SAS Ghana: Malata Market Return

During my three days in Accra, every morning I passed through Malata Market. This market became a second home as I attended culinary school during my year abroad, and over time I learned the intricacies of the pathways and the African market system. As the year progressed, the sellers I visited most often came to become my closest friends.
I was a bit worried that they may have forgotten me during my time away, but as soon as I arrived to the market’s entrance, the kontomire sellers yelled my Ghanaian name and greeted me with an, “Eiii Kwadwo!” Most asked where I had been, many asked if I was now married, and several remarked (as a compliment) that I had gotten fat. Following are my favorite photos from my time in the market.


ghana malata market onion sellerghana accra malata market

ghana malata market seller eating lunchghana malata market pepper seller

On my last day in Accra, I printed several 4×6 photos from two years ago and gave copies to the women in the photos.

ghana malata market return avery segal

I left the market stocked with gifts: several bracelets, the above yellow apron, many mangos, at least ten pounds of papayas, and a lifetime’s supply of agushi (watermelon seeds). Malata Market has soul, and epitomizes the differences between large retail stores/supermarkets and a community shopping experience. For this I say that Malata will always be my home.

SAS: Ghana Highlights

Reunions: It was pretty awesome to have the opportunity to reunite with everyone whom I haven’t seen in two years. Some I was able to tell about my impending arrival, but I also thoroughly enjoyed the reaction of those whom I surprised. When I came knocking on Ida’s host mom’s door, she exclaimed, “Oh my- are you a ghost?!”

ghana host mom and avery

Above: Host Mom at home

Below: Auntie Charity, my culinary school teacher, at Flair

ghana flair cooking school teacher

Two of this year’s YES Abroad students in Cape Coast:

ghana yes abroad alumni and current students

The Food: It’s been at least two years since I’ve had solid Ghanaian food. Sure, I can make it, but the ingredients can be a bit difficult to find in the US, and time is pretty limited with college classes and in college, time is pretty limited. Following are several of my favorite dishes.

Grilled tilapia:

ghana grilled tilapia

Groundnut soup with omo tuo (peanut butter soup with rice balls)

ghana groundnut soup and omo tuo

Jollof rice (rice cooked in tomato stew) with fried chicken:








ghana jollof rice with chicken

Okra stew with goat meat:

ghana okra soup

Ezile Bay Village Ecolodge: I ended my return to Ghana with two days in Ezile Bay Village. This off the beaten path Akwidda ecolodge is a beach paradise. After planning over 10 countries, it was nice to do some good old fashioned relaxing (and soccer).

ghana beach soccer with kids

ghana ezile bay village beachkids

Travel Channel: Street Foods International Premiere

travel channel and tremendous logo

The premiere of the final African-themed Travel Channel special I assisted with during my year in Ghana with YES Abroad is fast approaching!

Street Foods International: February 13, 2013 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time

Following is the video of my appearance on Fast Foods Gone Global: Africa.


Note: ‘Caramelly’ definitely sounded like a real word to me when I was ‘in the moment’. I apologize immensely to every English teacher I’ve had over the previous 12 years. Here’s a cute kitty photo I took during the shoot to make up for me inventing words…

cute kitty ghana

For Street Foods International, the upcoming show, I will make one solo cameo, one with my cooking school teacher Auntie Charity, and a final one with my fellow YES Abroad friends.

auntie charity interview

All in all it should make a pretty great episode with plenty of good Ghanaian eats including wagashi, okra stew, and the following pounded fermented rice pancake that I can’t seem to remember the local name of:

carl filming pounded rice pancake

Anyways I hope y’all can find the time to tune into my next appearance! It was a blast having the opportunity to be Production Assistant, and I’m sure that the end result will be fantastic.

ayoyo stew

Travel Channel Announcement

travel channel and tremendous logo

I am elated to announce the following dates for two African-themed Travel Channel specials that I assisted with during my year in Ghana with YES Abroad.

Fast Foods Gone Global: January 2, 2013 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time

Street Foods International: February 13, 2013 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time

EDIT: The show will replay on Wednesday, March 13 at 3:00 PM EST!

While I want to keep some aspects of this experience secret until the shows air, I do want to answer two questions about the experience in advance:

How did they find you?!

The first show I helped out with is Fast Foods Gone Global. Coincidentally, I wrote a blog posted called Ghanaian Fast Food. Tremendous! Entertainment found this post, and we exchanged e-mails for multiple months. Eventually, I was asked to be their Production Assistant.

