Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sundays in Ghana...

My life is a bit surreal.

A typical Sunday, (when there are no visitors to entertain or take on coastal beach tours), means waking slowly and luxuriously anywhere between 10 and noon. The lie in is standard and savoured each week.

I shove the weekend’s dishes to the side (househelp arrives tomorrow), and cook up a bacon and egg affair with a variation or two. Now that I’m on my health diet, I usually make some high fibre flax pancakes as well.
We sit down with last week’s Sunday Times (it has been mysteriously couriered to our office for the past two years every Tuesday…) and enjoy brunch.

We might download some music from the Internet or put itunes on through the rigged up laptop/stereo and blast our favourites for a few hours while puttering around.
We might grab some magazines and head out back by the pool to have a swim, but mostly just a dip to cool off.

TV comes on about 5 or 6pm, while I see what’s in the kitchen to make up for supper. If I'm really ambitious, I'll have set a roast in the slow cooker earlier... By now the dishes cover almost every visible surface… should I wash them? No! What would Gilbert do tomorrow when he arrives? To be honest, every Sunday night before flipping the kitchen light switch, I feel a twinge of embarrassment. Or is it guilt. Imagine someone seeing my kitchen like this?! But I let it pass – Sundays are a day of relaxation, and plus who am I kidding? I haven’t washed more than 5 successive dishes in more than 8 years…

Sunday evenings, lie on the couch, watch old series or documentaries on our satellite TV, maybe rent a movie and hook it up on the projector screen for a home theatre, and eventually heave our lazy selves up to bed after 11.

But this is all so isolated.

Outside the concrete walls of our vast yard, protecting our fortress, there is buzzing action on Sundays, from long before 6am. If I randomly wake very early, and listen closely, beyond the airconditioner hum, I can hear rhythmic drums. Sometimes I hear this in the distance all night.

But by 6am children across this country have handwashed their uniforms for school tomorrow and are scrubbed up and poured into their Sunday best. Sunday is church day.
From every direction, off in the distance, I hear on Sundays, the hopeful and vibrant sounds of the revivalist churches. They're called 'Charismatic' churches here. Drums and guitars and tambourines, and the massive rhythmic heave of the soul of the people, in unison, once a week, praising their God. Church here is an all day affair on Sunday. It is only by 2 or 3pm the multitudes make their way out of the churches of every description, from colossal opulent temples to half built concrete structures, to makeshift worship centres of plastic chairs, under the trees.

Sunday is fufu day in Ghana too. Fufu, being Ghana’s national dish is quite a labour intensive endeavour in it’s preparation. Everywhere in compounds, apartments and houses around the country, women are boiling plantains (large cousin of the banana, left to ripen to black on the outside), and yams and cassava, for the ritual of mortar and pestle – mashing the tubors into a gummy ball.

This ball is then placed at the bottom of a bowl, over which is poured one of three traditional soups. Light soup is a tomato/hot pepper based broth with any variety of fish and meat added. Then there is palm soup, made from the oily orange flesh of the palm kernels which hang in clusters, red skinned walnut sized seeds, at the top of all palm trees. (The method of extracting the thick fleshy pulp is again quite a long, labour intensive process). The last is groundnut soup (peanut soup). It’s base is natural peanut butter, sometimes made from scratch as part of getting supper ready. Both these soups also have the tomato/hot pepper/various meats added.

Once tummies are full, washing has been done by hand, hung to dry, it’s then pulled in after dark and ironed, and everyone drifts off to bed, mostly exhausted. It’s about 8pm.

Tomorrow is another day. By 6am the children will have completed their chores and be scrubbed up and suited up, ready to head to school, or for the many others, ready to hit the streets to sell…

By 8am, I will rise and stretch and jump into the hot shower. I can hear Gilbert downstairs, the dishes clanging. He will have cleaned a space, big enough to get breakfast ready. When we come down the places are set at the dining table, we wolf down some eggs and coffee (decaf these days), and head out the door, connect the ipod to the stereo in the car… and head to work.
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