The Imported Ghanaian

A Ghana Script tip

AS THEY SAY, 'the world's a stage,' and Ghana is no different, as you can well imagine, though ours would involve much theatrics and over acting.
All anyone has to do is to figure out their role in this oxymoron of our great never ending three part Kumasi film, follow the scripts, and voila, their life in Ghana becomes hassle free. Granted, all the fun that comes with the trials and tribulations of living in Ghana will be lost . . . "So, what's the point," I hear you rudely interrupt. What's the point indeed!

However, if you happen to be one of those people who doesn't want continual - unnecessary, at that - melodrama in their lives, you will be interested in some of these imperative ‘must learn’ cultural script scenarios that an imported one or a visitor needs if they intended to keep their sanity.

Many moons ago, when I arrived, I immediately discovered the delights of eating waakye for breakfast and would send the houseboy to the local waakye seller, ordering waakye, gari, macaroni, fish and a boiled egg as soon as I’d brushed my teeth. So excited by this discovery, I ordered the same meal for a whole week until I was reminded by a small piece I read in a magazine about the link between cholesterol and the eating of too many eggs.

The next day, I made the same order, omitting the boiled egg. So what did he bring me? Waakye, gari, macaroni, fish and a boiled egg, of course.
No big deal, but the obvious puzzled look plastered itself across my face as I asked, “Errm, I didn’t order an egg, did I?”
What followed was the first lesson I learnt in the baffling Ghana script. Though I still can’t figure out why it happens, you can bet that I’d hazard a couple of guesses.
He stated, as per the script, “But you always eat waakye, gari, macaroni, fish and boiled egg!”
‘Always,’ was the key word, and instead of ‘taking it as it is,’ – I didn’t know any better then, I don’t think I do now either – I felt the need to educate myself as the reasons behind his logic.
“But, I didn’t order an egg, so I don’t understand why I got an egg?”
His blank expression obliged me to explain the reason why I hadn’t ordered an egg this time, as if that was going to have any effect.
Foolishly, I was of the notion that if a person explained the reasons for their actions, then the other – even if they don’t agree – would see another perspective to their own. It doesn’t work, as I have found to my detriment and yet, I still insist on foolishly repeating my script. Meaning, unconsciously, I crave the melodrama.
The Ghanaian grin, on cue, made its appearance and he repeated his statement, probably in the belief that if he said it enough times, I would understand and get with the plan. I didn’t.
I hate being baffled and will go out of my way, as if on some sort of life saving quest to get to the bottom of things. I need to know, however trivial the matter.
For a few weeks after, I experimented altering my breakfast order. I would add an item here, take another away there, but still I got the same result. He’d return with the same order, I’d open it, look at him with a questioning smile and raise my eyebrows waiting for the punch line – ta-naaaaa! He’d smile, “Eh, I forgot. But, you always order . . .” My confusion increased.
Unbeknown to me, my mind was steadily ticking and tocking over this quandary, though the answer played hide and seek, refusing to reveal itself for a few years to come.

I went to lunch with a cousin. She stared with wonder as I ordered yam, a plain onion and tomato gravy and fish. “What’s the matter,” I asked.
“Yam always goes with nkontommire!” She stated.
“Oh! I didn’t know that. Has it become law?”
She smiled as if indulging a child. “Oh no! It’s just that I haven’t seen someone eating yam like this before!”
Jolted by a memory still on its quest for the answer to the quandary, I felt the need to explain that there were no fixed food combinations and anyone had the right - after all, it wouldn’t change the world stock market prices, to put any groupings of food together at the same time - in London, I used eating weetabix on toast and condensed milk sandwiches, for crying out loud – hoping it would elicit a nugget of knowledge that would set my mind at rest. The only thing that made an appearance was ‘the grin’ and the subject was quickly shelved. I could imagine her gossiping with her work colleagues later on, ‘can you imagine she was eating yam with plain stew!’

