Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Ghanaian time

I had hardly made it out of the airport when I learned my first Ghanaian word, "obruni." Let me preface by explaining that there isn't one uniform language in Ghana--there are many tribal languages, and they are spoken according to what region you live in. Obruni, however, is a bit of a universal term, and it essentially translates to "white person." On our first day here, Stesha and I walked around our area, exploring the dirt roads and vacant lots and meandering up through the countryside. The area is a residential area so all the roads and lots are filled with people, selling clothes or food or just hanging out. In general, every lot we passed, I was met by a pack of eyes that followed me as I walked past. This was easy enough to ignore (or even expect, since I'm the only white person around), but it's a bit... louder whenever I run into a group of children. Without fail, children always squeal and giggle when I walk by, usually pointing, and nearly always yelling, "Obruni!" Sometimes, when there are a group of children, they'll yell out a chorus of: "Obruni! Obruni! Obruni!"

Monday we began our project by setting up shop in a little office area at the University of Ghana, just a temporary working place while we set up interviews and research appointments. We secured a couple interviews, and had our first two today and yesterday. On our very first interview, we experienced a great example of what Stesha has begun to affectionately term, "Ghanaian time."

Yesterday morning we met with a representative from the Ministry of Women and Children's affairs. The interview was going really well when the representative abruptly asked if she could step out for a moment to speak with her boss about an unrelated matter. She said it would only take a moment. She didn't return for almost 30 minutes, and Stesha and I were about to get up and leave when she returned, and sat down to continue the interview where we left off. It's nothing that we can't work around, but it's a matter of general habit that has taken some getting used to. For example, if someone says they'll pick us up in "30 minutes," that might turn into 2 or 3 hours. It makes setting appointments occasionally difficult, but at least it gives us leeway if we're running late to a meeting.


Iza said...

you should start a collection. whitey and gringo are easy enough to find, but things like farang and obruni are nice, exotic specimens..


Hey Adam! I found your blog on the DukeToday website. Your project sounds truly fascinating.

I am also doing research this summer (in Ukraine), and I will be gathering information through interviews, like you.

I'm interested in the protocols you are following in your interviews... specifically, what are you doing if your subjects speak English? and are you recording the interviews?

I'm also blogging on my research at http://chernobyl-summer.blogspot.com/, if you're interested. Good luck, and I'll be sure to keep reading!

Sarah (Wallace)


I meant "don't" speak English. Sorry.