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  • Writer's pictureThe Old Farmyard Forceleap Farm

Life in Langbinsi

Our mornings start at 6.30am, with some sort of tom tom drum ringtone that Toby has put on my phone as an alarm. Breakfast is cereal with UHT milk, or porridge (if there is electricity to run the microwave) and the boys take their malaria pills. Then I pack their school bag with their water, hat, sun cream, schoolbook and pen and 2 cedis (15p) for buying snacks at break. By 7am, it is shoes on, teeth brushed all the normal routine. They really try (where possible) to get a lift to school on the motorbike with Jeff, but if that is not on, they have to walk.

I remain at home on standby and the aim is for them to last at school until second break at 12pm. Sometimes they make it, but sometimes they reappear at the house needing the loo or feeling ill or upset that the other kids are laughing at them. I try to sort out whatever the problem is and get them back to school, but if they have to stay at home, I make sure it is extremely boring! Either intensive home schooling with me, or if they are “sick” they get to lie on their beds and get ever hotter as the morning progresses! Absolutely no screens!

I spend most of my time here on rather domestic chores. In this environment, you just have to invest more time in keeping the show on the road. So, I spend a lot of time cleaning the house and disinfecting the washroom and loo or sorting our food supplies to keep it clear of insects, mould or mice, last thing I need is an infestation! I need to make sure everyone has taken malaria pills, vitamins, creams have been applied, bodies washed, and teeth brushed, do not want to sample the dentistry provision here! 2 small boys produce an inordinate amount of hand washing, especially as it is so hot, and they seem to be very fond of rolling around in the dust, either fighting or saving that crucial penalty! Having said that the boys are now learning how to wash their own school uniform with Martha’s (aka Ma) help.

I also seem to spend a lot of time making sure there is a constant stream of cold drinking water in the fridge. This means collecting sacks of sachets from the filtering plant on the other side of town and then decanting the plastic sachets into old plastic bottles (which need to be disinfected periodically) and stacking them in the fridge. I go on hunter gather missions to find possible ingredients (that are not spicy!) for the boys melas and then I also do some of the cooking. Away from domestic duties, I am trying to help James with the set up his new farm services business that he is trying to set up for when he finishes working for the station at the end of the year after 27 years! I have been trying to help James and Martha out, as they have literally opened their doors to us and could not have been more generous or welcoming. If I can make their lives a bit easier, I at least owe them that! But I think the most help I can be is as driver doing errands to pick up people or things from town, which is no skin off my nose and throws up some interesting situations sometimes.

The other day, I took Ma into Walewale to cash a couple of cheques for James to pay the farmers as part of one of his projects. She presented the paperwork and then got taken to a back office, while I waited in the pleasantly AC of the main banking hall. After a while, I ducked into the back office to see what they were doing. They were literally stuffing wads of bank notes into huge bags, which each weighed well over 25kg!! Security bought them out to the car where I had been instructed to wait with the engine running (and sunglasses on!). It properly looked like a drug deal! When we got home the kids were amazed at the sight of so much money and thought it was extremely cool to wave wads of cash about!

Langbinsi is an archetypal market town with all life here somehow linked to the market. The market or “Daa” is held every 3 days.

On market day, the town springs to life and the main lorry park is crammed with all the market lorries emptying or loading goods. Every form of transport is on display bringing people and or produce to the market, or home again. Lorries, buses, motorbikes, rickshaws, donkey carts and bikes all weave in and out of each other, with scant regard to any highway code, while wandering livestock jump out of the harm’s way. The place is alive with people, many balancing large and varied loads on their heads. It is riot of colours and textures, a range of smells from nice to nasty and the general babble of people conducting business, with the occasional roar of laughter or raised voice of an altercation over the price. There are narrow lanes that in many placed require you to file through single file, squeezing past people carrying their wares on their head, whilst trying not to brain yourself on the shack roofs. There is a road around the back where Motorbikes barge their way through the throngs.

In the middle of the market there is an open area where people just plonk themselves down spread an old sack out and then lay out their wares. You step over, across, around people and produce. If you over balance, you are probably better to step on the tomato seller than her tomatoes! There are always tomatoes, as well as okra, onions, millet, soya, shea nuts, peanuts, rice, pepper, palm nuts, leaves for soup and of course yams. Seasonally you find surprises popping up for a few weeks, before disappearing without a trace. At the moment, melons are all the rage as well as piles of red potatoes! But mangos have had their season and there is not one to be found now. Sometimes you can find gardens produce, such as cabbages, green peppers and even the occasional carrot or cucumber. There are also other essential ingredients such as salt, stock cubes, tomato puree or oil laid out in small piles on ramshackle tables. The meat section is off to one side centred on a building inhabited by the butchers and lots of flies! You can easily recognise its purpose by some rather dejected looking goats that have been tied up to tree outside waiting their turn.

Vegetarianism is simply not a thing here. I was thinking about this the other day, I wondered why this was the case. My conclusion was that the reasons why people become vegetarian in the UK, simply don’t exist here. I’ll explain, I think most people who become vegetarian in the UK fall into 3 camps. 1) The emotional vegetarian - Society constantly anthropomorphizes animals and therefore, for some, it is an emotional reaction. They just feel killing an animal for food is inhuman. They must be terrified and, as it is unnecessary to our survival to eat meat, it is unjustifiable. 2) Practical vegetarians - they just can’t eat meat as don’t like it, or it does not like them. Some have religious bars on consumption or maybe financial limitations. 3) Moral vegetarian - They are primarily concerned about the ethics behind livestock production and the extremes of industrial farming. This might include worries about animal welfare, genetics, feeding and the impact of the industry on the environment etc. This points at ever widening level of distrust between livestock farmers and these consumers. So, back to Ghana, a) they don’t anthropomorphise animals b) Most see meat as a critical source of protein and flavour and a luxury, c) People in Langbinsi are so intimately connected and implicated in how the meat they consume is produced, looked after, killed and prepared, that, when it comes to eating it, for them it is totally natural and a normal part of daily life. Very little meat consumed in Langbinsi comes from distant, opaque, industrial farming system. The chicken you just eat was pecking around your yard an hour ago. I have been working for years to teach people in the UK where their food comes from, but this makes me think it is not just about telling them where their food comes from, but somehow getting them much closer to its production. Food for thought!

Last week we had Toby’s birthday, which was a challenge. We received lots of messages and we all made cards and I had some cloths made from local cloth. Martha put me in contact with my new best friend Calib. He used to cook for the doctors at the Baptist Medical Centre in Nalarigu and he offered to make a cake, (big tick for super Mum there!) Unfortunately, having made the cake, Calib got the wrong end of the stick with regards to delivery. He set off to deliver it to Langbinsi in a minibus, while we had simultaneously set off to Nalarigu in my pick up to collect it. After some confusion, we had a somewhat improbable exchange, of the rather battered cake, in a layby halfway! While we did the exchange, I also found out that Calib can make pizzas (good man to know!).

In the evening, Ma took the kids on a motorbike jaunt to visit the “spooky forest” in the dark, which they have been wanting to do for ages, and then they all dropped in at a bar for a coke, all very popular. I, meanwhile, made a birthday meal of potato fries, fried chicken and cabbage, which was popular, and it was rounded off by the birthday cake for pudding and us all singing happy birthday. I think we did well!

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