Build myself up, cut myself down

I ride up to Arimiyaw’s shop, jump off my bike and take off my helmet. I proudly greet him  “Antire”, and “Na tuma?” both which warrant a “Naaa” and a smile. I am feeling pretty great, having conquered the 6 or so central greetings that have earned me glowing praise from my coworkers and street cred with the people that greet me in town every day.

As I retell my family’s glee as I ask them about their day, and respond correctly to their inquiries, Arimiyaw’s head tilts and his smile tilts, and I ask, “What?”. He says “Nothing” but I push, as I am in the habit of doing, and re-iterate that I’m excited that I’ve finally learned all the greetings. And he yields “Ah, but you do not know all of the greetings. How do you greet someone at a funeral, when someone has just died?”. I scrunch up my face, puzzling for a second, and as I do a few of Arimiyaw’s friends walk in and I am treated to some hopelessly fast conversation apparently about football, school plans, and a number of other things. As I am leaving his shop to ride home for the day, I mention “Wow, I barely understood any words or what you were saying, with your friends”. Which warrants the reply, “Well, you only know the greetings, and nothing else”.

Ouch. While I know I’ve made some progression in other areas over the past two weeks, this indictment from a friend makes me re-evaluate my pride over these good, but relatively feeble inroads, mere paths through a complex language that I have barely begun to learn. As I ride home in the gathering dusk, I think about my next strategies for piecing together a more robust ability to communicate beyond the admittedly weak “How are you” that is my current standard.

Arimiyaw gives me the goods, straight up. While he minces his words sometimes, my inquisitive and open attitude pushes him to say what he thinks.


About Janine Reid

What is Janine? -board game enthusiast -political observer -Vancouverite -questioner -listener -health provider
This entry was posted in Language, Life in Ghana, Special Interest. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Build myself up, cut myself down

  1. Grace says:

    I’ve been enjoying all the short stories you’ve posted over the last while! Keep it up 🙂

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