mother. I’m loved and I’d almost forgotten.

Back in West Africa, it seems like the seasons have changed during the week and all the sudden it’s hot as hell and the traffic is even worse than it normally is. Is it my imagination, or does the heat make the market smell worse? When I get back to the house, the power is out, the internet is out, and there’s no food. Not even eggs. Seriously, what are you eating? You know white bread has practically no nutrition, right? When was the last time you pooped? I’m worried about you.

Ghana in Reverse (Four)

Posted in GFYS, Literary Masterpieces, Loves, Rants with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2013 by ccartlidge

For a few days, I felt as if I were approximating someone with emotional and mental stability, but then I started to make sweets with reckless abandon and ate like a third of a bag of Pebbles for lunch just now and I feel insane again. I really like making dough fritters, partly because everyone loves them and it’s nice to know that I can contribute somehow. I know one day I will have bad knees and a bad back, so continuing to run in cheap tennis shoes on a washed-out, rocky dirt road seems like a bad idea (even above and beyond the fact that I hate running and always thought the international sign for “leave me the fuck alone” was to put on headphones, sunglasses, and a spartan expression but this is not actually international and if you are an obroni girl with short hair people are always curious about where you are going and why you are going there and why are you so tired you haven’t gone that far and it’s too hot to run after 8 am so I have to get up at 5:30 but I suppose it doesn’t really matter much anyway because Isaac the baby screams like a damn banshee starting around 6 so it’s cool and there’s nothing to do after it gets dark and the power’s out so I just go to bed at 8 pm and always get a lot of sleep except when I have the insomnia or I’m sick and peanut butter makes me gag now). I always hated running, but I’ve got imaginary monsters chasing me. Americans take elliptical machines for granted.

The funny thing about self-motivation is that production only works properly if you believe in the product. Socratic irony and dichotomy fascinate me. But: having no one to answer to on a daily basis, and still working for what is essentially a startup non-profit organization run by very young people is neither precise nor transparent (read: trying). I’m curious about how other similar organizations work. I can’t pretend to know a lot about what the best model for international aid work is, nor do I even have a clear opinion about the moral issue and I would like to be able to make an informed opinion. Oh, I’ve got opinions, but they’ve been shaped using only firsthand experience and opaque information. Actually… nevermind. That’s the way it is.

I remain skeptical (and I’m not alone). I am watching with eyes wide and mouth gaping.

[For the record: Believe it or not, I hold a fair amount back in these posts. If I give it all away here, I’ll have no more stories to tell in person. That would be a shame, because I have an expressive face and like to use my hands when I talk. *gesticulates wildly*]

Ghana in Reverse (Three)

Posted in GFYS, Literary Masterpieces, Loves, Rants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2012 by ccartlidge

It’s late November, give or take. Everything seems to be coming full circle with the annoying, early morning atmospheric noise. (It’s a good thing I’ve compensated for this.) Three political parties in Ghana have been campaigning for a while and the elections happen on December 7th. Political campaigns in Ghana are less like the unconscionable American television advertisements and more like parades starting at 6 am, consisting of trucks with giant speakers blasting Hiplife and followed by excited supporters. On Sundays these are preceded by the Jesus Parades as well. I leave Ghana just a day before the election, which of course means that I will miss it. No matter, the incumbent always wins (even if the incumbent happens to have died in office).

Ghana is an extremely religious country, so religious in fact that to be gay is illegal. The organization maintains that it is secular, and this is one of the reasons I was comfortable taking the job. I’ve found that this is not strictly true. Every staff meeting starts and ends with a prayer. Every. Single. Damned. One. I shouldn’t have to state that this really pisses me off (this really pisses me off), but I decided a few months ago that I would not go out of my way to explain my opposition to the practice unless pressed, as I have enough problems without people chasing me with pitchforks machetes. A few times I was asked to lead one, which I deflected without incident. However, I did decide that it would be great fun to do the last prayer, at my last staff meeting, just for shits and giggles. Coincidentally, this is the only staff meeting that didn’t have even one. Well played.

There’s no nutritious food, no distractions, no box wine, and I still haven’t been lucky enough to go more than a day or two without crying. I’m drinking my dinner in the form of awful whiskey cut with a lot of water and eating Laughing Cow cheese with awful wheat crackers. (I hate that bejeweled bovine. She laughs at us, not with us. Hideous cow.) At least I’m eating wheat crackers and not those cheap Chinese butter crackers that occasionally have something foreign embedded in them. I daydream about Broccoli.