Monthly Archives: June 2012

Thursday Afternoon

Work was getting a little dull.

I had met with a farmer group in the morning to hear about the techniques they used for mango farming. I had typed up my findings. There was no more work to be done.

I left the office an hour early to bike home.

Once I reached my compound, I decided to do some laundry. I took my metal bucket, filled it with water and walked to the drain in my bedroom. After soaking a pair of briefs in water, I took my sunlight soap and rubbed it all over the damp material. I got a good lather going. Once I was satisfied the briefs were clean, I squeezed out the soap. I poured water over them. I soaked them in the bucket again and hung them up to dry. Rinse, lather, rinse, repeat.

The cycle went on.

Outside, the winds were picking up. I glanced out of my door and saw the trees moving back and forth in frenzy. I saw the leaves blowing across the ground in circles. The dry soil followed in suit.

I closed my screen door.

I went to the window. I saw the dark clouds approaching. The shop owners knew they had little time left – they hastily packed up their belongings and brought them to the nearest compound for safekeeping. The men sitting under the tree out front sought out cover under my compound’s front porch.

The rains began.

I continued to soak my clothing as the rains beat against the tin roof above me. I continued to lather as my toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss were blown from their perch on my windowsill. I continued to rinse and hang up my clothing.

I looked out my screen door, and noticed that people were gathered.

Women who were passing, men who were near, and children who had not foreseen the rains sat there. They were all watching the rains fall.

After 11 days without rain, their drought was broken. Their planted seeds could survive. Their work might not be fruitless.

I couldn’t help but smile.

I walked back to the drain. Rinse, lather, rinse, repeat.

The cycle continued.

The sky after the rains

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White Man!

The paragraph spacing for this post is messed up. So, just a heads up there.

*** **** ***

Just for the record, the below story is embellished and meant to be interpreted humorously. I am not constantly being shouted at when I walk through my village, I do not ever run to my room for safety, nor do I feel off-balance when people address me. Since I arrived in Gushie, I have been welcomed into this village with open arms – it’s been pretty awesome.
This is just something that has been on my mind since I arrived here, and I wanted to tell people about it.

*** **** ***


I wake up, climb around my bednet to get to my bedroom door, then poke my head out – the coast is clear. I grab my metal bucket, dart outside to the tap to twist it on and allow my bucket to fill up with water. The angst in my heart seems to increase with water level in the bucket, until … the bucket is full. I turn the tap off and run back into my room. Safe for now.

As the minutes pass and I finish washing myself, I begin to realize I must go out again. I know I need get breakfast and bike to work. Once I get to work I will be safe. Just think about being in the office and it will all be okay, I tell myself. So I step outside, walk hesitantly to the street vendor and get 50 peswas worth of rice. It hasn’t happened yet.
This must be a good morning. Yes. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the goats aren’t whining. This is a good morning.
Maybe the kids had to go to school early, or maybe the adults finally learned that my name is not …
SALAMINGA!
A sharp noise pierces my ear, throwing me off balance. No, not this again.
SALAMINGA! SALAMINGA!
I’m surrounded. The kids have come from every which way to circle me. I force a smile, wave and begin to walk back to my room to get my bike. But then some adults join in.
Salaminga, desba!
Naahhh, I reply meekly. I have given up saying n’yuni David. It seems hopeless.
—-
On many levels, it seems akin to racism. If I heard someone in St. John’s addressing another as ‘black man’, I might have to say something (or at least shoot them a dirty look). But then again, I’m not in St. John’s.
I don’t believe that these shouts are racist. They aren’t intentionally menacing; they aren’t intentionally mean; they are just there. They are about as sinister as saying ‘good morning’ to the receptionist in the dentist’s office. In fact, I am certain that it’s not racism that makes me want to get away from these shouts.
It kinda feels like I’m hearing cat-calls whenever I walk past a group of kids. Except, for a change, it’s the white dude getting objectified.
I’m not sure if I should even be offended when I’m addressed as ‘salaminga’, because people who speak dagbani have been doing it for hundreds of years. To them, it’s not racism, it’s just the way it is. When you see a white man, you shout ‘salaminga’, and the white man smiles and waves. But I’m not sure if that justifies it.
With the group I have been hanging out with in the evenings, I told them (through my translator friend) that in my culture, it’s rude to call somebody ‘salaminga’. They listened. Now I get a “David, annula!”, when I sit by them in the evenings (to which I am pleased to reply “naahhh!”). So it’s not as if nobody is willing to listen or change their ways to make you feel at home. It’s just that the sheer number of people who need to change for me to be perfectly happy is large. Too large.
Or maybe just one person needs to change.
But I still don’t think that’s right.

A bunch of kids outside my room door. They just hang out there trying to get my attention while I read. It’s amusing.

David

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