Ghana Blog: Akwaaba

July 7th, 2017


Ghana is a country that is known for being welcoming to foreigners. In fact quite often as I walk by strangers on the street I will literally hear the phrase "you are welcome", or Akwaaba in the local language of Twi. As a foreigner you will also find strangers will frequently ask you if you would like some of their food they are eating. The nurse I was working with today in the Retro (HIV) clinic discovered my favorite Ghanian food was red red (a sort of bean/fish stew served with plantains). She was thrilled and told the assistant nurses to take me to get some red red that would be made around 1 o clock. I assumed she was referring to hospital kitchen where food is made daily. Around 1 an assistant nurse came and got me and told me to follow her. As we made our way outside of the gates of the hospital I started to become weary about our final destination. She told me it would only be a couple of cedis and I feared she was taking me to a chop bar, where foreigners are warned not to eat at. A chop bar is a sort of fast and cheap food that frequently  is cooked in poor conditions without many regulations being followed. She took me to a shack in the alley way where there was a line of people waiting to be served red red out of a big metal pot. I knew I was warned many times by our professor not to eat things made on the street but I feared it would be rude after all the fuss made over my meal (and it was hot so I figured it would probably be okay). I opted for two cedis worth of red red and one cedi worth of plantains. The nurse I was with was going to order for me and she asked me if I wanted a styrofoam container to put my red red in that cost another 60 peswas (cents). I said yes but when it was our turn in line it turned out they had run out of styrofoam containers but we could wait for more or I could be served my red red in a giant leaf. I obviously opted for the giant leaf because how cool is that. As we walked away the lady making the food came after us and handed me a plastic spoon and asked me my name and told me I was welcome in Ghana. The nurse I was with told me the spoon is not free and she gave it to me as an extremely nice gesture. Here is this woman selling food out of her shack giving me something for free. When I unwrapped my leaf I made a comment about the large quantity of red red for only two cedis. The counselor and the nurse informed me she gave me a lot extra because she knew the nurse was ordering it for me. Again I was overcome by the extreme gesture of kindness. They told me foreigners do not usually eat at local places like that and the lady was overcome by my willingness to eat with the local people at their familiar places. The doctors and nurses were thrilled I was eating it out of a leaf as well. I was called daring and down to earth and definitely earned more than a few brownie points with the staff. The doctor then said to me foreigners here are very welcomed and the attitude toward them is very friendly in Ghana. He then looked up at me and said it is not like that in the United States right? I asked what he meant and he said is there not a negative attitude toward foreigners in the United States? I thought about this for a moment and said yeah, I guess there is. I understand the basis of this attitude is the tax paying citizens of the United States not wanting to pay taxes for foreigners staying in the country illegally. The problem with this is the attitude reflects on those citizens from foreign countries who are in the country legally or are simply visiting. The United States could definitely take a note or two from Ghana on the treatment of foreigners.

Ashley Adams 

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