Meeting Shea

At a cultural event, I came across these nuts, shea nuts, I had never set my eyes on the nuts called tama from the Northern part of Ghana. The hard dark nuts with not much of a smell but scaly shell looked rather strange to me. I decided to research further.

Learning More About Shea

I was excited as I had only seen the tree but not the nuts. A lady at the stall took her time to introduce me to the shea nuts.  Apparently, the shell had to be carefully peeled and the inner nut crushed into an oily paste. The oily paste, I have been using for my hair for years.  I  felt the need to explore further. I remembered Dorcas lived in that part of Ghana where shea butter is produced, so a phone call helped me to find out more. IMG_3926


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Friendship Haiku

Friends can hold our hands

At times when we are helpless

We need each other

 

Share our joyful past

Release the unhappy ones

Laugh together now

 

Meet for old times sake

Reminisce about the past

For the time being

Yesterday we met to visit our classmate. Twelve young men and ladies, to see our friend of over forty years. She has lost her father, a distinguished man.

At such times there are many memories, memories of our years together in boarding school. The unseen bond clearly makes our friendship special. No words can share the connection we have with each other and sometimes the silence or the laughter means much more than we can explain.

I give off myself because I appreciate the love and care this same group adorned on me when I was in this same situation. It feels like a balm on a fracture, and makes the pain a little bit less, decreased, yes.

People may not understand but when one has grown up with a group of friends, especially coped with many difficulties or hardships together, you tend to understand each other that much more.

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The Market

Why I did not go to the market yesterday?

-I could not choose between a local market or the market in the center of town, My local market, I have never visited before, but I am told is bustling with food and goods. Apparently, that is where I can find anything I need.  Organic vegetables that are reasonable and fresh.

-I needed to be ready for the big crowds and being shoved about.

-To be ready to put up with loud noise, sounds of cars hooting and people calling their wares in different local languages

-I was not ready to see young girls, kayaye with their large silver bowls, waiting to carry our shopping.

-I did not have anything in particular to buy. I normally go and shop for rich colorful African fabric.

– I  also did not want to endure the smells, smells of spicy cooked foods, of kebabs being grilled, a welcome but imposing smell.

– The sight of plastic, strewn around, normally upsets me.

-The heat, these days can be is quite unbearable and humid, especially in the afternoons, whilst it is cool in the mornings and evenings. So I could have gone to the market very early in the morning to escape the heat.

-I did not want to walk many miles through the maze looking for just one item.

Or maybe I should have gone

-To celebrate the hundreds of market women who toil in that environment to make ends meet.

-To buy my weekly supply fresh fruits and vegetables.

-To spend an hour at the stall near ‘Cow Lane’ where the lady, our friend now, spends time helping us select fabric to sew our next African outfit.

I wrote this piece yesterday on International Women’s day. I am always moved by the energy with which the African market women trade,  in order to look after their families. On such occasions they always come to mind, as their toil  should be celebrated.  

 

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The Table

Long and narrow

Strewn with the most delicate natural looking artificial flowers

Planted in wooden window boxes that matched the table, perfectly

Lined in the middle of the long fourteen-seater table

We sat facing each other, like we did in our boarding school dining hall

This seemed rather strange but welcoming

We could sit anywhere we chose to

The places were set with intricate heavy designed metal cutlery

Many glasses for me? Wine glass, water tumbler and another

This was like a scene in a movie

The cool music blurted out around us

As we were seated on the verandah

There was a fresh wispy breeze waiting on us

Waiting, there were also two uniformed, assigned waiters,

knowledgeable waiters on call

They knew exactly what we needed at any particular time,

experience I thought

 

Confused I did not know what was happening

I smelt no food or had no idea what was going to be served

To my delight a sea food salad starter was presented

On the most beautiful platter

Just enough to tease us

Then the hostess of the table appeared

“Jollof rice or mashed potato with an ox tail something,” she asked?

