June 19, 2006
More from Ian in Ghana
Hey all, I'm giving you another taste of what Ian is going through in Ghana, in his own words. . .
Once in a while, for me, and probably for everybody, there is a moment
where you think, "I can't believe this is happening to me." The first one
I can think of was when I was crashing Collin's car, but I had another one
the other day.
We had the weekend off and were chilling in a place called Cape Coast.
It's a fishing town, but it's a really wild place to be. It was colonized
about 600 years ago by the portaguise, or maybe the dutch. It doesn't
really matter because they both were there for a while and they both did
the same horrible stuff.
But whoever they were, they built these amazing castles along the coast
line. I'm talking about the real deal here. Castles with moats,
drawbridges, loopholes for arrows, dungeons... they are really just
stunning. Think about an amazing old european castle surrounded by palm
trees, on cliffs like the coast of maine that have brilliant green waves
smashing into them. Now put that in a bustling African town filled with
hundreds of wooden fishing boats that look like gondolas from Venice
rigged up with the square sales of a Chinese junk.
Yeah, it's an amazing place. So we walked into this castle and I was
wandering around by myself and I met the king. Not the king of the
castle, the real king. Elvis.
He had a craft shop inside the castle, selling ebony animals, djembes,
masks and the like. He was 23, the youngest in a family of 10. His Dad
wanted a son. His first two children were daughters. The third was a
son. He decided that he wanted two and two, but by the end it was 6 and
I shook his hand, and he smiled warmly.
"What is your name?"
"I am elvis."
"You're still alive!" I shouted excitedly.
"Yes, I am still alive," he said politely. I don't think he got it.
Anyway, I hung out with him for a while, talking about everything, and
stuff like that. We talked about Bush, then about the Ghanian government,
then he started comparing the government of Ghana to the government of
Timbuktu, and their strengths and weaknesses.
I suddenly realized, "Wow, I'm in west Africa in an ancient european
castle, talking about politics in Timbuktu with elvis..."
I'm keeping my eyes out for Tupac.
So let me tell you about the Shark.
I'm working in the kitchen. It's a crazy place to work. It is (very
honestly and litterely) as hot and steamy as a sauna and as slippery as a
frozen pond. I spend the whole day staggering around between giant vats
of boiling oil hoping that I don't fall (or melt) into the pot and deep
fry myself. The ceilings are shorter than my head in a lot of places so
I'm usually ducking bolts and pipes, or banging my head.
So, as you can probably guess, it's an intense place to work.
Well my boss is named Mel. He was born in Jamaca, raised in Brittain, and
served 35 years in the British military. He retired about 10 years ago,
but I don't think he's realized it yet.
He's funny, and just about the strangest mix of personality stuck into one
person that you can find. He's about 5 foot 6, black and has a deep voice
with a perfectly revined british accent. He's got a potbelly, thick strong
arms, and is used to being large and in charge.
One of the first days I dropped a drip of something or other on the stove
top and he yelled at me.
"I am a shark," he said, "and now you are in my Domain. When you fall
into the water with a shark, who do you suppose has the upper hand?"#
I didn't say anything. I thought that if I opened my mouth I might drown
in my own sweat.
"I do! That's right, I do, and you are in my watter."
He's the kind of guy that will yell at you from across the galley to come
and pick something up that's right in front of him, then run across it to
grab something right in front of you.
"This is a high stress environment" he said. "It's a place where you will
hear voices raised. If you're easily offended this is not a good place
That's true. Every minute is a crisis, every second the is one second too
late. He's constantly running, shouting. "I need a bag of rice,
Urgently, urgently, urgently. I need it now, I need it 5 minutes ago, now
He insists that it is his job to tell everybody whaeverything at least
twice, even if you're already doing it.
He's always trying to teach something, like how to drop pork into boiling
oil. "Bent at the knees, square your shoulders. You are a boxer now, a
boxer. Move with it. Now place it in there, come on, don't drop it,
place it, no keep your finger out. You are a boxer."
He'll slam a pan on the counter and shout at me, then say, "I'm not
shouting at you." He'll be incredibly rude then say, "I'm not being
Sometimes I want to slap him and say "I'm not hitting you" but actually, I
really like him. For as intense as he is, he's also very nice and
encouraging. He's always saying thins like "Great job son, great job, I
appreciate your work so much, now keep going."
He also really wants to teach people how to cook things, and how to do
well in the kitchen. He's always saying "Now i want to teach people to
believe in themselves."
Whatever he may be, he's always good for a laugh, and I've never
appreciated Tom so much in my life.
Anyway, that's the news for now. And I hope this didn't sound negative.
I really am having a blast, and I haven't been having any headaches. So
Posted by jason on June 19, 2006 11:42 PM
great story and update -- ian you are a great writer!
Posted by: Anonymous on June 20, 2006 12:01 AM
Thank you, anonymous.
Posted by: Ian on June 20, 2006 04:28 AM
That's so good and cool!
Posted by: Aom_rock_magical on June 20, 2006 05:57 AM
yea it felt like I was reading a book... it was so amazingly well written.
but it sounds amazing! Wow i wish i was there in Ghana though... You are so wonderfully blessed for being able to travel so often! I wish i could though
^_^ Mel sounds like my uncle but dark and british
Posted by: Poncho on June 20, 2006 06:51 PM
I think you forgot a comma after you wrote, "I'm not hitting you."