‘Production Assistant’ sounds fancy, what on earth did you do?!

Basically I assisted with scheduling, local-food knowledge  and on-camera talent. Occasionally,  I did voice-overs for the writers so they could know exactly what they were looking at being filmed.

travel channel voiceover

For Fast Foods Gone Global, I was involved behind-the-scenes, although I may have a cameo or two. Both shows showcase all of Africa, so Ghana will be featured for roughly 6-10 minutes of the hour.

For Street Foods International, I filmed  segments with Auntie Charity (my cooking school teacher), and with my fellow YES Abroad students. It was a blast getting everyone involved, and I look forward to seeing the end result.

travel channel eating with auntie charity

I would like to thank Matt of Tremendous Inc!, Patrick, Mike, Carl, Robin, Eunice, Auntie Charity, and everyone else I had the pleasure of working with during my three-day stint as Production Assistant.  Our brief time spent filming was the pinnacle of my Ghana experience, and gave me a fantastic means to share everything I learned throughout my year abroad.

travel channel patrick and robin

And once again, another thank you to the fabulous staff and volunteers of YES Abroad, AFS-USA, AFS-GH, the American-Ghanaian Embassies, Flair Catering, and fellow exchange students to Ghana. I would not have had such a monumental experience without the effort of each and every one of you, and cannot thank you enough.

travel channel beach sceneFor everyone new checking out my blog, please feel free to subscribe to future posts using the button on the right sidebar. I will be sending out future Travel Channel updates and news closer to the shows’ release.

Happy Holidays,

Avery Segal

Melcom Shopping Center Disaster

In Ghana, I visited two malls: Accra Mall and Melcom. The former is two stories with a movie theater, Apple store, and primarily western designer clothing stores. Melcom is a four-story behemoth comparable to a Walmart.

Photo taken by me last January at Melcom

Shortly before opening for business yesterday, the building’s foundation collapsed.

Photo by BBC News

This collapse claimed 14 lives while injuring over 70 who have been pulled from the rubble. And while there are no official accounts of how many were inside at the time, there are likely more injuries to come.

Photo by BBC News

The building did not have a permit, and was possibly never inspected. Authorities are now searching for the owner of the building.

Photo by BBC News

I remember sitting down and buying kettle corn on the top floor of Melcom. The thought that such a new looking building could instantly collapse is honestly disturbing to me.  Also disturbing is the following photo I took with Santa while inside Melcom.

Photo taken last January at Melcom

According to the Ghana Daily Guide, Isaac Listowel, an air conditioner repairer for Melcom, saw one of the pillars of the Melcom walls with cracks last Sunday afternoon and reported the matter to one of the supervisors for action. He took no action, retorting, “The Lord is with us”, and left.

It’s rather astounding to think that such a massive four-story building can be built without permits and operate for such a length of time without being noticed by authorities. I only hope that the Ghanaian people remember this situation in the future, to ensure that such a travesty will never happen again.

 My heart goes out to all those affected by the tragedy.

Aboa bi bɔka wo a, ɔfiri wo ntoma mu. 

Edit: As some have noticed, the Melcom I took the photos in was not the one that collapsed.

Favorite Places to Eat in Accra

Note: This list is dated as of 2012. Whether or not these places still exist, I cannot personally testify. Thank you and happy eating!

Between chop bars [local eateries with food ready-made] and fast food, local Ghanaian food is easy to get and delicious. For foreign foods, not so much. For the ex-pats visiting or living in Accra, knowing which eateries are worth visiting can be an issue. While I didn’t have time to visit every restaurant in Accra, the following were my favorites compiled throughout my stay in Ghana.

Amber Catering [$5-$10]

This eatery offers hands down the best filleted fish in Accra. The charcoal grilled grouper is tender, flaky, and very well seasoned. It’s so tasty that it is the only dish I ever ordered off the menu.

To get there from Koala Supermarket, walk down Oxford Street until you reach the Vodafone cross street. Turn left, and take the road until the end. You’ll see a Presbyterian church – this two-story restaurant is located across from it.

Arlecchino [$2-$3]

Accra’s premiere Oxford Street gelataria offers nearly 20 flavors.  Personal favorites include mango, cashew, coconut, and dark chocolate.

Large groups should consider purchasing a container to share – it really saves money.

