Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving In Ghana

[Belated Post]

This is the second big holiday that I have spent in Ghana but it is the first one that would normally have been spent with my family unlike the July 4th holiday. So I had to be without them for the first time in a long time. The time was not spent in Hohoe though, rather it was a trip to the capital of the country in Accra. All volunteers were invited to the Thanksgiving dinner being prepared at the U.S. Ambassador's house and after delaying far too long I informed Peace Corps headquarters that I would plan on being there. Fortunately they let me in. A mental note for myself, call the first chance you get to be added to the RSVP list.

Very early on Thursday morning I arrived at the station in Hohoe to find a tro-tro headed to Accra. I met up with two others there, one was the volunteer from Hohoe, Scott, and the other is a volunteer not connected to Peace Corps but one we know just the same who teaches in a nearby village. Our van moved out of town by about 7 and we traveled in comparable luxury with an air-conditioned van for about three and a half hours. Upon arriving we got our bearings and began walking towards the residence of our Ambassador. By the time we arrived it was just before 11 and the party didn't start until 12. We asked at the gate if we should go in or if we needed to wait and much to our pleasure they said come in.

Ah, the house of a U.S. Ambassador. The grounds are much too nice for us that is for certain. Think of a well-off person's home in Hollywood and that might be the right scale. There was a pool that we could swim in and many of the PCVs took advantage of the chance including me. I think I was the first one in the pool (again, we were the only ones there for about an hour) and as the party was closing I was the last one to get out and try to quickly dry off. My fingers were prunes for much of the day.

Over the rather large lawn there were lounge chairs and tables set up in the shade of the massive trees on the grounds for people to relax and socialize. I met more of the volunteers who are serving their second year of service which was nice but most of the time we broke out into our “classes” since those are the ones that we got to know quite well during training. It was great to see a lot of familiar faces eagerly anticipating a very fine meal. As the soda and wine flowed everyone kept one eye on their companion and the other on the tables set up for the buffet to see if the food was ready. By two o'clock we had caught some of the smells of Thanksgiving and the queue started forming.

Our host spoke a few words about how nice it was to see all the well-dressed volunteers at his house and how pleased he was to celebrate the holiday. Then the eating commenced. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, salad, vegetables, and dessert with coffee were there for the taking. I cannot state how good this meal was. I am comfortable eating Ghanaian foods and there is nothing wrong with them, but the difference here is just amazing when such a fine table is set for you. When I eat the Ghanaian dishes it is just the same food consumed from start to finish. You don't get to pick and choose from the starch, the vegetable, and the meat. It is all flavored the same and each mouthful is going to taste the same as the previous mouthful. But Thanksgiving supper was that wonderful treat of taking a slab of turkey and giving it just a dollop of gravy and savoring it in your mouth, only to be followed by a heaping forkful of mashed potatoes with more gravy and possibly a mix of beans or cauliflower and getting that flavor to fill the tongue. I could choose which taste I wanted next and that is what made me really happy. All the items were delicious.

The staff at the house cooked twelve turkeys for the nearly 200 invitees and each one was juicy and perfectly done. At the close of the eating we all had a chance to salute the cooks as they were presented in a line before us. I think we should have given them a standing ovation to be honest, but most were too stuffed to the standing by this point in the afternoon.  It was a great meal and a terrific honor bestowed upon us by the staff and the Ambassador.

I couldn't resist going back in the pool after the turkey had a chance to rest a bit and spent the rest of the afternoon splashing around. Around five o'clock we got going. The day was bright and sunny which was a switch from a normal Thanksgiving back home when the temperatures are going down quite noticeably. This is my first time spending the whole day outside whether it was at the pool or sitting down under a tent and wolfing down scrumptious food. Just a bit different.

Scott and I headed back to the place we would stay the night which was an ex-pat's house in Osu. I knew him from a friend of my brother who has a friend that is friends with Peter. Makes sense, right? He was kind to offer his place whenever I was in Accra and while we did not meet that night (he was visiting Kumasi with his wife Jessica) we got to meet his housemate Kalyani. We spent the rest of the night talking to her and another business friend of theirs about the world and culture. A truly good night of conversation. By 9 I was able to hear from my mom and brother and we reviewed the events of the day. It was nice to finish off the evening with a chat from back home and to wish each other a happy Thanksgiving.

I miss my family of course but if I couldn't make it home and celebrate with them then this was a great way to make up the lost time with new friends and kind people. I am extremely thankful that I was given the chance to serve in Peace Corps and find all of these wonderful new experiences here in Ghana.

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