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.

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.

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.


YES Abroad Ghana: Last Month Q&A

1. When do you come home?

I leave Ghana on June 30th and have a return orientation in Washington D.C. I return to Naples on July 3rd.

2. Do you want to come home?

In most ways I do. That being said, certain places in Ghana seem like home to me. I feel like part of the family at Malata market and around Roman Ridge [where I lived with my first family]. As soon as I visit both places, the sound of women yelling “Kwadwo” fills the air, and I am greeted with hugs and adoration.

Nonetheless, I am excited for the convenience of Whole Foods Market and not  having to shower out of a bucket.

3. What will your first three meals be in Naples?

Meal #1: Israeli couscous with mango glazed sockeye salmon accompanied by sautéed brussels sprouts and asparagus.

Meal #2: Toasted ‘everything’ bagel with freshly made pesto and smoked whitefish, topped with sliced tomato and avocado.

Meal #3: Siam Thai Cafe – Pad kee mao [rice noodles with a basil sauce] and massaman curry with extra broccoli.

4. How are you spending your final weeks in Ghana?

Now that I am finished with Flair Catering, I have begun a two-week internship with Trafix Catering. This popular restaurant and catering service is located in the National Theater, seen below.

Since I already know how to cook the majority of Ghanaian and Continental dishes, I am waiting tables and generally making friends with the Ghanaians. It’s great being able to use Twi to interact with Ghanaians and share my experiences with them. I also love watching the occasional obruni customer [attempt to] eat local dishes without silverware.

After my internship ends, I will be going on a final trip to Takoradi before ultimately preparing for my departure.

5. Did you ever get sick in Ghana?

Besides one episode of food poisoning, no. I love Ghana; I don’t even have my usual morning allergies here! As far as food poisoning is concerned, I strongly recommend future visitors to NEVER eat salad sold on the street.

6. Do you think you’ll miss the ‘foreign’ experience enough that you may want to eventually live in another country? 

I have no problems with living abroad, provided I can find stable internet connections. But unless my future job calls for it, America is one of the best places in the world to live… despite the recent cannibalism/zombie apocalypse trend.

7. How has this trip changed you?

For better or worse, I see myself as:

  • More eager to see the world.
  • More likely to eat my weight in broccoli during my first week in America.
  • More likely to question the status quo [aka complain].
  • More easygoing; things often turn out for the better when you don’t plan them.
  • More blunt; eating around the bush wastes time.
  • More likely to stop and ask for directions.
  • More patriotic; most Americans don’t realize how truly lucky they are. Back home, parents raise kids telling them that they can be ‘anything they want to be’. For the most part, it’s true. For children abroad, it isn’t.
  • And finally, less scared of boa constrictors:

8. Will you cook for me? 

Sure thing Aunt Liz! I’ve already found several websites to buy the common Ghanaian ingredients online.

Shikenan African Shop

Aboasa International Market

Get ready Americans; you’re about to get your first taste of  fufu, palm nut soup, pollo, and a bunch of other Ghanaian goodies!

If you have any other questions you’d like to see answered, leave them in the comments section below.