Postcards from Ghana

Holiday 03/10/97

Lindsey has joined me in Ghana. We're on holiday. But where to go? We've 'done' the coastline before; didn't quite get to Ouagadougou as planned, so we are chilling out in Kumasi instead.

Options for holidaying in Kumasi are fairly limited. The collection of postcards available says it all; one of the more popular being of the post office. Well it must be the most visited tourist destination, being the only place to post postcards phone home from.

I decided that Lindsey would not be interested in the military museum (the only 'real' 'sight' here) so instead we started the tour at the market. Apparently its the biggest market in West Africa; the biggest maybe, but that doesn't mean it has the greatest variety of produce on sale. Almost a third of the market must be dedicated to women's hair care products. It would appear that women in this country spend most of their money on their hair. They've got to look good for the funerals that are regularly attended (funerals are the #1 social event).

Beyond the fixing mousses, straightening gels, relaxing crèmes, and body enliveners is the food section. We were with Stephen, my 'steward' and he made a bee-line for our usual butcher. Nice slab of beef sitting on a wooden chopping board, halo of flies buzzing around... and the smell!?!! Stephen points out a nice piece of top side and asks the butcher to remove the fat. The butcher removes his cigarette from his mouth and goes to business with his carving knife. We then have the fun and games of haggling over the price. The 'Obruni factor' (Whiteman factor) plays an important part, much to Stephen's disgust. He is stoically anti government and bursts into a diatribe against Ghana, 'oh this country...' My attempts at suggesting that it may have more to do with international pressures from financial institutions such as IMF and World Bank fall on deaf ears. Anything to have a dig at the President, nothing to do with structural readjustment....

Beef bought, chicken next. Want a fresh bird, so can get no fresher than a live flapping and clucking hen. The last chicken we bought from the market was as tough as old leather- Ghanaians apparently like their poultry that way. Eventually a chicken was chosen, the price decided and it feet and wings bound. The problem with walking around the market with a live bird under your arm is that it will almost certainly make a mess of your trousers. So we bought a plastic bag to carry the thing in. Ghanaian plastic however is not the strongest, the heavy bird just fell straight through. Three bags later Stephen decided that plastic bags were not such a good idea and put up with the white stains that soon appeared down his legs.

Leaving the market we passed the row of sellers flogging snails. Huge molluscs the size of babies heads. Ugchhhh, but they do seem to eat anything here. I have yet to find any indigenous cuisine that is appetising. Snails, bushmeat, pigs trotters or smoked fish, served with fufu (pounded cassava) and topped with shito (which looks, smells, and tastes as it sounds) are not my idea of tasty nosh.

All this talk of food is enough to turn anyone vegetarian.....

Today I took Lindsey to a lake, 30KM out of Kumasi. Totally forgettable experience except for the pain in my arms from sunburn. We took the motorbike- it didn't occur to me that outstretched arms would be a magnet for the suns rays. And whilst I'm moaning about health on the bike, Vibration White Finger set in after an hours bumping up and down on the poor road surfaces....

But enough for now, I'm on holiday. More nonsense another time.