Sunday, March 16, 2008

Things about Ghana

I've seen a few really good blog posts from other folks who are just finishing their adoptions from Ghana. Jim over at "I'm Ghana Adopt" and Carrie over at "Blaske Broadcast" brought back fun memories and really helpful tips for other parents going after them. I want to re-post here, interjecting some of my own thoughts (of course!).

From Carrie (cut from her post)...
Can you tell the difference between a crying baby and a goat tied up out side your the middle of the night...I can now. They sound very much the same and it was a bit concerning for me to hear the "baby" cry all night. [My goodness I rememeber being terrified when I first heard a baby goat under my winder one night! They do sound JUST like crying babies!]

Lizards, did you know that they are afraid of you, but when the want what you have they will raise their head and bounce it up and down to try to make you works. [I once saw a big lizard attack and eat a little lizard in Ghana....while at the hospital....they were inside.]

Also, cockroaches, the BIGGER they are the better....if you only see the BIG ones in the house that means that they are coming "in" for the food but live outside (where you want them to live) if you see the lttle ones inside then they have taken up a home in your kitchen...having babies. (YUCK!) [Well this is good to know! A few of our adoptive families have seen mouse-sized cockroaches in the guesthouse by our Children's home. I'm sure this will make them feel much more at ease! LOL!]

The free range chickens and goats all gather together for an EARLY meeting EACH DAY and freely talk to each other from about 4:30-6:00 a,m.....then they are quiet!With the windows open, it is hard to NOT hear them!Ants...hummm, how long does it take the ants to FIND any crumb you drop or leave on the counter...about 2 seconds, they must call their friends and let them know.."hey she is stirring something on the stove and I am sure she will take the spoon out and put it on the counter any second...COME NOW" so they do, you set the spoon down, pick it up to stir again...only to find that you did not look at the spoon first and you now have about 20 ants in your pan...FUN FUN! [Did you know that ants taste sort of minty? They do! Really, they do!]

The taxi pulls up, you lean in and ask how much to "Beacon House" and they say 3,000WHAT!!! oh, the currency has changed but MOST Ghanaians still talk in old is 3 Ghana Cedis (about 3 US dollars)The price of a loaf of bread, 1,050 (1 Ghana cedi and 50 pesowis sp)about $1.50 usd.... [Well, actually I think Carrie must have been tired when she wrote this because 3,000 in old currency is like .30 (cents or pesewas) instead of $3/3cedis. But the the excellent point made is that people definitely still do quote things in old currency. The old currency was +/- 10,000 cedis to $1US. The new currency is +/- 1 Ghana Cedi (you have to say Ghana Cedi to be talking new currency) to $1US. If someone says they want "1 million" think 100 new Ghana cedis (or $100 US). If someone says 10,000 think $1/1 Gh cedi.]

When you go to the bank to exchange USD into give the banker your $200dollars and they give you 200 ceids in one cedi bills (like one dollar bills) I have this wad of money in my wallet that I can not even close...that is okay though because they will give you a little black plastic bag to carry your money in. [I actually didn't have this experience, but I like Carrrie's place better! I got 20 cedi notes and NOBODY in Ghana will have change for a 20 cedi note (around $20). Even though it's a pain to carry around a wad of cash DEFINITELY get lots of 5 and 1 cedi notes and only a few 10s. Don't even mess with 20s unless you know you're going to have a big purchase!]

The sound of air coming out of a tire...sssssssss coming out of a man's mouth toward you is a "call" for you to look his way. (wants you to look at what he is selling) [Yes! Definitely be aware of this! It's not just vendors, it's anybody that wants your attention. "Tssss..." Turn around because you may have dropped your bag or something. Someone wants your attention!]

The sound of small kisses over and over again is also a call from a vendor to have you look his way as you walk or drive by.*lots of sounds, and kisses day after day, everywhere you go makes you kinda silly in the learn to tune it out...even though you would not mind talking to some of the vendors....just a weird way of getting your attention. [It's so funny how every experience differs. I haen't noticed a kissing sound in my direction, but maybe I just tuned it out? I think it was my 3rd trip to Ghana before I picked up on the "Tsss" sound thing!]

