The fundamental purpose, and overarching theme, of my time here in Ghana has been to experience life as any anthropologist would wish when traveling abroad: To acculturate myself as quickly as possible. I felt that I had done so up to this point; from contracting malaria to happily consuming thrice fermented maize balls. The culmination of my mission was in acquiring a goat, and witnessing its preparation from life all the way to my dinner plate.
My story begins, not as my own, but as that of our zany friend Kojo John’s. He began seeking an appropriately priced goat for our July 4th jubilee at 8 am on Monday morning, bouncing from village to village, negotiating to his utmost abilities. He was offered prices ranging all the way up to 180 Ghana cedis (around $90 U.S.) down the a much more reasonable 80. He phoned us around noon and was pleased to inform us that he had gotten us a steal of 60 Ghana cedis (who wants a thirty dollar pizza when you can snag a thirty dollar Ghanaian goat?!). My feelings of excitement rose as Wednesday approached, knowing that I would finally see where my beloved dishes of goat meat came from was like a dream come true!
Tuesday afternoon around 4 pm, as I was napping, Dr. Cho pounded on my room door and shouted that I had to get ready now because we were leaving to obtain the goat! I stumbled and fumbled groggily to pull clothes on and nearly fell down the stairs….
Half an hour later, Kojo John strolled through the gate and greeted us in his cheery nature, the hunt was on!
Dr. Cho, Kaneisha, Joél, Kojo and myself all crammed into a 1987 Toyota Corolla that was going to take us to the village where our guest of honor was waiting and back to Zion house (Auntie Anne’s sister’s house where the butcher would meet us in the morning). Our ride was quick and when we got there, Kojo quickly weaved and bobbed through the village with us in tow until he finally stopped in front of an auspicious looking shed. He opened the door and beckoned us to follow inside. There he was, in all his stinky, ornery, furry glory: Billy (according to Kakra). He was all of eighteen inches tall at the shoulder and about two feet long, with black and white fur. We paid our vendor and headed back to the cab. Our driver was more than happy to help us hog him and place him in the trunk (goats are in no way potty trained); Kojo and Kaneisha parted ways with Dr. Cho, Joél and I and we were off to Zion house!
Our ride was only about twenty minutes but the goat was putting up a fight in the trunk that was pretty hard to ignore, and I was certain that he had undone his binds. I was correct and when we opened the trunk, Billy was walking around inside the trunk with a small puddle of urine to offend our nostrils. Dr. Cho paid the driver and I volunteered to walk Billy into the house…we stopped for a short photo-op that Joél and Dr. Cho thought was hilarious. Billy was a feisty one and would not go anywhere without a fight, but in the end, I prevailed has his walker and he was tied up. We bid our adieu and were informed that the butcher would be at the house at 7:30 the next morning to prepare Billy…I would have to wake up at six -__-
Fast forward a night of anticipation and 6:15 torrents of rain woke me up. The group, which consisted of Natalia, Nick, Liz, Joél, Kaneisha, Dr. Cho and myself made our way to Zion house and, much to our surprise, the butcher was actually waiting on us! Billy was ready for his moment!
Watching the slaughter was a unique experience. The animal let out one final scream before the butcher severed the trachea and we sat in silence as the animal bled out. The process continued with the butcher singeing all the hair off, washing the creature and disemboweling it. All in all, we were done by 11:30 am. I had a lot to reflect on but when I got back to the guest house I was ready to devour my beef flavored cup-o-noodles. I had a free afternoon and I use it to process the morning’s events and prepare to feast!
When we arrived at Fairhill Main for our dinner, I was famished! I had fasted all day to enjoy all the delicious meats Auntie Anne and Co. were preparing. I saw that they were putting the finishing touches on Billy, who was on the grill and prepared to taste! I was excited, I had never seen my dinner alive before it reached my plate; I had gained a new appreciation for protein. After we sat down, Auntie Anne came around and plopped the tray of goat meat down right in front of Alana and proudly announced that this was the goat we had killed in the morning! Alana turned green and left the table. I excitedly took a piece and chomped into it…stopping mid-bite, my heart sank as I tasted the unique smell that Billy’s species of goat emits. My throat wanted to reject the meat but I forced myself to douse it in hot sauce and tried again…to no avail. The simple reality, much to Joél and Liz’s joy, was that I could not bring myself to eat Billy.
I realized that I am indeed human and was forced to face this reality at dinner, in all places! I will never forget my time with Billy…just a boy and his goat.