Eddys Pizza [$7-$15]

Located opposite Paloma Casino nearby Kwame Nkrumah Circle, this popular pizzeria serves massive pizzas, salads, and wings in a comfortable & friendly atmosphere. One large/jumbo pizza can easily serve 4-5, and is far better than any of the Pizza Inn chains.

Jasmine [$5+]

I came to Jasmine for the delicious Thai food, but stayed for the unbelievable friendliness of Toy,;the chef. Ask her for the $5 [10 cedi] lunch special even at dinnertime – it comes with plenty of  food. Favorite dishes include summer rolls, drunken noodles, tom kah gai, and pad Thai. The noodles are truly outstanding.

To get here from Koala, turn right at Vodafone, and then left at the end of that cross street. It’s located just past Mama Mia Pizzaria.

Summer Rolls

Drunken Noodles

Koh-I-Noor [$2-5 appetizers, $4-8 entrés]

While Indian food is still not my favorite, this Osu restaurant helped change my mind. I absolutely adore their mint chutney sauce, especially when paired with samosas or naan bread.

Vegetable Samosas

Aloo Gobi & Garlic Naan

Farm [Vegetable] Curry

Nourish Lab Smoothy’s [$3 smoothies/$4 sandwiches]

This popular Oxford Street obruni hangout spot serves smoothies, paninis, and wraps in a relaxed environment. Smooth elevator music plays as patrons use free wifi – which in reality almost never works. Their 50+ varieties of smoothies are hit or miss – good advice is to avoid those with paw paw [papaya] and order those with berries.

The paninis come standard with ranch – if you want other dressings  it’ll cost $0.50 extra.

Tip Top Chinese [$5 lunch, $6-8 dinner]

This Oxford Street restaurant offers fresh Asian food with plenty of vegetable and noodle options. The owner is very friendly, often helping me practice my [limited] Chinese. Try the chicken and mushroom soup appetizer – it is life changing.

Soup Noodles with Chicken and Mushrooms

Bird’s Nest [Crispy Fried Noodles]

Traffix Catering [$3-$4 upstairs, $8-$10 downstairs]

This restaurant [also the location of my internship] offers some of the tastiest local and Chinese food in Ghana. Their upstairs eatery offers some of the same food at a fraction of the price, but the tastiest part of this restaurant is the downstairs buffet. For $10 they serve eight dishes ‘all you can eat’.  All of the Ghanaian meals have a ‘clean and pure’ taste to them – unlike many chop bars and street food.

I don’t have many photos of their food, but personal favorites include okra soup, light soup, and rice dishes with their garlic/ginger vegetable sauce.

Fried Rice with Chinese Chicken Sauce


YES Abroad Ghana: Coming Home


It’s been the better part of year since I left America for Ghana. 66 blog posts and 387 coconuts later, here I am!

I’ve bought my last souvenir, packed my suitcases to the brim, eaten my last fufu.

During the year I’ve thought about giving up and leaving early, missed my brother’s wedding, watched friends move on past their high school days.

Was the experience worth it? Do I really recommend it to others? If I could go back would I do it all again?

Despite all the troubles, I emphatically answer YES to all the above questions.

Being an exchange student for 10 months in a third world country can be rough. The distractions of keeping in touch with everyone from back home and traveling independently are great in the moment, but hurt in the end. Back in months 3-5, I was seriously considering packing my bags and heading home. The only thing that kept me going at that point was my blog.

What made my exchange worth it was the people. The realization that despite poverty, religion and skin color; we are all one people.

What of the chef who instructed me to go to the market and buy ingredients, most of which I’ve never even heard of? She’s my auntie. The wrinkly woman in the market selling bags of purified water for a nickel apiece? She’s my grandmother. And the other YES Abroad students/other AFS participants? They’re my brothers and sisters.

Blogging has been an imperfect window into my life abroad – many experiences simply cannot be articulated online. I don’t think any amount of writing can do justice to the beauty of the squalor that is Malata market. Neither can I explain what it’s like to have brothers all across  the world, nor the feeling of comfort  when sharing one bowl of soup using only right hands to eat. They are things one must experience for oneself.

People doubted my leaving America to come to Ghana. I doubted my leaving America to come to Ghana. Ghanaians were boggled that I would do such a thing.

It took 10 months, but the whole exchange is finally making sense. While I don’t think I can explain online what I gained from this experience, I will say this: Never forget to be grateful for everything you have.

