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Published: September 23rd 2014
September 22, 2014
One of the things about being a longer term volunteer is that I really get a chance to get to know the people in the neighborhood and make friends with Ghanaians. After 3 and a half months here I’ve made several friends in the neighborhood. There’s one guy in particular who I’ve become very good friends with. Afotey is a very cool and sweet guy. He wears his hair in braids and dreads, so he’s often referred to as Rasta. I’ve gotten to know some of his friends: Kwame, who is like a brother to Afotey, Ivan, and KB. KB is the rich guy of the neighborhood. He has a huge house complete with a swimming pool.
The interesting thing about knowing Ghanaians is that they can help you really experience the culture. Yesterday I was hanging out with Afotey and Ivan while they were making banku. I wrote briefly about Ghanaian food in a previous post. Quite a few of the traditional dishes are similar in the way they are served. Banku, kenkey, fufu, and several other dishes are served with a ball of dough and a stew. All of the
dishes are made with similar ingredients. They differ in the dough and how the dough is cooked; the consistency of the dough is different. Kenkey was the first one I tried. It actually reminded me of tamales because the dough was made from mostly corn flour and cooked wrapped in corn husks. Fufu and banku have more cassava flour in the dough and are cooked to a smoother or as some volunteers have described as slimy consistency. Anyway it was quite interesting watching and even helping the making of banku. Stirring it was hard because the dough was quite thick. It was also the first time I tried banku. Eating those kind of dishes are a bit difficult for Westerners for several different reasons. First of all, it’s traditionally eaten with your right hand. (This is part of their culture where the right hand vs. left hand thing is very important.) When eating banku you take a piece if the dough, make it into a ball, dip it in the soup, and eat it. Also when eating the dough you’re not supposed to chew it, you’re supposed to swallow it. Lastly, if you’re not used to eating dough it’s hard
to eat all you’re given because the dough is so heavy in your stomach. It fills you up quite quickly. Yesterday when Afotey saw how little I ate I tried to explain to him that I’m used to dough being cooked, and I’m still getting used to eating dishes like that.
Afotey and I are learning about each other’s cultures and are understanding towards each other. I think one of the biggest obstacles is the independence that women have in Western cultures. I’m not saying that women aren’t treated well because they are. It’s just they still have the old-fashioned mentality of how women are meant to be homemakers while men are supposed to provide for the family. Afotey’s very sweet and always wants to do things for me, but I sometimes I have to get him to understand that I can do things for myself too.
On a side note, I want to wish my grandmother Connie Rawson a happy 90th
birthday. It’s also a national holiday for Kwame Nkrumah’s birthday. It’s basically the equivalent of President’s Day in the USA.
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Hi Laurel, I've enjoyed following your adventure from afar. The photo of you making banku reminds me of I when I helped make sadza at a Zimbabwean music festival. I stirred the sadza in a kettle with a long paddle. However sadza is corn meal and is served like grits, not sliced in the manner you show for banku.