Ghana: the land of fried chicken, beautiful beaches and English

After a long and wet summer full of kids and camps and mud, three fellow PCVs and I hit the road for our last vacation: Ghana! It certainly didn’t feel like vacation at the beginning though, because in order to get there we had to first survive a 20-hour bus ride. On West African roads. And following typical West African tradition, the bus left two hours late, which meant an extra two hours of sitting on a cramped bus, waiting. But that was only the beginning.

We had left our hotel in Ouagadougou before 7 am that morning, so by midday we started to get pretty hungry. Thankfully we had a few snacks along, but nothing substantial, assuming the bus would have to stop around mealtimes since West Africans aren’t really the pack-a-lunch type of people. We were wrong. We did stop at the border around noon, only to be hustled back onto the bus immediately once we were handed back our passports. At around five we passed through our first big city, and we nearly drooled on the window panes watching all the street food go by. We tried asking the driver when we were going to stop. His response: silence. For reasons we couldn’t quite figure out, he wouldn’t respond to any of our questions, in any language. So, we just sat tight and tried not to think about our empty bellies.

Finally around 8 p.m., after the sun had gone to bed, we pulled over at a bustling rest stop and rushed off the bus into the dark to find food. And boy we were in luck! Fried chicken galore. This was our first introduction to Ghana’s street food – thick legs of fried chicken and spicy fried rice for just over a buck. Deee-licious.

The glitches in our plan didn’t stop there, but our moods at least were significantly lifted by the greasy road-side cuisine. The bus’s air conditioning broke not long after that, so we sweated along with the 60-some other travelers in the cramped, over-packed bus, all of us sharing the same stale, fried food-soaked air. Just as the four of us started drifting to sleep near midnight, we awoke to our bus driver frantically shouting at us “GET OFF THE BUUUUS!!!!” (Now he talks to us!) We later figured it was just a semi-routine switch to a smaller bus after half the passengers disembarked at their destination. But at the time, we were exceedingly groggy and confused.

Once we hauled our luggage and rapidly growing kankles to the awaiting mini-bus, we settled in and tried to sleep, only to find ourselves literally flying off the seat cushions every minute and a half. Since it was pitch black outside I don’t know if it was construction or just a miserable road, but we certainly did not get much sleep in that last 6-hour leg of the trip. We finally arrived, relieved, in the capital city of Accra at around 6 a.m. and promptly hailed a cab to take us to our hotel. Which, we soon found out, had lost our reservations and was completely full. Oh wait, but before that, our cab broke down on the side of the road and then wouldn’t let us get in anther cab until we paid him the full amount. Then we found out we didn’t have hotel reservations and couldn’t afford any other hotel in the area with our modest Peace Corps stipends. So there we were at six in the morning, dirty and tired and carrying all of our luggage, walking around the streets of Accra looking for a place to at least get a cup of coffee. Eventually, despite the disheartening (yet not surprising) lack of Starbucks, we did.

The hotel we ended up at wasn’t much more welcoming, as their water had been turned off and they didn’t have any kind of back-up system (like, say, buckets for bucket-bathing). So no showers for us smelly travelers. Not until late afternoon, that is, when we finally managed a cold bucket bath.

Needless to say, we were ready for a treat that night. And for more treats for the following 11 nights of vacation! And treat ourselves we did. That night we picked the fanciest pizza place in town, Mama Mia’s, and we each ate our own gigantic pizza. Here we are in front of the restaurant, finally ready to enjoy our vacation!

Ready to eat our troubles away with the best pizza in West Africa (according to me)

From there, I’m happy to say, our trip only got better and better. We ended up leaving Accra early for some smaller towns along the coast because of our rapidly shrinking wallets, but in the 48 hours we were there we managed to find the best, most American (and most expensive) places to eat. Including Accra’s one and only American fast food chain: KFC! (Exciting to us, probably not so exciting to those of you reading this from the U.S.)

We spent most of the rest of our time in Ghana hanging out in smaller towns on the coast, enjoying the beach, the cooler temperatures, the fried chicken, and the absolute lack of schedule. It was fantastic. Here are just a few photos from our coastal retreat:

Street shopping in Cape Coast

Another view of Cape Coast

On our way back north, in the bustling city of Kumasi.

As sad as I was to leave the land of fried chicken and beautiful beaches and English, I really started to miss my village. These past few weeks I’ve begun to really feel the clock ticking, to use that well-worn cliché. And while it’s not a clock I want to slow down, I do want to take advantage of every passing minute. Even if it means hobbling through “puddles” like these on my way to and from anywhere:

Thanks to the rain this year, this is not an unusual ride back to the village from the city.

Above all else, I want more moments with my kids – pumping water and hunting for mangoes and just goofing around. Here’s one of them, anxiously waiting to play UNO with me by my doorstep.

Words cannot express just how much I will miss them.

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8 Responses to Ghana: the land of fried chicken, beautiful beaches and English

  1. Dear Bridget,

    What a vacation! Your good humor was astounding. As much as you will be missing your children, glory, glory they will have tears for you.

    Continued good health, laughter and yes, making the world a better place.

    Loving all in gratefulness,

    Hannah

  2. Kaela says:

    Ghana sounds awesome! I might have to swing by there at some point :) I know you will be missing those kids and they will be missing you so much too, but spending as much time with them as possible before you go sounds like about the best solution. They are some of the cutest, sweetest kids on the planet :) And that picture of Monguirou (sp?) is priceless, give him a hug for me. Can’t wait to see you soon! Love you!

    -Kaela

  3. Kaela says:

    Oh, and in response to your comment on my blog, we do have degue here, we just call it thiakry and I love it too!!

  4. wagarob says:

    ghana food makes my mouth water even in america. a plate of jollof rice, fantastic street fried rice, etc (and their fat legged-chicken accompaniments) plus the omni-present shit-o sauce and milk-stout or coconut drink straight from the coconut, i miss their food even here. though interestingly, upon interacting with some burkinabe on my way back, i was more than happy to have left ghana.

    hope all’s well and enjoy your time left. :)

  5. Kathy Petron says:

    Hi Bridget,
    I am glad you have a sense of humor. That bus ride sounds awful. Please enjoy those kids as much as possible. I am sure they will never forget you. Good luck with your last few months with
    the Peace Corps. What an experience you have had!
    May God hold you in the palm of His hand..
    Kathy

  6. fmroby says:

    Hey B!
    It was so fun to read about the details of your bus trip. (Glad I didn’t know them till you were safely back however). What a crazy adventure ! You PCVs have certainly learned how to take life in stride, haven’t you?

    I love the pic of Mongiru waiting for you! The colors, the configuration of the door, curtain and door frame, and of course – his smile. Beautiful.

    And I really like that orange and yellow sundress you were wearing in one photo. Is that yours?

    Love to my traveler.

  7. words cannot describe just how much I miss YOU.

  8. jackie mcconnon says:

    I absolutely love reading your stories. I can almost feel the bus ride and smell the fried chicken. Bridget you have touched the hearts of so many people in the past two years. I can only imagine how much you are going to miss your village and the children.. Oh how they will miss you!!

    I am so proud of you and how you are making the world a better place.

    Love, Jackie

    P.S. I too like the orange and yellow sun dress! :)

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