Monday, October 11, 2010

Liar, Liar...

I want to quickly clarify that my intention is not to demean Ghanaian men at all. Numerous men have been very kind, helpful, etc. That said, inevitable prolems arise where the more immature males are concerned, and learning how to handle those situations with humor is a critical part of adapting to life in Africa.
Julia and I have come up with countless ways of avoiding interaction entirely, cutting it short, or sometimes just providing ourselves with some comic relief so we don't lose our tempers. Many times we are simply pleasant and the men who approach us only linger for a minute or two. But when we begin to reach the end of our patience with the frequency of the interruptions or someone is vastly overstaying his welcome, we become very sneaky. Read on!

Think Black, Think Black, Think Black
Ok, admittedly the least sneaky of our sneaky tactics. Whenever we see that a man or group of men is approaching us, or worse yet if we have to walk through a group of them, we try to camoflauge as best we can. This pretty much means chanting "Think black, think black, think black" until the threat has passed. Somehow they always seem to figure out we're white anyway though...Not sure what gives us away.

Play dead
We can only use this one on the beach when we're stationary and preferably already lying down. We seem to have a developed a sixth sense for knowing who is going to bother us and who won't. One of us can catch sight of someone walking our general direction from a good hundred yards away and know whether or not to start hissing, "Eagle, eagle!"- our code word to quickly pretend to be asleep, minimizing the appearance of being social prey. We joked that we were like mice, which is where the eagle part comes in. I'm not even sure mice even actually play dead to escape predators, but not the point. Julia and I have become very adept at shifting from the middle of an animated conversation to falling limp at a moment's notice. We did it so many times at Denu beach I think some bystanders might've thought we had narcolepsy. It worked a fair number of times, but the most persistent eagles kept squawking "Hallo? Hallooooooo! Hallo?" until we woke up anyway.

My Country Tis Of Someone Else
I rarely admit to being an American to people on the street. Doing so opens me up to countless requests demands to take people back home with me, give them my phone number or address in America, help them get visas, etc. and is usually also accompanied by a 5 -10 minute speech about the virtues of  St. Obama. Pluse it seems to increase my appeal as a wife. Usually it's safe enough to claim that I'm German if I'm with Julia or Canadian (hahaha no one wants to go there!) if I'm by myself. However my various other nationalities incude Norwegian, Alaskan and Spanish. No one has noticed my lack of accent yet...or that Alaska isn't actually it's own country...

Just Call Me Yevu
Julia and I have begun lying about our names when we're not in Aflao. It doesn't help us end or shorten our unwanted conversations, but it has provided us with some comic relief on multiple occasions. The majority of the time it's harmless/unimportant if we give someone our real names, and if we're truly desperate to get out of a situation it's best to refuse to give a name period. But sometimes, like when we were fed up with the vendor after vendor grabbing our wrists as we walked down the streets of Accra, we start fibbing just to amuse ourselves. Julia began introducing herself as Monica, and I was Naudia. It was pretty funny until it actually backfired and one of the men happened to be wearing a bracelet that said Monica... now seriously, what are the chances?

Lo Siento, Solo Hablo Deutsch
By far my favorite our sneaky tactics: We just tell them we don't speak English and launch into our respective other languages (German, her native language, for Julia and Spanish, my second language, for me). It doesn't get Julia and I out of conversations completely most times, but it's downright hilarious. No one has realized yet that we aren't even speaking the same foreign language as each other, much less that we can only understand a small percent of what the other one is saying while we're pretending to have a conversation.
Sometimes it sorta backfires and people spend even longer trying to talk to us than they would've otherwise because they want to teach us some English or they're so curious/confused/frustrated why we don't understand them. But the trade-off is that we get to mess with them : ) Which I think is only justice when they are intruding entirely uninvited. One pair of guys spent 15 minutes crouched in front of us, trying to teach us the basics after we told them in our pidgin English that we were Germans who came to Ghana to learn English. Because every European comes to Africa to improve their English don't you know.
My favorite time was when we told two other guys that Julia could speak a little English and I couldn't speak any- so she had to translate their English into German for me, I'd answer in Spanish and she'd translate back into very simple, choppy English... Oh my goodness I'm starting to laugh all over again just remembering it.
I've gotten very good at staring blankly when someone approaches me saying "Fine lady, I want to be your friend" and stuttering " English" and starting to rattle off some nonsense in Spanish.

I'm going to be a pathological liar by the time I get home...


  1. EXCELLENT!!!!!! Very resourceful.

  2. "This pretty much means chanting "Think black, think black, think black" until the threat has passed." Whaaaaaaat

    "Because every European comes to Africa to improve their English don't you know." I think they prefer Pakistan first but use Africa as a backup.