Starting 2015 With Some Variables, a Baader-Meinhof, and Some Perspective

2015 is the year I will finally head to my first post. I find that both thrilling and terrifying. How am I going to be prepared in 6 months to determine the merits of someone’s visa application, in Arabic? Luckily, I still have four more months of Arabic and a Consular General training to prepare me for the next two years. What do I have in the meantime though? A German exam. Because, you know, self-inflicted language torture is my thing.

I never got to test in German during A-100 because there were 100 people in my class and only so many resources to test all of us in all of our languages. So priority was given to people with languages on our bid list and people who self identified at a high level, that’s my theory anyway. From a resource management perspective it makes complete sense, you have only so many resources available and you need to narrow down and pair a list of 117 posts with 100 people. You need something to help with filtering. Once those resources are used, you may have time and capacity to test a few other people. Do you waste those resources on people who identified their language skills at low or do you test the people who have a good chance of getting off language probation? It makes complete sense to me, but it doesn’t mean I’m particularly thrilled to be taking the German exam 4 months into my Arabic training. But then I retort to myself, this is 100% self-inflicted. I could have taken the test earlier or I could have postponed it until consular training. I made the decision to take it in January during A-100 though.

Something I’ve discovered about myself recently is fairly intriguing from a Foreign Service perspective. This is in no way where I was going with this blog post, but let’s follow this train of thought. I always knew I was good at reasoning, deduction and pattern recognition, if you go back and search in my blog for “variables” “options” or “possible” you’ll find quite a few posts spanning the years. I always knew this was how my brain worked, but didn’t realize it until recently. Which lead me to remember the Baader-Meinhof concept: “Baader-Meinhof is the phenomenon where one happens upon some obscure piece of information–often an unfamiliar word or name–and soon afterwards encounters the same subject again, often repeatedly.” It’s because our brains love patterns and we are always looking for patterns in the chaos. From my Hi-Lab (higher level language aptitude test) results, I know that my brain is seemingly extra hard wired for processing patterns. And now that I’m conscious of my own ability (also related to Baader-Meinhof, see how that works), I’ve become conscious of how my brain is processing the information. Before, I would just let my brain run and do it’s thing, such as with the decision to take the German test in January, a seemingly arbitrary month. But now, it’s like I have a window into what my brain is doing, as if I could watch it process variables, analyze patterns, and make decisions or inferences based on the information I have at hand.

To me it is like a tree. At first, I see the whole tree with every leaf, twig, branch. I notice the color of the leaves, how tall it is, and it’s shape. Then I look closer and focus on only one branch. It is as if I were trying to identify the species of the tree without having any prior knowledge of arboriculture. From the branch, I then look at the whole structure of the branch again. Then I dig deeper, looking at individual leaves and twigs. Then I start to prune away the branches until I have just a part of the tree left, the part that has all the information I need. Then I may have two or three ideas of what it might be. I take one last look, make a decision, but then immediately explain to myself my reasoning. Being very careful to acknowledge the variables and biases that influenced my decision, including my lack of knowledge. And most of this happens in the span of 30 seconds, maximum.

So when I decided to take my German test in January, I never thought to myself “why do I want to take this test?” I only thought to myself “when is the most advantageous time.” I knew that they were changing the test format in January. I also knew that I’d be in Arabic for 8-9 months. I knew that my German was rusty. I knew that I would have a few weeks of no class in December. I also knew that near the end of my Arabic studies, the pressure would be higher. I knew that I get a form of test anxiety. I also knew that I needed to pass my Arabic test. January was the only time that made sense to me, after looking at all those variables and factors. I never once considered how the German test would affect me stress-wise or emotionally. Those are non-factors in my brain. I’m hard-wired for rational, which is in fact thanks to the half of me that is German. A pretty big chunk of the reason why I decided to take the German test was because I knew it would help me prepare for the Arabic test.

