04 October 08 You say tomato……

Ghanaians and Americans are separated by a common language.

The African languages pronounce every letter of a word. This makes total sense to me why is the letter there if you don’t pronounce it? Just to mess up those of us who think spelling should be logical! And although I sometimes understand the word used I don’t at first get the meaning becuase like any dialect of a language the words take on their own meanings or they will use a word I know in a way  I would not normally use it. So sometimes even when I am speaking English with my Ghanaian neighbors and friends we don’t understand each other.

I want to state clearly that I am not making fun but documenting differences between our two languages. I don’t think language can be right or wrong. Language is used to communicate and is created by the people using it.  So what if we in America have turned many nouns into verbs i,e, friending. If we all understand that’s what matters. So writing this is also helping me to understand my new dialect of english better as well.

In Ghanaian English

Prouncing every letter

Film is fil emm
Peace Corps is not Peace Core but Peace CorPs
Salmon is not samon but saLmon
Debt is not det but deB T

Words with slightly different meanings or used in an unfamiliar way.

I am not going to class but I am “for: class
“I coming” is said as you are walking away from someone intending to return.
I don’t have a lot of candy I have “plenty toffee”.
Simona will often “take the lead” on market day. She will go to town before me since I have classes then we will meet up somewhere in town.
I “follow” the bus to town I don’t take it but I am still riding the bus to town.
I say “thingy” they say “dis ting”
I say ‘whatchamacallit” they say “dis ting”
I say “you know the” they say “the dis ting”
dis ting is another wonderfully versatile phrase. My Peace Corps Polo shirt says “Doing Dis Ting in Ghana since 1961”

Dizzy does not tell me to “take” the flower but to “collect’ the flower,

:eh heenhh: is my favorite conversational interjection. It is said in a variety of tones and with a variety of accents. It can mean “see” or “it is like that” or “yes’ or express doubt or surprise or anger. I cannot say it anyway near correctly but I still try because it is so fun to use.

“A taawlllllllll “instead of at all is also another favorite of mine but I don’t use it cause I really can’t say it right. But I love to hear it. It’s not good a tolllll. Someone will say.


Giving 04 October 08

Today I got my refridgerator up and running. It brought on all kinds of questions about sharing my things, I put the fridge in the spare bedroom. The only other plug was in the livingroom and I had visions of little kids always opening my fridge and asking for the contents. So I was thinking the contents of the fridge are off limits. Out of sight out of mind.

These thoughts brought up the whole dilemma of people wanting things. I am a Peace Corps Volunteer for goodness sakes I want to save the world so it’s very hard saying no. I do it but i feel terrible. People in my circle of friends here don’t  do this. It is bascially strangers who see my white skin and make assumptions about my wealth. It happens everywhere. I am in town ,or on a bus or in a store even here on campus some workmen have asked and someone assumed I would bring copies of Microsoft XP and MSOffice with me for the schools computers. Sometimes they ask for big things, can I have your camera sometimes they ask for little things a .50 pesowa bag of sugar or for money. I always say no to them. The camera is an easy on. Somethings I can’t give away Peace Corps says my med kit is only for me.  It’s the small things that really make me feel bad.

Some PCV’s don’t give anything to the children in the neighborhood. Well from the story of bubble gum Sunday you know I do. I also give them pencils and sometimes food. But I give it to children I know and have a relationship with. Like I would with any other neighborhood kids. Sometimes I offer sometimes they ask. Sometimes I say no when they ask. Sometimes I say yes. And from the sardines and gari story you know they are also giving to me. Dizzy especially always has some thing to offer me.  I think Oh I want to buy the kids back to school things like pencils, erasers etc. or wonder what cool fun things I could find in town for the kids.

So should I have bought sugar for the workmen at the new boy’s dormitory?  This one guy said to me we need sugar for our coffee buy it for us. And I said I need a new refridgerator will you buy it for me? It’s just that a total stranger assuming I should buy him something really irks me. Who knows I may have made them something and brought it to the site after I visited a few times and they answered my questions etc. Or some of the 30 pack of water sachets that simona gave me from her uncle’s factory could have ended up there and cold to boot since i have a fridge now.

I guess I want to see a need and offer to help instead of it being assumed because a person has a need I will fill it. But also I want to enable people to help themselves. I told one girl to come over and she could do some work for me and then she could buy the flip flops herself.
I am in many ways a teacher not just in the classroom. And I never like giving the answer to students but helping them to figure it out.

Then I wonder if there is some kind of cultural misunderstanding on my part. Maybe the language is just more direct here and my perception of a rude abrupt request is just the way people ask for things.

I think this is a dilemma my heart and head will battle with the whole time I am here.


Update 26 Oct 08 My fridge is not running. I have to get a repairman to look at it. Drats!  Cold water was sooo nice!