Hannah Banana, as she is known here at the volunteer house, cooks for us from Monday to Sunday. She makes breakfast, lunch and dinner for the rotating crew of volunteers that come through from all over the world. Hannah has been doing this for about two years now. She grew up in the north, where her family lives, and has had what one might call a ‘character-building childhood’. Hannah was in school until about age 14, but school was not something that could hold her attention. Most of the time she was distracted by an empty stomach, or her mind was at the market, where she sold matches. On a good day, she could make one cedi fifty pesewas, or about 34 American cents. Then Hannah had enough to buy plain rice with stew, and the next day buy a ball of mashed corn with oil at school. She lived with many different family members as she grew up, and not all were hospitable.
Hannah is the master of sass, and she has spent a lifetime earning it.
January 20 2017 Accra, Ghana
Dayna: If you could have any superpower in the world, what would you choose to be your superpower?
Hannah: Like how? What will I want to be in future or what will I want to do?
Dayna: No. Superpower… you know, like, um…
D: Yeah, like a magical power you could have. What would it be?
H: Um… what will it be? It should be, um… what should it be? For now I… I don’t know.
D: Anything. What comes to your mind?
H: I would like to change the world.
D: Okay. How?
H: How? Like, um… sometimes I just see someone like, an old person or… um, a poor person that I feel bad ’cause I want to help, but I can’t ’cause I’m like… the way I want to help, I don’t have that kind of help. So if I could have superpower, I would like to change the world so that everybody could live a comfortable life without suffering, and like… then they can have– those who don’t have… the needy… those who need, then they won’t like anything. That’s what I could have change. For everybody to live a comfortable life. Not to suffer. Yes.
D: What would you use to do that? Would you give them money, or?
H: Yeah! Some of them, you just give them some money to start with something to do, like something to start to do, then they can be earning something from it. Because if you be giving money to them, then say, “okay, I give you this money. You can spend it.” And next month or two weeks later then money will finish, right. If you give them money to start up with something, like, “oh use this for this. What business can you do?” Then you give him the money, and he can start up the business. Then the more um… he can be earning profit and the business can be increasing more and then said like, if you want to help someone you have to help him to start with something, not to be giving him something all the time. Then you are just destroying his life. But if you really want to help, give him something, ask him, “what do you want to do?” And if you can help, help him with something he can do to help himself. Yeah. That’s what I could do.
D: Okay, so you help them help themselves.
D: Okay, what is one thing that wakes you up every morning?
H: One thing wakes me up… ha. Usually I can say… I would say my work. Because when I’m sleeping half of my brain is at sleep and half of it is about thinking about how to go to work in the morning. So when I’m sleeping, if I don’t go to work those days, I sleep much longer, but if I’m going to work I wake up so early. So the one thing that makes me wake up early is my work.
D: Okay, is it because you are stressed out about work or you’re excited to go to work?
H: I’m stressed, like, I’m fed up, but I don’t have a choice. For now, I can’t be sleeping and like, eating, I need to work. If I had a choice, I wouldn’t be coming early in the morning. I wouldn’t be working all the time. I would like to have some time by myself, just to spend time with my family and things, but to do that, it’s all about money. So if I want to spend time with my family, like, or to say, like, I want a month off, I need money. So sometimes I just think about that and I’m like, okay. I have to work. Because if I’m going to stop working, the money I save, it will be the same money that I’m going to be spending. And I don’t have anything ’cause I really want to work and save money for something future reasons. So I just have to be patient and be working until I achieve my dreams for now.
D: How long do you think it would take to save enough money to take a month off?
H: Wow. For now, I don’t know ’cause the thing I want to do is a lot of money. I want to have a restaurant. Yeah, and for a restaurant, I have to get a plot, and I have to build a place. Like, it’s a huge set of money that I don’t know when I will stop working. I still don’t know when.
D: How much money do you have to have for that?