So what am I getting at with all this rambling? I feel like this experience is very indicative of how my brain works. Right now I’m mildly stressing out about my German test, but I know that it doesn’t matter. That doesn’t stop the stress though. I can be conscious of what is going on in my brain, but I can’t necessarily change it’s course. I am mildly stressed because I want to do well on a test. Why? Because I grew up in an environment that emphasized achievement. I can be completely rational about a decision, but that does not mean it still doesn’t impact me in other ways. One of the reasons I decided to take the German test was directly correlated to preparing me for a future possibility. I found a way to better position myself for a future event, therefore I was willing to put myself through a bit of hardship in order to simply feel prepared. Which is exactly what I’ve done my entire life, I’ve always looked past the present hardships towards a simpler future. Consciously and unconsciously, I’m always trying to set myself up for success, even at the expense of present comfort.

But the beauty is that Peace Corps taught me that present hardship is not in fact hardship. It is all perspective: “this too shall pass.” Everything we do in life is a lesson for the future. We learn from our mistakes and successes and grow. We decide to take the difficult route (while finding the best route through the difficulties, at least I do) because that’s where we find our strength. I am not purposefully inflicting German language pain upon myself, I am doing this because I know that it will have a positive influence on my own peace of mind when the stakes are higher with Arabic, when it really counts. And my brain knows that is what I need. But that doesn’t mean I have to let German completely stress me out, in fact I quite enjoy switching back to something familiar. I’ve been so deep into Arabic for the past 4 months, it feels nice to step into something reassuring again.

With language you never know what progress you are making, so it is easy to feel discouraged. But through this process of attempting German and Arabic at the same time, I found a small confidence in myself. I was able to translate an article from German into Arabic in class on Friday, having been off for 2 weeks. I didn’t translate into English, I went directly from German to Arabic. And you know what? That was pretty damn cool. Even though I am still too embarrassed and lacking in confidence to speak German in front of people I find intimidating, I found a bit of confidence in class on Friday, the bit I needed. IMG_20150102_182113336~2~2Then I made an incredibly elaborate German meal: Jaegerschnitzel completely from scratch. I made the breadcrumbs, I made the sauce, I even had to have a lengthy conversation with a Whole Foods butcher to get the cut of veal I wanted. It reminded me of my Oma and how proud she would have been that I actually pulled off the perfect schnitzel.

I think she’d be proud of what I’ve accomplished so far as well, besides the schnitzel. So even when language kicks my ass, whichever language it is, I can’t lose sight of the purpose and my reason for doing this. I’m doing this because I am lucky enough to have the coolest job on earth.

The Peace Corps Food Cycle

Most Peace Corps Volunteers are familiar with the 27 month cycle, an incredibly useful handout for understanding what you are going through during each stage of your service. As we all know, I’m obsessed with food. So I decided to create a 27 month chart based on the widely circulated one, but including our food cycle. Some months are much harder for food cravings, but after about 16 months I didn’t crave American food anymore. Now that I’m at the end, I’m taking the advice of another PCV and eating as much local food as possible. When’s the next time I’ll be able to eat banku and groundnut soup in America?

 

Month Issues Behavior/Reaction Intervention
1 Depart America
Disorientation
Health
Intense desire for chocolate
Disgust at local foods
Curiosity about snack foods available
Visit local shop and buy random food
Eat lots of hardboiled eggs and peanut butter
2 Too much structure
Host family won’t adapt food or it is too much
Weight gain
Cravings begin
First cry over local food
Hunger
Restlessness
Teach host family how to make an American food
Smuggle food to the pets at night
Be frank with host family
Dip into your American food stash
3-6 Separation/solitude
Uncertainty
Cooking for yourself anxiety
Excitement over control of food
Determination to eat healthy
Cravings are minimized
Create a healthy diet plan for site
Befriend market ladies for deals
Indulge in American food occasionally
7-10 Slow work progress
Cross cultural frustration
Food depression
Food homesickness
Local food tolerance plateau
Intense food cravings
Splurge and make a big American meal
Experiment with locally available food and American style cooking
Request care packages
11-15 Mid Service Crisis
New trainees arrive
Constant complaining
Tendency to overeat
Lethargy
Revisit healthy diet plan
Try cooking local recipes
Cook with local family
Food party for one year anniversary
16-20 Awareness of time constraints
Project work
Food apathy
Diminished food cravings
Disappointment
Procrastination
Local food plateau
Focus on relationships in town
Visit new volunteers
Teach new volunteers how to cook PC style food
Try new food from the market
21-23 Demanding work pace
Prep for COS
Depression about lack of accomplishments
Panic
Moodiness
Continued food apathy
Food cravings almost gone
Eat local foods
Station food roulette – eat the first thing that passes you
Indulge in chocolate
23-27 Trauma of departure
Bridging identities
Food excitement
Food cravings resume
Anxiety about weight gain
Panic
Plan out first meals when home
Work out
Eat as much local food as possible

I Can’t Stop Smiling

There’s something in my water, I just know it. That’s got to be the reason I’ve been so happy lately. Or maybe I’m happy because I am. I haven’t stopped smiling since I got back from Germany. That vacation truly did wonders for me. I really needed it and I’m so fortunate to have such a loving aunt and uncle who knew I needed it too.

