October 7, 2012
Yes. I indeed have lost count of the days that I have been in Ghana. I think it must be four. It feels longer than that though.
I am supposed to go through a week of Language and Culture class. From what the girls have said, the teacher will teach you the basics and then at the end have you go to the market and talk to the locals in their dialect. The culture part, um, I think is somehow messily mixed in. I had my first day of lessons on Friday (I remember days, not dates) with Teacher K (I was expecting a Teacher V). He arrived while I was doing my laundry. We started with the common greetings. So apparently unlike in the US where a typical greeting between two people would be like:
Person 1: Good morning, how are you?
Person 2: Not bad/great/fine, how are you?
Person 1: (doesn’t answer and has already gone past Person 2; first question was just perfunctory).
Here in Ghana, it goes something like:
Person 1: Ma achi (good morning)!
Person 2: Ya onua (apparently means, I acknowledge you and greet you as my sister/brother). Ete sen? (How are you?)
Person 1: Eye. Medase. (Fine, thank you.)
At which point I am unsure if person 1 is supposed to ask how the other person is, or if person 2 should also greet Person 1 good morning. I think saying Ya onua is enough.
At any rate, I thought it was interesting.
We then moved on to learning numbers. By number 12, I already noticed a pattern and basically was able to ‘guess’ what 13-19 were. On and on we went til we reached the thousands, at which point I said—let’s stop there, I don’t think I’ll need to say numbers in the thousands (transactions in the street only reach the tens).
So I then I asked him to teach me the body parts:
Unsatisfied with the basic parts, I ask him, how about gallbladder? He says, gall what? So I try spleen. He says, where is that? And so I stop. Besides, there were already a lot of names I had to know. But I said, I have to know how to say:
–are you sick?
–where does it hurt?
–he/she is sick
And I also needed to understand when a person says this hurts:
— Me akoma (my heart). Because no matter where you are, when it’s a person’s heart that starts hurting, you gotta know.
Teacher K further said, in the Culture part of the lesson and as a response to my question on what offends Ghanians: approximating your thumb with your knuckles means fuck you. I shall remember that.
I asked about people touching your body and grabbing your arm on the street, since the girls were saying Ghanians didn’t have a concept of personal space (nightmare, oh my gawd, if this is true). He says oh no no no that is not accepted! Ah-ha, so it isn’t true then. I shall remember that too.
My most real Culture lessons happen on the fly however, and they happen outside of the classroom. Yesterday we three girls (me, plus L and U—two lovely souls who are at least 10-12 years younger than me but whose maturity and depth are truly beyond their years) went to Kokrobite beach. I think it is one of the most popular beaches in Greater Accra. On Saturdays they have Reggae Night, which the girls have been raving about. It was a Saturday yesterday, so we had that to look forward to.
From Kasoa, we had to ride a tro-tro (it’s like the African version of the Philippine FX). This is the cheapest form of transportation here in Ghana I believe. The cheapest we’ve had to pay is 15 US cents, and the most expensive is 3 times that. It can fit, depending on the degree of desperation, anywhere between 14-20 people (including the driver and the conductor).
|The tro-tro as viewed from the back|
|Me, with Una at the back of a tro-tro|
The air flows freely between the open windows on either side, but of course that depends on the speed of the traffic. On a really bad traffic day, you will know who in the tro-trohas not had a shower within the past week. Sometimes riding it reminds me of a fruit called guava.
Anyway, so we rode a tro-troto the Kasoa Junction, crossed a very busy intersection then rode another tro-tro to the street near the tollbooth. This street, as bumpy as I assume the moon is, apparently leads to paradise (the beach). On this street we hired a taxi that took us all the way to the famed beach.
The beach was a real treat—for a myriad of reasons but foremost of which was the breeze, free of dust and the smell of you know, guava. I loved that they had a local artist (a cousin of one of the ‘Nanas’ (king) whom we met) that sold really unique paintings. I bought one, even though that was not part of my planned consumption.
|The local art shop tucked away in a corner in Kokrobite|
|Bracelets and what have yous|
Thankfully I brought a small amount of moolah so I was limited to buying just one painting. I loved that they sold bags and dresses and pants of materials and colors I absolutely adore (cotton, bright).
The instant I saw the bums of the obronis (White) in the beach, I regretted that I didn’t wear my complete swim wear (hence, the shorts with the swim top). Oh well, we managed.
Not long after we settled down in our part of the beach (conveniently located in front of the clothes vendors), the annoying Nana (there was another Nana, and he made the first decent conversation with us) came up to us with two of his friends—one local, one imported from Gabon. They played the drum and made impromptu music for us. Though I liked the rhythm, I didn’t like that it was all about girls in bikinis and getting them warm in the cold air. Oh but somewhere along the way they did mention something like ‘China taking power.’ I think it was along the lines of their motherland Africa being beautiful and rich. I wasn’t sure if China was really going to be part of their song, or if they mentioned it because they thought I was well, Chinese.
|Nana on the right and his drummer friend|
|The French-speaking man from Gabon|
|I love this photo. This was taken in the glow of the afternoon.|
|Enjoying sun and sand|
One thing I learned is that it can be difficult to have a decent conversation with a Ghanaian man (disclaimer is that I have not been to a limited number of places) without them brazenly asking you out. They will start with where are you from. What are you doing here in Ghana, how long are you here for. And then they ask, do you have a boyfriend. The girls said that even if you say you do, it doesn’t matter really because they still flirt with you anyway (and by flirting I mean, getting your number, touching your arm, putting their arm around your shoulders). I already decided that should someone ask me if I had a boyfriend, I would say that I was already married with 2 kids (a 12 year old and an 8 year old—and if pressed for photos I would show them my nephew C and my friend P who actually can pass as a juvenile). But thankfully I was not made to lie.
A man in soldier’s uniform stopped our taxi on our way back home (it was to ask for bribe from the driver). He leaned toward me and asked me questions in exactly the same sequence as previously outlined. Instead of asking me if I had a boyfriend however, he asked me when we would see each other again. I said never.
Nana at one point asked me to go ‘back’ to the water with him. I said there is no going back, because I have never been in the water. He said are you afraid that my color’s gonna rub off on you. I said I don’t think it happens easily that way.
It is interesting how consumed they are with skin color. They are so conscious of who is Black and who is White. (I don’t think they know Yellow.) As we walk in the streets, children and men would often call out obroni! (white!) Teacher K said at one point that they are very friendly especially when it comes to foreigners because he says, we consider white as the supreme color. Supreme—that was his very own word. Wow.
I find that disturbing (though not too strange– our beloved Philippines, if we are to be honest about it, still regards the mestizo as the supreme color). Ghanaians have so far fascinated me with their beauty—their chiseled bone structure, their bright eyes, their square gaze, straight back, proud chin; their white teeth, their ready laugh. And their unfairly toned arms.
It is factual to say that often, we do not see the beauty in ourselves.
This is one universal truth I have come to more fully discern on my fourth day (if I have counted correctly).