I am sure she used “A la Carte” names

But that is what I deduced

As a Ghanaian, Jollof rice is a staple food so

For me Mash with Ox tail it was

The most succulent main course, went down quickly

Of course I had to be ladylike and comport myself

But this meal… so refined but ravishing

We had time to chat between each serving

The next delivery was just special

Called a palate cleanser served in a hard coconut shell

With the hard coconut still intact

A slightly natural ‘slushy’, as my daughter would call it

A pure taste of lime, ginger, a little lemon grass – cold

It had a teaspoon in it and was just enough to do

The job it was sent to do

 

The interlude was given for us to laugh

Friends now, the drinks made the voices louder than before

Everybody full, we laughed and laughed

The dessert was served, interesting looking

Dotted around the plate like a joke

Different tastes, different calories

Just enough, I guess, we had already been filled

I tasted, a drop of creamy chocolate

A wispy sponge cake, a tiny bouquet of berries, different but

Welcome tastes, there was more, more pinches of food

In my more relaxed setting, I would have

Taken a photograph of all the parts of the delivery

If was exquisite, respectful, tasty and classy

Relaxed and reminiscing about who we are

We asked our waiting waiters on call to crack

the coconuts open, in the pantry, of course

We munched and chewed the sweet, rough coconut

At that point, all finesse was thrown out

It all ended with a sharing of tea or coffee

The aroma of coffee was enough to end the evening

The Table gave me a rare experience

Thank you to our host, the ‘hostess of the table’

and the waiters on call, my acquired companions

I forgot the hidden chef, Thank you

 

I decided to write this free verse slice when I started off with a list of my dinner experience but chose to write a poem. Could this be because writing a narrative, would have caused me to share contents of the conversations and a lot more about the occasion?

How else would you have shared this experience?

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The Visitor Came

 

Through the gloomy

Dusk we knew

He would be here.

The sound

Of the wind

Alerted us

The cool breeze

Was well received

Drops that

Hit the window

Greeted us

The trees swaying

Welcoming the rain

The tear stained glass

Shared the arrival

Signs of

The visitor’s

Appearance.

 

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Culture of Colors

I attended the most vibrant and culture rich event to celebrate Ghana’s sixty second Independence day yesterday to watch my niece perform and was really impressed by the organization at the inclusive event.

The school organized an event that celebrated the identify of who the individual students are. There was a sense of pride and belonging as each student found their place, within groups of the area one parent comes from.

Appreciation of all other nationals, the International community was shared, as they mounted the stage in their colorful Ghanaian outfits, waving the flag.

The parents were very passionate and initiated groups that helped organize and facilitate the different exposés and performances that are associated with the different regions of Ghana.

Although this was not a competitive parade of cultures, everybody involved took it seriously. The teachers joined their regions and worked with parents to deliver the very best informed display of who they are. They shared their clothing, music, instruments, dances, languages, drama and events associated with that part of the country. There was a feeling of unity and patriotism.

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The Ashanti region was the last group to parade, the collaboration of teachers, parents, students and the school was dynamic.  The atmosphere was charged. As they are the largest student population at the school, they were able to spark authenticity. They enacted the drama of Yaa Asantewaa , the great warrior ‘s triumph during the colonial years. A durbar of the king and queen staged by students, entreated the welcome of the head of school and the Parent Teacher Organization’s leadership to pay their respects as is done in reality.

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After tasting food from the different regions of Ghana, I was also proud to be part of this ensemble. Leaving, respecting who I am and why I am here. My niece’s performance was exclusive, rhythmic and entertaining.

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First Flight, Second Flight

Our local flight to Kumasi, takes only forty minutes from Accra. This flight was definitely smoother than the previous one, my sister and I took about a month ago.

That flight scared the life out of us. It brought out the Christians in us all. Some of us prayed quietly digging our nails into our neighbors’ arms and holding on tight, with our eyes tightly closed. Others dug holes in the chairs of the passengers in front of them with their perfectly manicured false nails.

“Jesus, Jesus!” pushed the lady sitting behind me.

The bumpy ride was over in a few minutes, with no apologies from the pilot or flight attendants. No one complained as we were all sighing and relieved the ordeal had ended.

The flight had no more bumps till we had almost landed. Just when we thought it was all over, we sped screeching along the runway.

Everybody was silent just staring at each other worryingly and thinking.

“What is going on now?”

