Day two of the ultimate Ghanaian road trip took us around Koforidua. Although I did not spend too much time in Koforidua, I am a really big fan… I don’t want to play favourites but I think I like Koforidua more than Takoradi. It is in the mountains, covered in beautiful greenery and…. Cold!!!! Well not cold, but cooler than Accra (which is possible the hottest, most humid place in the world… OK probably not the world, but at least compared to Canada!!). It also rained a couple times which was INCREDIBLY refreshing. The Regional Secretary of the Eastern Region (the head hancho for the YMCA region) is also a really great guy. His name is Daniel and he lived in Halifax for a bit when he went to school at St.FX. He was very welcoming to Koforidua and Ghana and also understood that Canadians have slightly different habits than Ghanaians. For example, he was quick to suggest I eat my meals with the other Canadian girls (there are two YCI interns in Koforidua) rather than eating Fufu for breakfast with Samuel. Fufu is an extremely heavy and filing food that is a staple in the Ghanaian diet. It is basically pounded cassava that is served in soup – you use your fingers to grab bits of the fufu and scoop up the soup. It’s quite tasty but definitely not something I can easily stomach in the morning.
The itinerary for the day was meetings in the morning and meetings in the late afternoon. The morning meetings were at a school to promote a Ghana YMCA program for students about to graduate from Junior High, and a meeting with the Municipal Planning Councilman to talk about the YMCA and how we can partner and contribute. Both were very productive and successful meetings. Neither had any need for me to be there but I went as the token Obruni (white person). Sit there, smile, nod and remind everyone that the YMCA is an international organization. A very different role to fill than I normally do at home.
We had the afternoon free, and although I should have been working on my strategy document, Dan wanted me to see a new side of Ghana that I hadn’t seen yet. Dan inherited 14 acres of land when is father passed away, outside of Koforidua – or as he described – in the bush. We drove for a bit and then had to hike through “the bush” to get to his land. I must have looked hilarious – myself and 5 fully-grown Ghanaian men trekking through the bush. Dan told me to make sure my arms and legs were covered so I was wearing my dress pants (poor choice!!) and one of Dan’s traditional print long-sleeved shirts (think very loud pattern). As has become a theme of this blog, I was very very hot!! Dan’s farm seems to have literally every crop that can be grown in Ghana – cassava, cocoa, mangos, palm oil, and so much more that I have already forgotten and probably didn’t even recognize. The purpose of our trip however, was to collect palm wine. The process of getting palm wine is somewhat similar to how Canadians get maple syrup. Except first they knock over the palm tree. Once it is horizontal they tap the tree and collect the juice that comes from the core. I tasted the palm wine (not actually wine at this point) directly from the tree – it is really sweet and bubbly and refreshing. It also has a very distinctive smell, which I will not do justice to so I am not going to try and describe. To get the wine part of the name, the juice is fermented and becomes basically a local gin.
Dan had his groundskeeper collect 3 massive bottles of palm wine for myself, Samuel and Paul (the YMCA driver). To prevent the palm wine from fermenting you have to keep it cold. As soon as we got back to the YMCA grounds where we were staying, Paul and I put the bottles in the fridge in my room. Unfortunately we didn’t completely think it through and we put them in the fridge horizontally. Palm wine is very carbonated and without me realizing, it fizzed out of the bottles drop by drop. Most of the palm wine was lost and my room was laced with that distinctive (pungent) palm wine smell. I felt so bad that I had lost all of the palm wine to the fridge!! But in true Ghanaian fashion, everyone laughed when I told them and were more worried about the smell of my room.
The afternoon meeting (which actually took place at night due to African time…) was the Koforidua branch meeting, where Samuel talked to them about branch development – basically how to organize as an organization – and the marketing tools were introduced. Lights were off so the meeting was done in the dark. For that reason, I’m going to assume there was strong reception but it was a bit difficult to tell for sure. Nonetheless, another very cool day in Koforidua followed by a cool (literally) night!