Why am I so happy? What’s been going on? It’s nothing major, but the small things just add up and make everything better. When I returned to site, it was a wonderful homecoming. I was actually happy to see my latrine (I needed to pee really badly). My neighbors were yelling my name, the small girls ambushed me for hugs, and the puppy almost had a heart attack when she saw me. I went to market on Monday and found my dear friend Vida waiting for me with open arms. She was so happy to see me. We sat and talked about my adventures in Germany. She told me about the new things happening at the market. We shared stories and laughs. I love spending time with her. She calls me her best friend. She’s not married and her son is older. She lives alone. I sit at her stand and keep her company. She’s a wonderful human being and sells the greatest batik. I bought 22 yards that day (there’s a story behind all those yards, but that’s for another time). I walked to my veggie stand and was greeted much the same, with enthusiasm. I made my way to Modern Way for lunch and it felt like walking back into your mom’s kitchen.

Yesterday, the small girls came by to hang out. I sat and talked with them for an hour about all sorts of things. I discovered an incredible secret though. Those girls drank so much water when I gave them one of those MIO water flavoring things. I’ve never seen them drink water and they were slurping it up like they had been running through the Sahara. I taught them the importance of water to a healthy body and they agreed to drink more, especially now that they had this great MIO thing. At one point, I was demonstrating different vegetables and how we eat them in America, when one girl squeezed a cucumber. It literally burst in my face. I was laughing so hard. Who knew spoiled cucumbers could explode?! We alternated between Twi and English. They are such a great group of girls, I enjoy having their company.

Today, I started working very early. The night before I finally finished my work plan for SAP. I spent a good amount of time making it beautiful and timeliney. This morning, with renewed vigor, I sat down to do some spreadsheets. I still have to finish my data analysis, but I love it. I love every minute of analyzing data in Excel. And nothing makes me happier than having new, fresh data to play with. After I worked on the data for a few hours, I did the rest of my wash. I sat down outside and began washing my underwear. As I enjoyed the sound of my washing board intertwining with the country music in the background, I watched the morning pass in front of me. I watched girls go to school, moms washing dishes, and unemployed boys sitting aimlessly. The rainy season weather was perfect, cloudy, windy, and not too hot. The sheep came storming by, freaked out by a pack of dogs. I watched as they leaped over each other in a mad dash to escape those wily dogs. The compound puppy came over to greet me with her all too sweet howl. She obeyed as I told her to lay down beside me. She loves to nip at my heels, but I began teaching her the meaning of NO. Gifty, the little 2 year old who lives next to me, came over to see what I was washing. She never talks to me, never has. She always smiles and runs away when I try to talk to her. I asked her where she was going in Twi. She answered me. She actually answered me!

The afternoon was met with those “seriously?!” moments, that I’ve come to appreciate in Ghana. First, I let the cucumber I was peeling slide right out of my hands straight into the trash. Then I dropped all my silverware trying to grab just one spoon. Then I burned my hands picking something off the stove. Then the rain began to pour, immediately after I had just come inside from checking the status of my clothes. I didn’t get upset at my downhill luck. I laughed. Watching that cucumber slide in slow motion out of my hands and into the trash was priceless. And as much as I hate pulling laundry off the line, there is something so quintessentially wonderful about running in the rain to rescue your clothes from sudden downpour.

I ate my delicious tuna salad lunch with a new cucumber. I sat back and enjoyed eating healthy. (For breakfast I had hardboiled eggs, toast with olive pesto and sardine pate.) I feel good. I feel wonderful. I feel happy. My work with SAP is incredibly fulfilling and will keep me busy through the rest of my service. I love spending time with the people around me. And I know that I have people all around the world who care about me and want to know that I’m happy. I love what I do. I love who I’ve become.