To New YES students: Your experience has only just begun. Stereotypes thrive on ignorance; we are the 1{3a5a0fd47fd42b6497167aecc6170a94848f1ba936db07c4954344fcfff1d528}. We’ve lived with Muslim families for the better part of a year without hearing about bombs. s. And most of all, we’ve proved that Obruni or Obibini, black or white, Muslim or atheist, we are all human beings.

Let us think of ourselves as human beings; not defined by country lines, religion, or skin color. Superficialities beyond our control don’t define us; we are all human beings; citizens of the world.

I’d like to thank the State Department, everyone involved with YES Abroad, AFS Ghana, and the US Embassy for everything they’ve done. I believe in this scholarship’s mission, and will do everything I can to give back. Another thank you to my two outstanding host families. Finally, thank you to my fellow Americans for their support throughout this year. Drew, Adriana, Balthazar, Bany, Logan, and Kyla – I couldn’t have made it without you.

To Americans, Ghanaians, and YES Abroaders alike– Judge individuals rather than groups. Defy the status quo. If someone says “it’s impossible”, use their doubt as motivation to prove them wrong.

We will change the world.

Street Flooding in Accra

The rainy season is well underway in Ghana!


Yesterday afternoon, I left the house to eat at a local restaurant and then visit friends in Roman Ridge, where I used to live. Shortly after my plate of Thai noodles arrived, the power went out. I looked outside, noticing how ominous the sky had become during my meal.

I needed to get my bill ASAP. I looked around the dark restaurant for the waiter; he was nowhere to be seen.

As thunder continued to sound; I approached the door of the kitchen. I knocked several times, only to get no response from within. I gingerly opened the door, and found exactly what I was looking for. My waiter was sitting in a chair, with his head leaning against a desk. He was fast asleep. I cleared my throat, and he lurched awake. “Eii sorry-o,” he repeated several times.

After receiving my bill, I grabbed money from my wallet and quickly placed it on his bed [desk]. Rushing out of the kitchen, I grabbed my bag and reached for the door. But alas, my speed was in vain.

Zeus was having a major temper tantrum. The sky – bleak and gray – was lit up with continual flashes of lightning. The rain was coming down nearly sideways. A few brave souls could be seen outside covering their heads with plastic bags and dashing for the nearest bus stop.

Leaving the restaurant at this time would’ve been madness, so I sat and read The Dressmaker of Khair Khana for the next hour. As soon as there was a lull in the storm, I threw my Kindle in my man-bag and ran for the main road.

I underestimated the extent to which the storm had slowed. It was still pouring; in the 20 seconds it took me to reach the main road, my clothes were drenched.  I tried flagging down a taxi, but none would stop because the right lane of the two-lane road was flooded.

It was raining so hard that it was difficult to keep my eyes open; I couldn’t keep waiting for a taxi on the side of the road. I ran for a balcony covering nearby, where several Ghanaians stood there waiting for the rain to finish. As I approached, they scooted over and made room. All eyes were on me, the obruni, as I proceeded to squeeze out a steady stream of water from my drenched clothing.

Over the next two hours, I stood under the balcony with the women and children [and recorded the video above]. I was soaked to the core and shivering from wind gusts. Nonetheless, I was kept amused by watching people make their way through the street. Schoolgirls waded through the water, holding their dresses high to not become dirty from the murky water. A ‘pure’ water seller balanced her bucket upside-down on her head to use as a makeshift umbrella. At one point a motorcycle driver sped through the flood water at 30+ MPH, creating a stream of water that rose high above his head.

At long last, the rain slowed to a drizzle. I said goodbye to my friends whom I shared the cover with, and waded through the knee-deep water to reach a trotro. I got off at my street junction, elated to finally make it home.

My heart sunk when my eyes beheld the following sight:

The above ‘river’ is the dirt road to my house. After unsuccessfully waiting for 30 minutes for the water to recede, I went to a internet cafe to waste the day away. At night I returned, found a taxi driver crazy enough to drive through foot-deep water to my driveway, and took a much-needed shower before falling fast asleep.

YES Abroad Ghana Q&A Part Two

To see the first Q&A, click here.

1. What are you doing once you return home?

I return home on July 3rd. After a long shower, I will [hopefully] be eating Israeli couscous served with mango chipotle salmon and sautéed brussels sprouts/asparagus.

