Monday, March 05, 2007

Adventures in Ghana, Part IV

Now for all the odds and ends from our trip that had nothing to do with our destinations, but caught our interest anyway.

In Kumasi, when we came up the hill all sweaty and vibrating from the market, I snapped this sign (hence the terrifically bad framing, etc.).

Signs like this for Doctors and clinics are pretty common, always listing the ailments the Dr. is able and willing to treat. Someday I'm gonna get a picture of the clinic by our house that has a sign listing many conditions, including "white problems". We want to know exactly what that encompasses. :-)

This sign just made me smile. There are plenty of AIDS billboards, some sponsored, some just put up by the NGOs, but I appreciated the sentiment behind this one. (and apparently you should be happy, careful and TRAVEL!)

These funeral signs more common in the rural areas. In Accra funeral notices and tributes are on large sheets of paper containing pictures, really thorough obituaries, and posted like missing persons signs, but the care (and expense!) behind these lovely signs is pretty special.

Once we hit the coast road, about 2 hours from home, we stopped at the Biriwa Hotel for lunch. We sat high on a bluff overlooking the ocean, outdoors, with just enough breeze to cool us and ordered fresh prawns and cabbage salads and looked out over this:


Okay, this next part is a little gross, but it's very much a part of life in Ghana and it took me until this trip to haul my butt out of the car and sweet talk these guys into letting me take their pictures.

There is a small mammal in Ghana called a Grasscutter. It's also known as a Cane Rat, but it isn't a rat- and they are enough of a staple here to be the object of a small Grasscutter Farming industry. But most of them are in the wild and when Ghanaians catch them, they sell them on the side of the road, all over the country (including the edges of Accra). They are eaten in a variety of ways, including grasscutter soup.

Here is a late, 3-D Grasscutter.

Why mention that it's 3-D? Because just as often the roadside Grasscutters are flat. As in pressed duck. And then they look like this:

Please note the look on my Grasscutter Salesman's face.

He is pitying me because I have just explained that

a.) I do not want to buy his Grasscutter for my dinner and

b.) we do not have Grasscutters where I come from.

What's the point of a country with no Grasscutters? He can only imagine what we eat- and it isn't good. ;-)

And finally, my new obsession- palmnuts. The really pretty, low palms with the long fronds that grow in the tropics produce palmnuts. The nuts are used to make palm nut soup, palm butter, palm oil, and palm soap. When they come off the tree they look like this:

I bought the one at bottom right on the side of the road from the woman whose foot just barely shows and her very puzzled daughter whose bare feet are at the top of the picture. I was excited to have seen the palmnuts in time to get Duke to stop and was quite a spectacle for her, I'm sure. Cost me a buck.

When we got home, I plucked the palmnuts out of what I call the Palm Nut Cone, which was actually fun since I don't have to do it more than once, and this is what it looks like empty (mostly) of nuts.

I liked the look of it, so I set it on the patio table as decoration.

Mark came to me the next day and asked if I really meant to save it. When I said yes, he gave me his usual bemused smile that conveys so much of his wonderment at what his crazy obronis will do next. (Imagine your West African employer eating a bunch of grapes and saving the empty branchy cluster thingy the grapes were stuck to for display on his coffee table because he liked the look of it).

Now I have a wire basket full of the most beautiful palm nuts! I have no intention of making practical use of them. Aside from the fact that I lack the skills, this is yet another West African activity that involves pounding and peeling and stuff. Not my area of patient activity.

So I'm keeping them until they either dry or rot.

Because they are so gorgeous...