Just before I begin
A few weeks ago I was a spectator at my graduation. It was one of those days which you think would never happen and which I had conveniently forgotten all about because our universities have taken to extreme the British tradition of holding graduation long after you’ve written your final exams. So you get on with life and one day, you are reminded that hey, it’s time to go and graduate. To me, it was an inconvenience, an intrusion. I wish they’d just mail me that valuable paper. But knowing how remarkably unlikely this scheme would be, I thought the better of it and went for my graduation.
After 4 strange years at the University of Ghana, I promised myself never to willingly venture into getting a Ghanaian Education again. But as you can see, life happens. So for the next several weeks, I’d be posting different facets of my experience at the University of Education, Winneba, otherwise known as the trials of a UEW student, otherwise called the University of Errors and Wrongs. Seriously, I’m not making that up. If you can relate to my sufferings (personal and otherwise), do let me know and through this, I hope we can have a meaningful conversation about what not to do when it comes to education.
I start off on a fishy note…
Mainly About Food
Food is always a major issue whenever there is geographical change in my life. I have to think about how to get what I can eat. And how to cook it when I get it. You see, I don’t usually have the luxury of walking into eating places and ordering for some savoury dish on the menu. This is because of one, just one but major all the same, food intolerance that I have. No, I didn’t create it. It’s not as a result of some fancy psychological problem in my head or a bad habit. No, this is in my genetic code. I can’t get it out of my system. I can’t tolerate fish or other forms of seafood, neither the smell nor the taste. Oh, I can look at it all right. But I shouldn’t smell it and it should not be in my food. The ideal situation is when it is alive, swimming happily in a bowl or better yet in the wide blue ocean.
Normally, the fact that I can’t eat or stand the smell of fish shouldn’t be a problem, or at least, I like to think so. However, I blame the country in which I was born. It is a fish country. Folks eat so much fish and it is so much a part of the daily diet that my “condition” is extremely difficult for some people to wrap their brains around. It comes as a surprise every single time.
The “opposite” of fish, that is beef, is looked on with suspicion and readily tagged as “unhealthy”.
So imagine me, a poor fish-intolerant soul, trying to survive in a country of fish lovers. To make things worse, the idea or notion of food intolerances and allergies is strange and I’ve gotten many a blank stare when I try to explain the special demands of my order to a waitress.
So I gave up. I gave up trying to explain. And I have practically given up on eating out. Now, I just avoid fishy situations…literally…and everyone’s happier for it. I’ve also found holding my breath to be a good coping mechanism. I’ve gotten quite good at it, actually. But the best way I’ve found to deal with fish is to cook for myself. So when I move, I move with my kitchen. After the bedroom and bathroom, the kitchen is the next important factor for me about the place in which I live.
At UEW however, I got into some difficult circumstances when it came to food. After almost vowing not to go back to school in my country, I found myself enrolled in the University of Education at Winneba as a post graduate student. It’s for only eight weeks, but a girl’s got to eat during this time.
So I got a place. I can’t say it’s all I wanted it to be but I had to make do. The kitchen was, well, far below my personal standards, but what could I do?
So there I was, ready to start the academic session. The first week was reconnaissance week. That weekend, I went home and make a life-changing decision. I was going to be a vegetarian…for eight weeks. I thought carefully about this decision and announced it to the family. My younger brother laughed at me, long and hard. Obviously no support there. My sister came home later and also laughed when she heard my new resolution. I realized that this was not turning out as I had hoped. My mother was the only one who nodded and gave me helpful suggestions. My brother and sister were convinced that the “meat monster” as I am frightfully called, would not be able to commit to this lofty goal.
I stuck to my guns. But almost a week later, my vegetarian status began to be threatened. But it had nothing to do with my resolve or lack of it. It had to do with demand and supply. I thought I could bulk purchase veggies. I saw them at the market so at least I knew they were available. But the state in which some of them were in was suspicious and definitely discouraging. But I ploughed on, deciding to buy anyway. But the prices were ridiculous! It was as if those measly carrots had suddenly become precious gems. I stared in dismay, realizing that my budget had been completely thrown off. What I had could only buy me a tiny head of cabbage and a cucumber. Sigh.
But you may be wondering why I decided to defect to the vegetarian camp in the first place. I did it simply because there is “no beef” in Winneba. Going vegetarian was a coping mechanism to help me through beef-less times. I reckoned that if I conquered the problem from the mind, then it would make it easier for cope. But there I was back full circle, maybe even worse, with no meat and no vegetables. And this was just the beginning.