Saturday, July 29, 2017

Ghana 2017 - Day 25. We are having a party!

Today is Monday of our last week, so Auntie Abigail has invited us to a party at her sister’s home. Ghanaians like to grill, so I imagined the party would be an informal affair, in the garden, and that we would be grilling and eating in waves as the food got cooked. When Abigail first mentioned the party, a few days ago, I had sent her a text message offering to get sirloin stakes and she had answered that would be fine. Some of the students had mentioned that they missed a nice stake, and I thought this would be a nice way to offer them a treat. Accordingly I woke up early, took the trotro to the supermarket in Accra Mall, chose 16 juicy stakes at the meat counter, and bought a nice lemon-pepper seasoning pack. We were supposed to meet at the USAC office at 11 am, and I made it with time to spare at 10:30 am, just as Claudia was getting ready to go to the house to organize things. It seemed the easiest thing to do to ask her to take the rather large package with her.

I was supposed to go with Abigail, who didn’t seem to be in that much of a hurry. Finally, at 11:30 she was ready to go, and we had a nice conversation all the way to her sister’s house, which was some distance away. The day was cloudy and with a few sprinkles, and I hoped this would not detract from the festivities. I was surprised when we got there and didn’t see any of the students, but then again this is Africa and maybe they were fashionably late. At the house I met a Fulbright professor from Ohio, and we had a nice chat sitting in the veranda as the clock inexorably ticked past noon. Hmm . . . I didn’t see any of the preparations that even an informal party needs. Finally the students came in, at about 12:30, and we all moved to another veranda, overlooking the pretty but rather soggy lawn. I was distracted by the conversation, and neglected to offer my services as grill master (perhaps I unconsciously had figured out that this was not going to be an informal party as I had thought).

Alas, it was not. Suddenly, out of the kitchen came a small caravan of people carrying large platters heaped with food. Some of it looked familiar: two types of rice, two platters of salad, a salver heaped with grilled chicken, and another with a tall pile of what I thought were the steaks, plantains, potatoes, cubes of some dark stuff (perhaps yams?), a delicious green salsa, fufu and banku. In short, a feast that must have taken hours to prepare. With much delight we lined up to heap food in our plates, and it was then that I discovered that what I thought were the steaks was really a big pile of tilapia fish. So where were the steaks? At this point Claudia approached me and, pointing to the pile of black cubes, told me that I should have some of them since that was the meat I had brought. Then everything became clear: The cook had no idea what to do with the steaks, so she had cut them in morsels, and had then proceeded to grilled them to death, until they were more pieces of jerky than the intended medium rare steaks that are such a part of American culture. L Hey, you learn something new everyday. Besides, the little lumps of charred meat went very well with the green salsa!

The party was great, as all parties that include lots of young people normally are, and we finished it in grand style when a birthday cake was produced, and we proceeded to sing Happy Birthday in three language to the youngest member of the group, who was celebrating her 21st birthday away from home. She was a very happy girl!

As we were getting ready to go, Abigail and Claudia called me apart and gave me, as a gift, a beautiful and colorful shirt of the type so favored by Ghanaian men. I will treasure it for many years to come, and when I wear it will certainly think on all the wonderful people I have met in this friendly country. 

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