Thursday, September 30, 2010

Recipe from Kacey's Chop Bar

Though my Kontomire is still not as good as Maggie's, it is getting better every week. Here's how to try it at home:

Wash each kontomire leaf. Then bundle and chop finely.

Chop onions, garlic, and red peppers. Blend.

Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the knotomire and let it cook down for at least 12 minutes.

Remove fish from bones. Fry up the fish in a pot with oil and the blended spicy goodness.

Combine your pots and keep cooking for at least twenty minutes.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Most mornings this is the first says that Townes says as I lift him out of the ol’ Pack-n-play. He proceeds to ask for Emma a few dozen times before it is even a reasonable enough hour to play with a friend. (Yes, Townes still wakes up before 5 on a regular basis despite the ending of the revival. Lucky us!) Once we have wiled away two or three hours with greeting the dog, playing with the many toy cars left behind by the doctor’s daughter (they’re all pink and belong to Barbie or Poly Pocket), and eating some oatmeal, it is finally time to play with EMMA! When Townes hears the gate open, his eyes widen and he starts repeating her name.

When you ask him to touch his eyes/ears/arms/etc, he correctly identifies the part and then says, "Emma eyes/ears/arms." Apparently, Townes and Emma once saw an airplane fly overhead while together because now when he looks for airplanes in the sky, he says "Emma airplane."

AH, new love. Can you blame the kid?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

For Lars

Three-Legged Pot Matches. Keeping Sweden fresh on our minds every morning.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Unlike some parts of the US, excitement for Obama has not yet subsided in Ghana. His image can still be found everywhere: on billboards stumping for the new president of Ghana (somehow I doubt this was officially endorsed by the POTUS), his face adorns t-shirts, he has his own kente cloth design, and heck, Barack even has his own fabric in honor of his trip to the Cape Coast Castle several years back.

Here are just a few of the Obama sightings over the past month:

Flags on the dashboard of a random tro-tro:

A satchel bag made from Obama fabric:

One of the many Obama T-shirts:

Obama’s Kente Cloth Pattern:

and yes, after weeks of hearing the rumors of their existence and searching provision stores throughout Ghana, we finally found the few remaining Obama Biscuits:

So how do they taste?

Kacey: “Snappy and Delicious!”

Coy: “Ehhh”

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Street Food, II

Crazy Things We Try: Cocoa Beans

Ghana is big exporter of Cocoa. On Saturday, we travelled to Adanwomase to see the Kente cloth weaving. They also took us to their small cocoa farm.

After seeing where one farmer was putting his beans out to dry in the village, I got inspired to try my own. Here are our beans drying out in the backyard on a cookie sheet:

I had some grand notions of pulverizing the beans once they had dried further in our back yard for an ultra pure chocolate experience. After a bit of research this morning - it ain’t quite that easy. I haven’t given up, but don’t stay up at night dreaming of chocolate glory.

At least not yet.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Street Food, II

Jolof rice, with pepper sauce, noodles and salad (buried underneath). Fresh from the market and so tasty.

I’ll let you know how it turned out tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

More Zoological Finds in our Yard

A light rain the other day didn’t stop our new ritual of standing under Townes’s favorite tree and touching the thorns while saying ‘Ouch.’ Afterwards, when examining some nearby flowers, we found a pack of huge snails. (A herd? A flock? A gaggle?)

For some reason, Townes couldn’t get a very close look!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pure OJ - For Silas

I heard from Amanda, a good friend now living in Colorado (I say now living, because I’m not sure if you can ever say she’s from there - it’s hard to take the Mobile out of the girl, but I’ll let her correct me on this one), that the “Street Food” post with fresh coconut milk had inspired her son, Silas, to ask if he could go to the grocery store to get a coconut so he could try it himself.

Not sure how the coconut experiment turned out, but here’s another one to try.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Original Yo!

Before coming to Ghana, I thought “Yo” was a modern invention; perhaps concocted only slightly before the time of “Yo! MTV Raps”. Not so. “Yo” is a staple of Twi, the language spoken in this part of Ghana.

As an example, I provide an excerpt from “Twi Made Easy (A Practical Guide for Non-Twi Speakers, Beginners and Foreigners)” by Kofi Frempong-Barfi:

Ghanaian 1: Wo ho te sen? // How are you?
Ghanaian 2: Me ho ye. // I am fine.
Ghanaian 1: Na wo nso e? // And you?
Ghanaian 2: Me nso me ho ye. // I am also fine.
Ghanaian 1: Yo! // o.k.

“Yo” is remarkably effective. Whenever I’m not sure how to end any basic conversation (e.g., we’ve both said “hello, how are you?”, or exchanged “Good afternoons”), I can respond, “Yo” and consider it successfully executed. The success is usually evidenced by the receipt of a knowing smile or, more often than not, “Hey, Obrouni wo te Twi paaa!?”, “Hey, Whiteman, you speak Twi!”.

