On Parenting…or not, as the case may be

Ok, well, a lot of things in Ghana have told me I’m not (do you hear that Ghanaian men? I’m NOT) ready to have children. This country is one of the most fertile I’ve ever seen. There are baby everythings everywhere – children, goats, puppies, guinea fowl chicks (not cute), piglets, calves, dinosaurs, sheep, donkeys….. everything.  Ugh FINE, dinosaurs don’t exist anymore, but chickens are SO MUCH funnier when you think of them as mini Velociraptors so that’s what we’re going to do.
This country is in a constant state of renewal and rebirth. It is a shining beacon of the natural cycle of life, which, unfortuantely, also involves death.
As all of you know, my cat had six kittens. As some of you know, the kittens are now five. As is common with large litters, one of the kittens succombed to the cycle of life a little early. Now, this was extremely difficult for me.  As a general rule, tiny things should not die. Especially not if they’re tiny AND fluffy. An animal’s death is significantly more tragic if that animal was tiny and fluffy. You might try to disagree with me, but I don’t make the rules, so don’t bother.

Exhibit A: Tiny and FluffyExhibit A: Tiny and Fluffy. Don’t worry, this is not the deceased, just a semi-scientific size reference for you

Anyway, as I said, i struggled a lot during the hours and hours of sickness my kitten endured, and it got me thinking about how impossibly hard it must be to have a young child who is sick. How mothers and fathers must ache for their children. I mean, I knew this cat for about 2 weeks. It couldn’t talk. It didn’t love me back. It wasn’t part of me or the life I’d planned for myself. It was just fluffy and tiny. He looked up at me with pleading eyes, he mewed these pitiful, weak mews, and I was completely devastated and completely useless (don’t worry, I’m over it now, although you can still send me condolance chocolate in the mail).
In a small way (I don’t mean to say my experience was anything like a parent watching his/her child become ill), it showed me it’s almost harder to be the one watching the sick than to be the sick themselves. Espcially in the case of parents. Especially in the case of my parents, who had to endure my moaning and groaning assertions and this time the sickness WAS actually fatal and I was going to verbalize my suffering until the very end. No, it wasn’t just a sore throat, it was a flesh-eating bacteria that was making its way to my heart. You might think that’s just a headache, but I know for a fact that it’s a tumor, I read it on WebMD. No, Mom, I don’t think you’ll truly understand how painful my earache is unless I tell you about it at five minute intervals for the next two days. Please sit with me again as I watch “Dunstin Check’s In” for the third time today, I need someone to hear me complain.
Every time I got sick (with a fatal illness, inevitably) I would melt into a feverish pile of self-pity, completely unaware that it SUCKED for my parents to watch me sick. Not just because i was unbearably obnoxious (still am), but because it’s insanely difficult to watch someone (or something) you love (that is tiny and fluffy) in pain. Maybe they needed someone rubbing their backs, too.
Yes, yes yes, i know, that’s pretty obvious. It’s something I’ve been aware of my entire life, but hadn’t been fully conscious of until now. Kind of like when I realized that the fact that my parents were 30 when they had me meant they ACTUALLY had 30 years of real, living and breathing life before I was born (it’s true, ask them). Peace corps is good for realizations like that. Something about the long hours sitting and waiting for various distings leads to strange meditations. And something about blogging makes you think random thoughts are supposed to be public.  So, in summary:

  • Thanks, Mom and Dad. I have yet another newfound appreciation for you and the strength it takes to be a good parent.
  • Based on my reaction to a sick kitten, I am even more convinced, despite the compelling arguments of Ghanaian men, that I am NOT ready for children.
  • Fluffy, tiny things should live forever, or at least until they are no longer fluffy and tiny.
  • Chickens are dinosaurs.

Note: between the time of me writing this and posting it, I learned that my dear 15 year-old Abby cat had to be put to sleep. There seems to be a theme in my life right now….anyway I hope she is eating mice to her fat little heart’s content up in kitty heaven. It was almost as if life sent me the kitten as a test-run for Abby, and I dare say I’m handling it pretty well, given the fact that I’m me. I’m just happy to know she left this world peacefully, sprawled out on a sheep’s skin with two people petting her, instead of the way this kitten did.  And I swear my next post will be about Ghana and not cats……i swear……


Abridged Ghanaian English – American English Dictionary: 2nd Ed.

Abba!: WHY? Used mostly to express frustration. Best if both syllables are pronounced distinctly (AH—BAH!)

