Do you ever think about water?
We’re not referring to the oceans, or rivers, or even rain, we’re speaking of everyday, ordinary tap water; water for cooking or making your morning coffee, the water in your dishwasher and washing machine, your shower water, regular clean water that comes from your faucet to quench your thirst whenever you get that dry tickle at the back of your throat. Do you ever think much about this water? We’ve never paid too much attention to this common and convenient water. That is to say until it became uncommon and rather inconvenient.
Accra has a sporadic water supply. Many citizens keep large water tanks on their roofs, preferring to trust gravity rather than the municipality, to bring them their daily water. For us, this creates some inconveniences. Our delicate, western stomachs tend to “dislike” both the roof water and the city’s supply. Before entering our bodies, this water must be boiled for 30 minutes or chemically disinfected. Alternatively, clean (rather heavy) water can be purchased at the store and carried back to the apartment.
None of this is terribly burdensome. In fact, it serves a valuable purpose – we now mentally note every drop of water that we use. We have become aware of how much water we need; how much for a shower, how much to mop the floor, how much to boil pasta or lentils, and how much to stay adequately hydrated in this warm climate. When it is time for dinner and you need to soak your tomatoes in disinfected water before you dice them, you notice how much water this takes. When you flush the toilet, you automatically wonder how much of your water tank you just used and how soon you’ll have to pay a truck to bring you a refill. When it takes you 15 minutes to empty your water sachets (see below) into plastic bottles for easier dispensing, you are keenly aware how quickly you speed through the contents of those bottles. Imagine - you may even stop and think; do I really need this water for coffee?
Life in Ghana is like that – life in any new environment can be like that – maybe even should be like that. It is good to expose yourself to new frames of reference, new expectations about average events. It is good to notice the small, everyday habits and methods by which we live our lives. It is good to make note of how much water you consume. The convenience of the States is great; don’t get us wrong, it makes life SO much more efficient. But, it can also
mislead. By removing the personal effort from most of our basic needs, we tend to forget how amazing the little things are – little things like running water; clean, precious, running water.
Entrepreneurial Note of the Day:
The intermittent and potentially hazardous water supply also creates opportunity for savvy business minds – hence the water sachet above – 500 ml of chemically treated, affordable water distributed in lightweight plastic pockets. Sold for a Ghanaian dime, anyone can afford these sachets. Easy to pack together and transport, sachets are the distribution network of choice for those who struggle to get clean water pumped into their houses or who lack the water main connections that would bring the water to their homes. Recently, Coca Cola Company recognized the potential of this business and purchased Ghana’s largest sachet dealer, Voltic.
Some people ask what I do during the day since we've moved to Accra. While this is not all-encompassing (I have to get the cooking and cleaning done some time!), it is a glimpse into my fun-employment in a new country.
If you hadn't assumed it already, Ghana has a delicious assortment of tropical fruits. One of my favorites is pineapple. Grown locally, and almost always in season, they're small, sweet and succulent.
Pineapple, meet vodka.
Our favorite brand, Soft Tail Vodka, hails from right outside Seattle. Made out of Washington state apples, the vodka has a smooth vanilla flavor and is the perfect base for fruit cocktails (yes, we considered this vodka a "necessity" and brought it over with us!).
But I'm not making a fruit cocktail just yet (it is 10:30am, after all). No, today's experiment is to make pineapple-infused vodka (with a hint of Washington state apples, of course).
So, first infusion with local tropical fruit commences. Here we go:
Step 1: Cut up ripe pineapple (steal slice of pineapple first to ensure ripeness and a happy mouth).
Step 2: Place slices in sealable container.
Step 3: Pour vodka over pineapple slices.
Step 4: Seal container.
Step 5: Place in dark location for 10 days.
Step 6: Enjoy?
We'll post the results in 10 days. On August 3rd, there will be a pineapple-infused vodka taste test at our house. All are invited.
Finding housing in a new destination, especially a developing one, can be challenging. We stayed with Tim's business partner and her boyfriend for three weeks. Then we stayed at a "guesthouse" (while it was more private than living with two other people, it was gritty). But now, thanks to connections, we have a house-sitting gig for a couple who went back to the U.S. to have their baby.
The apartment has been completely upgraded with all new floors, paint, appliances, and brand new Ikea furniture (the husband is Swedish). We even have a flat-screen tv, an Xbox, and a Blu-Ray player. Yes. Welcome to our Palace in Ghana.
Of course, moving from place to place always has its downsides.
Today, for example, when we were unpacking the items that we didn't bring to the guesthouse (space was limited, so we left "unnecessary" items at Tim's business partner's house), we discovered this...
... mold. On our leather shoes. They had been packed and stored in a heavy duffel bag for three weeks. Two of our suitcases are covered in mold, too. Welcome to the land of humidity. Having never experienced this phenomenon before, it took us a few seconds to realize it wasn't dust or lint!
Something else that we're experiencing are cockroaches. Not (always) alive ones (although we've seen two so far). No, dead ones. Before the owners left for the U.S., they had the apartment fumigated to kill the insects (or at least try!). So, every day we find a new cockroach, but usually dead... on its back.
Don't get us wrong. We're not complaining. Just sharing with you the ins and outs of living in Ghana.
For now, we are learning how to clean mold on shoes and breaking ground on a cockroach graveyard. We really do adore our new Ghanaian luxury living and are so excited that for the new five months, we have a great place to call "home."
