Monday, 4 October 2010

The things I miss (food)

Quite a few people have asked what we miss and it is tempting to reel off a long list of foodstuffs, shops, bars and restaurants and make each line rhyme – like a song from The Sound of Music.
Obviously we miss people the most. Speaking to friends and family in the very public internet cafĂ© in Koforidua is no replacement. We’re incredibly lucky though in that the other VSO volunteers in Eastern Region are great fun and the area itself is beautiful. It makes the other challenges more palatable.
However, that’s no counterpoint to the lack of tasty, recognisable food. Sandwiches, cheese, milk (and variety of any kind) are missed as if they were old friends.
The local market here is made up of a maze of tiny streets and alleyways. Rickety handmade stalls selling tomato puree, sachets of pure water, cream crackers (soft and from China) and Jack and Jill wafer biscuits (a new favourite) are crammed together next to women selling oranges from huge metal bowls balanced on their heads, scratch cards to top up mobile phones and huge cauldrons of bean stew and rice. Taxis and people compete for space on the road – the pavements are split and crumbling and every few metres a huge gaping hole emerges with a black hole dropping some four feet to the litter and unknown gutter below. Precariously balanced barbeques on metal tins covered in offal churn smoke into the air next to men preaching with loudspeakers about redemption and women roasting plantain over charcoal. Watermelons, coconuts and pineapples are split and or peeled on request. Tomatoes are piled into pyramids ready to be haggled over and argued for. Second hand clothes and shoes are piled up and advertised with loudspeakers and loud voices. In the core of this maze is a covered area where more specialist products wriggle, squawk and stare. This is where the live chickens scratch in cages to be sold on for their eggs; snails bigger than a giant’s fist ooze and creep over each other in a pile (ready to be boiled for soup) and dead bats hang motionless from the poles where they were barbequed. (We have not yet tried such delicacies but just seeing them is more than enough to bring on emotional and physical pangs for Marks and Spencer’s foodhall).
So for those asking what we miss, I would say food. I would say crisp salad (without the taint and rumours of typhoid), meals cooked without buckets of red palm oil, and clean white foodhalls with baskets and too much to choose from.
More than anything I miss being able to walk the streets anonymously without every child and stranger calling obruni, obruni (white man). That is what I miss today, but in a year’s time I imagine I will be back in the UK missing the greetings of strangers, the catcalls of tiny, cute children, the adventure of stepping out of the front door, the immediacy of fried yam and hot pepper sauce sold on streets corners. I will no doubt miss the stifling heat and the overly familiar strangers, the brilliantly complex handshakes, the laughter and music and uninhibited dancing. That just seems to be how missing things goes.


  1. Hey Lucy and Mully,

    Just caught up with the blog.. sounds amazing!

    Maybe we could send you a parcel of foodstuffs!?


  2. I am really enjoying the blog. Sounds like an incredible and very intense experience.
    Must get your recipe for Crisp Salad when you get back - sounds unusual - what flavour combo do you use?
    Love you

  3. Mandy & the rest of the McWilliams5 October 2010 at 04:33

    Hi Lucy Your blog is making such interesting reading, really appreciated. Such vivid descriptions make us feel we am walking right along the street beside you. Pity you couldn't be transported ('Star Trek' style) to & from a Food Hall here to stock up but suppose that misses the point. All these things will be waiting your return and, as you rightly say, there will be many things to look back on and miss in return. Life out there does not sound dull! Take Care and Thinking of You Both Mandy and All xx

  4. Hi Lucy - enjoying following your blog. Your 'fish-out-of-water' tales are funny and sobering at the same time. Great photos too. Not convinced about the razorblade eyebrow trimming, I must say!

    Keep well,

  5. Hello Andy & Lucy,

    I have just been catching up with your Blog. The stories and detail are great. It sounds tuff but I'm sure you'll see the rewards coming through soon even in small day to day changes. Was at Hampden last night Andy, was a great display and a come back to talk long into the night about. Scotland came from 2-0 down against the World Champions and...if dreams came true! Look out for a St Johnstone strip on your travels, I hope you are both well and enjoying your amazing trip and experience