I have already talked about the things you can by while sitting in traffic...I still think selling toilet paper on Front street and 17th would be perfect for me on my way home from drum lessons or school...Today I saw a tiolet seat and some excersize stuff..funny combo! [I think this is one of the best things about Ghana. I love it! Need a new broom? No need for a wal-mart--just wait for a guy selling a broom during traffick and you're all set! Hankies...snacks...children's educational toys...nail grooming sets...maxi name it, they sell it! They one thing you MUST buy when you're sitting in traffic is FanMilk (ice cream/frozen yogurt you suck out of a bag). I like FanChoco the best, but FanYogo is good too.]

Have not had a hot shower yet...really do not want one, but have figured out a new way to make hot water.with the bucket shower method, you start with a small plastic bowl that you fill with water from the bucket, dump it over your head, it is COLD and refreshing, but as it runs down it picks up the HEAT from your body, and by the time the water is to your knees, it is your feet are ALWAYS in hot water. Cool huh? [So funny! But she is right--you will NOT miss having a hot shower unless you are staying in an air conditioned room. If you have a room with no A/C but have a fan your cool shower each morning and evening will feel like manna from heaven! It's a little chilly when you start out on the morning but it's kind of like getting into the pool--it feels good after a few minutes.]

Cute things the kids say
"Ohhhhh Sorry" = oh, sorry...for ANY time ANYONE trips, bumps a head, drops a spoon while cooking, basically any time anything unfortunate happens to anyone...could be me or could be the man at the bank who drops his paper..."ohhhh, sorry" [SUCH a Ghana thing! If anything of even minor significanse happens that is even slightly unfortunately every person around you will look at your with the most sincere eyes and say, "Oh! Sorry!" I love it. I've carried it home with me and now I've got my kids saying "Oh! Sorry!" anytime something bad happens. Dad drops a pill on the floor...."Oh sorry!" Bright has a poopy diaper...."Oh sorry!"]

"you people" = a group of "where are you people going today?" [Ugh. Don't like this one. It sounds SO rude to me.]

"ahhh-hemmm" (with a nod of the head) = what we say when we agree like "yes or yeah, or sure, or just means I hear you and I agree. [What's hard to describe about this one is the tone of voice. It's like the tone of voice you'd use if you solved a mystery. I don't just have to hear it! But a few things have to be added here. You can't for get "Yessoooo!" If someone really agrees with you and it's funny "Yessoooo!" will come out. And we can't for get "Ay!" said with surprise every single time. So if a kiddo does something bad or good (doesn't matter) you can respond with "Ay!"]

"Plenty" = there is a lot of what ever it is. Like when we drove to the coast and we saw the ocean as we came around the corner, they said, "Oh mum, the water is PLENTY" or when my bowl of rice is a bit bigger than theirs..."mum, your rice is PlENTY" [This is another one of my favorite words the kids use. I've noticed that Ghanaians don't tend to turn on the fans to HIGH like we would in American in similar temps. So when I get in my room I turn that sucker onto the highest it can go! One of the kids walked into my room when I was at Eban House and said, "Ay! Auntie Anita! The fan is PLENNNNNTY!" So cute. Totally cracked me up.]

"paining" = hurting. If the kids skin their knee, they will say "mum, my knee is Paining me" or my head is paining me or if a braid is to tight, it pains her. [And sometimes Ghanaians will say a person is paining them if the person is causing them stress or being difficult. Jo is paining me!"

Now that you're thoroughly done with this way too long post I'm going to still go on to Jim's post!

It's always hot here, duh I'm in AFRICA!!!!. [Folks, it's hot in Accra in a way that you've probably never experienced before. Maybe in Louisiana??? When I was there it was not the hottest time of the year and one day it was 95 degrees with 98% humidity. 95 degrees? No problem! 98% humidity? BIG PROBLEM! Give me 120 degrees with 50% humidity any day.]

the pictures I've seen in magazines for years about "the villages" is true. most of the people live day to day. [Outside of Accra and the few other bigger cities, this is so true. I talked to so many families in the North that, when asked what their income was, they said they had none--literally. They live hand to mouth. The grow some food and trade for other food. Monthly income? What's that? For lots of people in Ghana that's a dream.]

you can always smell buring garbage in Accra. [ lots of people don't like that smell. And it isn't particularly pleasing but at this point it's a smell that is Ghana to me. I love that smell when I first step off the plane. And I appreciate that people burn their trash rather than letting it sit in heaps.]

expect the unexpected while traveling....ladies in full African dress going "wee wee" about 15 yards from the side of the road. they even go in groups here also. :) [And I don't know how they do it! My body just isn't built to gracefully "go" on the side of the road without showing something I don't care to show, but Ghanaian women can do it with as much grace as is possible with that sort of thing. My friend, when we were on a long road trip, kept asking me , " the bush calling you?!" He just couldn't wait for me to have to "go" where there was no wash room (and by washroom I mean 4 walls). I had to explain to my friend that he just didn't understand! He's black! He can go into the bush and his body will mix in with the shadows. If *I* go to the bush my white hiney will flash like a beacon! I told him someone could think I'm bushmeat and take a shot!! LOL!]