Birthday dinner on the beach of Accra.
According to tradition (and a Google search), these are customary ways that Ghanaians celebrate birthdays:
We did take a trip to the beach in Accra (further afield from the human waste dumping grounds) to enjoy a birthday sunset dinner of grilled tilapia and local beer. It was a relaxing way to spend a birthday in a new country.
Bon anniversaire, Carole!
Keeping connected with friends and family is sometimes hard to do when you’re living abroad: mail isn’t fast, internet connections prove difficult, and phone calls are expensive.
One unique way that we’ve been able to keep a sense of community back home, though, is by tuning into “Runaway Fiddle” on KRFC 88.9FM in Fort Collins, CO (live stream at www.krfcfm.org). Carole was a DJ on the show for three years with co-host, Norm Cook. Hosting a fiddle show at 6am is a bonding experience, and Norm has become an adopted family member. It was difficult to leave the show in 2010 when Carole and Tim moved to Seattle, but Carole knew the show would be in good hands with sister, Teresa, at the co-hosting helm.
Now that we’ve moved to Ghana, the “Runaway Fiddle family” is still able to keep in touch when Tim and Carole tune in the show every Wednesday (6am MST, 12pm Ghana Maybe Time). Today, as is the case every Wednesday, we received a live radio “shout out” from Fort Collins—“Hello to Carole and Tim in Accra, Ghana.”
We hear that you’re keeping up with our blog, Norm and Teresa, and we thank you! Thanks, also, for the birthday and prosperity wishes! You can never go wrong with Bob Wills.
Sending a “shout out” to all our readers. May we all keep in touch, no matter what the communication method (smoke signals still work).
If you’ve ever been to a tropical country, you know that the local fruit is unlike anything you’ve tasted before. In Ghana, we could (and do) live on pineapples, mangoes and bananas. We’re constantly surprised at how good these local fruits are—we’re relearning what ripe tropical fruit can actually taste like.
That’s why our favorite Ghanaian product thus far is Blue Skies fresh fruit smoothies. Blue Skies managed to bottle up that goodness and created a drinkable fruit salad. The fruit is grown and juiced in Ghana—no sugar added (although there are 8.8 grams of sugar from the fruits!). Our personal favorite is the pineapple, mango and passion fruit smoothie. The two other blends are unadulterated pineapple juice, and a pineapple and ginger mix. At GHc2.71 (or US$1.80) a bottle, they’re not cheap, but on a hot day or after a long walk, a splash of cold pineapple and passion fruit juice is a nice reward.
As for the gin and juice—we’ll let Snoop Dog keep sipping that, but we’re pretty sure he’d stick to just juice if he had a Blue Sky.
(No, Blue Sky didn’t pay us to write this, but we will accept free smoothies from the company in the future if offered!)
"God First Fried Rice" in Kumasi
We’re keeping it religious again this week with “God First Fried Rice” (see “By His Grace Chop Bar” from the previous week). Tim found this fast food joint in Kumasi (the second largest city in Ghana) last Wednesday and we think it’s worthy of favorite signs. We’ve heard the fried chicken is heavenly!
Ghana has many local languages, but the one most commonly spoken in Accra is Twi (pronounced ‘Tree’). While most people know some English, most Accra residents are fluent in Twi.
In some foreign countries (with the exception of France?), if you know a few words of the local language, it can go a long way. People appreciate the fact that you’ve taken a little time to learn their local tongue. Ghana is no different. Here are some words we’ve learned, thanks mostly to the woman who sells fabric next to the Waste Enterprisers’ office (she’s taken it upon herself to give us a 10-second Twi lesson almost every day).
Meda ase (meh-dah-see) = Thank you (or “I bow at your feet”)
We say this to everyone, and for the most part, people will laugh hysterically after hearing it. We think (and hope) it’s because most obrunis don’t know the word.
Eti sen? (eh-tee sehn) = How are you?
Eye (eh-yeh) = Good (the only response we’ve been taught!)
Akwaaba (Ahk-wah-bah) = Welcome
Obruni (oh-brew-nee) = White Person
Echina (oh-chee-nah) = Goodbye/Tomorrow
People have said “tomorrow” to us in English as they leave—interchangeable it seems, although "tomorrow" is usually not actually the day after today—it seems to mean “next time” (as in, “I will have the product that you paid for tomorrow, as in five days from now, not the day after today”).
Carole recently went to the U.S. Embassy in Accra. The Embassy guards were Ghanaian. They were having a conversation amongst themselves and when they noticed Carole, they asked, “Do you hear Twi?” Carole said, “I hear it, but I don’t understand it.” They laughed. One guard inside the station got on the intercom and said, “Do you speak Twi?” Carole said, “No.” He said, “Eti sen?” She replied back the only reply she knew: “Eye.” The guards started howling in laughter. “You do speak Twi!” they replied happily. She suspected not many Americans came to the checkpoint knowing the answer to “Eti sen.” That interaction was the last of her questioning from the guards. Those six Twi words came in handy, and were possibly the funniest things the guards had heard all day.
We’re hoping to get a Twi tutor soon so we can facilitate a little more local interaction. For now, we get by on our good looks and our six words.
For Your Educational Pleasure: There’s a “Speak Twi” app for Apple products if you’re interested in learning some for yourselves. When we get wifi in the office, it will be our first iTunes Store purchase!