“Yo” is quite easy and fun to say, especially with the prolonged “Yooooo” that people tend to like around here.

Who knew?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sweet, Sweet Gas

After additional disappointments of when the gas would actually come, see “No More Gas!”, we finally were able to get gas last Friday. Like most things in Ghana, it was an odyssey.

We started at a logical place, the Royal Gas Depot outside of Kumasi. Upon arriving, we were overwhelmed by the number of other people who also thought Royal was an obvious starting point:

Realizing that - even if we succeeded in getting gas - the wait would take us the better part of a day, we decided to move along and see what other options might arise.

Our friend, Richie, had a friend, Isaac, who worked at a filling station in Kumasi. We drove to his house to see whether he had any leads on gas in town. At Isaac’s house, we also met the matron, Auntie Margaret. Auntie was a gracious hostess, offering not only her son to accompany us on the trip to find some gas, but a place for Kacey and Townes to hang out while we went searching for gas.

We familiarized Townes with a few children around the house and headed out of Kumasi to see if we could find some gas. After about 30 minutes of driving - we hit the jackpot:

The line was reasonably massive. Much shorter than Royal Gas, but there were still about 50 canisters waiting to be filled. I did the math: at about 2 minutes to fill each canister, plus the obligatory shuffling and changing of fittings, we were going to be there for a while. The wait wasn’t improved by the fact that a well-to-do Ghanaian in his Forerunner dashed the owner a few Cedes (dash- v. meaning tip or bribe) and was able to put his 5(!) tanks to the front of the line.

With a collective sigh by those of us waiting in line, we watched as the guy took 20 minutes of our time to have his tanks filled at the head of the queue. When Richie pushed the owner to understand why this was allowed, he simply responded, “This is Africa.”

2 hours later after finally filling our tanks, we headed back to pick up Kacey and Townes from Isaac’s house and headed on home. We made a quick stop in Kumasi for a celebratory pizza lunch at the famed Nick’s Pizza, “Best Pizza in Town!”. And indeed it was.

Richie was in total agreement.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

First Day of School

Yesterday was the first day of school for our friends, Richie and Maggie. It was a busy day.

Townes also attended - which means he's growing up quite quickly! Kacey shed a small tear as he walked to the next village with his little backpack...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

We respond to reader comments

It seems our masked reader has struck again, this time with a question regarding our post "Au Natural".

Anonymous writes, "What is gentle heckling consists of in Ghana?"

Anonymous then adds, "Wait --that was supposed to say What does gentle heckling mean?"

First, we commend you on taking the time to make the grammar correction. I'm not sure I would have done it, myself. Maybe it's a lack of appropriate functionality...

Second, to your question, let me begin with a picture.

So this is the village it what you pictured? Maybe slightly more rustic?

The attention usually begins with children calling out to us as we leave the dirt road that leads down from our home to the main road that is paved. Sometimes a small group will walk alongside while tapping Townes’s shoe or holding my hand. Other kids are content to just shout ‘Obrouni!’ (which means “White Person’) and wave. And children like to try out their English phrases- ‘How are you? I’m fine.’

Once we enter the market though, the attention does at times have the feel of being affectionately teased. Maybe I’ll try out my few phrases in Twi ("Me beh taw Ntooos 5000", "I want to buy 50 peswas of tomatoes") and the person will respond at great length and then chuckle when I have to say "Men te ase", or “I don’t understand”. Or there’s the one lady who is obviously known for being a joker because she can really get the ladies in the stall around her laughing. And everyone would love to have more of Townes’s attention but he’s not really one to meet and greet. He’s not averse to the crowd but he does not respond to someone shaking his hand or saying ‘Good morning’ directly to him. We’ll work on it!

Kacey negotiating for the best prices and freshest selections!

Of course, there are also plenty of friendly faces. We bought the spice mixture for our Kontomire from these ladies:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Townes Travels - Ghanaian Style!

We decided that we had enough of the strange looks that Townes gets when he is carried around in his backpack, so this weekend we practiced carrying him in traditional Ghanaian fashion.

He liked it...for about 5 minutes!

We figure we can break him in slowly so that he'll eventually travel unnoticed through the streets of Ankaase...

Thanks to Richie for the photos!

Friday, September 10, 2010

A visit to Ntonso - The Home of Adinkra

My work with the Millenium Cities Initiative has changed a bit and now involves supporting with the development of a tourism strategy for the Ashanti region. While it is not quite as well developed as the capital city of Accra, the Ashanti region is much more interesting culturally. It is the home of the Asantehene, the king of the Ashanti Empire and, because they control much of the gold and cocoa in Ghana, one of the most powerful tribal chiefs in West Africa. You can visit the Asantehene's palace, called Menhyia palace, in Kumasi.

