Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Birthday Musing

I gave pounding fufu a shot...needs practice
Dearest reader, my deepest apologies for the long radio silence; the internet and long days have not been in my favour. But since today is my birthday, the least I could do is provide some reflections. A birthday is often an ideal opportunity to consider how each experience, and their sum total, has made us who we are. While it is a little terrifying to think about how quickly those 28 years have passed, I am grateful to be at this point. It has been ten years since completing high school, incredibly five since leaving California, and nearly a year since abandoning the United States. In the decade since leaving my parents’ house as 18 year-old, I have met and befriended amazing individuals from around the world. In my humble opinion, it is those exchanges, the new perspectives and cultures, that make all the difference in defining an individual. Considering a birthday seven years ago, also in an African country – Madagascar – I remember a nervous and very cautious university student. This summer in Ghana has already been far different; by the very nature of the research, it is more important to be open and flexible, getting to know people, rather than surveying the relatively straightforward forest flora. And in all honesty, not to sound trite, but that builds far more character!
One big challenge, and what you probably really care about, is actually the food. Vegans (and vegetarians, for that matter) beware: Ghana is a country of meat-eaters. The base of every stew, every soup is meat or fish. That said, there are ways to eat delicious vegetarian fare with roots in the traditional dishes. The basis of many meals is fufu, banku, or boiled plantain, yam, or cassava. So while the soups and stews that are served with these starchy staples by default contains meat, a nice okra or eggplant stew can substitute. Watkye is one example – a rice and bean dish. Other commonly eaten foods are fried plantain (with beans is RedRed), contumere (cocoyam leaf) stewed, and peppery stew. Food is a focal point, a topic that usually surfaces in conversation, a show of respect or gratitude. We’ve been fed by people who have welcomed us into their homes. We’ve brought bread to those who have shown us particular good will. Coconuts and oranges seem to materialize out of nowhere. Not to mention that everyday we are talking to farmers!
Since time is short (and now you all know that I am alive and well), I will leave you there. Looking forward to another year of learning, exploring, and muddling through life!

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