I could also just be smiling because I look fabulous today, but maybe that’s just as a result of how I feel. No, who am I kidding, I put eyeshadow on today. I look great.

And I feel great too.

Peace Corps Proverbs

Like every continent, Africa has its share of proverbs. These fun little sayings can impart important moral lessons. Plus, they are awesome. Here’s an example of a Ghanaian one:

Anoma antu a Ɔbua da.
If a bird does not fly, it starves.
Meaning nothing ventured, nothing gained.


I decided to come up with some of my own proverbs based on my life as a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa. Can you guess the meaning of some of them?

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You find patience and grace in a tro, they are sitting right beside you.

A cockroach in the latrine is a sign of a healthy diet.

If you throw the paper down the hole, you will never see it again. If you throw the paper in a bucket, you will have to see it many times. If you use your hand, you only see it once.

A run in the rain beats running in place.

Don’t ignore the roaring lion, he can run faster than you.

It only takes one drop in a bucket to bathe.

If you stand in the bucket, your water will become dirty.

A burnt finger is a sign of a good meal.

Fufu is in the eye of the pounder.

You can’t starve if you have good neighbors.

A fat cow produces better milk.

If you travel all day down a bush path you can look at yourself and think either “I’m dirty” or “I’m tan!”

A stich in time saves nine, but nine tailors can’t stich in time.

The cock that crows the loudest tastes the best.

The grass is always greener during the rainy season.

The bite of a mosquito only itches if you scratch it.

A good hoe should be between your legs.

Don’t put all your eggs in one Bolga basket, they won’t survive the taxi ride.

One yard of fabric can cover your head, but two yards of fabric can cover your ass.

My Foodie Guide to Ghana

Are you looking for a good meal in Ghana? Well guess what? I love food. I’ll share with you some of my favorite places to eat just in case you find yourself hungry in West Africa. Consider this the Peace Corps Guide to Satisfying Most of Your Food Whims in Ghana.

Accra

The capital of Ghana. Accra is located on the coast, therefore fish tastes normal. The food is pricey (on a volunteer salary), but definitely worth it! You can get very authentic Indian food, cheesy pizza, salads, and of course – frog legs.

Price guide (does not include drinks, which in general in Accra is expensive – smuggle in a water satchet):
$ – between 0.50cd and 5cd; $$ – between 5cd and 15cd; $$$ – between 15cd and 30cd; $$$$ – more than 30cd

Pizza:
Mamma Mia!
$$$ Located in Osu, near Epos. Follow the street behind Citizen Kofi until you see the signs for Mamma Mia, turn obviously at the signs. The restaurant is located behind a tall wooden fence. The hours are pretty weird, so expect to only go for dinner during the week. I think it is closed on Mondays.

Mamma Mia is the place to go if you want an expensive, cheesy, brick oven pizza. The pizzas are pretty delicious and good sized. My personal favorite is the four cheese, but substituting mushrooms for whatever the other random thing is on it. The place gets really crowded at night, especially on the weekends.

Melting Moments
$$ Located in Labone, near Metro TV. Hours are from around 7:30am – 8pm? I’m just guessing, but it seems like that’s when they are open. They do deliver, but honestly it is more of a hassle than just going to get it.

The pizza at Melting Moments is currently 14cd and oh so worth it. The pizza selections are different and smothered in cheese. The crust is sweet, like most bread in this country, but still tasty. The sauce isn’t my favorite, but let’s be honest it is cheap, cheesy pizza that you can afford on a volunteer salary, therefore it is heavenly. If you want pizza, try Melting Moments.

Pizza Inn
$$$ Located in on the main road in Osu, 37, and the Accra Mall. Hours are lunchtime until about 8pm. Tuesdays are 2 for 1 pizza days.

Pizza Inn tastes like glorified cardboard. I’ve been told 37 is better than Osu location, but for the price, size, and overall quality, you are better served going to Mamma Mia or Melting Moments. Basically it tastes like bad airport pizza.

 

Cheeseburgers

Honeysuckle
$$$ Located in Osu, closer to Danquah circle across from the Police Headquarters. It is on the left side of the road as if you were walking toward Circle. I’m not sure about hours, but it is a bar – so expect dinner here.

