Saturday, January 15, 2011

X-mas in Africa

Arriving in Ghana, you immediately notice a change. English billboards, well stocked shops, bigger towns and villages, more concrete houses, Africans queuing for the ATM machine, churches, beer commercials, fruit stalls and less than ten people gathering around the motorcycles as we stop. First stop: a maestro or MasterCard accepting ATM for Tony. Second halt: food for Nicolaas. We find fried yams (a kind of sweet potato) and plantain with a chili sauce, served in plastic bags, next to the road. Last stop: Tamale town. Let the hunt for nice hotels, preferably with Wifi begin. We ride around, ask for prices and check out rooms at several places. To leave again after one has inquired about rooms is clearly not the custom in Ghana. People look at us in a very odd way and one hostel keeper almost starts to cry. We finally end up at the first place we went to check out. A pink painted Pakistani run hotel which has clearly seen better days, but at least they have internet… in the lobby anyway.

We make a quick phone call home for Christmas Eve, with the background noise of the town's muezzins chanting their prayers. Then we prepare for dinner at the hotel's restaurant. While we do our best to dress nicely for the occasion, we have to admit, we've looked fancier… But considering the restaurant's setting we look fine enough. Despite the lack of holiday decorations we manage to create a cozy atmosphere with a candle from Tony's room. It turns out to be a nice night, with a tasty three course fusion dinner, good service, cheap gin tonic but most of all excellent company. We talk for hours on the restaurants outdoor terrace before we go to bed.

Next day we learn of some more curious Ghanian customs at breakfast. One can have eggs, toast and a warm drink in a fixed breakfast or eggs, toast and oats, but not oats and a warm drink… Sigh… We wander around town a bit (nothing much to see really) and Tony and I search hard for the ingredients to make tuna sandwiches… Hmmm, a taste of home. The rest of the day we spend on the hotel lobby's porch skyping. Strange to see our family dressed up for dinner in winter's clothes and the snow in the backyard, while we sit outside in the burning sun. Finally we repeat our Christmas formula of last night and prepare for an early start tomorrow morning.

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