What a way to end this roller coaster of a flight. But before I could blink, we came to an abrupt stop. The force nudging us all forward. No apologies….again!

Everybody had a smirk on their faces and could not wait to get out of this expensive but hair raising flight.

At least this second flight, was smoother, no bumpy parts, screeches and very polite attendants. Of course there had to be a glitch. The pilot whose announcement must have been in a language familiar to him alone, blurted out a long spiel that made us all crack up.

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The Coconut Seller

I am curious about the coconut seller hidden in the middle of nowhere. The first time I noticed him, he had a cart full of coconuts. As carts can be moved I knew he was only stationed under the tree at the edge of the forest, for the morning. Like an ice-cream man he would move the cart to sell his wares.

Screen Shot 2019-03-04 at 6.17.23 AMA few months later, I spotted a table had been assembled, it was planted under the same tree, on stones to make it stable. The coconut business was expanding.

It has been a year or more now and the seller is settled, under the same tree, and has built himself a little shelter whilst the supply of coconuts has increased. Like my friend always explains,

“This is purely a case of demand and supply.”

That is why I am curious. Who stops their car to buy these fresh coconuts? I am asking this because the position of the stall is under the tree, right at the edge of the forest, beside a meandering road. Any form of life only happens opposite the cart…table…stall.

Across the road are some interesting story buildings. This area is residential so who buys the coconuts during the day? I never notice any cars stopping along the unsafe road. This is interesting as there seems to be a booming business, otherwise the cart would not have turned into an established mini mart with employees helping.

Maybe one day I will wait across the road for a little while and establish who the fans of the coconuts are.

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The Traffic Policeman

One morning this week, at the crossroads on my way to school, where there is always a policeman conducting traffic, there was a mish-mash of cars, doing their own dance. We stood waiting patiently, radio blurting with a cool breeze passing through. We waited.

Until the conductor signaled for our car to stop and give way to the cars coming from the opposite road. The response was quick, but I was more concerned about about what the traffic policeman was clad in. A thick, white, long sleeved jacket and trousers, on this warm and hazy morning. A part of his uniform, was the black helmet-like hat and white gloves.

Why are all these pieces necessary? I guess the different parts of the uniform perform  different functions. He stood out as if he was wearing a neon suit in the dark and his gloves shone too. A couple of cars hooted but he took no notice and turned his back to the cars he had stopped. An expert at his job.

I was thinking about the order there would have been if there were traffic lights placed there instead. I answered my query myself. The new road had only been built or laid a year or so ago and it was not known, maybe not even on the local map yet, so there were only a few cars until word went out about this new construction.

Ahead of us, there was a long train of cars, so I knew we were going to be kept standing for a while longer. Whenever we are kept waiting at the crossroads, I secretly worry. My eyes dart from the small clock in the car to the uniformed traffic policeman, back and forth until…

He beckons for us to move. The relief that comes upon me is welcoming. The car moves slowly and attaches itself to the crawling train of cars. The interesting thing is the long flat road allows you to see many meters head of us. “When are we getting to school?” I ask. I was getting agitated.

 

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Our Rainy Friend

At this time of the year, we welcome the rain and expect more visits. Like a long lost friend we wait to be reacquainted with the cool breeze it brings and value the hope it gives to plants. The season preceding this is dry, unbearably hot and the air is filled with a dusty haze. That is what makes this a welcome visit.

Although it is not always cool, we look forward to the times we enjoy reams and reams of rain. It comes unannounced with a loud hum, that causes us to shout at each other. I get amazed by the way children get enchanted by the force of the rain, especially when it appears with other guests, thunder and lightening. The loud bang sometimes vibrates indoors.

What we dread are the floods, that can cause damage, most often than not this happens within minutes. Every year we talk about being prepared for the storms but when they come, we are helpless and try to find solutions when it is sometimes too late. We have to be ready for this long lost friend and prepare for his or her arrival. It is when we are not prepared that it can damage and cause havoc to our environment.

The expectation of this guest leaves a soothing and gratifying aura especially knowing that we will soon be swamped by the cool breeze in the mornings and evenings whilst we embrace the pitter patter on the roof tops.

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