Fufu fun.

On our third and last full day in Somanya, I woke up sick. At first I thought I’d overindulged in Castle at Be Serious, but (not to get too graphic) a trip to the bathroom quickly nulled that hypothesis. I couldn’t handle any wachee that morning, but happily Gabby sent a girl over with Milo and a thermos full of hot water. Milo is marketed as a sports drink but it’s really like semi-sweet hot chocolate (hence the box full of sugar cubes, which Gabby also sent), and it was perfect for my upset stomach. I sipped from a gigantic mug and considered at what point I would start antibiotics. Jay and Gabby were making us fufu that afternoon and I didn’t want to be down and out for too long.

 How we spent the morning: Matt did laundry, and I wrote.

More scenes from around campus. The yellow building is a dormitory; you can see the students’ water jugs on the porch.

I laid low for most of the morning, except for a short walk. Around 11, we headed over to Gabby’s house. Almost immediately, he poured us a drink. He wanted to treat us to some of the special liquors Ghanaians enjoy: first, a healthy shot of akpeteshie, this rancid moonshine made from fermented palm nuts. Matt explained, tactfully, my sickness, and after one sip, I was done.

Next, he poured us palm wine- the sap of palm trees left to age, which becomes more potent with time. Gabby said that when the wine is very young, even children can take it. (Ghanaian English retains some Britishisms- rather than having breakfast, you take it.) The palm wine was sweet and tart and entirely too much for my ailing stomach. Gabby explained that many people drink it mixed with Guinness. To that end, he poured Matt a liter-sized mug (the same size as I’d used that morning to drink Milo) half-full of palm wine and topped it off- literally- with a Guinness.

Seriously, it was like 11:30 in the morning. Check out how full that giant mug is!

Because it was very near exam time for the students on campus, some end of term rituals were taking place. That day, the outgoing prefects were passing the torch to the incoming prefects. After the ceremony, the outgoing prefects came to say hello to Gabby. They were wearing blue and white robes- chiefly robes (under which they wore khaki shorts, ha)- and they were celebrating and sweet, cheering at one moment and soberly thanking Gabby the next.

Gabby called to us to come outside. He introduced us: “This is Brother Matthew and his wife, Sister Jennifer (JEH-nee-fah). They are visitors but also not visitors. Brother Matthew taught school here in 2007.” Ahhs from the crowd. “In fact, he was a very good maths teacher” (another Britishism- “maths”). Cheers from the crowd. “So he is really coming back to his home.” Applause and handshakes. Many pictures. Such sweet kids. Almost made me miss teaching high school. Almost.


Jay made us fufu that afternoon, and Gabby made sure we saw the whole process. He was going to ask a boy to pound it, but no one was immediately around, so he cheerfully took up the task.

First, you boil unripened plantains and cassava root (yams in the north). Then, you pound the crap out of them in a giant mortar and pestle until the starches break down and you end up with a big sticky dumpling. It’s really a two-person job (see video), but Matt’s host mother during training, when he was up in Techiman in northern Ghana, pounded and rotated the fufu all by herself. Matt said she had impressive shoulders. No doubt!

Gabby is pounding and Lizzy, the student who helps out Gabby and Jay with Enam and cooking, is turning.

Enam is helping.

 Isn’t this a little bit terrifying? Brave Lizzy!
(Ps sorry that the video is mostly sideways- my camera is not nearly as smart as my iPhone. Just bend your neck a little.)

The finished product! This is entirely too much for two people. It’s too much for four people. But Gabby and Jay made a habit out of overfeeding us. The fufu was fantastic- even, or maybe especially, with my sickness. When we balked at the size of this plate, Gabby laughed and said, “I want to see Auntie Jennifer’s belly grow big!”

Thankfully, it didn’t grow too big, because shortly after our meal was over, another mysterious knock on the door brought us Jay and Gabby’s friend: a tailor who makes clothes for many of the teachers. She had us pick out clothes and then took our measurements. I really wanted to ask for a dress like the students wore, but I was beginning to gather that only girls wear those short dresses- women wear something longer. The only snag was that we had planned to leave the next morning for the rest of our trip, and there was no way she’d have the clothes ready by then. But we decided to ditch Accra for our last night in Ghana and come back to Somanya for the very end of our vacation. We gave the tailor our color preferences, and then she left us to imagine what we might find when we returned several days later.

It was a quiet night because of my fragile stomach, but we did take a walk into town so I could get a Fan Ice and some fried yams- the Ghanaian equivalent to my American comfort food of vanilla milkshake and fries.

Fresh fried yams.

On our walk into town. I just want you to take a minute to read all of the amazing services you can find at Refiner’s Fire House Chapel, a.k.a. House of Rescue. Pay attention in particular to Thursday evenings. Tee hee.

When it got dark, I started Cipro and we headed to bed. We’d planned to leave Somanya at dawn for our next adventure: the waterfall at Wli.

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