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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Welcome to Ghana!

By Esther Nakkazi

I usually want to describe myself as a food explorer, because I try to eat only local foods in my travels. Often times when I travel, I stick to the local foods, which sometimes awes my Ugandan colleagues.

In Nigeria it was Mr. Snail that I ate and was scorned at by fellow Ugandans. I ate it slowly, because I was treading on new territory, and managed to swallow at least five chews. It was not bad, tasted like rubber. Totally overrated by the Nigerians.

While other Ugandans ate rice and chicken (with a lot of pepper), which was what was familiar to taste, I stuck to Egusi soup, Eba, Amala and vegetable. A food explorer indeed!

Now my trip to Ghana in late January exposed me to a lot of new food dishes. First some background. In Ghana, there is no petting-dogs and cats are no pets. They are for the cooking pot. Skinned squirrels and grass cutters are a common sight on the roadside.

Infact, as I watched cats survive alongside humans in one of the rural communities, I realized they were no friends. In the Obuasi community, the cats could not curl around people as they normally do. As one passed by me, I tried to touch it, being friendly really, but it sprinted away in fright, probably thinking I wanted it for dinner. 

But even I, the 'food explorer', could not eat or even think about it. For goodness sake, my Grandma keeps pets (cats) and I would like to keep a dog sometime.

One Ghanaian man, while describing his cat eating meal, said they prepared a head exclusively for the young men including him, at some bride introduction ceremony, and he immensely enjoyed eating it. I touched my stomach. But who I am, to judge them, in Uganda we eat grasshoppers- a type of locust, unlike anywhere in Africa. (Or nowhere I have heard of).

The eating of cats, dogs and squirrels does not mean that Ghana is not a food basket. I have never seen as much food as I saw in Ghana both in quantities, variety and richness of a meal.

Take for instance nuts- there are cocoa nuts, kola nuts, cashew nuts and tiger nuts (which are meant to make men tigers in bed). To show that it is in plenty, often times people eat in what I can describe as a calabash (big dish made of clay). In here, the proportions are big and a variety. 

You could mix beef, tuna fish and chicken plus fufu or banku (hope this is the right spelling) in one meal. This comes with a lot of rich, heavy soup of course with pepper and often times reddish in colour because of a mixture of spices and too much palm oil.

Ghana also is one of the richest African countries I visited with many natural resources, Gold, everlasting salt mines and most recently oil. If well exploited, and revenues managed properly, it could be a middle income country. Plus the good political regimes, democracy, not so bad roads- with side walkways- I just could be born in Ghana.

Ghana also has a lot of similarities to Uganda, which has just discovered oil.

Ghanaians are also very good Christians, just like Ugandans, only I guess they are more tolerant to divergent views.

So my trip from Ghana also exposed me to another situation that could have turned fatal, had not the pilot acted quickly. First of all, I was allocated a back seat, near the toilet, which I did not like at all.

But on a full plane you got not much choice. So we were engaged in our usual chat chat when we realized that the plane was actually not gaining altitude. In minutes, we were heading back for the airport for an emergency landing.

Why? The cabin did not have enough pressure. As soon as the captain announced it, I felt like yes I was not breathing properly. A colleague described the situation in as bad.

When there is low pressure in the cabin, there is limited oxygen; the ears get affected most because they start hurting. Eventually, the plane had to fly at low altitude to avoid the high pressure high up. And this was the second time I was in a Kenya Airways plane with a serious problem. 

But I loved Ghana!

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