Surrounding Kumasi are a variety of cultural sites: the Awhiaa wood-carving village, where masks, stools and other wooden carvings are made, Bonwire, where the local Kente cloth is manufactured, and many others. Right now, some tourists come to Kumasi and visit the broader Ashanti region, but it is quite underdeveloped compared to the Ghanaian coast (due to the slave fortifications).

As part of our fact finding for the work, we visited Ntonso, the home of Adinkra. The following extract from Wikipedia explains Adinkra:

"Adinkra are visual symbols, originally created by the Akan of Ghana and the Gyaman of Cote d'Ivoire in West Africa, that represent concepts or aphorisms. Adinkra are used on fabric, walls, in pottery, woodcarvings and logos. Fabric adinkra are often made by woodcut sign writing as well as screen printing. They also can be used to communicate evocative messages that represent parts of their life or those around them."

An example of some of the Adinkra symbols can be found here.

The village of Ntonso is the home of the Adinkra, as they started making and printing the symbols on cloth, such as the chiefs clothes or on clothes for special occasions, such as funerals, many hundreds of years ago. The stamps are traditionally carved by hand and printed using ink distilled from a special tree bark. Now, however, the Adinkra symbols are everywhere: plastic chairs, gates, and even Vodaphone in Ghana uses them in their marketing campaign.

Ntonso has a very small visitor center, which we visited one Saturday afternoon. The visitor center had a small museum (featuring what was claimed to be 200 year old Adinkra cloth for a local chief simply sitting in the open), as well as a small printing center - outside, on the grass - where we could make our own Adinkra stamps.

Here is a photo of a stamp being carved. The individual carving this one is the only person in the village of Ntonso who is allowed to carve the stamps. The trade is passed down from father to son.

A freshly dipped stamp in the cauldron of boiling ink:

A stamped Adinkra symbol. This symbol means Wisdom and was made to symbolise the plucked hair of a chief who was thought to be particularly wise:

And Kacey, trying her hand at stamping:

A rack of stamped Adinkra cloth:

All of it is very interesting - including the history of those Adinkra stamps that could not be worn by anyone but the chief, under punishment of death, a fact that was not mentioned as part of the tour, but only found out upon further questioning - but the site was not very well developed. The quality of the stamping could be better, the museum improved, as well as potential things to purchase at the end of the tour.

This is a good time to do some research - what types of things would you be interested in if you visited Ghana? What would be important in terms of infrastructure? What types of things would interest you most to purchase? To learn?

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Happy Birthday, Kacey!

She flies through the air with the greatest of ease, and, well, she is in fact Gorgeous!

Here is to my wife and intrepid travel companion. With still no gas in the stove, the birthday party lacked some of the traditional accoutrements, and my surprise pizza dinner plans were all for nothing. Regardless, we had a nice day with "ball floats", something akin to a Ghanaian beignet, with a nice cup of coffee.

Kacey, it wouldn't be the same without you! Thanks for everything!

Washing Hands - Never been so exciting!

Townes and Nevin mostly get along. I say mostly because they both like the same car - sometimes referred to by Townes as the "Red Cuck", or the Red Truck. Sharing has not come naturally to Townes, so if Nevin has spied the Red Truck, then let the rumble begin.

Otherwise, they get along really well. Here they are playing in the sink together. My guess is that Townes was laughing on the inside....

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Au natural

Kacey has been reading quite a few books about natural foods, among them Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. We like the idea of paying attention to what we put into our bodies. Sometimes it is more expensive, but we wonder to ourselves - what are the true costs of saturated fats, high sodium and processed foods on our medical bills, stewardship of the land and animals, as well as our overall sense of well-being?

Here, it has been quite easy to live an "organic" life. Everything basically grows in our backyard, and we can buy it at the village market. Granted there are costs to this approach - Kacey is often gently heckled with Townes in his backpack (or if he is riding in his stroller, everyone assumes he must be handicapped!) and the variety is not as broad as we could get elsewhere. On the flipside, the vegetables - primarily consisting of okra, corn, tomatoes, onions, coco yam leaf (similar to spinach) - and the fruits - pineapple, bananas, papaya, and oranges - are all very local and taste fantastic!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Gas is out!

In Ghana, you have to keep your tanks full. Both for your cars, and your stove.

Last Tuesday, we ran out of gas for the stove. Unfortunately, the entire Ashanti region is apparently also out of gas. We have heard that the station near our house would have more natural gas by Saturday. Luckily, our next door neighbors (who are away) had some for their stove, so we just borrowed a bit.

Saturday arrived - still no gas.

Sunday arrived - still no gas.

On Sunday evening, the next door neighbors ran out of gas. So we've moved on to the traditional coal stove. It takes a bit more time, sure. But hey, we always liked camping out.

The gas is supposed to finally be available tomorrow afternoon. We're not keeping our hopes up.

Kacey making an egg scramble on the coal stove. Notice the intense focus on maintaining the coals at just the right temperature: