Tuesday, March 25, 2008

It’s cashew season. I have cashew trees growing right outside the front door. I can smell the fruit whenever I come home – sweet and maybe slightly rotting. People eat the fruit and just chunk the nut aside. I’ve tasted the fruit – it’s nice, it’s sweet, and it’s got tannin or something in it that seems to suck my mouth dry even while it’s sweet juiciness is being swallowed. It’s not my favorite, so most of the fruits are ripening and just falling to the ground, adding to that sweet and slightly rotting of sweetness smell that subtly surrounds the house I live in. I keep intending to research online what to do about cashew nuts – how to harvest and prepare them. But then I don’t seem to get to the internet café anywhere near as often as I’d like, and when I do I’m so far behind on correspondence that I don’t take time to look up the finer points of cashew harvesting and roasting.

I’m still sometimes stuck in Niger time. When I was in Peace Corps – 20 years ago! – the rainy season always started in May or June. And in my mind today, while living in another country, a little further south, and 20 years later – it seems like that’s still when the rainy season should start. But we’ve had a few showers already. I’m looking forward to it – have started a few tomato seedlings, am planning out a small garden, have a few books lined up to be read on rainy days, as well as some other projects.

Kumasi is the 2nd largest city in Ghana. It’s also the closest major city to where I am, and it’s where we go when we need to get more supplies (primarily beads and thread for weaving) for the sheltered workshop. We just did one of these “shopping trips”. It was a long day – leaving at 5:30 in the morning and returning at 7:30 p.m. – and non-stop from the time we hit the Kumasi market 2 ½ hours after leaving home. As we raced and wandered in circles through the market in search of specific bead sellers, sweating in the sun, avoiding and miscalculating mud-puddles, stomachs registering their complaints at being ignored – smells, sounds, sights, crowds of people – everything surrounding us – meeting every sensory deprivation issue we may have ever experienced and leaving us teetering on the sensory overload edge, I found myself too happy to be back in Ghana. This was definitely one of the things for which I wanted to return – a chance to appreciate, be excited about, be overwhelmed in a wonderfully overwhelming way by Africa. The smells alone are impossible to get enough of – even though they surround and fill to overflowing every morsel of your being. They’re spectacular. And when I could pull myself away from my constant preoccupation these olfactory pleasures, everything else was still there to fill me up.

One reason I wanted to return to Africa was to be able to wake up in the mornings and be in awe and excited about being in Africa again. Even to simply be aware of being in Africa again, rather than aware of another hectic day ahead of me, was a goal. This shopping trip was a nice step in that process, helping to bring that excitement and awareness of the beauty and richness of life here back to me.


At 6:58 PM, Blogger Nate said...

What a great post! I love your description of the Kumasi market, it's so vivid and real. Glad you were able to get re-excited about being in Africa!

At 8:15 PM, Blogger MJ said...

Wow, that's fascinating about the cashews---I never knew they grew like that. I'll have to see what I can find about harvesting them and preparing them for you and either send you the links or copy/paste the main things into an Email.

At 1:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally reading a complete post of yours, I was in awe of your writing skills and ability to articulate your surroundings and the environment.
Thanks for sharing. And to learn something about cashews.
Be safe, know that your in my thoughts and prayers.

At 2:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve, your house looks like one of the bugaloos that are rented out. Is this true? Do you have the amazing outdoor shower? If yes, please post a picture so everyone else can see what I'm talking about. Especially if you can have someone take a picture of you when you are inside. As a tall person I always felt "almost" exposed. I enjoyed my stay at operation hand in hand before you were there. The pictures bring me back. For anyone who's reading this and has the opportunity, this is a wonderful place to go visit! Florence

At 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve, Hi. So what touches your soul and revives the 'Africa' in you is most of all it's smell. The slightly sweet and slightly rotting scent of cashew fruits and the infinate mix of bad smells of Kumasi market! This is amazing, Thanks for the special post, well written. Ineke.

At 12:59 AM, Blogger Rick said...

Reading this post and looking at the photos gave me some really powerful images of what you are experiencing. Thanks for the vivid descriptions, it's the next best thing to a visit to see you!


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