I’ve never actually tried the burgers here, but I’ve been told they are good. So there you go, a pricey place in Osu to get a cheeseburger.

 

Ryan’s
$$-$$$ Located in a dark street back deep in Osu, it is best to grab a taxi here since it is kinda hard to find. Most taxi drivers know Ryan’s. Or at least they claim to.

Also never had a cheeseburger here, but it is an awesome Irish pub with a happy hour. Enough said.

 

Rhapsody’s
$$$-$$$$ Located at the Accra Mall. Hours are lunch and dinner, because seriously who is eating a cheeseburger for breakfast in Ghana?

Also never been here, but I’ve been told if you want a cheeeeeseburger (say it with a funny french accent), you need to go to Rhapsody’s. Rhapsody’s is a South African chain, which translates to – it is awesome. Burgers are around 20cd, but very filling. Good place to take a date, unless you are cheap.

Chinese

Tip-Top
$$$ Located in Osu on the right hand side of the main drag. Next to the Piccadilly Casino. Open around 11 – 9pm

Expensive Chinese food and smaller portions. The food is pretty good though and the selection is gigantic. Try some of the appetizers, they are pretty tasty. Also you can get lots of fried food here, which basically reminds me of home.

This one authentic place with a crazy name
$$$ Located near Container, on the left hand side of the street going towards Duplex. Really close to Container. Open for dinner (not sure about lunch)

There is a back room with a giant spinning table, which is a fantastic place to go when you are tipsy. The food is apparently really authentic according to a RPCV who used to live in China. Don’t expect to really know what you are ordering but the dumplings are killer!

 

Fried Noodle Place
$$ Located near Epos in the big screen hut. Open for dinner.

I can’t eat anything at this place, stupid allergies, but I’ve only heard good things. Fried noodles near a popular drinking spot. Seriously, what else do you need? Well there is the shwarma place there too, so if you need a shwarma, you can get that to eat with your noodles and beer tower.

 

Salads

Little India Sunshine Salad
$$$ Located in Osu, off the street right past the Total station. Across from Acrilex and near Auntie Esther’s. Open for lunch and dinner.

Prices here just skyrocketed, but the food is great. Huge selection of salads, sandwiches, wraps, and great appetizers. They have daily specials too, which are based on seasonal deliciousness. Portions are good sized. I love to get the wraps, which are around 19cd. The wraps are about a foot long, stuffed with yumminess, and come with a side salad and fries. Easy meal to share. My personal favorite is the chicken and hummus wrap. Because hummmmmus!

Barcelos
$$ Located in Osu at the end of the street behind Citizen Kofi, near Piccadilly Casino. Also in the Accra Mall. Lunch and dinner hours.

You can get chicken burgers, chicken pieces, and my favorite their chicken salad (but not chicken salad, just salad with chicken on it). The dressing is really good, the veggies are pilled high, good amount of grilled, pulled chicken, and olives! The salad is about 6cd, which is a real steal in Accra. It is a good way to appease the doctor’s orders to eat more things that have nutritional value. I highly recommend their salad if you are looking for a good, cheap meal prior to catching a movie at the Mall.

 

Indian

Tandoori
$$$ Located in Labone. Turn at the street right before Melting Moments and follow the street until you come to a little side street on your left. Look for the signs on the main street. Very easy to get to in Labone. Open after 5pm for dinner.

If you love Indian food, you will love Tandoori. They just updated their menu, which means higher prices, but this is another great place to share food. Try the lamb kormaa with garlic tandoor. If the menu says very spicy, they mean it, even by Ghana standards. The meals come with three different sauces, the mint one is great for adding flavor and toning down the spice. Rice doesn’t come with the sauces, you have to order it separately. Bring a friend or three and order two or three sauces, some rice, and two tandoors or naan. You will all leave happy and you get to split the bill! One of my favorite places to eat in Accra!

 

Ghanaian

Banku and tilapia
$$-$$$ Located right next to Duncans, which is past Frankies on a side street. They come out around 6pm until late.

