Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Lobsters, the Universe, and Everything

So Saturday night we ate at the beach. We went to a little restaurant that you simply have to know is there, because otherwise you would never find it.

Some friends had been there and told us about it, but they were taken by their driver and had no idea where it actually was, other than at the beach.

So we got directions. Sort of. (Remember, in Ghana, street names are for sissies- if the street you are on has a name, you are probably near an Embassy...)

Go to Accra Central. Okay that's easy enough- just follow Liberation Road from our house to the beach.

Get on the beach road, headed west, and look for Standard Charter Bank.

Got it.

Now look for the 'Cathedral'.

Got it. We think.

Now watch the left (ocean) side of the road, looking for a park, then beyond it, a soccer pitch with no grass.

At that point find a likely left turn and take it.

Remember, it's 6:30 pm and we are doing this in the dark...no streetlights in this part of town, and lots of auto and pedestrian obstacles.

Oooooookay. We slow down, squint into the darkness, signal, and turn. We are facing a fence, of sorts, but just to our left, there is a break in the fencing and an apparent driveway. Kind of.

We drive through the gap.

And find ourselves bumping over rain rutted dirt, through a large open field of more dirt, and some half dry mud. Over rocks, through shallow ditches, and suddenly, ahead- PAY DIRT! Other parked cars and the ever-present parking lot guard, waving us to our specially saved parking spot.

We leave the car, and the guard, in common Ghanaian parlance gives us a "Welllll-come". We thank him as we head for a small cement open arch entrance that has two doorways- one marked ENTRANCE, one marked EXIT.

We enter, and immediately face a set of steep stairs, constructed in the usual Ghanaian way by people with no Uniform Building Code. Some steps are six inches high, some are three. Some steps are twelve inches deep, some are four. But, after a year here, we are not surprised and just carefully make our way down, down, down, while deciding to make sure we don't have too much beer or we'll never make it back up!

At the bottom of the stairs is a nice flower bed and propped inside is a four by six foot chalkboard with "The Menu for Today" contained on it.

We start reading and stop when we get to 'Grilled Lobster'. That's it.

Lobsters in Ghana are more like huge prawns. They are about six to eight inches long, and the Ghanaians split them and grill them then serve them five or six at a time, in the shell, heads and feelers on- and they are sooooo good!

We tell the waiter at the entrance to the restaurant that there are two of us for dinner. He leads us into the restaurant and offers us a table at the edge of a terraced patio, overlooking the Atlantic, complete with huge rocks for the waves to crash against for our viewing pleasure.

We sit down and try to absorb our surroundings. We are the only white faces in the whole place. Fine with us. The fewer white people the better. That means they aren't catering to Europeans, and we'll be paying local prices. Whoot!

We are under a sky so filled with stars, it's hard to believe we're on the coast of a city of more than a million people. Electrical problems notwithstanding, we can see the lights of Osu down the coast a little and they are blinding...but above us is nothing but dark sky and endless, sparkling stars.

Occasionally, off shore, we see the lights of about a dozen fishing canoes and the occasional fork of lightning. But if I told you that you would think I was making it up.

So here we sit, at a table for two. In the dark. The only illumination in the whole restaurant is an occasional globe lamp marking the stairs to the next level down to the ocean (there are three terraces and we are seated at the top). This isn't the first Ghanaian restaurant we've been to that eschews light- Fuud Shack being the premiere one. Since you don't have to read the menu- what the hey? And often, it's just better not to see where you are or what you are eating too closely. You know what I mean?

Anyway. We order a couple of beers, two sets of grilled lobsters, and then sit and watch the waves break bright white on the black ocean, crash into the rocks, then wash up onto the beach. When that gets old, we gaze straight up into a sky just filled with stars, planets, and the occasional wispy cloud.

My hair is curling out of control, and Ted notices that his eyesight is steadily being obscured by salt spray collecting on his glasses, but we don't care. It's romantic, it's secluded, and we are sitting in Africa drinking cold beers and waiting for our fresh grilled seafood. Life is good.

Our table is covered with a thin sheet of rubber, stapled to the wood to help keep the whole thing from disintegrating under the onslaught of the ocean spray, our chairs are Home Depot Specials- those molded plastic ones so ubiquitous in the U.S. at 5 bucks a throw (and even cheaper here!).

We speculate on people we know who wouldn't appreciate this place, and in fact would have left by now, but we are thrilled- life is too short to sweat over the small stuff when the universe and the ocean are laid out in front of you just for grins.

Dinner comes. We can't really see it. I have Ted open his cell phone and shine it on my plate just so I can see which end of my lobsters is up. From there, we just go with our instincts. I believe I ate a few pieces of lobster that weren't meant to be eaten, but it didn't matter- it was fresh and delicious.

After eating our lobsters and french fries, we collapsed back in our plastic chairs and asked for the check.

¢250,000. Faithful readers will know that is less than 30 bucks. For almost four quarts of beer, a dozen Ghanaian lobsters, and the best location this side of Aruba. Oy.

We paid up, left a tip of $2.50 (which made our waiter pledge his first born son to us), and headed home.

As I said. Life is good. :-)