Often I have done something dozens upon dozens of times here in Ghana but failed to mention it on the web log. Every so often someone will ask a question and then I give a very brief description of the event and find that it probably could be shared with everyone, so here we are. Are you hungry?
Almost every day I go to the computer lab to teach or use the web I find myself getting that growling feeling around 11:30 in the morning. It is the perfect time to find my way out of the lab, past a bungalow that houses a staff member's family, and on to the canteen. It is a small, loosely enclosed structure that is no more than 200 feet away from the computer lab so its convenience to me cannot be understated.
The walls are made of concrete and extend about three feet above the hard-packed dirt which surrounds the front entrance. Maybe eight or ten wooden posts set into the concrete slab hold up the tin roof perched above the walls, and the roof is sloped to keep the rain water rushing away to the back of the building. To describe it as a building seems a bit overboard as it is almost the size of my living room (granted my living room is not that small by Ghanaian standards) here, but that is just enough space to hold four or five benches and low tables. All the furnishings have been used for many years and show signs of wear at every corner but they do the task just fine.
When school is in there are three women selling food, one woman selling treats and snacks, and another lady a bit removed from the canteen who cooks up fried yams. All of them are decked in similar uniforms which is a somewhat long blue-white checkered dress. The one woman who sells from inside the building is my banku lady. She makes a very smooth banku and a terrific ground nut (again, that means peanut) soup. I have lately favored the fish (akpa) as my meat and this goes for around a eighty pesawas or a single cedi depending on how much fish is thrown into my bowl. The other two sellers are positioned outside of the wall at the front entrance. They are the sellers of beans and rice. The dish known as red-red in English and baugh-baugh (my best English translation) in Ewe is made from beans and fried plantains with dried cassava sprinkled on top. The rice dish, which I have mentioned before, is called watsi (wah-CHEE). That consists of rice cooked with something else to give it a brown color, and maybe noodles and beans plus a spicy sauce placed on top.
Of these sellers my preference is to go to the banku woman first since she is selling meat and my beloved groundnut soup, then the watsi seller second. I like the spice of the watsi and sometimes she will have a hard boiled egg to toss into the dish. Lastly is red-red; it is served to me so hot that I must wait a bit before I can even begin to eat the fried plantains, and the beans are almost always scalding so that by the time I am half way through with the meal I am sweating like a marathon runner in the last mile. It just is uncomfortable to eat during the hot days. When I eat the banku I use just my fingers to eat the meal and with the others I am given a spoon to shovel in the lunch.
When the students are in class their break comes at precisely 11:30 which means that if I want a somewhat undisturbed meal I try to get there at 11:25 before classes break. On a typical day the canteen will serve maybe 100 or more students a meal that will hold them over until lunch which starts at 2PM. If I have a need to add a little extra to my belly after I finish the main course, I will walk over to the tree where the fried yams are made. I ask for three and she will dash me a small fourth one and talk to me. If here granddaughter is there she will get her to say my name. Everyone calls me Fo Koku here, but the little two year-old has trouble with the 'k' sound, and her pronunciation is a cute little “Fo Popu.” The grandmother now also calls me that and smiles from ear to ear.
One other bit I should mention: the women who see me everyday are adamant in getting me to practice Ewe. They ask almost all of their questions without English and only at my dire pleading do the switch to English to explain what I could not understand. I like stopping by to talk to them even when I am not hungry, and I know where two of them live and talk to them out in the town when I see them though it takes me a few seconds to realize who they are outside of their uniforms.
So that is lunch. It definitely beats peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.