Brief setting update:
Greetings from Kamega, a rural village in the Upper East Region of northern Ghana! I am staying with the Apiim family and working with the community-based organization Afaataba Multi-purpose Co-operative Society as I learn what life is like for small farmers. A lengthy post about village life will come, but for now, I will entertain you with three egg themed tales.
The egg thief:
My host in Kamega, Robert, owns a flock of guinea fowls and chickens. Every morning he sends them out of their mud hut in the yard to the fields to feast on insects. For over a month, he has been unable to find where the guinea fowls have laid their eggs. During the wet season, the pastures are full of grasses, and the fields are tall with millet and corn. Finding the eggs is like a treasure hunt in a tall maze. Additionally, all of the guinea fowls in the village roam free. I have no idea how people tell their guinea fowls and eggs apart from their neighbors, but apparently, each person cuts his/her guinea fowls’ feet to mark their flock. When the owner finds where the guinea fowls have laid their eggs, the owner will cover the spot with pulled up grass so that the neighbors will know that the owner has spotted the eggs and plans to collect them later.
Several days ago, Robert’s wife Mary caught a glimpse of the long-lost eggs in a shaded spot of grass near the road. Robert left the eggs in their hidden location and waited for the egg thief to come. Although the egg thief never showed his/her face, the neighbors identified the man who has been taking Robert’s eggs. Now, we will enjoy a plentiful supply of boiled guinea fowl eggs for breakfast!
The greedy egg slurpers:
Sometime between 1930 and 1940, nasaras (white people) came to settle near Kamega. The local Kusasi people carried the nasaras on their shoulders across rivers, and they fed the nasaras with their food stuffs. When they arrived at Kamega, they approached Robert Abugri Apiim’s grandfather, offering to grant him the paramount chieftaincy if he helped the nasaras settle in the area. Robert’s grandfather refused. In those days of famine, the nasaras consumed too much of the Kusasis’ scarce supply of food. The nasaras had a special appetite for eggs, and rather than say that the nasaras ate eggs, the Kusasis would call the nasaras greedy egg slurpers. To protect these precious eggs, Robert’s grandfather turned down the paramount chieftaincy and sent the nasaras packing.
The egg beggar:
Living up to the name, I begin each morning with a breakfast of black tea and two boiled guinea fowl eggs. The children laugh as they watch me eat the eggs. I close my eyes to savor each bite of the golden orange yolk. In this moment, my world stands still; I am completely satisified. This familiar comfort is one of the highlights of my day. I am aware that it is quite a privilege to eat boiled eggs. Many people will hatch the eggs or will sell the eggs at market, but my generous hosts serve me boiled eggs for breakfast, knowing how much I enjoy the treat.
As we eat breakfast sitting on chairs outside, family and friends visit us in the yard. Women come to borrow kitchen supplies or to buy sandals from Mary (Robert’s wife); men from the local grinding mill or the executive committee of the organization come to visit with Robert and discuss business; and children from all of the different families steal a glimpse of the white visitor. Greetings are an important part of all social interactions, and the morning is filled with exchanges of greetings and inquiries about one’s health, family, wife, husband, children, etc. I enjoy meeting and talking with all of the people who visit us in the yard, but I also find it uncomfortable to eat in front of so many people. Generally, a person with food will invite others to come and share whatever food is being eaten. However, when I am faced with more than 5 visitors and I only have two eggs, the division becomes a little tricky. So far I have refrained from sharing my precious eggs. I am a greedy egg slurper, anyways. I have justified my gluttony thinking that it is Mary’s duty as the queen of the pantry and kitchen to offer visitors food and drink.
However, recently my justification has been challenged and my clear conscious has been troubled. One of Robert’s sisters-in-law has visited us several times in the yard. Each time she casts a hard stare at me, the tea that I am drinking and the bowl of two boiled eggs by my chair. Sometimes without even greeting me, she addressed me in Kusal (the local language), points to the eggs, and motions towards her mouth. Although I do not grasp everything she is saying, I understand her message. She wants me to give her one of the eggs. Robert and Mary do not intervene on my behalf, but leave it up to me to awkwardly reply “Gafara, mam zit” (Sorry, I don’t understand). Still, she is persistent and repeats her question over and over again, and each time I feign ignorance of the situation. If I actually complied with her request, how would I explain to all of the other visitors that I was only sharing my breakfast with this one woman? The egg beggar’s question highlights my struggle with privilege in Ghana, and most especially in Kamega. But this is a topic for later discussion…