If you want an authentic Ghanaian dish, which is loved by locals, you need to eat here. The banku is 1cd per ball, which is expensive and it isn’t the best actual banku (trust me I’m an expert). It is too smoky, but you aren’t coming here for the banku. You are coming for the whole package. You order your ginger crusted and stuffed grilled tilapia by the size. A smaller fish is still going to put you back about 12-15cd. Then you can decide if you want grilled veggies, which you do. When it finally comes out, it takes a while, you will be hungry and happy. Dip the banku in the peppe, get some grilled veggies, and pull out a piece of that succulent fish. You’ll be in heaven. Hands down my favorite place to go in Accra. If you are looking to save money split the fish, but be warned sharing is at your own risk.

 

Chop
$ Located near the Prison Headquarters before you get to Danquah Circle, look for the tents behind the wall on the left hand side. The ladies come out once the sun goes down.

You can get rice, banku, fufu, fried yams, and fruit here. Overall good food, if you are used to eating chop. Try the rice from the lady at the end. Average meal will cost about 3cd.

Samosas & Spring Rolls
$ Located across from Metro TV at the end of the chop area. The lady appears after 12pm, but your best best is to come after 12:30.

Delicious spring rolls and samosas are to be found here, and for cheap! You can get 3 spring rolls, some fried yams, and 3 samosas for under 5cd. If you miss fried food, take a trip here.

Maquis Tante Marie
$$$ Located at the Accra Mall and near the Peace Corps Office. Open for lunch and dinner.

I’ve never been here, again, but I have passed it many a time. I’ve been told that they have a big selection of typical Ghanaian meals at an expensive price. I’ve heard their palmnut soup is good though. Probably a good place to take family or friends visiting who want a restaurant version of Ghana.

 

Buffets

Okay, so I’m just going to put a short blurb here about this. I haven’t forked over the cash for this yet, but two of the nice hotels The Movenpick and Golden Tulip offer buffets. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They also have buffets during special holidays. If you want a crapton of amazingly delicious food for a ridiculously expensive price, then go to the buffet. On a Volunteer budget the 30-60cd+ buffet is difficult to rationalize, but if you can get someone else to pay for it – DO IT.

 


Elsewhere in Ghana

 

Koforidua

Located in the Eastern region of Ghana, you can get to Kof in about 2-4 hours from Accra. Kof is worth a visit for its Thursday bead market, which is a great way to spend a little money on a lot of jewelry. Bracelets are about 1cd and you can easily get a necklace for 2-10cd. Earrings average around 1.50-3cd. Sorry got distracted by jewelry, back to the food.

On the main street in Kof near Melcoms and down an alleyway, you will find a two story chop bar that is fabulous. The building is white and the stairs are on the front side of the building. If you are looking for the place, you really need to just check all the side streets/alleys between Melcoms and the traffic light near the big painted building/market. There is a street meat guy next to the chop bar. Go upstairs and prepare yourself.
The food is cheap even for chop standards, you can get a ball of banku for under .50cd. I highly recommend getting banku and peppe. The peppe is green and tastes remarkably like salsa verde. Get a couple hard boiled eggs and you can eat very well for under 2cd.

 

Kumasi

You go to Kumasi to get everywhere else. Kumasi is the best place on Earth to test your will, patience, and ability to dodge fast moving people with large objects on their heads. Walking through town is like playing a giant game of frogger.

Vegetarian place
$ Located near the main post office, Vodafone café, and across from Opoku market. Look for the small chop looking place with a door, should be yellowish outside.

Here you can get brown rice with veggies, salad, and tofu. The brown rice is a welcome departure from the mounds of white rice you eat as a volunteer. The portions are generous. Even if you aren’t a vegetarian, the change of pace is welcome. I highly recommend trying this place.

Maplewood
$-$$ Located in Odum, it is a brown hotel near the main circle.

Some days you can order burgers and spring rolls, but you should probably call ahead first (obviously I don’t have the number, but someone does) to check if they have what you want that day. You can get a burger for 5cd and spring rolls are 1cd each. The burger comes with a fried egg and basically coleslaw on top. The bun is thick and wheat-like. The spring rolls are curry based and huge. This place is a real treat if you are in need of some food R&R.

Wenchi

Located in the Brong-Ahafo region, Wenchi is a larger town with not a lot to see. You come to Wenchi to see a PCV, change cars, or see the former dead President Busia. What Wenchi lacks in attractions, it makes up for in food. Chop paradise!

