Thursday, December 16, 2010

It takes a village

Thanks to Hillary, this has become a well-used euphemism.  Here it has true meaning, as it surely does take a village to do anything, especially to satisfy the most basic of needs.  For my own personal meaning, I'm thinking that the Ghanaian episode of my memoir might be titled, It Takes a Village to Raise Madame.   I am taken care of.  I am loved.  Frankly, I am down right spoiled.  I no longer need to waste my time with trivial matters, such as washing dishes, pulling weeds, ironing or pumping gas.  My Ghanaian family has enveloped me, adopted me and made me one of their own.  They make sure that I am happy and safe, and mostly I find this to be somewhere between charming and humorous.  Sometimes I laugh at the fact that Stella, Samuel and the guards think I can't do things for myself.  I mean honestly, it's as if they don't realize that in a former life I painted my own walls, swept my own floors, washed my own clothes and carried my school bag to the car each morning.  Everyone looks out for me and does everything in their power to ensure my care.  Again, mostly I find it a sentiment of genuine care.  

And then there are the days that I just want to stand in the middle of it all and shout, "Leave me alone.  I can do it!"  I am a grown woman, perfectly capable of managing my own affairs.  While sitting on the terrace enjoying a drink and the view with a friend, Kofi made a special trip outside to ask if I had put on my mosquito spray.  Between the dance performance and heading out to boogie, I was told to go take a shower because I was sweating too much.  I can't take out the trash in my bare feet for fear of harassment from Mohammed, "Madame, where are your slippers?"  There is a point at which charm crosses the pestering border.  Maybe it's the same line that all family members tread between love and interference.  

I don't need a village to raise me.  Or do I?  The last time the gardener and I were outside scouting the perfect spot for the ficus tree, I felt the vibration of the shout and the squeeze of my arm as he warned me not to step in the spot where weeds had disguised some weak planks covering the entrance to the septic system.  On the way home from Togo, after the car I was in broke down on a desolate road after dark, it was Samuel who ventured out in the night to borrow a car and come to my rescue.  A few nights ago, he sat out front and waited while I got myself ready to go to a friend's house.  The friend lives the equivalent of 2 or 3 blocks down the road, but the road is dark, dusty and lined with forest.  He refused to let me walk so that no one would "cut my head."  Last night I lost my house key for the second or third time.  Stella hustled up the hill and down the road to hurry home from her evening rounds to let me into my own house.

I have nothing to complain about.  When I think about it, perhaps my family needs to cross the line.  Perhaps they do think that I can't take care of myself, and when it comes to living here, in all honesty, I can't.  I'm thankful that Stella notices when we are out of cat food and offers to make a special trip to pick up a feast for the girls.  Knowing that Samuel will come to check how much drinking water I have left so that he can take the bottles for a refill while he's driving around during the day scratches one more thing off my to-do list.  I have no idea how to work the generator or creatively engineer the spoiled water pump.  The guards do, so I guess it's the least I can do to listen to their lectures of how I just might step on the stinger of an unseen scorpion if I venture outside shoeless.  They are the ones who come running in the middle of the night when the bathroom is flooding to seal the tap and help me bail water.  How can I even think of complaining that they do too much for me?  

When I dig deeper and think about it, I want to live in a place that believes in the power of the village.  I mean, isn't that what all of us hippies reach for as a penultimate goal?  And now I'm here.  Why not just sit back and let it unfold?

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