Cookie's Bliss Kumasi

International Women’s Day

Four generations of chip eaters – Camille’s father’s mother, mother, Camille and her mother’s mother, all from New York

I knew it was going to be a good day when I got up and realized that both the lights (Ghanaian for electricity) AND the water were on. I heard the washing machine chugging away before I left our bed and knew the gods were smiling on us. When I reached the kitchen, I saw our laundry bucket and realized that Bob had started a load before I woke up.

The water line that feeds the washing machine draws from city water rather than from the poly tank on our roof, so a machine load won’t happen until we have both water and lights. Lately, we get one or the other or none but not both so often and I was getting a bit concerned. In fact, one of the last things I said to Bob before delving into my latest post-colonial novel was, “I don’t know how I’m going to catch up the laundry at this rate.” So, Bob rescued our laundry situation by jumping on laundry as soon as he got up.

After breakfast Bob, Amy and I took a taxi to the Cultural Center to pick up some tailor-made wraps and order a shirt for Bob. Ellen greeted us happily and Amy and I tried on our colorful culottes while Bob chose the fabric for his new shirt.  We picked out several batiked bandanas as well and left the shop feeling quite pleased with ourselves. It really is amazing that you can have clothing custom made for only ¢25 or $12.50. And this includes the material!

Next we stopped down town at Ebeneezer’s Health Food Shop which is always a treat. Amy and I picked up some coconut oil, almonds and pumpkin seeds, chatted with the lovely staff and walked up to the corner by Opoku Trading Post to meet Bob. We met halfway, in front of the Oboni central produce stands and I noticed some beautiful cauliflower. We suspected they would want more for what we’ve been paying  ¢5 a head for at our local markets but I went ahead and approached the vendor anyhow. “Sen?” I asked (how? or how much?) pointing to the display of fluffy white heads.  Four cedis, she replied and Bob called over from the curb, “Get two!”

Amy, Molly and Emily Armantrout in their wedding dresses 1994
Amy, Molly and Emily Armantrout in their wedding dresses 1994

So now we’re really riding high and can’t imagine our day getting any better. Only it does. My destination this morning was the Golden Tulip where I had a play date with Chrissie and new friends Nicole and Laura. As we were running thirty minutes early (another unheard of circumstance in the land of unpredictable traffic) Bob and Amy joined me in the Tulip’s posh coffee shop for Lattes.  Which arrived promptly (again, ?!!!!) with a cute little shortbread cookie on the side.

I took a big swig of Alvaro and instantly teared up, not because it had arrived so quickly but because it was the coldest drink I’ve had in about eight months. Fizzy, too! “How’s your latte?” I asked Amy, stifling a belch. “Excellent,” she gushed, “I feel so… normal!” Indeed, the cool, clean and quiet room with attentive, smiling staff was something we might find in New York. Or Pittsboro. Maybe even Paris. A bit of an oasis, I thought as I leaned back and perused the menu. “Oh my god,” I almost burped again, “You can order CHOCOLATE CAKE here!”

First to arrive were Nicole who holds both South African and Australian passports and Laura, from Ireland. I met these two just this week and was very happy to introduce Bob and Amy to them. Nicole and Laura get together on a regular basis with some of our other mutual friends.We had a nice chat with them and as more women swooped into the coffee shop, Bob and Amy rose to leave. By now there were at least a dozen of us and someone brought it to our attention that it was International Women’s Day.

There was an irresistible Italian florist who has a wood-fired oven standing in her yard, lives close to us and takes order for pizza and lasagna. And a French lady who married a Ghanaian and has been here for years, living a couple hours outside of  Kumasi. Women from the United Kingdom, Australia, Lebanon all sat around the polished tables, sipping coffee and getting to know each other. And there I sat among them, the only American, wondering how I happened to be in their company. Many of the others wondered the same thing. No one had planned for this many women to gather on this day. It had just happened.

For a couple of hours we chatted about family and economies and travel and Ghana and got to know each other in groups of twos and threes until those groups began breaking up as people left to rejoin their other life. When I reached home, Amy and I pulled together a fabulous meal for our housemates and shared our stories of the day over dinner. After the dishes were washed and cards played, I booted up my browser and saw that Bob had emailed me a link to an article in Yes Magazine and so I read a little about the origins of International Women’s Day.

The New York women who started a movement in 1857
The New York women who started a movement in 1857

Turns out the day is set aside to commemorate progress in human rights world wide. And was started by a group of American women protesting against low wages and poor working conditions. But for me, the significance of the day was much less noble. To me, the day was one of happy happenstance, rich interactions with women from all over the world and the creature comforts of a great life with family and friends.

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.