H: The last time, when I was asking about, like, how will I… the amount of the plot that they were talking, it was so expensive that I don’t have that kind of money yet. ‘Cause expensive.
D: Are you saving right now for that?
H: Yeah, I’m saving but I don’t know when will I have that kind of money. I don’t know whether two years, three years, I still don’t know. I just hope that I have… can just come out from somewhere ’cause I can’t do it alone.
D: Do you want to have someone partner with you to do the restaurant?
H: Like um, I have some friends who always say, “Hannah, I will help you when I get money. I will help you to have for your dreams to come true.” So I’m always praying that for those who always want to help for me to achieve my dreams, may God let them get what they also want in life so they can also help me. Is not like they going to be my partners, no, but they just going to help me so that when I make it, it’s going to be mine, just that they’re going to give me help.
D: Okay, I see. And you want to do traditional Ghanaian dishes, or?
H: Oh, I don’t know because I would like to do everything, like, I would like to be doing fried rice and fries and all that, and I would like to do local dishes. It depends on how I start, you know when you’re going to do something you start by little, but the more things, like you getting more money, the more you expand it. So for to start, I would start with fried rice if I’m going to have my restaurant for now. I know I don’t have money to make it so big. But I’ll do something little for now and I’ll start with fried rice and spaghettis or noodles, and little by little. But when I get more money I expand it, like do local dishes and spring rolls and all that. But for now, I don’t have the money. Even if I have the money to open the small one, I have to buy like gas cylinders, stove, burners, you understand, like, pots to start. It’s a lot. I don’t know when, I just pray that I get help.
D: It’s good to let people know what you’re doing, because maybe they will be able to help you or know someone who can.
H: I just don’t want to bother people. I’ve met so many volunteers and if I ask for help, they’ll help. I just don’t want to bother them. People that just make up their mind to help me, I accept it but to go to them and ask them “can you help me?” I don’t know how much she earns, and I don’t know also how she lives her life there. I don’t know whether life is easy for them or not so I can’t be just asking. If you know that life is comfortable with you and you know that “oh, I’ll like to help you,” it’s fine by me. But to come to you, oh I don’t think I can do that. ‘Cause the life is really difficult, so I feel like it’s difficult for you too. if you want to help me, I would really like appreciate, too. ‘Cause I always say to my friends, like, “I want to have a restaurant one day,” and all that. I tell them but I always say that I can’t make it alone, I will hope I’ll get help, but others say, “oh, I would love to help you if I get money.” See? So it depends if you want to help and if you don’t want to help.
Some of them, when you tell them, they feel like… when you ask them, they think I’m here begging them. I don’t want that. I just, if you make up your mind ’cause I once tell you I want a restaurant but I can’t do it alone, and you just call me and be like, “oh, Hannah, now I want to help you to do your restaurant.” Like, “how might you think I can help?” or “I want to give you this side of money to help you.” I would really be grateful and appreciate it, but to call you and tell you “do you want to help me to do this,” I just don’t want them to feel like I’m begging them. I feel bad. I don’t want that.
D: What place would you want to have it?
H: In the north.
D: So you want to go back to the north?
H: I’m not happy here. I’m just here ’cause I need to work.
D: Is there no work in the north?
H: No no no no no. There’s not.
D: That’s where all your family is.
H: Yeah yeah yeah. Yes. You see. I like it here, ’cause I always want to come and visit, and hang out a little in Accra, but, I don’t think… you know, I don’t have friends here, and I’m always, like, at home. It’s the volunteers that I always have as friends. So in the north are my childhood friends, we hang out a lot. I prefer in the north and I know if I open a restaurant in the north, I’ll earn money then.
D: Yeah, and you get to be with your friends and family.
H: Mhmm. And there I can get marketed than here because here they have big big restaurant and they won’t leave that huge restaurant just to come for my food.
D: Do you want a big restaurant?
