Setting up a home in rural Africa is not for the faint of heart. And I am by no means roughing it. Unlike my closest friend here, a schoolteacher living in the heart of the village, I have fresh, clean running water and modern conveniences like a washing machine and an oven. You won’t hear loud complaints from me, though I do occasionally mention how lovely it would be to have a Whole Foods around the corner and some Friday evenings I all but reach for the phone to order a delivery pizza, only to remember that won’t work here.
I get our produce weekly. I have the choice of going to the Monday market or buying from a lady who peddles her veggies and eggs on the compound grounds. Monday Market is a sprawling, somewhat raucous bazar where one can find food, housewares, fabrics, and clothes. I once saw a collection of what looked to be bonafide Hunter wellies at the Market, not far from the vegetable sellers and the rat traps. There’s an entire section of used clothing referred to by the locals as “the dead yovow (white person) market”. (They name it that because it’s unfathomable that a living white person would get rid of their clothes).
Market isn’t for the feeble yovow. It’s hot, crowded, stinky, and exhausting. It can be fun, but only if you’re very prepared and you don’t mind hot, crowded, stinky, exhausting fun. When we take the boys, each of us straps one on and walks as confidently as possible. We typically emerge after an hour without much to show for it…
….Which is why I typically buy my food from the vegetable lady. She arrives mid-day via moto from Kpalime, carrying a large baskets of produce and eggs behind her. A second moto transports another stack of produce for her. The selection varies some by season, but I typically have the choice of zucchini, beets, tomatoes, green beans, pineapple, cabbage, lettuce, carrots, potatoes, green apples, and eggs. I usually spend around 7,000CFA, or $13-$14 for a week’s worth of vegetables and eggs.
Upon returning home, I throw the purchases into sinks full of bleach water. The produce is cleaned, rinsed in fresh water, and stored away in the fridge. This process takes time and it is a little unsettling to bathe my food in bleach, but it’s a necessity here.
The whole week is a game of figuring out delicious, or just plain edible, foods I can make with the options we have. Last night, for instance, we had company over for zuchinni fritters served with homemade labneh, haricots verts with butter and toasted almonds, homemade tortillas, and herb roasted potatoes. It was pas mal.
I’d say two important themes drawn from my life in Africa so far are: 1) You can live with fewer options than you think you need, and 2) Necessity is the mother of invention!