Ghanaian Hospitality

Like most studying abroad I traveled over seas

Cept I don’t look like the locals, and they all notice me

Cause my different color skin but I still try to fit in

Getting called out in public and responding with a grin

Learning all sorts of things, about the culture and traditions

It’s not inept, weird, or worse, it’s only different

I’m so blessed with my position, though mosquitoes keep me itching

There’s limited air condition, but I stay optimistic

The heat’s got sweat dripping, it ain’t easy to adapt

I can strive for integration but I will never be black

Replacing technology and for experience and conversations

You can learn so much from others’ telling stories it’s amazing

The inconveniences are drastic but it’s easy to look past it

When they’re swallowed by the aspects that make life here so fantastic

It’s sad seeing those with conditions that ain’t the greatest

can’t make em instantly rich, but I can make em feel elated

When they speak the local language, and I reply in Twi

And they laugh out loud surprised, smiling at me

I try to be open minded so my time here is best

I’m learning through life events rather than inside a desk

But my test isn’t pass or fail, more like live and learn

Appreciate what you’re born with and give when it’s your turn

Reflectin on the past, I keep my mind in tact

Thinkin ahead to the time when it’s my turn to give back

Over Easter break, on the way to the Ghanaian-Jewtopia, I left a day early so I could visit Kumasi (the second largest City in Ghana) and spend a night there with one of my Ghanaian classmates. We stayed at her aunt and uncles’ home, which seemed to be like a home base for her entire extended family. It’s quite common in Ghana for relatives other than one’s immediate family to live together. I was welcomed with great excitement. Everyone in her family raced to greet me when I arrived, smiled, extended their right hand (of course), and sang, “Awkwaaba! You are welcome!” I was surprised at the number of people all residing in this house, only to later on realize that when the neighbors heard there was a guest on its way, they rushed to their house to welcome me. About a dozen kids under the age of 14 surrounded me, grabbing at my hands, yelling “Obruni”, or “Hi! How are you!” and followed me everywhere I went. Was this just because I am white? I don’t know. Apparently families from the Ashanti region are known for being the most hospitable in Ghana.

I was asked, “will you drink juice?!” and I replied, “sure”. 20 minutes later, the father of the house returns from the store with a container of juice. I would have been fine drinking water! I assumed they had juice…. At first I felt terrible! I did not want to make him go out of his way just to get me juice! I would have preferred water to juice, but they asked if I wanted juice so I assumed they had juice at the house and I simply accepted because I didn’t want to say no. They were all willing to go out of their way to please whatever needs I had. It seemed as though they hoped I had many requests so they could make me as happy as possible.

After getting situated and getting a lovely greeting from the entire family, I devoured some delicious fufu, which is known to be best tasting in Kumasi. Fufu is a heavy dish, and 99% of Ghanaians won’t eat it after 3 pm because it is so heavy. I was eating it at 8pm! Then, around 9pm, the brought me ANOTHER MEAL! I said I would eat some yam and kontomery(sorry for spelling) when I had arrived, and AFTER I ATE all of the Fufu, I was served just that. What I did not know that they made the entire meal (my second dinner) from scratch, fetching the leaves, tomatoes, and everything else involved from their very own garden in preparation. They did all this simply because I had asked for it. If I knew they had rice in the fridge that they could have simply heated up, I would have been happy to eat that! Yet, they had no problem at all with serving me exactly what it was I wanted, even though it required extra work, and ended up making me feel so full I forgot I had abs.

I had been asked previously if I would eat a few different foods, but it was never clear to me which one I was going to be served…..but I guess there was more than one. In Ghana, I’ve observed from my experiences that it is considered rude not to finish a dish that is served to you, for the host may think you did not enjoy the dish enough to finish it all. Luckily, my stomach and brain have been genetically modified, and eating when I am full happens to be one of my greatest abilities in life. I’ve also had an abundance of prior experience and practice (What up GINSBURG CRUISES! WOOT WOOT! YAY FOR FAT AMERICANS). I had to encourage the kids to join me at the table, since most Ghanaians traditionally don’t eat and talk at the same time. But, I became so full, I also needed an audience for motivation. These seemed to love me; I didn’t want to let them down.

After forming a fufu baby in my tummy and then showering it with another delicious Ghanaian meal, I stayed up speaking Twi with the kids, dancing, and repeatedly explaining to these 5 year olds that I can’t take them all back to America with me.

I was quite thrown off at the fact that these kids were as young as 5 years old, knew nothing about America, but were SO EAGER to go there, even if it meant going by themselves with no family. And, of all people, they wanted to come with me! I tried to explain to them that I was far too irresponsible to look out for children, especially if they barely spoke English (they probably didn’t comprehend that). I told them in Twi that I liked Ghana better than America. I asked why they wanted to go so badly. They responded, “Because it’s amazing there!” I felt terrible and I didn’t know how to respond. I explained that a fufu dinner in America at a restaurant would probably be 20 times the prices of one in Ghana. Plus a tip, too. I told them how cold it got. But, I could not convince them otherwise. It was embedded in their minds that America had no flaws. Sometimes I feel like a prick, being born in America and not realizing how many people world-wide would do ANYTHING just to go there.

I’ve had people propose to me and want to marry me and go back to America. That’s understandable… I’m so charming and good-looking and I give off such a great first impression that seems to make old women want to spend the rest of their lives with me. But, these kids wanted to join me just to go to the States and live on their own. These young kids! It gave me a lot of mixed emotions.

The next morning 4 or 5 different family members woke me up before 7 am. Yipee! The cute kids wanted me to play with them. They showed me around the house, jumped on me, and then accompanied me during breakfast. Even though I woke up full (and pregnant) I ate a HUGE breakfast around 8, and then one of the young girls told me she was preparing Tom Brown for me. “Sure….I’ll eat again?! J” Next thing you know…I’m eating again. Being called fat is Ghana is a compliment. “Hey! You’ve grown fat oh! God bless! You are eating well!” is a compliment! So, I guess the goal of this 15 hour stay was to get “FAT-OH!”.By this time I felt like I had triplets dancing in my belly.

I said my goodbyes, took some , agreed that the entire family they could come back with me to America, and left for Kumasi to do some “sight seeing”. They all wanted to know when I would come back and visit them. Maybe one day I will! I hope so.

ONE! (love)

J Kwabz