February 4, 2007
I don’t presume to be the savviest traveler, but I have been around the block, so to speak. I’ve negotiated a foreign custom or two in my time, with success, which is much appreciated, and with failure, which is usually smilingly indulged. Folks in other parts of the world are usually tolerant of folks like us, who are trying to learn about their culture.
I sure hope that holds true with the chief of this Ghanaian village, because I think he thinks I just gave him Trisha, my fiancé, as a gift.
I could be wrong. I hope I’m wrong. Dang this cultural barrier. When we sat down for this formal interview we thought we were prepared. We had already greased the appropriate palms and brought the requisite bottle of Schnapps as a gift (to be used in some sort of "ceremonial libation," so we're told). Once we were seated across from the chief and his entourage, I introduced myself. Then when I introduced Trisha as my wife, he said, “Thank-you,” like he’d just received an offering. And I’m thinking maybe he’s got the wrong idea.
White women are prized in this part of the world, especially good-looking ones, and I’ve fielded lots of stares from would-be suitors checking her out, then sizing me up. This local chief is no different; he just happens to be dressed a bit differently, in traditional Kente cloth. Hopefully I won’t have to pull it over his head, hockey-jersey style, and break us both out of here, which I will most certainly do if he tries to keep her as a concubine.
Wait a minute… he’s saying he’s not the chief. He’s the sub-chief. Well, that settles it then. Surely any contract, intentional or not, is non-binding if one of the parties is not who the other one thought. That kind of rhetoric spans the globe, I expect. Seems clear enough to me.
Might as well get down to business. And if, when it comes time to leave, these village officials make any attempts to keep my fiancé, I’ll use my new bartering skills to haggle our way out of it — or at least fetch a fair price. G.