Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas in the Krom

 My last Christmas spent as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana, was celebrated in Sean’s village in Western Region. We decided a local celebration would be best, because it was our last chance and quite a once in a lifetime opportunity. Now a morning safari in Mole National Park (Christmas 2011) may sound more interesting, but Christmas in the village was uniquely memorable. 

Tree, presents, fire and stockings
Planning happened months in advance. A package was sent from my mother and father with ingredients to make a grilled tamarind duck with smoky plantain cream over white rice and stovetop peach cobber.  Oh and we still had the premier canned ham.  Several taxis and tros finally brought me to Sean’s house on December 23rd.  We had a duck picked out from a neighbor’s flock. An adult female who is smaller and tenderer cost about 20 GH Cedi. The adult male is 30 GH Cedi.  We went with a delectable female. The 24th was a day of preparations. People were putting up their tropical Christmas trees decorated with balloons.  A medal pipe which looked like a ancient bazooka was filled with cobalt and lit by adults and children. Now I have never shot a shotgun, but I imagine that this was a similar sound.  We were warned that they would be shooting the bazooka off at 4am on Christmas morning and not to worry. It’s a tradition. The sound alerts people that a cow has been slaughtered at this house and you are invited to come and enjoy. 
The men with our duck.

Christmas colors! 
We decorated Sean’s house with a tree and lights, presents wrapped in newspaper for the kids living around Sean’s house, a picture of a fireplace and our stockings with gifts and candy sent from the Braun family. The first gift was some red wine (in a bottle) and olives to commemorate our wonderful time in Spain. Christmas Eve we enjoyed Penang curry chicken with veggies and rice.  I finally made coconut milk from scratch! Even though a small boy did the entire grating of the coconut, I am still proud of my cooking abilities.  After the dishes were washed we checked to see if the duck man would be sure to deliver our duck in the morning and we paid our 20 cedis. Then we went home to watch It’s a Wonderful Life.  This is Sean’s favorite movie and I really tried to stay awake and watch it all.

Grilling the duck.
Early in the morning we were not surprised to be woken up by the shotgun sound several times; however, we are so used to being woken up by things in the village that we soon fell back to sleep.  When I finally did venture outside I saw our tropical Christmas tree sprinkled with flour. I pretended it was an attempt at snow and smiled.  People were already gorging themselves on local dishes.  It reminded me of the Muslim holiday where people go house-to-house sharing food and eating plenty, especially cow meat.

Dada showing off her nails and bracelet.
The rumor had spread that Sean’s “wife” was making duck.  As we started cooking more and more women and children gathered to get their taste.  Besides having ingredients that they have never seen, marinating and grilling the meat were strange concepts in preparing food.  After a bloody finger, dropping a can of jalapeños, and having the duck resurrect after not being slaughtered properly the food was ready.  Sean and I fixed our plates and gave the rest to the crowd. We decided to have one woman be in charge of giving out the rest of the food so we did not have to deal with a mob or any people telling use that they didn’t get any.  We opened up some Champaign and ate under the neem tree.  Sean was lucky enough to have scooped out the head of the duck for himself (it’s really not my best).  After the duck the crowd disappeared and we ate the cobbler. YUM.

Following the food we called the children in to get their presents. The girls got earrings and bracelets and the boys got balls.  I painted some of the girls’ nails too.  Later on that evening we went around with a candy cane shot glass and introduced the candy glass to men in the community. They really enjoyed it!  We tried to visit the chief, but he was already passed out at 7:30pm. The night was filled with thanks and love for this community.  This was definitely a Christmas we will remember forever.

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