LA has food trucks, New York City has street meat, and Ghana has absolutely everything under the sun on sale and on the move. On foot. Ladies and gentlemen alike roam the streets with anything from donuts to smoked fish towered high on their heads, ready to sell to the random passerby. Talk about real convenience.
This phenomenon is most impressive while in a tro tro, Ghana’s Greyhound. Sellers loiter around windows and doors shouting out their offerings in a way that never fails to make me smile (yay-ees pi-ah why-tah = yes pure water). Ice cold water is at the window before you realize you’re thirsty and at the time of departure you have everything you could ever need and more, whether that’s plantain chips, bread, hard-boiled egg, ice cream, gum, matches, a belt, bedazzled hair clips, permanent markers, or a book on how to succeed in life, with a chapter on how to appropriately answer the phone.
A special stop is made halfway between Accra and Hohoe to stock up on more goodies, this time a little more exotic. Familiar items like biscuits and toffee are swapped for skewered mollusks and bags of microscopic fish from Lake Volta, which Ghanaians eat the same way I devour a can of Pringles. Bottoms up to get those last crumbles.
On a recent trip to Accra, I decided to see what all the fuss was about.
Well, the snail, kindly provided by my seat mate, tasted something like mud and took about 17 minutes of chewing before I deemed it swallow-able. Not recommended. The fish are manageable, until you remember that the small things you’re crunching on have eyeballs. My favorite is abolo, a slightly sweet corn bread cooked in a leaf.
At the end of the day, I settled on a Ring Pop I happened to have in my bag from when I handed them out to the neighbor kids. All those chemicals in the cherry flavor really helped wash out the mud.
I guess I learned that while street sellers rock, not everything off their heads tastes like a bag of candy.
And I hit the ground running. Patiently catching on to the local language, memorizing hundreds of names, maneuvering through new villages/towns/cities/markets and their labyrinth like back-roads, negotiating contracts/materials/schedules with resilient and prideful humans, tramping through the Sub-Saharan heat heaving 50+lbs over my shoulder with other awkwardly balanced weight in the other arm, Avoiding bathtub sized potholes on route from town to town; crammed like sardines in a rusty mini-van, experimenting with new diets, skipping showers, battling the neighbor kids walking to town, walking, walking, walking, walking, more walking, always walking… all while trying to make it to bed on time.
And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
My name is Wyatt Walker and I am filling the position as the new Operations Manager for the Della Foundation. Daily, I have many obligations with limited amounts of time, but every night before going to bed I ask myself a series of questions in regards to my time here in Ghana: How can I best be of service to the ladies (backbone) of Della? How can the community benefit from these actions? How far can we go?
And then I remind myself,
The sky is the limit.
P.S. Happy Valentines day <3
Go love on someone! They deserve it.
After 168 straight days under the African sun, I welcomed the cold drizzle in Paris and the biting winds in Dublin as I made my way home to Chicago for the holidays. I was bombarded with hugs at the front door from people whose voices had soothed me from afar and kept catching my father staring at me with a look of disbelief — I was really home. The kitchen was overflowing with delicacies I hadn’t tasted in 24 weeks and I allowed the comforts of home to consume me, as they often do when I return from a trip.
No sooner had I settled into life at home than thoughts of Hohoe began to surface. I tried to keep my mind from racing as I lay in bed each night, but I couldn’t silence the women’s morning songs, Mama Christie’s shy giggle, or Aggie’s raspy 2-year-old voice calling my name. The sounds, sights, and smells flooded my brain as I wondered how life could go on in Hohoe in my absence.
Now I’m back and nothing has changed. The Della seamstresses are still the most beautiful human beings on earth (just glance at the photo, and you’ll see), the neighbor kids are still little rascals, and lunch at my favorite place in town is still mouthwateringly delicious. I can’t wait to see what the new year will bring for Della.
After going to the highest mountain in Ghana, we, the Della team, were in search of more adventures. This weekend, we decided to visit the highest village in Ghana, Amedzofe. This little village is located 1 hour south of Hohoe.
The day started with a 45-minute hike to the top of Mount Gemi. The sun was shining, the wind was blowing and we had a spectacular view of Amedzofe and the entire Volta Region.
After climbing a mountain, we decided to reward ourselves with another hike to Ote Falls. Nothing is more refreshing after a long day of sweating than a shower under a waterfall. We explored the different parts of the waterfall with a view of the jungle behind us and the water above. It was a relaxing afternoon – the kind of day where you don’t realize that time is going by until the sun starts to set and it’s time to go home.
As we left Amedzofe and drove down the mountain, the village seemed to disappear into the sky. I felt a sense of renewal and peace. What a way to spend a weekend!
It’s official – animals have infiltrated our lives. Last week I looked up from a book to see a goat in our bedroom. Chickens sneak into the office, sheep sleep on the porch and oh, the ants. While brushing my teeth, I watched several hundred of them parade across the sink on their way to who knows where.
Everyday, I step out of the house and into our yard to find our neighbor’s flock of turkeys hanging out in the shade, picking at bugs in the grass, or ruffling their feathers under the mid-day sun. While all of the animals serve as a constant reminder of our location, the turkeys stirred up a special set of questions. Namely, how does one celebrate Thanksgiving in Ghana?
We, the Della team, had all of the usual pre-celebration questions with a few Ghana twists thrown in. What do we make? Where should we eat? Who should we invite? What if a pack of pigs storms the party? In the end, we chopped, boiled, fried and mashed various veggies into a fabulous meal. We dined among friends under a starry sky.
Six months ago, I couldn’t have imagined where living in Ghana would lead me to. This year, I am thankful for all of the new people I’ve met, experiences I’ve had, food I’ve tasted and lessons I’ve learned along the way. I’m thankful for the wonderful Della ladies, their smiles and positive energy. I’m thankful for my friends at home who send me letters. And yes, I’m thankful for the animals, too.
“Decisions represent only the beginning of something. When someone makes a decision, they dive into an impetuous current that carries them to a destination that they never could have imagined, even in their dreams.” -Paulo Coelho
I arrived in Hohoe a bit over three weeks ago to begin work with Della and already feel right at home. The food is delicious, people are lively, and the neighbors’ goats roaming around are just about the cutest in the world.
During my first week the rest of the Della team was in Burkina Faso for a trade show connecting with other African brands, so I dove head first into familiarizing myself with sourcing fabric, searching for zippers, and getting to know the incredible Della seamstresses.
Since Rachael, Justine, and Zyad have returned we’ve developed a daily work routine with trips to town to meet with vendors and wonderful afternoons at Happy Kids to lead a sewing program with the older children. I’m blown away with the detailed operations of Della’s work in Hohoe. From coordinating textiles for iPad cases and developing new product, to setting up literacy classes and Social Security accounts for the seamstresses, everything under the sun and more is done everyday.
We’ve also made time for plenty of adventure: this past weekend we traveled to Mt. Afadjato, the highest peak in Ghana. The trail was steep and demanding but we summited nonetheless. On our hike down we even found ourselves a waterfall to cool off and splash around in.
With all we have done in the past few weeks, I cannot wait to see what comes next.