Kaaf
$ Located on the street right before Allied Oil and right after the National Fire Service. Open from 10am – sunset

If you want to try the best fufu and banku in Ghana, you need to make a trip to Kaaf. The banku is the perfect blend of sour and flavor. The groundnut soup, while watered down, is spicy, rich, and oh so tasty. The light soup has a nice taste to it, and they just started making palmnut soup. The palmnut soup is good, but doesn’t hold a candle to mine – clearly. You can get a lot of food for less than 3cd here. The chicken is extremely tasty and the portions are favorable. You can even get the food to go! Anytime someone comes to Wenchi, I take them to Kaaf.

Managye
$ Located right next to the main station, it is a two story yellow and black spot. Food is available after noon.

In the mood for jollof, fried rice, or plain rice? Well Managye doesn’t disappoint. If you are changing cars in Wenchi, stop at Managye for lunch. You can hang out upstairs and feel like you have been transported to a seedy, but not scary part of Miami. The chicken is fried to deliciousness and the rice is plentiful. Try the jollof with the stew. The salad is also nice. Regular portion is 3cd.

Queen’s Star Waakye
$ Located across from Ghana Commercial near the main station. Look for the blue stand behind the taxis.

Excellent waakye and loved by all people in Wenchi. This place is eternally popular and their waakye sells out before 11 everyday. The stew that accompanies the waakye is flavorful and really adds to the waakye. During avocado season, there is often a lady selling cut avocado outside the stand. Mix the avocado in with your rice and beans for a protein and omega three paradise.

Viglosam
$$ Located far from the center of town, look for the signs directing you towards the hotel. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

In need of some french fries? How about a sorta burger? What about some stroganoff? Viglosam has delicious pricey meals for the person who is looking for a foodescape. You can order just a plate of fries and salad for 5cd. Their banku and groundnut soup is very rich and thick and is highly recommended. The pepper steak is like salisbury steak and is a great choice.


Look for part two of my Foodie Guide to Ghana coming soon! Which will basically just be me updating this page and providing a new link.

Enjoy!

 

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Palm Nut Soup (Abɛnkwan)

Palm Nuts are the red fleshy nuts that grow on royal palm trees. They are harvested in a large bunch and come in small and large sizes. Palm Nut Oil is widely used in West Africa as the local oil of choice when cooking. Although many people are switching to vegetable and sunflower oils. Palm nut oil is rich in vitamin A and is extremely bad for you. Palm nut oil has a rich, heavy taste.

Palm nut soup is somewhat of a delicacy in my parts. It isn’t made as often, why I don’t know. South of Wenchi palm nuts are much more readily available and the oil is consumed more.

Palm nut soup is hands down my favorite soup in Ghana. It is rich in flavor, heavy, and slippery. It is beyond hearty and extremely enjoyable, but definitely an acquired taste. Within minutes of consuming palm nut soup, your stomach will begin to gurgle and you may find yourself running to the bathroom. All that oil is having a nice effective on your intestines. Despite the setbacks, palm nut soup with chicken and fufu remains my favorite meal.

And here’s how it is made:

First things first, you need to add charcoal to your coal pot and get the fire going.

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The palm nuts have been boiled along with these green berries which are similar to garden eggs and red peppers. They were boiled for 25 minutes, just long enough to get them soft.

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The palm nuts are then placed into a special mortar made for palm nuts, agushi, and other smaller items.

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Using a small pounder, you pound the palm nuts into submission.

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While one person pounds the palm nuts, the other is preparing the soup. Chicken, water, maggi cube, tin tomatoes, salt, and red onions form the simple base to the soup.

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After the palm nuts are pounded into their fleshy, stringy selves they are added to boiling water.

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The fleshy part is then squeezed so that the juicy goodness comes out.

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A little bit of straining and the palm nut juice is added to the soup

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The soup then boils for about an hour until the palm nut oil comes up to the top. You can strain the oil off the top or keep it. We prefer to keep it. You know just to keep everything moving. The deep red is the palm nut oil.

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Add the soup to fufu (which was also being made concurrently).

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The final product:

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You have to eat it with your hands, especially so you can look like an axe murder.

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Delicious palm nut soup! Fairly easy to make, but time and labor intensive. We started at 3 and I finished eating at 6.

