Some Things I Forgot, by Suzanne

For those of you worried about my illness, no worries, I am all better! I was better Monday, MUCH better Tuesday and Wednesday, and this morning I woke feeling well rested and very much back to my old self. It’s so nice to have my energy back!

I arrived just over a week ago and am beginning to re-acculturate. We lived here from 2006-2008 and we visited for a month last year to see our oldest, Fox, graduate from high school at the local international school. But it’s funny, the things that are so ingrained when you stay here, that you can so easily forget. Some of these things that pretty immediately came back to me:
– The slow, unhurried conversations (even at work, even when people are busy)
– The incessant honking of taxis (to get your attention, to see if you want a ride)
– The sand/dirt that sticks to the back of your calves from your sweat and walking on dirt paths
– Just how expensive many of foreign goods are here
– Just how slow the internet is here, especially mid-day!
– How, just after you have food poisoning, you *really* don’t want to be adventuresome in your eating!

It’s delightful seeing my old friends, some from Ashesi University, some from The Mission Society, and some from church. It’s also delightful how easily people have accepted me back, and how happy people genuinely seem to be that I am back. Of course, everyone asks if Mr. Steve is here too, and their eyes light up when I tell them that he will come in a few weeks. You see, Steve is naturally more African than I – I tend to be work, work, work, business, business, business, but Steve, who had more time on his hands when we lived here before, but who is also naturally more open and talkative, he was the people person, the relationship person. Especially when I first arrived 4 years ago, when I needed to find X (say, a notebook for one of the kids) I wanted to ask someone where to get a notebook, go there, walk in, buy it, and go home again. But that really isn’t the African way (and I must say I’ve improved since 4 years ago). First you build a relationship with someone over repeated conversations. Then, at some point when one of the conversations lulls, you ask, “do you know where I can find a notebook?” Then you engage in conversation about the needed notebook, who it is for, why you need it, what type you need, etc. Then they ask you if you know such and such part of town, such and such street, maybe even such and such shop or stall (although if you knew the shop you likely also knew it carried notebooks). If you don’t know it, they describe how to get there, rarely using street names since mostly street names are not used (technically most streets do have names, I am told, but only major ones have signs indicating what they are). Here would be directions from where I am staying now, in the Ashesi University hostel at Danquah Circle, to the house I used to live in, a mile or so away:

Go toward “37” (an old army hospital), take a right at Morning Star School, then a left just after Melting Moments (a café), go past Metro TV, turn left a bit after after Tante Marie (a restaurant), continue until you come to Cape Trading Company, then take the left on the small road. It’s the second house on the right, with a black gate. (BTW if after Cape Trading you come to the road to the New American Embassy, you went too far.)

I’m in-between cultures enough right now that I can’t tell if these directions would seem perfectly normal to most Americans, or not (although I do know that Americans do like street names for error-checking purposes – and we’ve gone on enough goose chases here that I do appreciate a good street name thrown in now and again). But I forgot the golden rule of directions in Ghana: if you get lost, or even are just not so sure that you took the correct turn, just ask someone else! People are VERY happy to help. Ghanaians are the most genuinely helpful people I know. Just don’t be too hurried that you can’t properly greet them, ask if they are well, inquire about their family, comment on last night’s soccer match, etc. And THEN ask them directions 🙂
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