Alongside a road of red dust and mud a dark old woman is bent over a wok of hot oil. With a hand wrinkled by years of roadside sun she tosses small chunks of ripe plantain covered with red pepper and ginger into the oil. The oil boils up in the midday heat, the smell of red pepper frying explodes out into the road. "Brah bedidi!" calls the old woman, looking at me with eyes that watched her twelve children grow up and saw two children die from malaria. "Come and eat!" is the meaning of the words, one of the greetings heard across Ghana.
Ghana is a land of 17 million people speaking 80 different languages. Nestled in between Côte de Ivoire and Togo on the coast of West Africa, Ghana was once known as the Gold Coast. Ghana was one of the locations from which slaves were taken to the Americas.
Ghana is a land of open savannah and tropical forests. Ghana is slightly drier than Côte de Ivoire to the West and Nigeria to the East, the only true rain forest in Ghana is found in the Western region of the country. Southern Ghana consists of a coastal plain. To the north of the coastal plain rises a line of low ridges and hills that extends up into the middle of the country. The northern part of the country is savannah and is open flatlands.
The Volta river descends on the Eastern side of Ghana and fills Lake Volta, the world's largest manmade lake. The powerplants at the southern end of Lake Volta provide power both for Ghana and Togo.
The gross domestic product per capita is $1310. The FSM has a GDP per capita of something on the order of $1900. Ghana produces lumber, chocolate, and fabrics.
The capital of Ghana is Accra, located on the Atlantic ocean in the middle of the southern sea coast. The major religions are Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant, Islam, with a mix of local beliefs and superstitions. While English is the language of government, the major languages of Ghana include Twi, Ga, Dagbani, Hausa, and Ewé.
Some commonly heard phrases in Twi are:
"Wo ho ti sen?" - How are you?
"Ye fre wo sen"" - What is your name?
"Me pe wo." - I like you.
"Me beko dah." - I will go and sleep.
"Me bedidi." - I will go and eat.
Ghanaians tell stories wherein their ancestors return as pale skinned people to test the hospitality of their children. Friendliness towards visitors is one of the most important traits for Ghanaians. Ghanaians are simply the most welcoming and friendly people on the planet. To not welcome a visitor would be to risk potentially insulting an ancestor.
The most important food in southern Ghana is fufu, a disk made of boiled and pounded cassava and coco yam. The coco yam is a dry land variant of soft taro. In southern Ghana one is often greeted with the words, "Have you eaten fufu today?" If you haven't eaten fufu then you haven't eaten. Rice, while eaten, is not considered heavy food. Many Ghanaians will complain that when they eat rice they feel hungry as soon as they finish.
Ghanaians take special care to look their best. Clothing is always ironed and spotless. For formal occasions Ghanaians wear a cloth of golden colors called "kente" cloth.
There are two seasons in Ghana, the wet season and the dry season. The wet season is filled with powerful thunderstorms, heavy rain, wind gusts, and lightning. The dry season is not like that of the FSM. The dry season in Ghana is a true dry season. No rain falls for two to three months. The air becomes very dry. Skin cracks and bleeds. Clothes hung on a line dry in fifteen minutes. Formica veneers on tabletops peel away from the wood table and curl up. The ground becomes as hard as concrete. Year round the temperature remains warm, between 23°C and 31°C.
At this time, February, Ghana is in the dry season, called the harmattan. Dust from the Sahara desert travels south and coats everything with a fine white dust. Dust collects on tables, chairs, dressers, any surface.
The dry season will end in late March or early April with the coming of the first rains in southern Ghana. Rain will continue into June. In July there may be a period of reduced rain in southern Ghana. At this time rain is often falling in the North of the country. The farther North one goes in Ghana the drier it becomes. In September and October the rain falls again in the South of the country. By December the weather is turning dry and hot with the approach of the harmattan.
Ghanaians also put a lot of emphasis on education. To become educated is very important in Ghana, especially if your blood line is royal. Ghana has an extensive system of village and regional chiefs. The Asantehene is the paramount chief (Nahnmwarki) of over two million people. As an example of the level of education a high chief should have, the Asantehene in 1984 held not one but two law degrees: one from England and one from Germany.
Here on Pohnpei we enjoy the company of a couple Ghanaians. John Ntow works at the high school and Thomas Tetteh works for the court. Thomas has also led youngsters in football (soccer) practice at the Olter High track and field for many years.
Experiences from author's work in Ghana 1984 - 1986
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