Aug. 31 – I moved out of the orphanage this morning into the Bab Danjing Guesthouse located in Abossey-Okai, a twenty minute walk from the New Times Corporation. In my room, I noticed there was blood smeared on the wall behind the bed and told the attendant downstairs. “Could I have a sheet too, a bedspread to cover myself while I sleep?” I asked. He handed me a sheet of linen hanging on a line outside, then sat back down in his chair making no reference to the foreign bodily fluid flung on my room’s wall like a Michael Jackson poster. I didn’t bother to hassle the old man since he already seemed unhinged from countless nights working the graveyard shift.
In Ghana when you leave your hotel room, you always drop your key off with an attendant “just in case something happens.” This means there is always some poor soul propped on a plastic picnic chair outside the hotel entrance waiting for someone to check in or out. It’s a lousy job, so I can understand why the fools running Bab Danjing consistently appear like sloppy beer-drinking hosts.
The place where the guesthouse is located, Abossey-Okai, is an oil-stained town that seems occupied by every mechanic in Accra. Roosters sound an alarm very morning at 6 am sharp, and if that doesn’t wake me up, a megaphone centered in the street just outside my window howls with an evangelical sermon at 6:30. Of course, the sermon is in Twi, so I can’t understand anything said except the ocassional Hallelujah, Amen and “five Cedis, one Cedi,” etc, etc.
I say I don’t eat meat and the waitress in front of me asks “Is egg okay?” and I stand there astounded. Vegetarianism isn’t a foreign concept in Ghana. The large number of rastafarians in this place whose faith prohibits them from touching meat or even salt has saved me from deteriorating into a a starved statistic. I tell my guide Albert that I don’t eat meat, and he get’s it. “Why didn’t you tell me? I would have ordered something else.” But I didn’t want to be a bother. My plan was to just eat around any animal on my plate, play it cool and not come across as rude or spoiled to my host or server. Luckily, this peformance is unnecessary in this land. People get it. “I was a vegetarian for a while too,” Albert tells me. His uncle was HINDU, and Albert lived with him for awhile, so he didn’t eat meat. A Ghanaian Hindu? Who would have thought. I tell him about the industrialization of agriculture in the states, how animals are confined inside small barbed wire pens, how they’re pumped with antibiotics to fit their new environment, and how they’re slaughtered with machines to speed up the process and he grimaces. “That’s one thing aboiut Ghanaians – everything is local. They would never think of eating anything that they didn’t know where it came from,” he says. I tell him ahd I grown up here and knew who by and how the animals were killed, my diet may be different. But I still want to be responsible for as little harm as possible, so maybe not.
Food I’ll miss:
Groundnut Soup with plain rice or Fufu
Plain Rice with Palava Sauce or Vegetable Stew or Egg Garden Stew
Red red with Plaintains