Now, to be honest, I have never considered myself fat. Maybe on the heavier side, sometimes happier than others about my weight, but not fat. Was I ever wrong. At least in a Ghanaian sense. Besides the frequent observations of my fatness (detailed here and here), I discovered early on how difficult it might be procuring additional western-style clothing for someone of my bulk.
I’d landed in my placement with an assortment of decent t-shirts, some black work pants, and couple of long, flowy skirts, and not much else in the way of clothing. I soon came to realise that I’d fallen into the assumption that “hippy clothes” as our EWB program managers affectionately term them, are not quite acceptable when you’re working in any profession in Ghana, let alone within the government. I was assured by the casual attire of my district colleagues that the majority of my clothing would be sufficient, however within a week of arriving we were going off to the DDA Fellowship, one of the EWB programs situated in Tamale which gathers relatively important local officials. I quickly realised that I would need a respectable shirt to wear, and considering I hadn’t yet found a tailor (and wouldn’t have wanted to force a short order on one), I set out one afternoon to procure something a bit more formal than my EWB chapter t-shirts.
Within seconds of my inquiry, my then newly-formed friend Arimiyaw was shaking his head, and telling me that it would be difficult to find a button-down collared shirt for someone as fat as me, and that perhaps if I wanted clothes I could notify the vendor so they could procure something specially for me during their next trip to Togo. I insisted that it was important, and was potentially in denial that I was going to be too fat to fit whatever the town of Karaga had to offer. Half an hour and five vendors later, I’d tried on several shirts and definitely had serious problems with all of them. Firstly, they were menswear, which don’t compensate well for certain womanly curves, and secondly, I really was too fat for many of them! I was surprised, and a little embarrassed, and Arimiyaw got one of his first chances to say “I told you so.” I eventually settled on a short-sleeve that I could wear overtop of one of my t-shirts, and that actually fit my arms if I unbuttoned the cuffs. What an ordeal.
Thankfully I never had to find any other clothing on short notice, and by the next DDA Fellowship meeting I had some lovely full Ghanaian dresses to wear, which fit me perfectly due to the excellent skills of my tailor Talhatu. However I never forgot that seemingly fruitless journey to find that first shirt, and I hope you will keep in mind if you ever travel that in some places, there truly will be no fat people shirts available, no matter how hard it is to accept.