Fetching Water, Meeting Tutors, and Cultural Lessons

Today is Monday the 14th, I’m finally caught up on the blog…Well sort of. All I have on the schedule is to meet with the SHS students after school to give them the lesson plan for the rest of the term. However, that isn’t until three so I have some time to kill in the morning. I make my usual run in the morning for koko and kosi. I’ve been to this woman so many times now that after I’m done greeting her she has my food ready and I don’t even have to ask. 50 peswas of koko and 50 peswas of kosi. Breakfast every morning for $0.50, that’s a pretty good deal and it fills me up so I can last past lunch if I am really busy. I make all my usual greetings on the way to the seller, but it still feels weird. I’m just not sure about the vicinity of the people I’m expected to greet. It is now my mission to interrogate people and find out all the rules to show people that I’m not just some ignorant Obroni. I figure it’s better to over greet then to miss someone and assume I didn’t have to greet them. I even greet all the same people on the way back, with my food. Daniel came home this morning from spending the night in Kumasi last night after his Churching. A small boy, about 10 years old, comes to the front and is pounding on the door. I open it and he has a large barrel of water on his head. He comes back several times and fills up both of our reservoirs. No easy task for one person.

 I can’t believe I just remembered that I left out my story last week when I tried to fetch water. After the event of Friday, when none of the Antoa tutors showed up I felt like I had to do something physical for awhile and get everything off my mind. Normally back home, I would just go and work out. Here you do chores, which is a workout in itself. I decided to call my friend, Charles, and ask him to help me fetch the water. We grabbed one of the big black tubs that most people do wash with. Remember, laundry is called wash here. I take an old shirt to put on the top of my head to cushion the weight. Charles is warning me that everyone will be staring at me, as they did when Adam fetched his water. I told him that’s fine and really no different than any other part of my day. I told him that I want to be able to balance the water on my head without holding it with my hands. Charles pauses and looks at me and says that if I can manage to do that, people will fall to the ground. We get over and turn the nozzle so the water pours out and fills the bucket. On my walks through the random towns, I see most people having to use a well pump that looks like someone on a small railroad car that you have to pump downward to move. I guess we’re pretty lucky that we only have to walk to the end of town to fetch it and when we get there it just flows out. I’ve heard some of my Ghanaian friends telling me stories of people having to travel for much longer and taking much more time to do so. As the bucket is halfway filled up I start to get nervous. When I was doing my wash I didn’t quite have the appreciation for the size of this container. Charles tells me that he will help me lift mine and then he will lift his and finish filling it on his head with the raised nozzle. Ugh… wait, so I have to hold this huge bucket of water on my head while he fills his up, all before we walk all the way back home. Okay, now my confidence is completely shot. On the way over here I had a bit of a swagger to my step knowing that I can lift a lot of weight with my shoulders and with the aid of my head, I thought it would be easy. The bucket is about 90% full and with now very little confidence I shut off the water and suggest that it might be better not to fill it the whole way. One of the women from the end of the road that I greet comes over to help me prepare everything. She takes my shirt and folds it in a circle and puts it on my head. She then tells me that I need to fill the bucket the whole way. Yeah, there’s no way I’m doing that. I pick the bucket up and start to lift it on my head on my own. The woman comes over and helps me to prop it on my head. Okay, this isn’t that bad at all. I can definitely do this and make it back to the house. I don’t know about multiple trips, but I’m gaining confidence about this first one. Charles fills his bucket up and tells me to start walking first. Remember what I’ve said before about always having to watch the ground in Ghana because you literally might fall in a sewage ditch or sprain your ankle on a random rock or hunk of metal. Yeah well, that’s much harder to watch for when you have a huge barrel of water on your head. I start to walk back at an efficient pace. I want to beat my fatigue. Charles quickly tells me to slow down and be careful and repeats himself several times. I’m way to stubborn to listen to him and what does he know? It’s not like he’s been doing this since he was a small child… Oh wait. We walk up a small hill and I cross the first gutter. Except as I’m taking the step across I look down. I found out quickly that’s not such a good idea when I’m using my head to balance a big tub of water. Oh, so that’s why I took my physics class. I wish I could be with my JHS class and be teaching them about physics right now. I think if I taught them about inertia and compared it to changing directions and having the water continue and spill over the side they would remember. So, I look down at the gutter and my first bit of water spills out of the front of the bucket. It hits me right on the thigh and soaks my pants. It’s pretty obvious now, to everyone, that I’m failing at this. Oh and Charles was very right about people watching me. People are peaking around corners and yelling to their friends to come watch the Obroni spill all over himself. We get down the road and I’ve been using my shoulder muscles pretty much the whole time. I find out pretty quickly that was an awful idea. Now my arms are too tired to hold up except if I drop them, I drop the bucket. I should have let the weight of the water rest on my head and save my shoulder muscles to help balance the bucket. We cross back over another gutter and I look down again. I’m a pretty fast learner aren’t I? Except this time I’m much more tired, so about twice the amount of water as last time spills out and hits me on the thighs and crotch area. Now soaked, I look up to navigate the rest of the way. I have two options. I can either go to the left and duck under a tree hanging at about 5 feet tall, or I can go to the right and walk down a stairway made of old bricks that are all at different intervals and about half the size of my actual foot. I just start to panic at this point. I don’t want to hurt myself here and jeopardize my walk to Wonoo or any other experiences I might get from my healthy body. I tell Charles I need to put the bucket down and rest. He tells me he will come over and help me get the bucket down. My stubbornness kicks in and I just take the bucket off of my head myself. I help him take his off of his head. Before I can even open my mouth a small girl about 10 or 13 comes over and asks if I need help. Actually she didn’t ask me anything as she rips the shirt out of my hand and proceeds to lift the bucket onto her own head. Defeated, I help Charles with his bucket. We walk back to the compound and they pour the water from their heads into the main bucket. That is way harder than it looks and if you have ever had the thought of it looking easy, I would like to invite you to give it a try. Needless to say, I will be coming back to this and maybe starting with a smaller bucket until I get better.

