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Posts Tagged ‘humor’

Patience is a virtue

I am safe and sound in Germany, with some unexpected twists along the way. After an extra day in Paris, I booked a train ride to Cologne and sat in the train station for roughly six hours reading ‘One Day’, people watching and trying to keep warm.

I was nervous that I would miss my train, but made it safely on board. When we arrived in Brussels to switch trains, I went up to the platform and panicked when I saw the train was getting ready to leave. Unable to find a conductor, I jumped on and asked another passenger if this was the train to Cologne. ‘Yes,’ he said, but when he looked more closely at my ticket he realized I was supposed to be on a different train.

Too late.

The doors had closed and the train started moving. I panicked, but the men said they would vouch for me when the man came through to check the tickets. And they did, but he still had to follow policy and charge me 59 euros for boarding his train. So much for buying a Eurail pass and saving money!

At least there were some open seats on the train, though I managed to find the one beside an elderly French man who was muttering to himself and speaking to me in a mixture of French, English and German about anything and everything bothering him. I was saved when a new passenger boarded the train and informed me I was in his seat, making him the man’s new victim.

So, now I will be double-checking that I have calculated military time correctly and that I thoroughly understand the ticket information. Thankfully I am now with family and enjoying the comforts of sleeping in a house and not a hostel.

Tchuss!

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Translation: thanks, but no thanks. There have been too many experiences to count that apply to this statement.

SALES TACTICS

The only shoes I brought with me to Paris were a pair of sandals and a pair of hiking shoes. Considering the colder weather and sense of fashion here, I was keeping an eye out for an alternative. Easier said than done given the high prices of Paris. When I saw some shoes for 29 Euro, I tried them out but also figured they weren’t very well made.

Along with the very chemical odor coming from them, there were no half sizes available and I either would be squishing my toes or tripping over myself. I considered the latter, but the owner only had the shoe in black and the grey ones were what brought me into the store.

That didn’t stop her from practically shoving me out of the door with them.

‘Oh, black is better! You can wear with jeans or dress! Grey does not look good when it rains,’ she encouraged.

I considered, but the quality just wasn’t worth it. How do you say that to someone who is lingering over your shoulder telling your sister that she can shove something in the toe of the shoe to make it fit her tiny feet and repetitively asking ‘why not?’ when she decides against that option?

You don’t. We told her we were going to continue to look around and then literally ran out of the store, looking like shoplifters. I kept looking over my shoulder, half expecting her to chase us down and insist we buy them. After a few minutes we slowed our pace and laughed at our escape.

UNWANTED ADVANCES

The only men who really approached me and my sister in Paris were those trying to sell us little Eiffel Tower figurines. That changed when we got to Rome. While walking to find breakfast we were woken up by a man who got right in our faces, whistled and then made kissing noises.  Talk about invasion of personal space.

Later we were trying to figure out where to eat dinner, wandering around the streets. Often times a restaurant employee will stand on the sidewalk outside the establishment trying to attract customers. One man decided gasping and proclaiming, ‘I love you!’ would lure us in to eat. Wrong. We ate at a very tasty place down the street where the waiter had a better understanding of manners.

Besides the affectionate advances, there were also the sales people (if you care to call them that). Flinging flashy toys into the air, waving fake purses in your face and selling beer at ridiculous rates.

I’ve got to hand it to them, though, they’re magicians of sorts. When the temperature dropped in Rome, they sold scarves to drape around your shoulders.

Then, when the rain started falling a little later, suddenly the scarves became umbrellas. I had barely felt a drop before they were waving them in our faces.

Thankfully I learned from Ghana that a blank stare straight ahead or curt shake of the head is typically all it takes to send them running toward another unlucky tourist.

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Discovering things about myself

I inadvertently created a son out of thin air yesterday. That’s what happens when you can’t understand someone and instead of asking ‘what?’, just go along with it and pretend like you do. At least I only made a fool of myself.

Here’s how it went:

I boarded a tro-tro and a man who had just been trying to sell me DVDs squishes in next to me and an older woman, even though there were plenty of open seats. Sure enough, he turned toward me and began asking my name, where I’m from, etc. I had to ask him to repeat questions a few times and began just answering simply, ‘ohh ok, mmhmm, yes’.

So when he asked me if I had mumble mumble, I figured he was wondering if I was in a relationship and told him yes. Then he asked, ‘how many?’ and I thought he was being coy, so I told him, ‘one.’

When he followed that up with, ‘boy or girl?’ I realized I had misunderstood. Homosexuality is illegal in Ghana, so I figured he wasn’t asking if I had a boyfriend or girlfriend. He was asking if I had a  son or daughter.

So I did what anyone would do and fabricated a two-year-old son, figuring maybe it would deter him. Nope. He proceeded to hound me for my cell phone number and I had to give him the real one because he called it to check. When he asked for my email address I told him I didn’t have one. He saw right through that, but I stuck to my story.