In case you are wondering, you can’t make this in America. I’ve been told palm nut oil isn’t allowed to be imported. So I assume palm nuts aren’t either. So if you want a true taste of Africa, you gotta fly over here.

Hermanus (or my dream town)

Travelling from Stellenbosch to Hermanus was a real treat. We climbed through mountains, snaked through the clouds, and passed vineyards on our way to this seaside retreat. The bus dropped me off at a different town, where a shuttle came and picked us up. The first thing I noticed was the super cute dog who came to greet us. The dog jumped into the front seat, but then knowing I was a dog person, stared at me, jumped down and crawled into my lap. The dog slept in my lap for the 30 minute ride to the hostel.

The hostel I stayed at, the Hermanus Backpacker, was amazing. Inside it looked like the coziest house imaginable. I loved all the bright colors, windows, and sofas. It was perfect. The staff was super friendly and I felt instantly welcome. I headed into town to go exploring before my whale watching boat tour.

I looked up this cool place to eat and I was pretty determined to find it and consume some seafood there. So I walked to the center of town and I fell in love. It had the perfect little square right next to the cliffs overlooking the ocean. Rocky crags and grassy knolls. Beautiful. I quickly found the place I wanted for lunch. The stairs down into the cave were incredibly inviting and I knew this was going to be a good meal. The kitchen didn’t open for another 30 minutes so I grabbed a table near the cliff and settled for a glass of wine and patience. This girl was ready to eat, so I ordered a giant platter of food. As I sat waiting for my food I watched as whales surfaced just a football field away from my table.

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Then my food came.

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And I only had eyes for it. Do you see that? Do you see that the platter of food is the epitome of food for me? Greek salad (favorite). Fresh grilled fish, giant prawns, calamari, mussels, and french fries. Honestly, this is one of my favorite meals of all time. Seafood extravaganza! I ate all of it, minus the fries. I nibbled on those. Oh yeah there was rice down there too. I devoured my meal and then waddled my way along the coast back to my hostel. I grabbed my camera, and headed off to the boat tour.

The 30 minute walk to the wharf was amazing. The houses were dreamy, the view was breath taking. Everything about it called to me. It kept saying: “move here….live here….you know you are enamored.” I stopped and gapped at the flowers. I took picture after picture. With every second, I fell more in love with the place.

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A thatch roof cottage is my dream home. When I saw this place I almost cried. It is an inn, don’t worry I have plans to stay there again in my future. Finally, I made it to the wharf and I boarded my boat headed to whale territory. It didn’t take long before we saw whales. Maybe 10 minutes. And that’s all the time it took for people to start getting sea sick. And bad. Half the boat was projectile vomiting overboard. I chilled up top, gazing at the beautiful Southern Right Whales that were putting on a show for us.

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We saw probably between 10-15 whales, maybe more. One was Albino and that was pretty damn cool. Most of the time they were in pairs or here at the end there were 4 of them. They got incredibly close to the boat, passing right in front of the bow even. I was so impressed with how loud they were. Whenever they breathed it sounded like a water pipe valve releasing pressure. It was absolutely incredible. I loved every minute of it. Seeing such giant, gentle creatures that close in the wild, was fascinating. When I was a little girl I wanted to be a marine biologist/or dolphin trainer, so being close to whales was a true treat for me. I also wanted to be a naval architect and ship captain, so just being on a boat was also nice. (Revealing a secret here! Some days I still wish that I would have gone to naval school.)

After the 3 hour boat tour, I walked back to the hostel. The sun was about to set and the light was casting glorious shadows and hugging every flower. It looked like the whole scene was painted by Monet. That evening I joined the locals and fellow guests in a South African holiday tradition, it was Heritage Day, which is Braai day. Everyone barbeques on Heritage Day and oh hell yeah I was eating steak.

I got my steak and it was a big, fat, juice hunk of meat. It was accompanied by a salad and baked potato which I then lathered in Ranch Dressing (no seriously the plate was swimming in ranch). Even though I ate a giant platter of seafood earlier in the day, I ate every single bite of that meal. Do you have any idea how Ranch Dressing reinvigorates this girl? It is like giving water to Aquaman or having Superman get some sun rays. Like Iron Man getting a new core. It was like I was a new person, I was ready to take on the world. So naturally I passed out and slept soundly, ready for the next day, which would prove to be life-changing.