On Thursday I went to Tema on a quest for a missing container of medical supplies. The search actually began about 14 months ago when Andrew Jernigan asked me to accept delivery of a container that had been shipped about a year earlier and was rumored to be in the Tema Harbor.
It must have been November 2006 when I got a call, Andrew was away at a medical conference with his wife and family. The caller was asking what the container was, and what it would be used for. “Medical supplies,” I said, “for a Methodist Clinic” and I didn’t hear a word from him until maybe April 07, when we exchanged a few emails but then he wrote back saying everything had been picked up, and thanked me for checking in with him. BUT NOTHING HAD BEEN PICKED UP, I tried to reason with him via email, but without a phone number, or physical address, I couldn’t get his attention.
Since we’re in Tema, I decided to stop by the fish market. I love going to the market, the smells, the interesting fish, the people, and of course the smells, and the flies. Its weird, but the ladies remember me each time I go, which isn’t that often. They want me to know that they remember me, and will say, “Last time you buy from me,” and then to prove it, tell me exactly what I bought, and how they cleaned the fish. The last time I was at market was before the accident, and the time before that was last May, and still they remember. What I remember is going to Tema 40 years ago and getting extremely large lobsters, and then back at our house in Legon, listening to them scream after we dropped them in a pot of boiling water. You could actually hear them scream, just the kind of thing a 9 year old boy remembers as cool. But this time we don’t see the big “bugs” as my wife’s family calls them. We’ll see the rock lobster, which are small, crayfish sized, and the only part you eat are the tails. Mostly its just fish: red snapper, grouper, sole, tuna, eel (is that even a fish), or shrimps, and prawn. Today I saw fresh water fish from the Volta, and after buying 1.5 kilo of shrimp, the lady talked me into a kilo of squid. Its interesting watching them clean it, in these large vats of purple water which I guess is the dye. I really didn’t want to buy the shrimps, and really didn’t need the squid, but the market seller was so persistent, that and Anna loves shrimp. So I asked what do you do with it?
“You cook it…its nice,” she tells me except its and nice are run together into one word, and the t drops out isnice. Ghanaians use the word nice in interesting ways. To me it means agreeable, pleasant, friendly, congenial, but to them, it’s the way you describe something that is tasty. So apparently you cook it the same way as fried chicken, by first steaming it with garlic, onions, ginger and salt, and then hard frying it in palm oil. “O.K., I’ll try some,” I say.
“Ah! You go and come, you like, isnice.”
Back at the house, I ask Sheila, our house help, if she could cook the squid up like her fried chicken, which is fantastic, and the house fills with the smell..of..octopus. I had to call Suzanne and ask if squid was the same as octopus…it is (right?!). Sheila had never cooked or tasted squid before, so after she had done about a half kilo (one pound) we sampled it and guess what, it tastes just like chicken, fried chicken. Well really like fried chicken jerky, it was tough, but tasty, and I can see next time I’m going to cook it differently, like calamari.
I come away from Tema with seven kilos of red snapper, 1.5 kilos of enormous shrimp, and a kilo of squid all for about 50 bucks.
So back in Tema with the letter, we start asking people where a certain address is. We’re in community#1, so it shouldn’t be all that hard. We ended up asking nine different people: two said they didn’t know, three got us to the next landmark where we could ask someone and four didn’t know, but wouldn’t tell us they didn’t know. Instead we got this long set of complicated directions that sometimes involved walking through a backyard or two and led us nowhere.
So it was with these expectations that we set out to find the container of medical supplies. Turns out in two phone calls and a short drive we we’re in a large warehouse looking at six dusty large boxes that had been open a long time, wondering how am I going to get all this stuff out to the Lake, six hours away?
When news reached the owner that the containers had been found he dropped everything to emaiil his friend to go seek that which had been missing and now was found. And I tell you that when those containers are broght before the medical clinic in that far away place, there will be much rejoicing, for I there is more joy in Heaven over these six containers that are now found than there will be over the 1000s of containers that were never lost.