The trials of waiting
Trip Start Sep 22, 2005
41Trip End Dec 19, 2007
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Ti cha kissa (We're going to farm.)
In Ghanaian culture, people always ask where you are going. In Konkomba, they say "a cha la?" When we're in our dirty, holey clothes carrying a hoe and a machete, you would think it was obvious as to where we are going. I think they just like to here us say "ti cha kissa" because then they all bust out laughing as if it was the funniest thing to see two white people going to farm.
Last month chief gave us a small plot of land that's about a five minute walk from our house. We wanted to plant some vegetables that you can't get in our village, things like cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers and greens. When everyone else thinks that we're going to raise yam mounds and plant groundnuts, things that are plentiful here but not all that nutritious. The plot is about the same size as my parents garden at home, about 40 feet by 40 feet. But very much unlike my parents garden, it was all bush that we had to clear by hand; no row tillers here! Only machetes, short-handled hoes and your own blistered hands and aching back to do the job. It took us about four days, working a few hours in the morning or evening, to completely clear it. Then we started planting, despite not having a fence around it yet. Free ranging cows and goats will most likely tromp through our garden or eat the plants. So while I have been in charge of planting, Chris has been in charge of cutting sticks for us to build a fence. All this work just to enjoy some delicious vegetables for about a month before we leave!
Sometimes people, also going to the bush to do their own "free-ranging", pass by our garden. Curious as to what these crazy white people could possibly be planting on such a small piece of land, but knowing that our Konkomba language skills are quite limited, they just say "ayekoo" (you're working) or "kissapwa" (how is farm) and go do their business. Other times people have actually stopped and took the hoe or machete from us to weed for us. We're never quite sure if they think we're not doing it properly or if they think we're too tired and weak for such manual labor as gardening. Usually we're reluctant about letting people do things like that for us, but after a couple hours bent over in the hot sun, they can weed all they want!
Farmers here usually will stay at farm all day. Not necessarily from sun-up to sundown, but close enough. And not always being productive all day either. Once we got criticized for coming back from farm early, in the hottest part of the day. But then I thought, hey that guy didn't even go to farm at all today! But mostly we get unduly praised just for trying to do the work. Chief saw us on our way back from farm one day and he saw how dirty and sweaty we were and declared that he would make Chris chief of agriculture. We thought how humorous since this is only the second time we've tried gardening together and we're not even growing anything these people eat on a regular basis. This garden is for quite selfish reasons. But if we do get a good yield of something, maybe it will catch on and other people will also want to try to grow a variety of foods.
Mud Stoves & Chocolate Ice Cream
They have absolutely nothing in common until you take a spoon to scoop away the mud to carve out the bridge of the firebox on the mud stove and then you think ohmigosh, this looks just like chocolate ice cream. Really it's like seeing a mirage of an oasis in the desert when you're pouring sweat out of every pore of your body while hunched over in someone's kitchen hut constructing a mud stove with your bare hands. And the more mud you scoop out the more it looks like chocolate ice cream. At this point you need to take a break and get some fresh air before you end up putting a spoonful of mud in your mouth and being terribly disappointed.
I got interested in building mud stoves back in December when another PCV came to our site and helped us construct four in two days. Although two of them were complete failures for various reasons (the mixture was too wet, the women who were to use them weren't helping us build), two of them were successful. So I wanted to teach more women how to build them. It wasn't until last month when I got another chance. This time it was for my friend Ama's mother. They only wanted a one-burner stove that could be used outside. The deal was that I would teach them how to build the stove, they just have to collect all the clay and sand and water. Yet somehow, like the small children, I got roped into helping them collect their sand and clay. I think it was because if I didn't help them then maybe they weren't going to do it and I really wanted to build another stove. So then we set a day when we would build it. I also wanted the mother to be there when we built it, since she does all the cooking and would be the primary user. The day was a Sibi market day and the mother would not go to farm. We got started early in the morning and the whole family was there to help. The father, our friend Yaw Donkor, mixed the clay, sand and water to the perfect consistency. I think he's had plenty of experience when it comes to mixing for building mud houses. From the mixture we made large balls of mud, this makes it easier to mold the mud into the form you want it. And then based on the diameter of the main cooking pot, we placed the circular base of the stove two times that diameter and two inches thick. Then we let it sit for about an hour to dry out a bit. After it dried, we placed the mud balls on top of the base around the perimeter and began to mold the balls to form the stove wall. Once we got the general shape of the stove then we could add more layers of the mud balls and continue molding them into form. Then we placed three cooking rocks inside the stove that would be used to support the cooking pot. We had to let it dry a bit more before we could carve out a space for the firewood to enter, called the firebox. Last we smoothed the entire surface of the stove with a trowel. Throughout most of the process, Ama kept exclaiming how nice this stove was. And women who came by the house while we were constructing it also said that they needed a stove like this. Overall, the entire construction process took about three hours. This was something that I would definitely want to do again. And now I felt more confident in constructing them without the assistance of another PCV.
Peace and blessings,
Sayward & Chris