I had my last Ghanaian meal, met with teachers in Nairobi, and ate ox testicles! Here’s a recap of my last three days.
So, our seventh day in Africa and last day in Accra was very low-key. We got up slowly around nine and ate breakfast, then finished packing and did some work. At noon, we went to a place that was highly recommended a few times for us in terms of authentic Ghanaian food – Azmera.
It was a lunch buffet (Ghana seems big on these) and it definitely had the most expansive spread that I’d seen on the trip.
One of the servers went through all the different dishes and explained them to us, also pointing out the ones that were very spicy (which I appreciated as someone who has trouble with spicy foods). Next to every dish were the ingredients it was made of, to give you a better idea of what went into everything.
I want to point out that the biggest picture shows three different types of plantain – essentially a plantain fritter on the left, kelewele in the middle, which is fried plantain with spices, and regular ole’ fried plantain on the left. The introduction of fried plantain to my diet is one of my favorite things about Accra and something I’m sure to bring back to my eating habits in the states. The prevalence of rice, the proliferation of fried plantain and the fact that you can get hot tea any and everywhere was one of my favorite things about eating in Accra.
After Azmera, we headed back to Global Mamas to pick up a few more souvenirs, then hung out at our hotel to do work before heading to the airport.
All in all, I really enjoyed my time in Accra. I didn’t get to really walk around the city or the towns as much, but visiting all the different places was a joy. Here’s a quick rundown of my favorites:
- Favorite restaurant: Azmera
- Favorite place I visited: Cape Coast Castle
- Favorite thing I did: Visited with our two former interns
- Favorite cultural aspect: All the fried plantain/the pride that Ghanaians have in their peaceful elections
From Accra, we took a five and half hour red eye flight (9pm – 5:30 am local time) to Nairobi. I didn’t get any sleep despite knowing that we’d have a very full day when we landed, but I did watch Me Before You (sappy and predictable, but still enjoyable/wtf that ending?), Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (I did literally LOL but I was ashamed of it), and two episodes of “New Girl” (which I was mostly charmed by but did not especially miss watching), so at least there’s that, I guess.
Now, I don’t know if it was because we flew in so late or what, but it the Nairobi airport was the easiest, most stress-free airport experience I have ever had. Getting through the gate, immigration, baggage collection, customs and then out the door literally took half an hour, tops. Getting to our hotel took longer than going through the airport.
Due to traffic, what might’ve taken maybe 30 minutes to get to our hotel instead took close to an hour and fifteen minutes. However, the hotel is very nice and relaxing and, I suppose as an added bonus, is right next to the Israeli Embassy, so the security around it is very, very tight. I would take a picture and show you, but there is absolutely no picture-taking allowed near or around the embassy for whatever reason.
Lisa and I had about an hour and a half to set our stuff down, shower, and get ready before we went off to our first meeting.
It was about an hour away with traffic and lulled by the pleasant hum of the car and the absolutely gorgeous weather, I fell asleep almost immediately.
I woke up just as we were pulling up to our destination – the Kenya Technical Trainers College. I am actually very, very upset that I was too brain addled and sleep deprived and bleary eyed to remember to take pictures because the campus grounds were really pretty. Apparently the nice weather makes for some very lush and verdant surroundings here in Nairobi.
Our meeting was with about 7 different heads of different departments, plus a school administrator. It was one of my favorite meetings we’ve had so far. I have enjoyed hearing about school and school systems from teachers (most of them young) and students, but here I had the opportunity to hear from college professors who had long been in the educational system and were all obviously passionate about their jobs and helping their students. It was so interesting to learn about the Kenyan education system and the perceptions and standards of education in the country. I especially liked hearing about and thinking about all the ways that the Kenyan and American system of education is the same (a reliance on standardized testing, a large and recognizable gap between the rich and the poor, a system that frequently teaches knowledge but not skills) and all the ways that it’s different (there’s a nation wide test that students complete to see where they will be placed in secondary school and if they will be accepted to university being the biggest factor).
If it weren’t almost guaranteed to be an essentially useless PhD, I might really consider getting a doctorate in something along the lines of international comparative education. It’s been so fascinating on this trip to learn about the histories of the respective countries, their schooling system, and to think about how one affects the other. I’ve also enjoyed comparing what I know about the US educational system, the Filipino educational system and what I’ve been learning here in Ghana and Kenya. Alas, it’s hard to defend going to school for that long for something that I’m not sure I’d do anything with.
