We went out again with the Kradolffers yesterday, as they were kind enough to drop us off at the temple for a session (the inside of that temple is beauuutiful by the way). I learned a very interesting lesson and found it valuable to learn at the forefront of my trip rather than half way. On the way there, Brother Kradolffer decided to hop out and take a quick picture and not TWO seconds after he had put on the break, the roadside officials were on our tails, pulling over and booting our car. It all happened so fast. No one was there and just like that we were surrounded by several hard faced policemen, everyone yelling.
I have learned that in order to be taken advantage of here you must be assertive and pay a smaller fee (in Cedis…the Ghanaian currency) than originally planned or, somehow change the color of your skin. While we were parked negotiating prices, another African man pulled up behind us to check something on his car and the policemen hardly even looked his way. It really has nothing to do with racist thinking on our part, it is simply the truth here in Ghana. Sister Kradolffer asked one of the young policemen standing close by why they felt it was okay to pull the Obruonis (the white man) over whenever they wanted and why they charged us for doing exactly what every other car or tro-tro transporting vehicle does. He smiled sheepishly and offered some sorry excuse but, she pointed her finger at him with a smile of her own and called his bluff. We were never in any danger and it was all a bit of fun in truth, but it was also an inconvenience and a very interesting cultural point. I have seen this same thing happen in Mexico but my white skin has never stood out more than here in Ghana. At the same time however, I have never felt more welcomed. It’s quite an interesting comparison.
The temple was wonderful and we spent some time with our good friend Ebo and fellow saints at the family history center just outside of the temple. We also had our first experience with Ghanaian food. We had some tilapia fish, beans, two kinds of rice and plantains. We met the sweetest Ghanian girl who ate her lunch with us and talked our ears off. I’ve never seen a people so happy. I have been happier here in the last week, then all the last several months put together back home in the states. The happiness in Ghana is addictive, yet the least understood by me. These people have so little and I so much and I am often the less happier of the two. Riches do not necessarily equal joy, in fact the generally never do.
I also learned another vital cultural lesson from our lunch date. The girl who ate our lunch with us noticed I had been sneezing a lot (mostly from allergies and all the dust). She had some nose spray with her and kindly offered it to me. I thanked her but politely declined. I’ve never seen someone look so upset! Here if someone offers you something, you take it. Back home if someone offers you something, it is widely accepted to decline and in fact, people often offer something knowing that another will most likely decline the first or second time around. Here in Ghana, accepting their offer is accepting their gift. If you do not accept, it is offensive and they see it as their gift not being good enough for you. It is as if you put yourself higher than they the moment you say NO. So…I quickly took her used nose spray and squirted it up my nose. I would rather risk that than seeing her saddened face again. I watched a white man give some money to a young man the other day and ask him to go get him a soda. We were nowhere near a gas station or any market and so that meant a trip up the windy, dusty roads and into town. A good few miles or so. The young man looked honored to serve and grateful to be chosen to go and get this man a drink. I thought it poor taste of the white man and discussed it with him later. He told me that if he himself had gone to get the drink, the young black man would have been offended. People think so differently here. Young LDS Ghanaian men see their missions as something that is no big deal. Nothing to brag about. It was simply a wonderful time where they continued to serve, just like they do every single day of their lives. Some young returned missionaries back home (definitely not all of them of course) but some, discuss their missions as some great thing and tell of it in terms of a great sacrifice. The men here see it simply as a way of life. What humility. If there was ever a people so ready for the Savior, it is these.
So much to learn! But I love every minute of it. I feel like I’ve grown a lifetime in a week and I have another 7 weeks here. Tomorrow is our last day in Accra and then boy oh boy, I’ve got a little brother in Nkawkaw to see.