The Play and More Cultural Lessons

Today is the first day since Joseph left that Charles has been able to spend the day with Jeniffer, Koteay and me. I was told earlier in the week that they planned to take me to a play sometime today. I was very excited to compare a Ghanaian play to the ones I’ve seen in the US. First, we had some errands to run.

            We went to see Jennifer’s friend, the education specialist, who was helping Koteay with school. Right then I realized why her and Ti Ti’s wife communicated so similarly. I asked Jennifer if her friend spoke Twi. She said yes and that her friend was from the Ashanti region. Because I enjoyed her expressions so much, I was able to recognize it again when we met Ti Ti’s wife who was also mainly a Twi speaker from the Ashanti area. I think I’m getting better at this whole learning another culture thing. When we arrived at the tutoring place, she was accompanied by a man. He presented him self as Koteays tutor. He asked some very tough and essential questions and immediately I could tell he was very experienced at working with children and their parents. This was very helpful for me to hear, so that I can use his strategies when I start work in the Ashanti Region. Jennifer, being very keen on recognizing people who aren’t truly Ghanaian, recognized that this man was from Nigeria. I could see a difference, but all the Ghanaian people I had seen so far looked so different. I still have a lot of people to see before I will be able to pick up on subtleties like that.

            On our way back, we stopped by Joseph and Charles’ dad’s house. This was my second time meeting him and he was just as kind as the first. He was genuinely concerned that I was having the best experience possible in Ghana. You can really see where Joseph and Charles get their loving-kindness. Their dad’s house was a great place to visit because it was always so quiet and peaceful. We were a few miles away from the sea and they said that some nights you could hear the ocean. After taking care of business we left to get back home.

            For lunch we had eggplant stew. It was new to me and hard to describe the specifics because it was in a stew, but I do know that it was very tasty. Then, we got some time to hang around the house and relax. I got some more good reading time in. Then around 14:00 I noticed my stomach started to feel a bit weird. I don’t think it was the eggplant stew, but maybe just an accumulation of all the new food and spices. Jennifer had been very good about making sure I was handling the food well up to this point and she was pleasantly surprised that I had been. My stomach is not bad though, I hope it will pass by the time we are done at the theater. Oh yeah, and the 24 hour time is really simple to figure out. Just take the two digits on the left of the colon and subtract a 1 and a 2. Mostly you just have to subtract two numbers. So if I said 14:00, the one goes to zero and the 4 goes to 2, making it 2:00 PM. Let’s say its 22:00, the first two goes to 1 and the second goes to 0, making it 10:00 PM. There’s no need to count the from twelve, through the rest and keep track. I think the only flaw is that when you use 21:00 or 20:00 there is a 1 left for the left digit. That’s the only exception to remember that when the right number goes back to 9 and below, just ignore the first number. Except for that flaw all you have to do is subtract 2, to find out the time.

            On our way to the international theater in Accra, I was given another heaping load of information. It was a bit difficult at times because I was trying to enjoy the views, absorb lessons from Jennifer and Charles, and give attention to Koteay. We drove right by their equivalent of the US White House. It looked beautiful and had walls that were about 20 feet tall, with electric barbed wire at the top, and probably guard dogs and soldiers waiting on the other side. As we got close, Charles gave me a bit of a background to the play we were seeing. Apparently the director was very famous in Ghana for being a sort of motivational speaker. He has time on the local radio, where he gives people a good message for the day. He also makes his plays very culturally relevant and challenging to the audience. He encourages people to be their best and use that to improve their communities. He is also known for strong messages about respecting women. This man is a big deal in Ghana. The theater was very beautiful and had very modern looking architecture. Charles’ company was one of the sponsors, so he knew many of the people in the lobby. As we were just about to the seating area, a man came over and Charles said “Ahh, here is the man!” He was very nicely dressed, more so than the rest of his company employees. He greeted us and hoped we enjoyed the show. They handed out ice cream for everyone to eat as we waited for the play to start. We went in and sat down in our seats, right in the front center of the room. They were perfect seats. A live band was also entertaining the audience as we waited for the show to start. They were very good and I couldn’t help but pay close attention. They played some song that I recognized from the US that had a great beat. I felt a strong urge to dance in my seat, but since everyone in front of us was sitting still, I decided not to embarrass the Janney family. It was so infectious that when I would lose my concentration I would notice my body begin to move back and forth. I had to distract myself somehow! Frantically I looked around and then I started to read the pamphlet. I read the plot of the play and the background of the director. There were even more accomplishments listed here than Charles mentioned. Then I saw his picture and noticed he looked very familiar. Wait! He was the well-dressed man we met in the lobby. I asked Charles if we had just met the director in the lobby and he laughed at me in agreement. I was so impressed, I became speechless. I couldn’t believe that such a big director was personally greeting the audience as they came in to watch his play. The director immediately earned my greatest respect. He was so humble and genuine, that no matter if the play was good or bad I would be willing to support him any chance I had.

