I remember walking down that one, gritty asphalt road to the Ghanaian market that sold everything. It sold everything, but I don’t know who to – it seemed like everyone around me had any money to buy anything. I guess because they would always ask us for money, I assumed they didn’t have any of their own. I’m also sure that the market stall owners inflated their prices for us too. But even so, everything was cheap to begin with. I really don’t know who was buying those things in the market, but somehow, profit was made.
People cooked things in the market. I often bought roasted sweet corn from a small, thin boy with skin the color of cocoa powder, sitting behind a makeshift grill. He wore orange flip flops. People cooked things using flames, and coal – that’s what made the smoke, made everything smell like a camp fire. Sometimes you could get an omelette; if you were “on the go” they found a plastic bag for you and slid it inside.
Everyone cooked over an open fire in Ghana. Microwaves don’t exist. There are no stoves or ovens, except those made from clay. You might be able to find a hot pot or a small range, but why bother? You can boil anything you need over the flames. Everyone else does, and it saves on electricity.
In Slovakia we made a fire to commemorate special anniversaries of Czechoslovak history. An eternal flame, supposed to signify the determination of Slovaks during the troubling time of Communism, but with this generation, no one really cared about it so much. We roasted Eastern European marshmallows over it and toasted bread and onions on the logs. My favorite sweater, the sweater I wore all the time in Slovakia, always smelled like singed wood. My favorite sweater kept my favorite smell.
We stayed in the Jizera Mountains during our last week in the Czech Republic, at a small pension made up of two cabins. It was bare bones but comfortable – the toilet gave off a raw sewage scent but what did you expect from a rural, former Communist town? The whole complex was heated by wood burning stoves. I sat near the largest stove, in the dining room, uploading four months of photos onto Sarah’s computer. She was making a slide show.
I started to cry.