.if you need to go "wee wee" just pull over and's the African thing to do. I've done it so it's no big deal. [Ha! No big deal for you Jim, cause you're a man! BIG DEAL for women, even if we have a skirt!]

always ask to take someones picture. if they ask for $$$ say never mind then. [Very true. Most won't mind, but some will. And definitely do NOT try to take a pic of bushmeat where the guy will see you. Lots of the bushmeat is illegal and they do NOT want photographs. I had a guy just about jump in the car to take my camera away!]

shop at ShopRite....NOT KOWALA OR MAXMART to expensive [Not that anything is wrong with Koala or MaxMart but ShoptRite at Accra Mall is much more like American prices. Loved it!]

eat out at Frankies...great food, great prices. [GREAT food. Great prices? Not compared to local food places, but the prices are fine ($5-$10 per entree). The ice cream is WAY exensive! Skip it and walk down to the Osu Food Court for much cheaper and still good ice cream. Frankie's is definitely my favorite place to eat in Ghana though! Gotta get the pizza!]

The official end of the longest post ever is now over!


Renee 10:03 PM  

Oh, This is such a fun post!

Our boys do the "So-rry" thing, and now we all do it.

They also say "THIS".. "This boy", "This Girl" etc..

Also, everything is either "Good." or "No Good". I bought Eben some new church shoes and this a.m.... he was walking around the house with them still connected with the little elastic thingy saying "These shoes are no good." We cut the elastic so he could walk and then the shoes were "Good!"

I love the way Joel uses the word "Beautiful!" We walked into Costco and he said "Oh Mummy, this is a beautiful store."

When dishing out food it's always small or big..... not a lot or a little. it threw me for a loop at first because I thought they were saying some more and I would give them a large serving and what they were really saying was small. As in a small portion.

The heat thing cracks me up because our boys can not stand to be too hot!!???!!! At night they want the fan on full blast and still want some more "hair" (air). Please, I beg of you Mummy..more hair (air) The minute we get in the van "Hair please Mummy we need Hair". It's so funny's not even summer hot, hot , hot yet!

Joel actually ran up to me the other day in shock that he was sweating. It cracks us up. You would think they were from the North Pole instead of Ghana.

There is also a lot of non verbal communication. A kiss with an upward nod must not be complimentary because they don't like it when one does it to the other. I think it's the equivalent to "Nanny, nanny, boo-boo".

They also do little signs for hungry and thirsty.

Wow, I just love these boys :o)

Renee leaving the longest comment ever.

A. Gillispie 10:12 PM  

Oh Renee! I forgot about "Beautiful!" Paul, the first orphanage director the boys lived with said that all of the time, so that might be part of the reason why they use "beautiful" a lot. That's another one that I brought home from Ghana and use in our home. If the kids bring me a drawing I have to say "Oh! Beautiful!" in the same way Ghanaians say the words (so pronunciated)!

You cracked me up about the heat thing too. Bright also HATES to be hot and the cold all winter hasn't bothered him in the least. If it's over 50 degrees the kid could care less if he has any sort of sleeves on. Funny how quickly they get used to the cooler temps!

Renee 10:22 PM  


Thanks for sharing that about Paul. I love to hear them say something is beautiful. It is so pronounced and heartfelt. "Nice" is also another term they use. It's a high compliment. It means much more than our American "Nice".

Too funny about Bright and the heat!

I think we need an updated picture of Bright-O :o). He's BEAUTIFUL!

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KG 2:41 PM  

You have my dream job. Exactly what I went to school to be able to do, why I chose my major, and so on. How did you land it? I've been a full-time intern at an adoption agency for a semester and have good experience, but know that these jobs are few and far between, especially at top-notch, completely ethical agencies (which is the only type of agency I would ever consider working for). Could you maybe do a post for those of us looking to work in the international adoption field with some pointers?


Jim & Laurel 11:04 PM  

Glad you enjoyed Jim's random thoughts ...

Laurel :)