When he finally departed, I turned to the older woman next to me and gave her a look that said, ‘that was ridiculous.’ She replied, ‘He is a fool.’ Keep in mind, it’s considered harsh to call someone a fool here. She repeated her statement when he started calling me ten minutes later.

In addition to my non-existent child, I’ve also discovered that I don’t enjoy packing. Well, have been reminded of it. But who does? That is why tomorrow will be hectic in the best possible way because I’ll wake up in Paris on Thursday! Now I’m off to enjoy my last full day in Ghana.

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In just a few short days my surroundings are going to be changing pretty dramatically. No more goats, chickens, lizards, tro-tros, balancing acts, orange dirt or public urination. No more smelling fresh-cut oranges and coconuts in one breath and sewage in the next. No more shouts of ‘obruni’, proclamations of love or hissing for attention. I’ll see bits and pieces elsewhere, but not this unique combination.

Nine weeks really flew by, and not just for me. I have many stories to catch up on when I get home. New jobs, a baby, another year of school, traveling around the U.S., fall sports, new experiences, new cities; all of which I’m looking forward to hearing about.

But I will miss Ghana and its colors, vivid and full of life. Just like the people, the music and the culture.

Green and yellow.

And, just because, some humorous taxi incidents that happened this past week. I won’t really miss any of this:

  • My taxi ran out of gas. At least, that’s what the driver attributed our crawling to, but it’s hard to say when the dashboard doesn’t work. I made it home, though, after he hailed another taxi for us.
  • I announced my wedding next year. That is, after a different taxi driver professed his love for me. Then he saw the ring (on my middle finger) and was distraught. I decided to go with it and started talking about my ‘fiance’. He was silent the rest of the way.
  • When I arrived at my destination (this is a third taxi), the driver informed me he had no change. So, I waited while he ran around the street asking other drivers to break my 10. He had no luck and instead bought me credits for my phone, which I needed anyway.

Tomorrow I’m waking up early for a boat ride!

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Signs: part II

Driving through Cape Coast, I started taking pictures of the various signs, bumper stickers and names of shops. Obviously there are too many to count, but I did my best to give you a feel for the religious connection here. You can click on the images to enlarge them!

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As a journalist and the daughter of a teacher, I have always been on the lookout for grammatical errors and misspellings. I try not to come off as superior when I point them out; it just bugs me. Like an itch you have to scratch.

So, in traveling around Ghana, I’ve found lots of signs that have caught my attention for one reason or another. The same thing happens in the United States, but I think that their use of British English makes it more amusing to me.

American Influence

Whether it’s based on an American company or named after a state, I’ve seen a lot of American influence in the naming of businesses. There was a ‘Best Buy’ in downtown Accra that I wish could have been the real thing because my computer has been shutting off whenever it wants lately.

But complaining aside, I’ve also seen a ‘Michigan’ tire store and several shops with California in the name. In addition to the KFC that just opened in Osu, I saw a ‘DFC: Delicious Fried Chicken’ nearby.

Walking through Cape Coast, we were trying to decide where to eat when I saw that Tako Bell Breakfast was an option. Somehow I had a feeling I wouldn’t be able to order my usual soft tacos.

Unfortunately the store wasn't open, otherwise I might have bought some cinnamon crisps. Photo courtesy of Kevin Riddell.

Religious Influence

As I pointed out in a previous post, another source for store names is the religious world. There have been too many to keep track. Often times they start with ‘By His Grace’, ‘God’, ‘Yahweh’, etc.

I'm curious as to whether that's his name, or if he is that skilled.

The one that interested me the most so far, because of its intensity, was ‘The Blood of Jesus Bicycle Shop’. The employees sound very dedicated to their work.

Thesaurus, anyone?

With all of these similarities it must (literally) be difficult to make a name for your business. That’s why I’m pretty sure a few people have turned to their dictionaries and thesauruses in an effort to separate themselves from the pack.

For instance, maybe you’d like to send your kid to the ‘Peculiar Children’s Academy’? I guess I’m just used to the definition meaning ‘odd’, but it also implies that someone is unique. So I’m thinking that’s their angle.

Extra emphasis

On the highway back to Accra I was reminded many times of the fact that speeding is common in Ghana. Signs had been erected encouraging drivers to slow down. They read: overspeeding kills. While that is true, I think the root of the problem is speeding in general, never mind overspeeding.

A billboard advertising a brand of medicine used the same tactic of overemphasizing. It claimed that their product ‘kills it dead’. They are not messing around.

Almost right

And, lastly, there have been a few things that are simply misspelled. Common mistakes, but in some cases it’s important.

Take the backpack that was for sale in Tamale: ‘Brillent Child’ was stitched onto the back of it. In French that translates to ‘Shine Child’, which is also an encouraging message.

Another sign advised people to ‘except God’. It’s okay, though, because that’s a commonly misspelled word everywhere!

When it comes down to it, who am I to judge? I make mistakes, too (I probably did somewhere in this post). We all do. I guess my point is that it’s important to be able to recognize your mistakes and, sometimes, find the humor in them.

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