Last night an hour before sunset, I went on walkabout in Tamale. Tamale is the capital of the Northern Region, and oddly enough south of the Upper West and Upper East districts. I really like going on walkabout without much of agenda to see how God uses this time. Pronounced, TOM-a-lee, it is a busy, predominately Islamic city, so as I walk around at dusk, during the month of Ramadan, I see street venders preparing food for the masses to break their fast.
Among the kabobs and other street foods, I notice something new to me, lettuce on a fried ground bean cake, called Koshe (or Koosi). They call lettuce, salad, or pronounce it leh-toose. The frying Koshe is so colorful, light brown cakes, with bright green leh-toose, floating in a pot a dark bubbling oil, warmed by a charcoal fire.
It wasn’t right to break the beauty of the moment by pulling out a camera, so I starte a conversation with the two Muslim girls selling the fried cakes. They are doing quite a business, literally selling like hot cakes. Prayers start in about 45 minutes, and people are hungry.
I ask about their Ramadan fast, how it is going, and she asks if I am a Muslim. “I am following Jesus,” I say, and she asks if I want to convert. I look down and away and scratch my head, the way Ghanaians sometimes say no without saying no.
“We both pray to the same God? I ask. We both believe in Jesus, yes? I ask. So how could I convert?” She looks down and scratches her head and then says, “Ah! Then I will give you a Muslim name. What do they call you?”
“Steve,” I say, but Ghanaians have trouble hearing that word Steve, and she makes the I didn’t get that face, so I say Steven. “Ohhhh. Then you are Steve-ooo.”
Steve-ooo? I ask.
“Yes, that the Muslim name for Steven. You are now Steve-ooo.” Steve-ooo, I think wondering if the next time I introduce myself if it will be heard better than plain ole Steve.
I thank her for my new name, and ask about the Koshe. There are all sorts, Koshe with egg, plain, with salad and a few others I don’t quite follow. I decide to buy some, but all I have is 20 GHC, a large bill worth about $7. All week long I’ve been struggling to accumulate some small bills, as the whole north of Ghana seem to be small bills poor.
She plucks several piping hot Koshe from the strainer, and adds several others from the box, Koshe with salad, Koshe with egg, plain Koshe, and puts them all in a black plastic bag, now waiting for payment. We’re at an impasse. I have large bills, she can’t make change, its in situations like this I pray, what am I supposed to do, and I hear, make a gift of a phone card. I watch both girls fill orders and stay in conversation with me so effortlessly. I give her a phone card, she thanks me, and then asks for a cedi to pay for the Koshe.
“Oh! I have already given you a phone card, you give me some Koshe?” I say. She thinks about it, about to lower her head and scratch, but then says
“Okay Steve-ooo,” and hands me the bag. It is hot, and a bit greasy, and I wonder, now what am I going to do with this? I’m traveling to Togo and don’t want to struggling with street-food stomach issues, but it did look tasty.
Minutes later on a quieter street, a small boy is headloading a large bowl filled with empty tins that once contained charcoal. The boy tries to sell me a small plastic rifle with a suction cup on the end. He looks hungry. I kindly refuse and keep walking and then notice the greasy bag I am been carrying, though I know it is doubtful I will eat what it contains. Again, I pray what am I supposed to do and moments later I’m offering the bag of Koshe, which he takes and runs away, toward his toward his mother. In the distance I hear the call to prayer begin and then its sound seems to come from everywhere.
Its almost dark, time to head back to the Guest House. What an interesting hour. I wonder who the girl will call or text, and what will they talk about? I wonder who the boy has shared his Koshe with, and will there be enough? I wonder how God will use my new name, Steve-ooo.
I do love walkabouts, and how God makes use of them.