Posted by: kristinej | August 5, 2013

August 5, 2013

I only have a few days left here, and I can say that I will be sorry to leave. My officemates, housemates, and honorary Ghanaian family have been an excellent community for me here over the past months. Recently I was given a lovely traditional Ghanaian dress, and had the chance to wear it to church on Sunday. Fortunately, I had mentally prepared myself for a long service, since Communion Sunday meant that the service lasted four HOURS! Still, it was mostly enjoyable. The church was beautiful, and the service was Methodist so it was a more familiar style to me. Though the preacher’s accent was heavy and I didn’t understand most of what he said, I enjoyed watching the women dance up the aisle to give their offerings and listening to the gospel choir. I will also probably be now featured in some church bulletin or marketing materials since the church photographer took several close-ups of me sitting in the pew smiling at the camera with the people around me instructed to keep looking towards the pulpit. People loved my dress though, and later in the day I had the woman who I buy rice from call out to me, “Hello, African woman!”

Today my officemates took me out to a goodbye lunch, which was really nice of them since we don’t actually work on the same project together, but they’ve been incredibly helpful and supportive over the summer. Two of them are Ghanaian but went to college and grad school in the US, so I’ve loved hearing their unique perspectives on all things development.

In addition to learning about Ghana from my friends, I’ve also enjoyed all sorts of random conversations with taxi drivers and shop owners. Some highlights:

Me: I am going to the Ghana Education Service. Do you know the place?
Taxi driver: Yes, I know it.
Me: Ok, how much?
Taxi: 10 cedis.
Me: Eh! That’s way too much (we settle on 6 cedis and start driving).
Taxi: So, you know the place, right?
Me: No, you said you do!
Taxi: I do, I do. But you’ve been there before, right?
Me: Yes, but I don’t know the roads.
Taxi: Ok, ok. (long pause). I like the way you look.
Me: What?
Taxi: I said you look nice.
Me: Ok, thank you.
Taxi: Do you like me?
Me: No, I don’t like you because you tried to charge me an unfair price and you lied about knowing how to get to this place.
Taxi man laughs, stops multiple times to get directions, then tries to short me on change. I make him pay up, then as I’m walking away I hear him yell, “I love you!”

—————

Me: Where are you from?
Taxi: Volta region.
Me: Oh yes? I know that place, it is very nice.
Taxi: Yes, it is very nice. There are waterfalls and mountains. You can even go see monkeys.
Me: Yes! I went and saw them. I was scared at first when they sat on my arm.
Taxi: You should not be afraid. Monkeys are a woman’s best friend. They are clever and can do anything, just like women.
Me: Yes, that sounds about right!

————–

Me: Good evening.
Woman: Good evening.
Man: Good evening. What’s your name?
Me: Kristine.
Man: Kristine, that’s nice. I want to be your friend. Do you live around here?
Me: Yes.
Man: Where around here?
Me: In this area.
Man: Which side?
Me: Just around here.
Woman: Haha! She doesn’t want to tell you where she lives!
Man: I just want to know so I can come visit you sometime and chat.
Me: Oh, well unfortunately I am leaving very soon.
Man: Where are you going?
Me: America.
Man: Oh, that’s my favorite country!
Woman: You know, you should hide this man in your suitcase and take him there with you.
Me: Oh, that will be a long journey! I don’t think he will get through security anyway.
Woman: Haha it’s true. And I think he will die before he arrives.
Me: Yes, it’s probably not the best way to get to America.
Woman: What will you tell your people about Ghana?
Me: I will tell them that it is very nice and that the people are very friendly.
Woman: Yes, it’s true that we are very friendly, but sometimes [white] people don’t want to open themselves up and don’t want to talk.
Man: It’s important to have friends here so that they can look out for you.
Me: Yes, that is very true.
Woman: You know, it’s very cold here today. I am suffering, oh, I am suffering (she is wearing a winter coat).
Me: Yes, it is not normal. Even I am suffering because I am not used to it. I think I have African skin now!
Woman: Haha! From the sun!
(we talk about my work here)
Man: So where you live around here? I want to come visit you.
Me: Oh, I have just told you where my office is, so you can come visit me there if you want to.
Man: No, I don’t want to visit you there.
Me: (geez, he’s persistent) Well, I don’t think my boyfriend will like it if you come visit me.
Woman: Haha!! She has a boyfriend and doesn’t want you to visit her!
Man: Is he Ghanaian? Is he here?
Me: No, he’s in America.
Man: I think you’re lying.
Me: I’m not! He even came to visit me here.
Man: Oh, ok, that’s very nice then. Maybe I will meet you again at this store sometime then.
Me: Yes, maybe so. Goodnight. (Walk in opposite direction of my house, just to be safe!)

—————

I buy some tomatoes from a woman’s small stand. She is eating something out of a plastic bag. “You are invited,” she says.
Me: Thank you.
Woman: Do you like this food?
Me: I don’t know what it is.
Woman: It’s boiled corn. Here, try some.
So I do, even though breaking off and eating a piece of someone’s half-eaten ball of boiled corn on the side of the road is probably number one on the traveler’s “Don’t Do” list. Can’t pass up a cultural exchange, can you?!

And finally, while I’ve not been very good about learning the local language (or the main language, I should say, since there are many local languages), I think I have become pretty good at Ghanaian English. Some of the unique phrasings:

– A taxi or car doesn’t drop you off somewhere, they just drop you.
– Similarly, you don’t pick a person up in your car, you just pick them. You may also pick a taxi.
– “small” is used in many ways. For instance you might say you want “only hot pepper small” or you might give someone “small small money.”
– When asked how you are, you always say “fine.”
– When saying that something is good, it’s always “nice.” Ghana is nice, that fabric is very nice, that food is nice.
– “Charlie” is a familiar way of saying friend. Ghanaians add it liberally to informal conversations: “Charlie, you should have seen….” I didn’t even realize that’s what they were saying until recently since it sounds more like, “chalet.”
– “Please” is placed at the beginning of most requests. “Please, can you tell me the price?” “Please, do you have…?”
– Instead of saying the power is out, you just say, “lights out.”
– Instead of saying they are out of something, a shop owner will just say, “it’s finished.”

All of these things are pretty small differences but they make conversations a little smoother and make you sound a little less like a tourist!

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Church dress

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Bethany Methodist Church in Dzorwulu neighborhood

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