Sunday, June 12, 2011

Buying Fish & Meat in Jamestown, Accra!

Lighthouse (Jamestown, Accra, Ghana)
A few weeks ago a Ghanaian friend of mine who lives in the U.S. was visiting Accra on holiday.  We decided to go shopping for fresh fish from the local fishermen at the beaches in Jamestown, an area of Accra.  Jamestown, or as it was called during colonial times, British Accra, is one of the oldest communities in the city of Accra.  It is located on the coast near the old Lighthouse and slave castle and former prison.  I always find it a bit eery driving past the old slave castle that was, up until recently, used as a prison.  The thought that many African-Americans/Canadians/Caribbeans were transported via that castle is quite a foreboding.  The even creepier reality is that the Ghanaian government then converted it into a prison.  I’ve been told that the condition of the then prison wasn’t probably much better then when it was used as a slave holding pen.  Just thinking of it makes me sad.

Sorting freshly caught crabs
For Blacks living in the western world, slavery can seem like a distant reality but the truth is that slavery was alive and well in North America the 1800’s.  With my close connection to Ghana and having married a woman who has part Ghanaian ancestry I sometimes wonder if I had any ancestral connections to this very interesting land.
Back to our outing…

Knowing that the freshest fish arrives in the morning I told my friend Dennis that we should hit the beach by 6am at the latest.  In an effort to get there on time, I crashed at the church that night working on a project and then headed to go fish shopping in Jamestown the next morning.

Pastor Dennis
Unfortunately it was raining the next morning however we weren’t deterred and headed to the beach.  I forgot to try and dress more “Ghanaian”.  Wearing western clothes doesn’t help me when it comes to bargaining.  Being called “white man” in the vernacular languages doesn’t bother me per se but when it is blatantly obvious I’m not Ghanaian the prices soar and the negotiating becomes very difficult.  I generally know the prices so when the sellers go insane with prices I use the “walk away method” as my last ditch effort.  The thing with fresh produce, fish, meat, etc. is that it has to be sold so they’d much rather sell then let it sit and get nothing.  It didn’t help that Dennis was dressed in a new Nike t-shirt and baseball hat!

Things went well and we were able to get very good prices on the fish we bought.  I picked up a bunch of Red Snapper and another sea fish that reminded me a mix between herring and mackerel.  Dennis bought the same mackerel/herring fish, some snapper and bunch of small Barracuda.  The fish I bought would’ve cost me about 5x what I paid if I purchased it in the big grocery store, Shoprite or had I gone to a local fish market.  Having fished most of my life and knowing which species were schooling fish and more plentiful in the sea helps to prevent price gouging from those looking to make a quick Ghana Cedi from a foreigner.

Check out the Scriptures on the wall - Galatians 6:7 & Romans 3:23
One of the nice aspects of buying the fish from the beach is that there are women there who will clean your fish for a small fee.  Can’t beat that!  While we were waiting for the women to finish cleaning our fish I noticed another pair of ladies sorting through crabs that were caught using a huge net.  Didn't look like there would be much meat on the small critters but apparently a lot of people buy and serve them as a specialty item at parties and get-togethers.
 After buying our fish we made our way to the “London Market” located in the middle of Jamestown.  Having lived in London for a few years, I had actually remarked to Dennis that this place reminds me a bit of a London market to which he replied, “It’s actually called London Market.”

London Market (Jamestown, Accra)

This was one of the most interesting markets I’ve visited anywhere in the world.  They primarily sold beef and goat.  On the periphery of the market were large cow heads, tails, feet and every other part of the animal… all for sale.  My only regret is that I didn’t take my Canon camera so I could capture a few decent photos and video.  (I did manage a few shots with my camera phone. )

Cutting up goat. Anyone up for entrails?
We were on a mission to buy goat for a party for some of Dennis' extended family so I accompanied him into the this warehouse of meat.  I must admit that this place would’ve been condemned in Canada for health reasons but this is the way of life and most people buy their meat from such places.  As Dennis negotiated prices and made his purchases I was busily taking the scene in.  I saw what looked like liver, stomachs, heads, tails, and every part imaginable on an animal.
I’m sure my wife would’ve been disgusted to have visited such a place, though my daughter would’ve found the entire experience very interesting.  I think she gets the curiosity part of her brain from me. J  I’ll upload the photos tomorrow as I left my photo card at home.   I apologize in advance for their poor quality, however you should be able to get a feel for the atmosphere of the market.

I almost forgot.  The article wouldn't be complete without first introducing you to Bruce - unfortunately he was a little under the weather at the time of this photo...

Bruce the goat.  Hmm, he'll probably end up on a kebab stick!

1 comment:

  1. Ouch! Bruce looks like he needs immediate shishkobab attention.