3 important rules when living in Ghana

Would you go to a place called 'Mama Farty Fast Food'? I think not. Well the locals of Kwadaso don't care about the ironic branding of one of their favourite joints. Mama Farty's business is near by our local internet cafe. When I first saw the name inscribed on her small roadside food cabin, I scratched my bald patch in awe as to what meaning there could be in Twi that I was missing. Unfortunately the mystery continues. I haven't yet plucked up the courage to ask for fear that I will be asked what I think it means. Maybe it's just her name, although it doesn't sound so native, does it?

Then again, neither did the surname of the honeymooning couple whom I first gave a boat driving demonstration to in banagher when I worked as a teen on the river Shannon. The newly wedded German woman seemed to have absolutely no problem becoming Mrs Wanker. I kid you not.

The other night I went to get bread from a lovely old woman who lives in the locality. En route I passed by the trader who I sometimes buy eggs from and opposite her an orange and banana seller. The latter had her baby girl strapped to her back, as is the way of life here for most young kids whose mums work for a living. The local creche ends up being observing your mum's interactions with scores of neighbours and buyers from the area. As a kid your every need is attended to by your mum who is as close to you as physically possible. There's no Barbie, Ken or any other Disney figure to brainwash you. just real people going about their daily business all the time. But there's gotta to be a catch, huh! Well there is, given the subject matter I am addressing is somewhat related to names, you'll never guess what the kid's name is? I won't even bother wasting your breath.

Me: „Oh, and this is your beautiful daughter. Efre no sen (What is her name)?”
Trader: „Lady.”
Me: „Sorry.”
Trader: „Her name is Lady, like Lady Diana.”
Me: „Oh, well, wo ho te sen (how are you) Lady?”

End of conversation as Lady can't speak yet.

Rule No. 1- Never judge a fast food joint nor a person by their cover. Mama Farty's serves good food, Mr and Mrs Wanker were a lovely couple and Lady was the cutest baby I've seen since I came here.

Would you pray in a ramshackle chapel called 'Kingdom of Fire' above a bar with blaring music? I didn't think so. It may seem an odd place to go in order to get in touch with your Creator, but no divinity is beckoned in quietude here. Heaven is a long way away, so you oughtta scream out loud and get good amps if you want to be heard. Afterall, a lot of people are out there trying to get God's attention.

Maximise the noise till your ear drums have popped and your head is spinning with the rythmn of drumbeats, keyboards, trumpets and any other musical instrument lying around. For me, raised an Irish Catholic, the fact that people dance, wave handkerchiefs and voluntarily remain active participants in a religious service for 3+ hours is hard enough to fathom. And all of it is done, believe it or not, without the consumption of alcohol! Song, dance and a whole load of preaching is the protestant sect recipe of the day. Catholics do the same but with a lot more attention to sacramentalism. Just add candles, incense, altar servers, proclamation of faith through the creed, general confession and absolution, eucharist and you get your main differences.

A House of Rhema pastor comes down the steps while my friends and I are waiting for the Ghana Book Trust to open. He seems younger than me, but maybe that's just cause he shaves more regularly. „Hello friends, how are you all today?” Focussing his attention on me he stresses that it is God's plan that we met. He wants my phone number, to know where I live, what I am doing in Ghana, when will I visit his church. All within the first minute of our encounter. I was quite proud of the fact that I refused to give out my number, stating that I only pass on my details to people I know. I take his 'business card' to be respectful but as soon as he is gone I leave it on top of a shelf nearby. Why pretend a guy I met for 1 minute is a friend and God predestined us to meet when in actual fact he just happened to be coming down the stairs going somewhere while I was waiting to look as some books for our school library. That's it Pastor, there ain't nothing divine about it.

Fast forward two weeks – I am going towards the local porridge seller at 7.30am to get my daily fill. I meet my former neighbour (before he got kicked out for overstaying his welcome and here he had us conned that he was best friends with the director!) and local hairdresser. He makes another attempt at me to go to his church.

D: „I want you to come to my church, when are you going to come and worship with me?”
Note – He belongs to the protestant sect 'Assemblies of God' that are quite popular in this part of Ghana.
Me: „Well, we don't believe in the same thing so thanks but I'd rather not”
D: „Oh, why? Lots of white people come to my church. There is English translation on a screen for you to read if you don't understand the Twi.”
Me: „Ok, but it doesn't really matter what if white people go or not. You worship the way you want to and that's fine, but I come from a different background.”
D: „You are Christian, aren't you?”
Me: I was raised Catholic but......... (I don't need to fill in theg gaps here. Suffice to say I am a doubting Thomas).
D: „But you can still come and read the bible.”
Me: „Well, I don't believe the bible is the literal truth like your church does.”
D: You don't believe in the bible”
Me: ”I think it has interesting moral messages to teach us but I don;t believe it is literally all true. For example, take the two creation stories in Genesis.”
D: „But there is only one creaton story, God made everything in 7 days.”
Me: „Hmmm, I have my doubts. Isn't there the creation story of human's that Eve came from Adam's rib but also that man and woman were made simultaneously?”
D: „Where is that?”
Me: In Genesis, read the early chapters. If the bible is the literal truth how can you have two creation stories. One of them must be wrong. And if one is wrong, then the bible can't be the literal truth. Listen I should go got my porridge, I'll talk to you later.”

Rule No. 2 – Beware of constant church invitations. The fundamental reason is to get you to become a member of the church; the second so the inviter can look good bringing a white heathen to worship; the third, however, may just be out of common courtesy from a nice person who bids you no ill. Judge which invitation you have received carefully and don't be duped into saying yes cause you think it's bad manners to say no.

„My friend's tell me that Irish people are cute and short”. So says the cashier at the electrical goods store where I have just bought another voltage protector. She remembers me from a previous visit with Dorota and inquires where is the lady you were with last time. I sense a subtle marriage proposal coming! But then I'm a bit slow when it comes to flirting rituals.

Rule No. 3 – Go along with flirting from natives but if you are already tied to someone, draw the line so they can see it clearly. It can be good fun but you don’t want them stalking you over the phone, which men have a tendency to do if you give them your phone number.


pablo said…
6 degrees

I have been to Banagher on holiday and also to Accra both fantastic places for different reasons
Damien Moran said…
I'm impressed you've managed to fit both places into your itinerary. Good to hear from you. Were you on a boating holiday, passsing through Banagher? I presume you drank at the infamous Houghs and enjoyed the trad. music?

All the best.
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