 Okay, so now you have an appreciation for this boy who just came back and forth probably about 10 times to fill our reservoirs and I’m sure this doesn’t count as a pass out of his normal household chores. I thank him as many times as I can fit medaase before he leaves the compound. I take this opportunity to get a much needed shower. I spend the next bit of time until lunch writing the blog and catching up on some emails. Daniel made some rice before he left and told me that there is some left. I eat the rest in the pot for awia aduane. Literally translated to sun/afternoon food, meaning lunch. Then I head out to greet my friends on the way to the SHS. I stop by the George Bush, the microfinance man. He told me that he wants my old phone if I get a new one. I told him that the phone is broken and he can’t make a call for more than 30 seconds, but he insists that it will be better than the rubber banded one that he has. I will be checking on that later this week. I really like George Bush, he is such a nice man and the way he cracks up when I put some passion into my Twi makes me laugh even harder. He is one of the first people that I met in Antoa as Adam showed me around the town. Actually now that I think of it, he was second to those ladies right outside of my compound that ask me obscene things. One of them has recently been asking me to lick her breast every time I see her. She’s a real romantic, isn’t she? Okay, I leave his place and greet the ladies as I pass to the stretch leading out of town. The stores on the stretch out of town are all on the left hand side. The first group of ladies never really say much to me. Then the next shop is the salon, where some of the ladies will speak up and ask me a few questions, but mostly they just greet me back. Then, there is a young man who owns the next shop. Oh and by the way, when I say shop I mean an old shipping container that they opened and converted into a store. His name is Andrews and every time I pass he looks very happy to see me. He has always taught me at least one word or phrase in Twi almost every time I pass him. I sit with him today and have a bit of an extended chat. Last time we spoke he shared his passion with me about serving in the US military. I did some small research for him and found that a few option for him, but he seemed most interested in finding a citizen to marry. I can’t say I blame him, that would sound like the best option to me as well. So today when we chat I tell him about strategies of how to woo a woman from the US. Some of our friends from town join us and we quickly change the conversation to either me or some rapid fire Twi, between them, that I don’t understand. Then there is a tailor right next to his shop. She is always very nice, but never says much more than the basic greeting. Next is some kind of women beauty thing. There is one woman here who has very long dreadlocks. I think she owns the shop because the others I see here come and go, but she’s always here. She’s a young woman with a nice smile and peaceful demeanor. The other women here are also very vulgar, so I just make funny faces at this girl wen the others are trying to test me. Then there’s a break in the shops where some Tro Tros pull down and wash at the end of the day. This is also back near the water filling area. Then there are two more container shops. There are three main women that stay at this shop. They are always very nice and we often have long conversations. These are also the women that often times have just started breast-feeding in the middle of our conversation. I told the story about these women when one just pulled up her shirt from the bottom to breast-feed and I was trying to act normal and failing pretty badly. Just last week one of the women gave me some rice, stew, and meat for breakfast and didn’t accept my money. They are a must stop every time I pass. There are a few more wooden stands at the end where another group of women stay before the shops end. Then on the right side is Moses the Welder’s shop, or two containers. After I make all my greetings I continue down the road to the SHS. I meet with the tutors and give them the plan for the term and reinforce that they need to plan what they will be teaching each session. I test Charles to see if he will qualify to be a tutor.

 I walk back with Charles and ask him to accompany me to Momma Fausty’s compound so that way I can ask him about greeting her family. I really don’t want to do anything that will offend anyone. He leads me over there and prepares me. I walk in and there is a bunch of older people, dressed in all black traditional clothing, sitting in a half circle. I start from the person on the right and greet everyone going to the left. Then they offer for me to take a seat and out of nervous compulsion not to offend I take a seat. They tell me that I’m expected to show up to the one-week funeral this coming Sunday. One man stands up and tells me that I must bring my traditional funeral clothing. There is a pause in our talking and I take that as a chance to leave. In Twi, I say please, I am going. Me pachew, me ko. My spelling is probably awful. Then as I’m walking out I say y3b3 hyia kosiada, or we will meet Sunday. Then as I’m half way out the door I say da yie, or sleep well. As I take my last step out of the door I can hear them roar with laughter and all repeat what I had just said.

 I spend the rest of the night with Charles, asking him about cultural things that I want to clear up. Here is what I learned: If you are sitting in a fixed position, you are not obligated to greet people who pass you. They are the ones that are obligated to greet you first. If you are passing someone who is seated with about 20 feet from you, then you are obligated to greet. If you go out to buy something and greet people on your way there, you are not obligated to greet them again on the way back. You must not be the first to ask an elder how they are. They must initiate that question and then you can reverse it back to them. Don’t buy kosi from a seller and not the koko. If the Kosi runs out, then most people won’t buy the koko and they lose money. I think there were a few other things, I’ll update everyone when I remember those. 

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