Accra: Country Kitchen

Accra I order goat in my soup to please Henry but then I don’t eat in lest I offend Robin.

Bush meat is on the menu. It is a euphemism for greater cane rat, otherwise known as grasscutter. Eighty million greater cane rats are harvested every year in the region. When you purchase greater cane rat from a butcher you will often receive a complementary bag of stomach contents which can be used to flavour your bushmeat soup.

I am having a hard time getting fufu. When I order it for dinner I am told it is too late in the day, that my stomach wouldn’t have time to digest it. Today I order it for lunch but get rice with my light soup instead.

We watch a World Cup match on tv at the Country Kitchen.

We watch the Under 17 World Cup finals between England and Spain. My driver, Henry, seems to be cheering for Spain. Perhaps there is some residual resentment form England’s colonialism. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it.

He tells me I am shortchanging myself and the people I meet by being so cautious and reticent.

It is reported that Jesse Jackson once ate here.

There are generally no addresses in Ghana. Or where addresses exist, they are largely meaningless to people. Even street names are inconsistent and irrelevant. Locations are identified by their neighbourhood and nearby landmarks, as in “Kokomlemle behind the Training College.” Emilia tells me that when she orders Ubu she has to go through a long description including the colours of houses where the driver needs to turn.

Accra: Nogahil Hotel

Accra Spencer refuses to stay at a hotel that doesn’t have an outdoor bar. “I’m not coming all the way to Africa to sit in an air-conditioned bar.”

Robin and I watch the same television shows in our separate rooms. The next morning we compare notes. Robin describes almost every show as “scary” especially the one where the man is trapped in a pit and can’t get Rah Rah Rasputin out of his mind.

I order rice and beans. Robin orders the same thing only to be told that they had just enough for one order. Robin has pizza or egg rolls. This happens repeatedly.

“Robinho does well!”

Kwame Nkruma was a strong advocate of pan-Africanism. Kwame is the name for a boy born on a Saturday. We need a name for a woman who dies in January. Her name was Kerry and she was 46. She left him with two young children. Her name was Andrea and she was 34. She left him with a young daughter.

“There comes a time every few months when a problem crops up and you have to drop everything else to fix it.”

Accra: University of Ghana

Accra Dignified humility. Earnest irony. Gentle strength. We are barely back home when we learn of his death from typhoid.

They tell us the meanings of their names. Abrafo means “warrior.” Adisa means “one who will teach us.” Danso means “reliable.” They laugh when I tell them my name means “wagon maker.”

We are invited to Sam’s house on the University of Ghana campus to watch the World Cup match between the Black Stars and the USA. There is great tension in the room as we all crowd around the TV, intent on every touch of the ball. The tension turns to joy when Damani puts Ghana ahead. Joy becomes despair when Dempsey evens the score for the Americans just before half-time. But despair is short-lived as Stephen Appiah scores the winning goal in stoppage time. The city erupts in celebration and continues well into the night. Reality returns when we gather in a chemistry lab a few days later to watch Ghana’s defeat to Brazil.

She has a passion for cleaning, for disposal. She has a gift for mobilizing people, for covert action. I find quiet satisfaction in solitary productivity.

We are characters in an Umberto Eco novel, wandering dark corridors past secret vaults and guards with keys who determine which passages will be opened, what knowledge will be revealed.

Ottawa: Britannia Beach

ottawa “Mama, why did you hit Beverley?”

A collective gasp seems to permeate the room along with the smell of red meat. It is only as I add my hamburger hash to the table that I realize I have been invited to a vegetarian pot luck.

My last message to her is written in the snow on her front yard.

I submit my review in the form of an interview with questions but no responses. The questions contain all the information and interpretation but readers think there has been an editorial oversight.

“What the hell are we doing here?”

They spend the night in their orange VW minivan parked in my driveway. The only time they come in is to shower in the morning.

He is like a carefully calibrated time bomb, set to detonate at the moment of most potential destruction. I fall upon him, shielding her from as much damage as possible.

Ottawa: Brewer Park

ottawa They are two androgynous waifs aged twelve and ten. The older boy is the figure of responsibility in the household. He cooks the meals. He cleans the house. He ensures his younger brother gets to school on time. Their mother is named Gypsy. Her income is from home-based massage and aromatherapy services. The boys bring their pet ferret to Brewer Park.

I smell chlorine and potato chips as I lead him down the hall to become a tadpole once more.

Ben, his bare feet on a footstool in front of him, is absorbed in a book. He feels one of the cats lick his toes. He bends forward to absent-mindedly stroke the cat and sees that it is in fact a raccoon who has wandered in the open patio door.

I stand at a safe distance and watch as they take aim and fire at each other. They seem so young. The footing is wet and precarious from so much shooting.

Ottawa: Rideau River Nature Trail

ottawa He has acquired potassium nitrate, sulphur and charcoal to create homemade fireworks on the kitchen stove. He suffers second-degree burns over his face when the compound inadvertently explodes. He claims to be fine as he sits in Emergency shaking uncontrollably from pain and shock.

Homemade shepherd’s pie. Cheese sticks. Tuna sandwiches so long as there are no green bits and not too much mayonnaise.

I arrive expecting to see my favourite tree, an ancient elm whose physical breadth is matched by its depth of character. I learn that the tree had been removed six years ago as it was hollow and a risk to visitors. In its stead I meet a ten-week-old pug.

We are on the Rideau River Nature Trail, heading home. I follow behind but am distracted for the briefest moment. He is not there. He is crashing through the bush toward the river.

Ottawa: The Prescott

ottawa Amongst the comic books and tea cups I find a single boxing glove signed by Shawn O’Sullivan.

I wake groggily in the middle of the night, vaguely aware of an alien noise filling my bachelor apartment. As I become fully awake I realize a bat is zig-zagging through my airspace. Startled and disoriented I dash out of the apartment. Only when I am standing, undressed in the hallway, does it occur to me that I have locked myself out.

We meet at the Prescott to drink draft beer and watch Shawn O’Sullivan’s fight. After a few glasses of beer his name becomes Sawn O’Shovellin.