Tuesday, 13 July 2010

First Day in Bongo and Bolga

12 July 2010
Because of the long journey from Accra to Bolgatanga, I could not get enough sleep and I spent the whole of yesterday catching up my sleep. Today was my first day in the office. Rose had came to see me. She introduced me to many people in the department where she is working. Of course it was difficult to remember all those names. I met my boss Mr. Damma Mumuni who is District Planning Officer. Mumuni was busy with many other things so actually I did nothing at the office. In fact his assistant did the TV on for me and I saw the re telecast of the football world cup final between the Netherlands and Spain. The victory of Spain was being intensely discussed everywhere.
I went for the lunch with Rose and her friends. She has made many friends at this place. I was not sure whether I shall like all those dishes they were serving. I asked whether they had some eggs but they did not have. One of the Rose's friends told them to buy some cooked eggs which were being sold by the street side vendor. The eggs were of Guinea Fowl and tasted just like those chicken. I planned to mix those eggs and rice together but by the time I asked them they had no rice left. Rose had ordered Banku with soup. Banku is a ball of cooked fermented maize dough. It was served with some soup which was supposed to be that of goat. But I found no meat in it and it was just the stock which was heavily spiced with chillies and had some tomatoes crushed in it. I tasted it, felt that it was not bad and also ordered it for me. Rose's friends were laughing at me the way I was trying to eat it. Africans eat Banku by scooping the dough with all of their fingers and with my Indian way I was scooping by using only three of the fingers. Then the scooped ball was supposed to be dipped in the soup along with fingers and then taking some of the soup along with it. There is not much of chewing is expected and one is supposed to gulp it down. I ate with spoon afterwards.
Rose's friends had gathered a lot of information about India and were talking more about the similarities in African and Indian culture and the dissimilarities between European and African culture. Both of them were having lot of fun with my tries to use the local language Gurune, some words of which have been picked by us during the local language lessons in the in country training.
Many of the Ghanaian names sound very funny. They are named after some characteristics or qualities in humans. Though in India, we have those types of names, since most of them are in Sanskrit, they are just fine with the present day Indian languages. But these Ghanaian names just make themselves funny with the use of English. If somebody asks me, "Where can I find comfort?", I might answer "in VSO office at Accra", as there is one girl named Comfort working there. One of the friend of Rose is Better. Now when I meet her, I shall be saying, "How are you better?", asking the questions and giving the answer as well. Another friend of her is Miranda.
I did not remember their names and asked her again. She asked me whether I could remember the name. But then she instantly said loudly "Sweetie Pie" and then she told me that her name is Miranda. I, having very less knowledge of Christian and western names innocently told her that I had thought that her name is Sweetie Pie. I had thought that if the other lady is Better then this lady can have this name. Actually she had called a passing friend of hers and it is some way of affectionately calling a girl. Then she started laughing loudly and told me that she would like it if I would call her by that name.
Since there was nothing to do in the office we went for shopping in Bolgatanga as I needed to buy some things. It is a market day after every three days in Bolgatanga and the main market in Bolgatanga is full of small shops selling dry fish, dried tomatoes, meat, grains, vegetables etc. Most of the shops except those of meat are run by the women. The market is dirty and smells of dry fish. Still it is exciting to watch the variety of produce which was never seen before such as types of beans, rice, various utensils etc. Hope I shall be able to try some of those ingredients in preparing my food.
Better and her brother Aidan took us around the market and we did buy many things. I could also get incense sticks which I wanted to burn in the room for some refreshing fragrance in the air and I could get those made in India and with the fragrance of Sandalwood.
We had to stop at Better's home for some time as Aidan had gone to give his motorbike for repairing. I greeted some people around in the local language and one woman instantly asked me if she could have the broom which I was holding in my hand. This was something which I certainly did not expect. I told her that if I gave the broom to her I would not be able to clean my own house. But she openly told me that I could buy a new one and give the one in my hand to her. I had to suppress my strong feelings of dislike of the whole incidence and had to keep the face smiling.
I strongly felt that this is a type begging, which I try never to encourage, and I just refused. I strongly feel that it is all due to charity programmes where African black poor people are helped by the organisations in Europe and America. Majority of the help is of charity type and does not promote self help. They must have started to associate white people with money which they can easily ask any time. As these people consider that Indians are whites, it was natural for the woman to ask for it but not natural for me to hear it. Even though poor people tend to ask for such small things because they are really necessary and they sometimes can not afford them, there was not a single hint of borrowing in it. I still think that it was just plain begging which I just hate.