In Ghana, people will often say that they are going to “drop by” your house. Similarly, you are frequently asked to come by their place for dinner.. On Friday evening I was to have my first actual guests visit the house!
Now, I’ve noticed that whenever I’ve been to someone’s house I’ve been offered some sort of delicious carbonated beverage. Popular varieties include Fanta, Coke, a non-alcoholic malt beverage produced by Guinness and a delicious soda-like drink called Alvaro. I knew that in order to follow social protocol I would have to offer my guests a selection of carbonated beverages, or “minerals” as they call them here.
I consulted my roommate on any other formalities I should observe. Should I offer snacks? Maybe some cookies? I was informed that I should also offer my guests water. I went to the market and acquired a selection of “minerals”, and brought them to campus to store in the office fridge. I can’t offer my guests warm minerals!
As for the water…
With a visitor’s stomach, you can’t just go drinking water from the tap. When I arrived at the convent two weeks ago, I noticed that they would serve tea by boiling water straight from the tap and putting it out with tea bags. It occurred to me that I had been drinking my tea this way since my arrival. I asked my principal if it was OK to drink water from the tap as long as it’s boiled. She said it was perfectly fine. I figured, what the heck! I started boiling water, letting it cool, and refilling my empty water bottles. I’ve been doing this for about a week now. I thought I was pretty creative one afternoon when I discovered that I could put my already boiled water in the blender to cool down while I fill the kettle to make a second batch.
My roommate saw me doing this on Friday, and she seemed pretty concerned. She told me that she drinks the sachet water or water straight from the tap, but she has grown up that way and is fine with it. She was worried that my stomach might not be able to handle the water boiled but unfiltered. I told her I’d been doing it for almost a week now, and hadn’t been sick yet. She said it’s probably fine…
Next, she asked me how I planned to serve water to my guests. “I’ve got cups!” I proudly exclaimed. She looked at me like I had four heads and retorts “you can’t just say that you have cups! How are you going to serve the water?” I thought about it, and told her “I will just pour the water in the cups while I’m in the kitchen, and bring them out?” She told me that the guests need to see the water being poured (presumably so they can see I didn’t just take it out of the tap.) She then asked me “Do you have anything to serve it in?” I thought about it for a minute and said “Hmm… the blender?” – – oh my god, her reaction. Apparently the idea of serving water out of a blender was enough to make her laugh until she cried.
Several minutes later as she was still laughing, I shuffled off to retrieve two bottles of mineral water. Once I returned and she finally caught her breath, she helped me to arrange them properly. We placed the bottles along with the glasses on the one plate that we have, it would function for the moment as a serving tray.
Yeah so I learned today that when it comes to hosting guests, Ghanians don’t mess around!