Nyin ni i zɔ diri la din malisa, ka nyin ni i dɔ'ara diri din tɔa

You and your friend get what’s sweet and you and your relation gets what’s bitter.

Mampruli Proverb

Dry Season Mystery Spots

Here’s a puzzle for you! Have a look at the satellite image above which was taken in December 2016. Notice all the white spots scattered across it?

Below is the same aerial view taken in the rainy season. Notice that the white spots are missing?

So what do you think the spots are? Scroll down after the jump for the answer!

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Itsy-Bitsy Potatoes

One of my favorite things about going to market is that no matter how many years I’ve lived here I always seem to find something new and interesting.

On a recent market run, I found a small tuber for sale that the Mamprusi call peesa. I found it identified in the Mampruli Dictionary as Solenostemon Rotundifolius with the common English name of “frafra potato.” When I asked those in market if it was a “frafra potato” they all just laughed hysterically. Apparently, they don’t call it that here in Nalerigu and they found the idea of a potato that is Frafra to be humorous.

I did some research and it turns out that though this little edible tuber is primarily found in West Africa, it is also grown around the world – especially in Asia. And it has lots of common names:

  • Hausa potato
  • Zulu potato
  • Sudan potato
  • Madagascar potato (by the French)
  • Chinese potato (by Indians)
  • country potato
  • Coleus

In northern Ghana folks boil them and eat them lightly salted or peel and fry them. The skin is quite easy to remove when preparing them but it is time consuming since the potatoes are so small and numerous.

We’ve fallen in love in these little spuds and despite their size they taste more like American potatoes than yams and local “sweet potatoes.” Since they’ve been in season this past month, we’ve eaten them often. We’ve boiled them with cabbage, sautéed them in butter, fried them as tiny french fries and even mashed them to make creamed potatoes.

Magic Traps

On a recent hike I came across piles of recently harvested beans on a large stony area. Each large pile had a small shea nut tree branch and a piece of dried okra set on top. My guides were Bimoba who spoke no English and a little Mampruli. They managed to communicate that the branch and okra were meant to deter thieves.

I took some photos and came home and showed them to my language teacher. He laughed and identified them as bumbɛriga or magic traps. Magic traps are a whole category of juju that come in a variety of forms. The general idea is that some sort of curse or misfortune will fall upon anyone who steals or harms that which the trap protects.

In this particular case, the superstition is that the okra will render the thief infertile and the branch will cause him to get deathly ill if he ever eats anything with shea nut butter in it.

Earlier this year I also came across a bumbɛriga on a loaded mango tree in Zɔgyiligu. It was in the form of a gourd hanging from the tree. It had a few markings on it and had been stuff with some secret ingredients. The tree owner simply told me it would kill any thieves.

Weiner Schnitzel vom Schwein with the Germans

Recently our friend Nils told us that his favorite European food was weiner schnitzel (Germans eat it with pork instead of the traditional Austrian type with veal). So we got some pork from a local butcher, made cutlets, flattened them out and had them ready for Sunday night.

When he came over we worked together to fry up the meat and prepared a very German meal of weiner schnitzel, potatoes, and cabbage.

Marlen, who had been ill the week before mustered up quite an appetite and surprised us by eating a whole schnitzel herself! Perhaps her illness had some symptoms of homesickness that we helped to cure.

Gbinnya'ari = "Butt Roots" = Laziness

Sometimes other languages say it best. The word for laziness in Mampruli is gbinnya’ari which is transliterated as “butt roots.” So a lazy person is a gbinnya’adaana or “one with butt roots.” They’ve been sitting on their butts doing nothing for so long that they’ve grown roots!