The Buchele Adventure

This is record of the Buchele Adventure, as reported from West Africa.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Oh those quirky Ghanaian Ways, Volume I

Everyone is starting to feel better, and we can get back to the quirkiness that we’ve learned to love about Ghana. I know we’ve been talking a lot about Ghana’s Load Shedding Exercise, and so I thought for a change I’d talk about something else, like where the power ends up, in our plugs and outlets.
Ghana has a mostly universal plug system, it could be the most universal thing about the whole country, and that’s what makes it so quirky, because almost none of the appliances come fitted with plugs that naturally fit into their outlets.

[standard outlet, see the nice switch on the side to turn the power off to the plug]

There are primarily two types of power outlets here, and like in the states the less common one is reserved for the heavy load appliances like AirCon units, washer and dryers. But unlike the states the plugs are anything but standard, and even more quirky is that none of them actually fit the outlets, not without defeating the ground, or using an adapter, or as I did a few months ago, completely whacking off the plugs, and replacing them with ones that were made to fit Ghana’s outlets. Call it what you want, I call it quirky.

[Here is a collection of plugs that didn't fit the outlets and got "wacked" off ]

[Here is the plug I replaced them with]

[This is a standard adapter, which works OK, but you do have to giggle it and watch for the spark, which means it connected]

All in all the plugs work pretty well, except the grounds. Things are not well grounded, which often means a little shock from time to time.

The Marriage Proposal
Both Sarah (our Fulbright daughter) and Grace (our actual daughter), and for that matter any single living breathing obrunie female with a pulse will receive “plenty-plenty” marriage proposals from taxi drivers. Though most women get used to it, those first few months can be quite upsetting, with all these Ghanaian men asking for your hand. The interaction usually goes something like this:

Sarah flags down a taxi. She negotiates a price, and then climbs in. The cab takes off and before it is even half way to its destination, the driver confesses his love for her, and says “I will marry you.”

Sarah’s possible replies –
  • You are number 429, when I get back to numbers 1 to 428, I will let you know. We have a friend who actually keeps count of the number of marriage proposals she receives, and uses this line with them.

  • But who will pound your fufu? This is usually answered with either “as for me, I will teach you,” or “I will cook.”

  • Where will you find the money for all the cows? Part of the family marriage negotiation require the groom to supply a number of cattle, though in Accra, cash is also acceptable. This practice is called buying her pride.

    [The Marriage Proposal Machine]
Right before Christmas, when Sarah was leaving our house for the airport, I flagged down a taxi, negotiated the price, and then warned the driver to not to propose to Sarah, saying “I don’t want to hear about you asking this girl to marry you. As for this one, she has already a boyfriend in US, she can not be yours.” Apparently, they laughed and laughed all the way to the airport about her over protective father but he didn’t propose to her either.

We are told the marriage proposal is a complement, an offer of friendship, and not to be taken literally, but as the hope of an open-ended relationship that does not exclude the possibility of a deeper relationship developing.[1] Yeah, right.

Steve and his Many Wives
Along those same lines, it seems I have collected several wives. At the end of the street is my vegetable seller whom I visit most every day. In fact if they see me riding by and I don’t greet them, she and the fabric seller in the next stall will be offended, and won’t speak to me for a whole day. So I have to always stop and we exchange greetings. Anyway, it wasn’t long after I started buying almost all of our vegetables from her that the fabric seller started calling her my wife. Now it is a part of our daily routine, and yesterday I’m buying fried plantain for lunch, and trying to coax the recipe out of the old lady when who walks up behind me shouting “My Husband, Where have you been?”

“Ah,” I say, “I am just here, and who is watching our store?
“Dat udder lady,” the second wife says, “da one you know.”
Now the plantain seller jumps in “So you call this man out to me, just so I know he is your husband,” except that she holds out the word “your” very long, and if to bring emphasis to it.
On and on the exchange goes, and when she has continued on her journey, I get back to coaxing out the recipe for this particular fried plantain recipe called Kellie Willie.
Wife number two is Muslim, and so I hardly ever see her with her head uncovered. Sometimes when we’re driving by, I’ll see her in the fabric seller’s booth with the fabrics drawn, and a mat on the ground praying toward Mecca.
[The Second Wife…My Vegetable Seller]

Little does she know, but I have a third wife. She is a bagger at the obrunie market where I buy meat and household items. She always likes to take my bags out to the car, or in many cases just outside the door to my bike, laughing the saddle bag baskets on back. Last week I was there getting a chicken when a complete stranger comes up to me and say, “Your wife, she has not come today, so I will carry your bags.” Actually, they don’t say bags, they say rubbers (a plastic bag is called a rubber), but in the context of this paragraph, I figure it best to use bag. Seems the schedule has changed and my third wife only works afternoons, so I don’t see her as much, or as they say, “I have come to meet her absence,” so I send her my greeting.

OK, maybe this has nothing to do with Ghana, but the bananas here are wonderful, especially the green ones. Now you would expect that the bananas on the left would be the tasty ones, after all these yellow ones are called foreign (or obrunie) bananas, even though they are grown locally. And you would think that the ones of the right, the green ones, would taste starchy. WRONG. The foreign (yellow) bananas are the starchy, tasteless ones and the green ones, called local bananas, turn out to be the sweet ones. In fact they never turn yellow, but go from green to spotty brown and black within days. You can tell the clientele by the type of bananas they sell along the road side, yellow ones, its an obrunie crowd, green ones, is for locals.

[1] A North American’s Guide to Ghanaian English, 1995, Fr. Joh P. Kirby, p87


Blogger Nairobi Paul said...

Great to catch up on your lives again.

Your car is a re-badged Mitsubishi Pajero (Montero in the U.S.), it looks like. Glad you got wheels!

I hope the homesickness passes quickly.

6:28 AM, April 19, 2007  

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