Anyway, enough about my useless, pretend PhD. Lisa and I made it through our first meeting with no sleep and, I think, giving little to no indication of having had no sleep, so that in itself was a victory. Add to that the fact that it was a very productive and informational meeting, and our first day in Nairobi was starting out pretty good.
After running some errands around the city and a second meeting, we finally headed back to our hotel to rest some more and relax around the grounds.
Lisa and I decided we were too tired to go any where, so we decided to dine in one of the four restaurants on site. Of course, we decided to go with the nicest one because why not.
It was a decidedly non-African meal since the hotel seems to cater to mostly foreign/mzungo (a Kiswahili word I learned tonight basically means “white person”) guests.
It was delicious, though, and Lisa and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and ordered three different courses.
I went to bed full, satisfied and finally, finally got an entire night’s sleep! It’s only been my second full night’s sleep, so it feels like a victory.
This morning I got up groggily and slowly and we made our way to the sports stadium to do a workshop similar to the one we did with CAMFED in Ghana. This time, we were meeting with EGF, which does similar work to CAMFED in that it provides scholarships for high school students to attend high school. I thought it’d be very easy since we’d already run through the workshop once and, as any teacher can tell you, the second class always gets a better lesson than the first one.
Boy, was I wrong.
Now, I do want to say that the day went well, the students all did well and were well-behaved, and I think we did a good job. We also learned a lot and got most of the information we were looking for.
However, a key difference is that instead of having a mixed group of teachers, college students and high school students like we did in the previous setting, instead we had an entire group of students who had recently graduated from high school – so about a dozen 18 and 19 year olds. Add that to fact that some of them had traveled long distances to get there (one had traveled ten hours the night before) and that they were missing out on hanging out with a bunch of their friends (EGF was holding a ceremony that invited 2500 Scholars to Nairobi) and you can understand how it might’ve been different.
There were plenty of times that we had to pivot or even completely change the trajectory in our lesson. Fortunately, I’m quite good at coming up with a new lesson plan on the fly since so many of mine have failed in the past. While the students were less actively enthusiastic than our previous group had been, they were still willing to participate and, as I mentioned earlier, we ended up with a lot of good information from our session with. It was, actually, very similar to a day of teaching I might have had in my own classroom in the states, which made me both miss teaching and not miss it, ha!
For dinner tonight we headed to Carnivore, which you may guess from the name, is all about meat. It is literally an all you can eat meat buffet. Now, I don’t think it’s very decidedly Kenyan since most of the meat dishes were cooked in a way that I feel like wouldn’t be out of place in America, but basically every Kenyan we asked for food recommendations told us we had to go there, so who are we to go against them?
Essentially what happens is you sit at a table and people bring by slabs of meat continuously until you give up on life/tell them to stop. We had about half the meats on regular dinner menu and all the exotic meats. Of the regular meats, the lamb chop was especially delicious. On the exotic meat side, the crocodile was delicious (the texture was similar to calamari), though I will admit I slathered it in garlic sauce so who really knows. The ostrich was in a meat ball, so it tasted like any other meatball I’ve ever had. Ox ball, contrary to what you might think, is not ox meat balls, but is instead ox testicle. I had one bite of that and it was enough to (dis)satisfy me. It kind of tasted like something that wanted to be a hardboiled egg yolk, but somehow didn’t quite get there. We left satisfied and even kept enough room in our stomachs for some delicious dessert!
Finally, some quick observations about Nairobi:
- Nairobi feels like a city as I’m used to in the states – a prevalence of skyscrapers and huge buildings, a large number of shopping areas and malls, and lots and lots of traffic. One of the things that was pleasantly surprising about Accra was the fact that even though it was the biggest city, the roads were always pretty clear of traffic.
- The weather is absolutely beautiful. It was maybe 83 degrees at most, no humidity, the first day we were in and people kept apologizing for the hot weather. I had to stop myself from laughing at them.
- There is security everywhere. Almost every place we’ve been so had a guard and partition that has to be lifted up. Our hotel and every shopping area we’ve gone to requires you to go through a metal detector and have your bags checked.
- Hakuna matata is not just a phrase from your favorite childhood movie.
- They drive on the opposite side of the road and my brain is still trying to get this sorted out. Sometimes I look up and panic because I think we’re about to run straight on into a car.
Tomorrow we have a meeting in the morning and then essentially a free day which includes SEEING THE BABY ELEPHANT I ADOPTED. How much do you think I’m going to enjoy that (it’s going to be A LOT).