Travel & Culture

Ghana (Part 1): November 1, 2009

One of the most exciting experiences of my life was my first trip to my motherland, Ghana! My father is originally from Ghana and has family there. Since I was 8, my cousin, Rispah and I have been pen pals, writing letters, then e-mails, now Facebook messages. We’ve always been in contact, and in some ways I feel like we’ve “grown up together.” We are the same age, so we graduated school at the same time and shared similar interests. She has 4 brothers and boy was I ecstatic to FINALLY meet them. Would they be like they seemed in the letters and on Facebook?

Unfortunately, I only had one week to get to know my cousins and family members. I flew over to Ghana, after spending six weeks in a nearby Nigeria. That one week was one to remember. 

This post is the beginning of a three part series on my Ghanaian experiences. Each post was at one time an entry in my private journal. 

Meeting Relatives For The First Time

Words cannot express how happy I am to be in my home country.  My excitement has overshadowed the inconveniences of not having tap water, air conditioner, and consistently wiping sweat off my forehead due to Ghana’s heat, and riding along the country’s bumpy roads.  It’s a meeting the family members that has truly made this experience remarkable. I met Auntie Akusia and when I first saw her, she was the spitting image of my father. Amazing. And because I have my father’s eyes, I have her eyes as well. I love it. I said to her, “Auntie Akusia, I think we look alike.” And she said “Yes we do!” And that has been one of my favorite moments here so far.

Seeing my grandmother (Ma’ami) was really cool too. She didn’t say much but I could tell that she was very excited to see me. Perhaps she was so excited she couldn’t find the words? I haven’t seen my grandmother (father’s mother) in 12 years. So it was truly nice to see her. She looks the same. She is a bit older but I am happy that after 80 years she looks pretty good! I gave her gifts: earrings and undergarments. I really hope she enjoys it.

My other Aunt told me the family history. She couldn’t speak much English so my cousin, Rod, served as the translator. I learned that Ma’ami had other brothers and sisters. They were all from Obo, a village in Ghana. She got married at the age of 18 and moved to Accra. My father was born in Accra and because he troubled his mother so much, she sent him to boarding school. Haha, I didn’t know Daddy was as troublesome as my little brother once was.

Preparing, Cooking & Eating Foofoo

While I was visiting with Ma’ami, Uncle Kofi and Auntie Akusia’s daughter, Auntie Akusia asked what I would like to eat and without hesitation, I exclaimed “Foofoo!” Foofoo is a dish made from cassava, or root crop and plaintains. It is boiled, then pounded together until it is a nice even texture. She asked if I wanted to pounded? I said “Yes” because throughout my entire time in Africa I’ve been on the adventurous tip—trying new things—acquiring new experiences and being somewhat of a daredevil so this didn’t seem like much different from having any other experience.  I really didn’t know what I was saying “yes” to until I actually saw my cousin pounding it and Auntie Akusia shifting the contents in the bowl.

Wow. The pounding instrument that she used was slightly taller than her and she was about 5 feet 5 inches! And me, at only 5 feet 2 inches, you can only imagine how large that instrument was compared to my small stature. She pounded it, using her entire body, and I tried it as well. I grabbed it but the thing was nearly as heavy as me. It took more strength for me to pick it up than to actually pound the contents. It was a funny sight. My other cousin, Auntie Akusia and my other Aunt were laughing so hard they had to hold their sides to contain themselves. Well at least I tried. Haha.

I thought pounding foofoo was difficult, haha, boy was I in for a surprise when I tried eating it! I tell Rod and the others all the time that I really think eating foofoo requires skills. They think I’m trying to be funny. But I seriously think so.

First you have to have strong hands cause the foofoo is in a large bowl with soup and they are both extremely hot. It won’t taste good cool, so you have to eat it warm. You have to cut the with you index finger and thumb, make a pouch with the foofoo and place the soup inside.  Sounds complicated eh? Haha, you have no idea!! It was extremely complicated. I struggled with my hands the foofoo for a few minutes and then gave up. And resorted to using a spoon. Whew, made is so much easier!

Discussions On Africa’s Ill Media Portrayal

Over foofoo, we had a discussion of how Africa is ill portrayed to the rest of the world. I hate that. Africa is so much more than what’s portrayed in the medida. One of things that has amazed me since I’ve been in Africa is how diverse people are in language, culture, clothes, expectations etc. Referring to Africa as a country is sad because it underestimates the continent’s diversity. I learned that Africa is 200 years behind the US in terms of development. That cannot be true? Wow. I have some work to do!


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