A Pleasant Evening in Bukpurugu, Ghana

Kweku Adagbana, a CRS driver, stands outside of the village of Gowrie in Northern Ghana. Kweku, who grew up in the region, speaks 15 languages. Photo by Lane Hartill/CRS.

The only place to stay in Bukpurugu, Ghana, is the Wang Hotel. It’s a lovely concrete structure with sky blue rooms and a tractor in the courtyard. In the bathroom, which has a 50-gallon drum of water for bathing, a silver lizard grinned at me from the ceiling while I brushed my teeth. You can’t beat the price: a little more than $6 a night.

But the Wang didn’t have a dinner menu, so Kweku Adagbana, the CRS driver, and I walked into town. We strolled down a dirt path past huts surrounded by mud walls. I peeked behind a few. Women hunched over bubbling cooking pots and stared back at me.

When Kweku and I reached town, the last dregs of light were draining from the sky.

A few bone-thin dogs with rat faces slinked past, competing with pygmy goats — which seem to be everywhere — for the cornhusks and garbage on the ground. People smiled as they went by on the backs of donkeys so small, the riders dragged their feet on the ground.

The only restaurant in town is a wooden table with a lady behind it, her naked son lolling on her lap. For a few cents, she’ll grab a fistful of rice out of a basin, a few noodles, then splash some sauce over it the color of Pennzoil.

Most here eat something called TZ (pronounced tea-ZED), a mush made from corn flour. Another popular option: banku, fermented corn paste. It’s the consistency of Play-Doh and has a sour aftertaste.

I couldn’t find any banku or TZ, so Kweku and I hatched a plan: We would cobble together some spaghetti.

If you ask me, Kweku may be one of CRS Ghana’s most valuable employees. He’s worked with CRS since 2000 and is on the road most of the time. When he’s not, he plants himself in his living room with his three kids, and they play Chutes and Ladders or tell stories.

His hobby: Ghanaian languages. When we first met, he told me he spoke 14. But then he ran into an old friend and they launched into a beautiful language that sounded like a cross between Arabic and Hawaiian. “Oh,” he said, smiling, “That was Hausa. I also speak Hausa very well.” He’d forgotten to tell me. That made 15.

Back in town, I convinced the lady to sell me the rest of her spaghetti noodles. She grabbed a handful out of her plastic bucket. I bought a small tin can of tomato sauce and a golf-ball-sized fish steak from a girl carrying them on a platter on her head.

The spaghetti noodle lady put all of it in a black plastic bag for me and threw in some onions. Total cost for dinner: about 60 cents.

When we got back to the Wang, Kweku turned in for the night. Listening to crickets and the soft trill of distant conversations I couldn’t understand, I ate my cold spaghetti in the courtyard, under the light of the stars.

Lane Hartill is Catholic Relief Services’ regional information officer for West Africa. He is currently traveling in Ghana.

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One Response to “A Pleasant Evening in Bukpurugu, Ghana”

  1. Sarah Says:

    Great entry. I am applying for a fellowship in Africa in September and have been trying to get a sense of what life is like as a CRS worker. Your entry just makes me more excited about the prospect! Thanks.

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