Ghanaians are renowned for their hospitality, and make a special effort to welcome foreign experts who come to play a role in the country’s economic development. Professors visiting the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi were often overwhelmed by the reception accorded to them. The following is an account of a welcoming party designed to impress an English professor who was known to harbour somewhat negative views of Kumasi.
Kwame had asked Comfort to prepare dinner for Professor Thomas, Tom, Akos Mary and himself at her house at Nhyiasu. He drove the party there shortly after 5 pm, in time to appreciate the setting in daylight. They ascended the hill and turned into Nhyiasu, with its wide tree-lined roads, elegant colonial residences and extensive bougainvillea-bedecked gardens. As he turned into the driveway and approached the house, Kwame glanced to his right and was gratified to see a suitably impressed expression on the professor’s round red face.
Comfort welcomed her guests at her front door, attired in the full splendour of a traditional dress that was liable to induce arrhythmia in the sternest of male breasts. She invited the party to take drinks in the garden in the cooler evening air as the sun went down. Paying particular attention to Professor Thomas’s partialities, she flattered her principal guest by her solicitude.
Much to Kwame’s delight, Comfort did not rely solely on her own feminine charm to establish a decorous setting. The drinks and delicacies were served by young ladies who had obviously been chosen with great care. Seeing both the appreciation and question in Kwame’s expression, Comfort whispered in Twi, ‘I chose girls that Mrs Dodoo trained.’ So these comely and attentive waitresses had been instructed at the university swimming pool restaurant by the Nigerian catering guru. Guessing that some of their sisters were employed in the kitchen, Kwame looked forward to the dinner with even greater anticipation.
Comfort had prepared both Ghanaian and international dishes, so there was something to suit all tastes. Professor Thomas was persuaded to try small samples of local dishes but gained more sustenance from more familiar fare. Akos Mary could not resist her favourite snails with fufu and Tom and Kwame tried to do justice to almost everything presented to them. Comfort excused her modest intake on the grounds of watching her figure, a pastime shared by her three male guests.
After the meal, relaxing with more drinks, Comfort asked Professor Thomas how he liked Ghana. ‘So far,’ he said, ‘apart from the road from Accra, I’m impressed by all I have seen and heard. My welcome has been most gratifying. I must admit that Ghana is much different from how I imagined it to be and I am delighted that my colleagues assented to my request to come and see for myself.’
Kwame looked across at Tom who was beaming back in Comfort-induced euphoria. Kwame realised anew how appropriately his ex-wife had been named.