            Incase you didn’t know, many Ghanaian people have a very loose relationship with time. Meaning if someone says to meet you somewhere at a certain time, you should add a half and hour or hour to it. However, Charles was determined to make it to this play on time because he said that the director consistently started exactly when he said he would. That’s just another reason that I like this director. Sure enough the play started about one minute late, which here means right on time. The play was called “Men Run and Women Cry”. The plot was basically following about 6 couples as they went through their day around a salon. It felt like I was taking a test on all that I had learned so far. Every time I didn’t laugh, I lost a few points. All of the cultural lessons I was taught were coming up in the play. Overall, he play had some outrageous characters and kept us laughing the whole way through. It was also very sneaky with the lessons it would teach. I didn’t feel like it was preachy, in the least. There seemed to be no bias, as both male and female perspectives made fun of each other. I felt like the audience was participating when they would all yell at the same time “aaaayyy,” when something outrageous would happen. As it was nearing the end, all the characters were strategically brought out on the stage at once. Then all of the actors started to dance and sing in sequence. They were very good dancers and stayed perfectly in time with each other. I felt like we were watching an epic celebration. It was akin to the finale at the end of a firework show. This was much better then the typical way I have seen, when the play just ends and the actors file out onto the stage to bow. This play flowed smoothly from the celebration to all of them ending in a bow. Then, the director came out to the stage and thanked everyone for giving their time to see his play. He thanked a few sponsors and told us to pull out little color sheets of paper that were handed out in the beginning. According to the color you had, everyone received a prize. The special color prize included things like a bank account with $200, a quarter’s supply of water, paid dinner for two at a nice restaurant, and a few more. After the performance was finally all over, I was completely stunned. That far exceeded my expectations. Not that my expectations were low, but I have seen some good plays on Broadway in New York, some in San Francisco, and in Los Angeles. I thought this play would be at best as good at those. With the combination of the quality of the play, the genuine and humble director, the community impact, and the prizes at the end, I can comfortably say that was the best play experience I’ve ever had.

            On the way home we stopped at a Lebanese place to pick up a small bit of food to go with dinner. I saw many Obronis there, including what looked like Iranian people. We were waiting in the car for a while for Charles to come back. Then Koteay left to use the restroom and Jennifer suggested we get out and walk around. As she went to get the keys, I got out of the car and stood waiting for her to return, to lock the doors. A man standing a few cars over came over to me with a huge smile and his hand out, initiating a handshake. I gave a bit of an exaggerated chuckle and shook his hand. He was very happy to meet me. He didn’t ask for anything, he just genuinely wanted to shake my hand and wish me a good night. I feel a bit awkward because he made me feel like I am some kind of rock star exiting his tour bus, to meet groupies. Except, I am exactly the opposite of a rock star. On our way home we drove through the University of Ghana in Legon. This was the largest and most prestigious University in Ghana. Charles attended there and identified all the areas he knew very well. I couldn’t see the campus very well because it was nighttime, but I could tell it was beautiful and very large.

            When we got home my stomach was feeling pretty bad. Not really sick, just gassy. And not the good kind of gas you can just walk around the corner and fart out. It was bubbling up in my stomach and building lots of pressure. I went to lie down in my room and just closed my eyes for about 10 minutes. It started to go away and I got a feeling of hunger. I went back out and joined Jennifer and Charles at the table for dinner. We had chicken and a few other sides. We had great conversation and food, the perfect combination to make me forget about my stomach. Then we went to the living room and watched some TV. We were watching the reports on Syria and the US response from Obama. Again, we had really great conversations about international issues from all around the world. Of course that led to me asking about different countries in Africa. I had learned in my class with Dr. Rohwedder that Nigeria was a big exporter of oil and we had many discussions about how that affected their people. Charles confirmed everything my professor said and added that about 2% of the people there own 80% of the wealth. He said it is probably the most dangerous place in Africa. Probably not a culture I will become familiar with any time soon. Then Charles asked my favorite type of hard alcohol and insisted I try some of his bourbon. As we enjoyed the drinks and each other’s company, Charles and Jennifer told me about the different types of people and cultures in Ghana. They told me about the Ewe, Afantis, and what to expect if I traveled up North beyond Kumasi. I didn’t want the night to end. I soaked up every lesson, like I needed it to live. Then at about 11 I went to bed to get up early to attend church with Jennifer and Koteay.

2 thoughts on “The Play and More Cultural Lessons

  1. They gave you ice cream AND prizes AND you got to see a play??? That is brilliant! I would never leave!

    And, it’s not just the Ghanaian people that have those issues with being an hour late to everything…..that’s more commonly called “black people time.” LOL. It’s a common thing here at home, too.

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