Friday, January 6, 2012

Techiman to Tumu (A day from hell)

After training in Techiman, our group split into two:  shea and cashew.  In the northern regions of Ghana, shea is a very common tree, while in the south, cashew is very common.  So we split into north and south, shea and cashew, good and evil (just kidding).  I was in the shea group, along with everyone else in the Northern, Upper West and Upper East regions.  We headed up to Tumu, in the Upper West, for our shea IST (in-service training), while the cashew group stayed in Techiman for their IST.  That should have been the first sign.
It took two hours just to leave Techiman; why, I don't really know, you never really know.  At about noon e had a snack of bowl fruit and an apple that we got in Wenchi, another big-ish city just north of Techiman.  While we waited for Mike and Molly (the PCVs helping out with our training group) to get our snack, we were entertained for a few minutes by a man dancing in a tight black outfit and a thin, red thong- interesting.  I guess he was selling medicine or something; a huge crowd gathered around him, enthralled by whatever he was saying.
We stopped at about 2 PM for lunch in a village on the way.  Fried chicken and rice.  We didn't get our food until about 3, so we ate back on the bus.  Right away I didn't feel great, along with severla others...and it would get worse.  At 5:15 we stopped in Wa, the capital of the Upper West region, to get gas and use the urinals.  As we were getting back on the bus, Dawn and Linda were talking about beekeeping, and Dawn started to show us this beekeeping was really entertaining, but what made it even better was that she was dancing right in front of the bus door, which was wide open, so she was wiggling her booty out the door for a bunch of Ghanaian men sitting at the gas station.  We all laughed really hard, and Dawn stayed bright red and mortified for a while.
So Wa to Tumu was 3 1/2 hours of hell.  The roads are terrible in Upper West, especially in this area- not paved, potholes everywhere.  We had a very good driver, but no matter how good of a driver you are, that doesn't make a terrible road and better.  For 3 1/2 hours we were jolted about the bus, you pretty much couldn't even sleep because ever 10 seconds you'd be catapulted forward (normally its really easy to sleep during tro rides, even if it is a little bumpy).  The sun sets at 6:30, so it was dark for most of this part of the trip, minus the many bush fires.  You couldn't even enjoy the sunset since there was so much smoke pollution from the bush fires (it is really common for Ghanaians to burn the dry grasses).
By 9 PM, we arrived at the guesthouses in Tumu, which were owned by two cute, old Swiss ladies.  All of us were in pain, my back was killing me so much it even hurt to lay down.  Dawn, Mary and I snagged a room to ourselves, and told everyone to stay away from us; we denied dinner (yup, you guessed it, fried chicken and rice).  Just the thought of it made us more sick.  We started laughing uncontrollably as soon as we collapsed on our bed...we definitely would have started to cry if we didn't laugh.
The next two days at our IST, things got a little better but not much.  The first day, the three of us couldn't go to the sessions, seeing that we could be no more than 10 feet from the bathroom.  There was no way I was leaving the room.  The sweet Swiss ladies took great care of us though: we got crackers, and brownies (real brownies!), bananas, and tea.  The second day, we did make it to Jonathan's village, about 45 minutes away, where we observed how the women traditionally process shea butter- very cool.  We also got to participate in the shelling and pounding and grinding of the shea nut.  I helped grind the pounded nuts with a stone- it ends up looking like melted chocolate; unfortunately it doesn't taste as good as it looks.  Eventually, after you mix the ground shea with your hands, separating the butter and residue, and then boil it, the shea product is ready, white and buttery.  In the north, they fry their food in butter, so I am told, but I still have not yet seen it being sold or used.
After processing, we got to go out into the field to see the shea trees.  We looked a parasites, pruning techniques, mature vs. young, how to pick a scion to graft.  I actually got to do a grafting, which was really interesting, since I have never done it before.  For lunch we got a pork hamburger pattie (!!) with rice and stew.  We even got dessert- pumpkin pie!  It was not very sweet at all, but hey, I can't complain when I eat something that even slightly resembles home.  (The food we were served at the guesthouses was very delicious, which is wny I was so bummed I was so sick I couldn't keep any food in my body.  Breakfast on the first morning was banana pancakes with guava jam- it took me back to Costa Rica instantly, since my homestay mom there often made me pancakes with guava jam.  An amazingly delicious breakfast.)  I also had my first experience with tzet here.  (Tzet is the popular food eaten in the north, made from millet.  In the south, fufu is most common.  Banku is common nearly everywhere in Ghana, so I have observed.)  Our counterparts attended the workshop, so Chistopher and Cletus eagerly watched me eat the tzet and asked me what I thought.  I actually liked it, despite my stomach refusing it, along with everything else I ate.  They did say that the tzet in the Upper East is different, so I am interested to taste it at site.  Being in the south for most of training, I have come to enjoy fufu and banku, even though at first I strongly disliked banku.  It grows on you.  Sometimes I am very surprised at the cravings I have for Ghanaian food.

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