[Suzanne and our friend Nana]
We’re riding in a taxi with our friend Nana taxi, and because I am the man, I’m sitting in the front seat. In my own culture, I would have given that seat to the most elder of our group, but Nana insisted it is for me…because I’m the man. Nana is our friend from before and we are going around Accra running some errands together.
In the back seat, Suzanne and Nana are in conversation, so I talk with Maxwell, the driver. There are a standard set of questions I ask taxi drivers, questions about family, or the ownership of the taxi. I start with his family, and he tells me about his boy and girl, four years old and three months, respectively. Because the girl is so young, I ask about her Outdooring, which, in Ghanaian culture happens eight days after birth, but can be postponed for reasons of health or finances. The Ourdooring tradition celebrates the first public appearance of the child with family and friends. In some West African cultures they wait to see if the baby “likes” it here, and when she has decided to stay, celebrate by bringing her outdoors to let the sunshine strike her face and give her a name. It is an elegant way to look past a high infant mortality rate. Maxwell’s daughter was given the name Abena (which means Tuesday born) and will no longer be called the stranger or visitor.
People wear white to an Outdooring. Food and minerals (bottles of soft drinks) are served, and Maxwell tells me he dipped his finger in water and wet her lips three times, saying “when you say water, it must be water.” He then dipped his finger in strong drink, and wet her lips, “when you say palm wine, it must be palm wine”. It reminds me of Jesus saying let your yes be yes, and your no mean no. There is more the ceremony, something about truth and good and evil, but I’m having trouble understanding him over the suddenly loud noise from the radio. Did he just turn that up? I wonder.
Nana joins the conversation, “Is this your taxi?” That would have been my next question. I smile.
“No, it is for another,” which means someone else owns it. Maxwell adds “I will find a way forward,” which means he is working on it. Now I would generally ask about his station, where he parks, but Nana jumps in “What are your plans?”
“Oh, as for me, I am waiting for a certain someone to give me some money,” adding certain to the statement means no one in particular.
“Ah! What sort of plan is that?!” Nana scolds him. “That is the trouble with Ghana,” she begins. I hear this conversation frequently, one that critiques the culture of dependence in Ghana, where people are waiting for someone to come along and give them money to “solve” to their problem. Nana tells him he should make plans of his own money, and not wait for a foreigner to do what he should already be doing for himself. “That is the problem,” she reiterates, “we Ghanaians are always waiting for a foreigner to rescue us. Ah!” and she clicks her tongue in disgust.