The First 24 Hours: Food, Fails, and Football
Last night, we went to dinner at Chez Afrique. It resembled a Ghanaian version of the outdoor patio at Max’s, with a live band. At this point, we were all walking around in a place that looked like the pictures we had seen, but the only aspect that felt real to us was the heat and humidity. While ordering I decided to keep it safe with plantains, called keli weli, and chicken fried rice, with pineapple juice to drink (we can only drink bottled water at this point.) Paired with the hunger after a day of travelling, the meal was perfect. We were all delirious with exhaustion and the waiters were on Ghanaian time, which means the dishes come out in intervals of 15 minutes each, but everyone was just grateful to be there.
Today, my roommates Casey, Alexa, and I woke up too little too late for the group meal so we had our malaria pills for breakfast. It was just as fun as it sounds. After visiting the University of Ghana and a drive featuring anthills that went double-overhead, unaccompanied horses in the street, and Coca Cola ads reading: God’s Way, we went to the grocery store. Then, destiny called. We found a froyo shop. It was called Sogurt Yogurt, and they were bumping country jams by Taylor Swift and Luke Bryan. There was a mosquito in the vanilla yogurt and the raspberry yogurt was a deep green color, but hey, it was froyo.
For dinner, we were at a restaurant called the Living Room to watch the Ghana vs. Germany game, which I’ll write more about below. Right when we sat down, our waitress served us weekend punch, which seemed like a socially acceptable Ghanaian version of jungle juice. I ordered a dish called red-red, which is fried plantains and beans with chicken. It was much more spicy than I would tolerate back at home, but I thought, you only Ghana once (YOGO). My friends Marino and Gabby ordered a dish called fufu, which is pounded cassava and plantains in “light soup.” There truly is no way to accurately describe this dish, but if I had to, I’d tell you to imagine that you combined the flavor and texture of sourdough bread dough and Japanese mochi, balled it up, and placed it in a dark orange broth that tasted similar to molé mixed with miso soup. It came with a bowl of water and a bottle of soap because it is served family style and meant to be eaten with bare hands. The bottles of hand sanitizer were poppin’.
FAIL #1 Internet Access: You’re probably wondering why I have so few pictures posted. It takes an average of two hours for each picture to upload, but that’s only if the wifi stays up, which only happens about 30-40% of the time. Tomorrow, I’m heading to an internet cafe to post more.
FAIL #2 Mosquito Nets: We were told duct tape was the ideal way to keep up our nets, but we soon learned that it does not hold in the humidity. After several half-asleep reapplications in the night, I ended up sleeping with the net draped over my face and body like a blanket. It was so hot, what was one extra layer of netting? But I am proud to attest that I have no bites (yet.) **Note: By the time I got the wifi to upload this onto the internet, I got bitten about six times.
FAIL #3 Getting Hustled: My bargaining skills are worse than expected. I’m working on it for the next time we visit the street vendors, who are exceedingly charming and convincing. On the bright side, I got some cool paintings, a present for my parents, and a sick Ghana jersey for the game.
At 7pm, the World Cup match began. The Living Room, as I mentioned before, is a bar/restaurant just a five minute drive from our house in East Legon. It is a gargantuan outdoor area canopied by trees and holds movie screenings, disco parties, live concerts, et cetera, depending on the night of the week. Twinkle lights, Ghanaian flags, and lanterns are stringed around the perimeter, with the outdoor kitchen on the other side of the wall of the restroom. There were two drive-in movie style projector screens, and the game was playing on both. There were about 200 Ghanaians and 30 American tourists watching at the edge of their seats. Ghana tied with Germany 2-2, but both Ghanaian goals were epic. Everyone was jumping and screaming, people were running back and forth across the patio, horns and whistles were being blown, and my ears were ringing for several minutes after. I’ve never seen a crowd so united and euphoric while watching a sporting event, not even at a Duck game. The past day and a half has been long and short at the same time, and has been full of new sights, flavors, and smells, and I have already begun to love this place.