It’s been a while since I’ve written, not that we haven’t been up to things, we have, but I’ve been taking such rubbish photos that it’s put me off. Too bad, you will just have to put up with photos that aren’t quite as fab as I’d wish them to be.
Twice this week we’ve been into Kumasi. It’s an hour drive away from Konongo, and where the children will go to school. It is a city of 1.5 million people and is the second largest city in Ghana, and the capital of the Ashanti Region. It is not as metropolitan as the capital, Accra, but is certainly teeming with life. It’s known as the garden city of Ghana, with several large parks. On the way through the university (KNUST), to have a look at the pool, we saw the Botanical Gardens, which were a large wooded area. Unfortunately, but I guess not surprisingly, the gardens were not fabulously well kept. The kids were thrilled seeing young guys with slingshots aiming at birds in the gardens (!). The pool is very large, good for lap swimming, but the water was (more than) a bit cloudy, so we thought it best to let our immune systems get used to the local bugs before we had a go. We treated ourselves to a posh lunch and swim at The Golden Tulip. Despite the 5 star surroundings, I did manage to squeeze one traditional dish into lunch, the light soup. It is a tomato based, cloudy broth, quite spicy, with a little oil. Mine had chicken pieces in it, but you can also have fish. What light soup is famous for though, is the base for fufu. Originating Ghana, fufu is boiled starch (like cassava or yam), which is pounded and pounded (and pounded) into an almost liquid consistency, and served with light soup. It is pounded in beautiful plain wooden bowls with a rounded stick, about 5 feet long. It is pounded straight down, and the length of the stick helps hit the starch with the greatest force. The fufu is eaten with your right hand, and the soup drunk straight from the bowl. I’m keen to try the real deal, Bill assures me its a texture you need to have grown up with.
Far braver than a trip to the Golden Tulip, was our trip earlier last week to Kumasi. Let me paint a picture. We need some things we we can’t get in our local Konongo, internet dongle, obruni (white man) groceries. Debbi (the South African Chief Operations Officer’s wife) and I try and organise a ride for 1.5hrs in am. Francis, a (great) driver magically appears and we say ‘Yes!’. Half an hour later we are on the road. Debbie and Francis up front, the kids and I in the back (car seats? No. Seatbelts? 2 out of 4 isn’t bad. Welcome to Ghana). We start our hour long drive, airconditioning broken. 33 degress and a bazillion percent humidity.
Anyway, so we arrive at Vodaphone. The place is packed, like 80 people waiting. The very elegant woman at the front desk asks “Can I help you madam?” And before you know it, I’m walking out with a new internet dongle. The most shocking queue jump I have ever done in my life, but I had no option…I promise.
A bit of grocery shopping later, we decide a look at a small craft markets is a good idea. Thank goodness there is a 3 adult to 3 child ratio. Everywhere is busy, the roads, the footpaths, and there is always a little attention when 3 obruni kids walk past (it’s friendly, and involves smiles and handshakes). Embolden by the craft markets we decide to look for some fabric. We hop back into the car, and drive down to the Central Markets area. Kumasi market is the largest market in West Africa. 10,000 individual stall holders. In the market proper, there are no cars, but the streets around the market are still referred to as ‘Central Market’. Like a suburb, and no, the 10, 000 stallholders are not included in this section. It’s busy. I haven’t spent a lot of time in Asia, but I don’t think anything can quite prepare you for the assault on the senses that is an African market. There is so much stuff everywhere, piled high on the footpath, pinned to the walls, every spare space in these tiny shops full, your eyes are almost overwhelmed with sensory overload. Then there are the people. Throngs of people moving up and down the street, small vendors sitting on the gutter with their meager wares, everyone on a mission. And then there are the cars, buses, taxis. Oddly, very few motorbikes. Let’s just say there is a healthy disregard for road rules and the use of indicators. We can’t forget the smells of car exhaust, spicy cooking, rank drains and sweat. Bursts of music (hiplife!) as you pass shops (remember to turn the volume to 11). After an almost complete walk around a massive block, Francis found the fabric shops (shops of a similar type are often clustered together). Gorgeous wax prints in reds, greens, yellows and hot pinks.
I was a bit crushed when I saw the wax prints in Konongo were printed in China. But we found a store with:
I was thrilled. We then asked where we could get thread, and were informed that the woman who would sew our clothes would have thread. Genuine surprise when I said we would sew it ourselves! We were directed around the corner, and around another corner, to a dimly lit, coolish arcade (no aircon), where we found a feast of fabric shops. It was cooler than outside, and dark, there were people everywhere sleeping on the tiles. It was quite surreal, like walking through a gas leak. It shows, however, the kids are becoming quite acclimatised to unusual sights, as they barely made comment.
Emerged in daylight, held our breaths and a small hand each, and crossed a 2 lane road, with up to 5 cars abreast. Dissappeared down a 2m wide dirt lane, passed food stalls, padlocks, cable ties, buckets, shoes, sewing machines (getting close now), and arrived at a beautiful little stall chock-a-block full of sewing notions. Cheap fabric, zippers, thread, buttons and crazy cheap interfacing (50c/metre), and 3 very patient sales assistants. How I wish I had taken a photo of their little shop. Piles of fabrics, ribbons, buckets of zips, baskets of thread; all squeezed into 3m x 1.5m. Unlike Spotlight, always easy to find an assistant!
Exhausted, but strangely proud of ourselves, we headed home.