I am just a simple suburban girl from Canada. Or am I? Can I say that now, after ten years living the deepest darkest heart of Africa? I've only seen snow for about 10 days in 10 years! What kind of Canadian does that make me?
Well I can say that it makes me a person who's seen alot of life that falls far outside the 'box' of the modern western suburban reality. I live with the constant ironies that typify modern Africa. Take today for example. J and I decided to hit the 'Supermarket' (one of two stores in Ghana that features more than 5 aisles of food products for sale - no illusions of a Loblaws Superstore here!). We decided we also needed a bit of exercise so we parked the car at the shop and took a walk up the main street in Accra that leads from the airport down through the town and ends at the beach (at the Atlantic Ocean). This road has been all decorated with flags and banners congratulating Ghana on it's 50th Anniversary of Independence from British rule. That topic will be a whole other post, laden with my pessimistic take on the whole anti-progress.
As we strolled along in the heat, to my right was the four foot deep open gutter, absolutely stinking with months worth of excrement, plastic bags, and basically thick deep green slime, and on our left, the hustle bustle of trotros (the overcrowded public taxi vans), taxis honking to get our attention and various other vehicles that would make a roadworthy inspector choke... A lovely walk along a main road in Accra.
I noticed a group of boys ahead of us on the pavement, jostling each other around, quite happy and pumped up on that preteen boy confidence. They had a pet dog in tow and something one of the boys carried was the centre of attention amongst them. We walked a bit faster and caught up, and as we did I noticed that what the boy held by it's long wiry tail was a fairly large animal of some description. It was not just any animal - it was a very fat, (enormous in fact) rodent. It was a rat. A great big sewer fed rat. It became obvious that the boys had been on a hunt of sorts - the one who held the beast was wearing a sock on his hand, caked with indescribable chunks of filth. All the boys carried long sticks which were sharpened at one end as well. They had gone looking for a rat in the sewers, with all their gear, in the same way boys might head out fishing in a pond... And they had been very lucky.
My experience leads me to know what happened next, after they turned off the main road where we strolled- they would get it home to their compound, and their arrival with this catch would attract quite a bit of attention - those who would envy them, those who would say they had caught bigger ones in their day - none of the feedback would be negative.
The boys would start up a fire outside on a black coalpot and burn the hair off the beast, after which it would be turned with care over the fire and shared - cut into chunks, bones and all - between the hunters and possibly a few morsels to the hungry onlookers.
This is Accra. We meanwhile arrived back at the Supermarket, headed in with our trolley and proceeded to buy variety pack breakfast cereals, sliced ham for sandwiches, some milk, frozen bacon, eggs. We did avoid the iceburg lettuce though - it was on special for the equivalent of USD$12 - imported for those who would splurge...
Did I say I lived in a place full of ironies? Total opposites? Two worlds.....