H: For now I can’t, but just for something little. I was planning to, like… something like… something long like this, [gesturing with her hands] a room long, and divide it something, divide it into two part, and here will be like where we cook, and here will be like where they stand, and here will be like where they sit to eat.
D: Okay, so you have a big kitchen and then the seating area.
H: Yeah, I will cross something like a wall, then when you come to buy food you stand here to talk with me, and then I’ll go to the kitchen and serve you. I just want something long.
D: Okay. That’s good because it’s a simple concept and it’s not hard to do.
H: Yep. For now, if I have money, that’s what I’ll do.
D: What is the most beautiful place that you know of? It could be a place that you have been to or haven’t.
H: I’ve never been anywhere. The only place I’ve ever been in is just in Accra and Kumasi. I’ve never been outside Ghana so I don’t know a nice place
D: I mean, it could be a place that you’ve heard about or maybe seen on TV or something, or it could be a place that you’ve been to. But what’s the most beautiful place that you know of?
H: All the place… I’ve never been to a very beautiful place.
H: Never. I can say Accra is the place I’ve ever been that is beautiful. ‘Cause in the north my mom is from a village and the village, there’s not like electricity, there’s just trees around there. There’s not any beautiful place.
D: But it’s in nature right?
H: You know, my dad is from Tamale, and it’s a city, but Accra is bigger than that place and my mom is from a village, like, you get to Tamale, you get another bus and get out of the city and take another bus and get to another city before you get to my mother’s village, so there’s not electricity. It’s not… I’ve never been to a beautiful place that I think is beautiful. I can say the only beautiful place that I’ve ever been to is like, in the mall.
D: The mall?
D: So what would be… if you could go anywhere that you think would be the most beautiful place, what would it be do you think?
H: I’ve never been– I’ve never been out so I don’t know the beautiful countries. I don’t even know where is beautiful and where is not beautiful. I would like to travel outside Ghana one day, but I don’t know. If I just get a place that someone is taking me, I will go ’cause I don’t know anywhere, so I don’t know whether this place is beautiful or it’s not beau– I don’t know.
D: What would if you went to like a dream place… what do you think would be beautiful? Nature? A place somewhere inside or somewhere outside? What do you like in a place?
H: In a place…
D: Do you like being around nature or?
H: What is nature?
D: Trees… jungle…
D: Or do you like being inside?
H: Right now the question you are asking me, I don’t have an answer for that.
H: Because the only places I’ve ever been is here and the north, so I’ve never been to, like, a kind of special place that I would say, like, “oh I like here this things were there and this things were there.” I just love to travel one day, just to see, just say, like, “oh is also travel outside Ghana,” but I’ve never been anywhere. The only place I’ve been is Accra and what I’m telling is the only beautiful place I’ve ever been into is the Accra Mall.
D: Accra Mall.
H: Yeah. I can say that is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to.
H: Because, Iike, it was kind of… I see lights, I see, like, nice places, I see, like, nice stores, nice fashion things… the floor was kind of… like, you see, like, glasses. I dunno. But yeah, I think that’s the most… ’cause I’ve never even been in the airport in my life before.
D: Do you think you’d be afraid to fly? Or do you think you would like being on a plane?
H: I think I’d be afraid because that would be my first– it’s my first time. I’ve never been in a plane before.
D: If you could choose to go anywhere tomorrow, where would you go?
H: Where would I go?
D: Pick anywhere you wanna go. Where would you go?
H: Oh. I mean, you hear the name of places but I don’t know the nicest place to choose ’cause I don’t know how it look like. I like the name like UK… umm… what’s the name… um, the names I’m hearing is UK, America, um… what is the name? I can’t even remember.
H: Holland, Sweden and all that. I’ve never been there. I’ve never been there to say, “okay, I would love to go here.”
D: Beach or mountain? What would you choose
H: Beach or mountain? I would choose beach.
D: Beach. Okay.
H: ‘Cause mountain is high right?
D: And colder.
H: Yeah, I would choose beach.
D: That’s all my questions.