‘It’s the 3rd week in the term and the students still have not come to school. Abba!’

be free: to openly talk with someone, to be honest, to be someone’s friend (in the American English sense, see: friend)

‘Sister, you see how we are free with each other. That is all I want, just to be free with you. Also to take you as my wife’

chop: to eat

‘Is it true that in America you don’t chop dog? Be free with me’

dodge: to avoid, can be used in terms of people, inanimate objects or concept

I walk into a spot and the lights go out ‘AIE the electricity is dodging you’

  ‘You are dodging the point, which is that you are not a prince and therefor I will not marry you’

   ‘Charlie! It’s been a long time! Have you been dodging me?’

ehhhhhhh-hehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh (very drawn out and nasal): I understand, or, finally, you understand (best when accompanied by an up and outwards movement of both hands)

‘So you are saying that because I am not a prince you will not marry me?’ ‘ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh-heeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

foot: to walk

‘The tournament won’t start for small time because the other team has a long way to foot to get here’

friend: sexual partner. Not to be confused with ‘friend’- asexual partner, the difference can be confusing for non-native speakers, however when spoken in reference to a white lady, it is most likely the former. When referring to the latter, it’s best to stick with “brother” or “sister”

‘Silominga! I want to take you as my friend!’ ’Charlie, we’ve discussed this, and my father has yet to receive the cows in America so the answer is still no.’

 ‘This man is not my friend, he is another PCV and my brother.’

hot: angry, or painful

‘The coach the hot ohh, his team is losing.’

‘Aie, I have been playing futball all day without shoes or shin guards, my feet are hot ohhhhhhhh!’

          Editior’s note: this is a hypothetical situation imposed upon the people of Ghana by the author, they don’t actually complain about their feet hurting after such activities even if their toenails are all bleeding and/or falling out. Also, because I’m here I might as well add that I have a 6 week-old kitten on my lap right now.

how is/was back?: How is it at the location I used to be at but am now away from, or have recently returned to

On the phone with a teacher while at a meeting in Kumasi ‘How is back? Have term 2 classes started yet?’

After returning from the Bolga market, ‘How was back?’

lights out: power outage

‘It’s lights out for the 10th time today, good luck charging your phone.’

me my: my

I am going to me my classroom to teach.’

serious: bad

 ‘The Harmattan winds are serious today! There’s so much dust you can’t see more than 50 feet!’

 ‘Ghana lost the futball match last night, it’s serious ohhhh.’          

shit:  well,…ok….so the meaning is the same as in American English BUT it’s not a swear here. It still catches me off guard when the small children use it.

As spoken by 3-year old Anita (who can’t say her L’s) – ‘Sister Yaren, is this box is for the cats to shit?’

As spoken by a fellow teacher during a professional staff meeting – ‘All the children are shitting in the cornfields because our latrines are full again.’

small time: long time (if accompanied by an invitation to sit down, expect at least a 2 hour waiting period)

‘Silominga, sit here on this bench, the tro tro will leave in small time’ (1 hour later) ‘It will just be some small time more, sister’ (2.5 hours later) tro tro leaves

suffer: A more diluted version of the “suffer” used in American English

 ‘Me my cat never stops begging me for food, do you see how I’m suffering? It’s serious ohhhhhhh!

take the lead: to leave for a mutual destination before someone else, even if you are not going to meet with that person when reaching the destination

When I foot to town and a teacher or friend passes me on their moto, which I cannot ride (I hope you’re reading and appreciating this peace corps!) ‘Sister Lauren, we will take the lead to market.’ – 30 minutes later, on the same road meeting the same teacher, now on his way back to school, ‘Sister Lauren, you still haven’t reached town? Ok, we will take the lead to school’

that: doesn’t really mean anything, but a lot of people start every statement with it.

‘That I should help you with your washing.’

tomorrow next: in two days

‘When is the next market day?’ ‘That it is tomorrow next.’

wee-wee: to urinate. Used by completely straight-faced adult professionals and children alike

‘Sister Lauren, that I want to go wee-wee.’ (it’s common for people to make such announcements about their bladder and/or bowels)

you are invited: you are welcome to come and eat my food. It’s insulting if you don’t invite someone to your food every time you’re eating, no matter what it is, where you are, or how many people you’re inviting

After buying a pepe egg off the top of someone’s head while waiting in your tro for 3 hours for it to fill (to the person sitting next to you) – ‘you are invited’

After receiving your food at a chop bar (to every other table of people in the bar) – ‘you’re invited’

After cooking your last coveted box of Annie’s Mac and Cheese your sister brought you for christmas (to the neighbor that knocks on your door) – ‘you’re…..you’re…….DAMMIT! YOU’RE INVITED.’