After satisfying my taste buds, my plans for the summer are as follows:

July 5-10: Madison, WI
July 16-18: UF Preview
July 25-30: Chicago/Iowa
August 2-12: Seattle
Somewhere between August 18-22: Move to Gainesville for UF

2. Did your dreams change? I mean the ones you have during sleep.

Although I’m not entirely sure what the implications/meanings of this question are, I will say that I sleep like a rock here in Ghana. My brother Stanley always exclaims, “Eii Charlie; you can sleep Kwadwo!”

I hardly ever remember my dreams – besides the one from a couple of weeks ago where I lost an arm and had to beg on the streets to pay for my plane ticket home…

3. What was the scariest thing you experienced?

The infamous football mob. It was horrible; I am lucky to have escaped when I did.

4. What is the one event you will remember for a lifetime?

Besides my encounters with a spider  and story from Cape Coast, I have to mention the women of Malata market will forever be in my heart.

 I love them all, which is why I have formally accepted marriage proposals from no less than four women. Polygamy aside, they are fantastic people. They live in squalor – selling vegetables here and there for coins. But they are some of the most sincere, gentle, and kind women I’ve met. They pamper me – treating me with samples, special deals, and often giving me produce for free despite being fully aware that I am capable of paying 10 cents for a papaya. I will truly miss my ‘Sisters’ and ‘Aunties’ of Malata market.

5. How has your experience in Craig Price’s improv comedy classes helped you with communication, friendships, interpersonal relationships and your overall experience in Ghana?

In general, I see life as improvisation. No matter what your job [lawyer, salesman, dentist, or teacher] there is some level of improvisation involved.

My stay in Ghana has been all about putting myself out there. Just by being white, I automatically get an abnormal amount of attention. I am often the first American that Ghanaians have ever met or spoken with. Being seen abroad creates impressions of your country; it’s up to you whether they are positive or negative.

I will say that my puns [which I practiced in Craig’s improvisation classes] have a tendency to hurt relationships with Ghanaians. They are almost never understood, leading to awkwardness.

5. How do you think you’ll reaclimate to American culture? What challenges do you foresee?

Quite honestly, I think I’ll re-adjust very easily. I don’t foresee any major challenges, just the following minor ones:

  • Air conditioning will be freezing.
  • Life without owning a car isn’t nearly as easy in Florida.
  • I’ve started mixing up Spanish and Twi with my limited knowledge of Korean and Chinese.
  • Trying to catch up with movies. I can’t wait for The Hunger Games, Madagascar 3, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,  and Rock of Ages.
  • I cannot imagine living without hawkers on the street selling food and water in baskets on their heads. Seriously… what happens if I get hungry or thirsty on the road?!

6. Do you have any tips for those going to Ghana next year with YES?

Let your host family know straight from the beginning what you want to get out of the experience, and [if] you plan on traveling independently. Don’t assume anything; tell them up front why you’re here and what your expectations are. Ask for your family’s feelings and expectations as well. Every family has a reason for hosting you; they don’t get paid for doing it. Know their expectations and balance  them with yours. If expectations conflict, sit down and have a good talk with your family. Try to understand why they act the way they do.

On the subject of school, know that after completing high school Ghanaians do not receive their diploma. They first must pass the WASCE – the Ghanaian version of the SAT. It is pass or fail; failing can ruin your life. Teachers will teach ‘to the textbook’, in the manner of rote memorization. It may seem like they’re not teaching, but that is what’s required to pass their final exams. It can be brutal, one reason I personally switched to catering school. But according to Kyla, “I made a lot of really great friends that otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten to know so well. It ended up being very rewarding sticking with school.”

Exchange is a test – of ups and downs. Days vary between wonderful, horrible, and everything in-between. Know your limits and don’t be afraid to politely speak up. If you don’t get what you want out of your host year, you have only yourself to blame.

At the end of the year, you’ll be shocked at how fast it flew by. There will be rough spots [months 3-5 personally], but part of the experience is learning to endure. You’ll come out all the better.


I want to give a shoutout to my favorite AFS Frenchman, Balthazar. He left Ghana yesterday, after finishing his year program. When I met Balthy in the Amsterdam airport, we could hardly understand each other and I had to repeat anything I said at least 3-4 times for him to understand.

Fast forward 10 months, I am amazed. His newfound ability to speak and understand English as well as ‘pull-off’ wearing tres chic scarves is shocking. His humor transcends the language barrier, and he’s been a great friend. But above all he was, and always will be, my bro.

Thank you to everyone who has kept in touch throughout my year abroad. I realize it’s tough doing that from halfway across the world, and I sincerely appreciate the effort.