Now just to sidetrack, when Ghanaians become embarrassed - after you have spot-lighted a behaviour or trait of theirs that is confusing, annoying or upsetting, i.e. insulting your intelligence - they grin or laugh instead of acknowledging it or, heaven forbid, apologise. If you are fool enough – having confused the reason for their laughter - to try explaining further as to why you are upset, the more they would continue to grin and laugh, making you feel that your views are not being taken seriously. That is not the intention, according to this particular Ghana script. Embarrassment is expressed through laughter and grinning. Confusing, I know, so learn the script.
Now, if you are not careful and continue to push your point, they move into phase 2 by grinning and laughing some more. The domino effect of that is you feel they are trivializing the situation and become more upset, which is only natural. With wires crossed, once they reach a point where they can’t laugh any further, the only option is, Phase 3, to get offended.
Why the hell are you not ‘taking it as it is,’ after all, this is how things are done in Ghana and . . . more importantly, Ghanaians are always right. Ghanaian logic, get with the script babe.

Years later, I’m still going through the food order saga with the local coco seller and, well, any other food seller in the neighbourhood. At the coco seller, my usual order used to be coco – 30 pesewas and kosε – 20 pesewas. One fine day, I decided to vary my order in the hope of adding a little pizzazz to my sad little life.
She didn’t in fact know what I was going to buy, but she told me, “The kosε is finished!”
I had forgotten that most Ghanaians are psychic and so asked, “Do you have coco?”
“Yes! But you always buy coco and kosε and the kosε is finished!”
‘Always,’ that key word again.
Haven’t still learnt the crucial lesson, I had to get sarcastic, “Am I allowed to buy the coco without kosε even though I normally buy coco and kosε together?”
The grin, “Eh, yes!” She served me the coco.

This deathly sameness scenario plays itself out every day and I wonder why people insist on complicating their lives more by refusing to acknowledge that change does happen. The example of food ordering is petty, but it does give a good indication as to the societal effects of this type of rigid thought process, especially, if applied to more important issues.

Being the Good Samaritan that I am, I thought I would make the coco seller’s life easier and forewarned her that there was a possibility of my buying different amounts in the future – that I could vary my order. A lot of good it did me. Ghanaian logic! As long as Ghanaians are doing it, it is logical.
I’d arrive and before I had made my order, she had already packaged coco – 30 pesewas and kosε – 20 pesewas, and stretching her hand out for her money.
I’d scratch my head and ask, “Have I ordered yet?”
“But you always buy coco 30 pesewas and kosε 20 pesewas,” her eyes telling me that I was on the wrong page of the script.
“Well, today, I only want kosε 10 pesewas.”
“Oh!” She rummaged around the bag and took one kosε out, throwing me an exasperated ‘wo yε troublesome paaa’ look as she moved onto the next customer.
The next day, we went through the same motions. And the next and the next and the next.
I wondered how long it would take before she realised that it may be a good idea for her to wait until I made my order before serving me. I also wondered why she would archive one piece of information and insist on it being an unchanging part of my culinary script. And I seriously wondered why I just didn’t accept whatever she wanted to serve me, just for a simpler life.

Funnily enough, on the days that I decided to make the order that according to the imposed script, had become a part of who I am - coco – 30 pesewas and kosε – 20 pesewas – that’s when the seller would ask me what I wanted to order.
Then I’d say, “Coco - 30 pesewas and kosε - 20 pesewas, please!”
As if put upon, she’d make a mini saga of getting my order ready and throw me her scripted exasperated ‘wo yε troublesome paaa’ look.
I have to admit, it does give me a little buzz.
Unfortunately, this inevitably took us back to square one, because the following day – when I’d decided to change my order – she’d have the ‘scripted Alba’ order ready and would get exasperated, throwing me the ‘wo yε troublesome paaa’ look as she rummaged in the bag taking out items. Our uncoordinated script going round and round in a crooked circle.
Oh, the small joys of my mundane life.

Now, I wouldn’t mind if it were an isolated case, but it seems as if the neighbourhood, collectively, have decided that I can only buy certain items or certain quantities of things. For example, if I arrive at a kiosk where I normally buy coffee, the owner assumes that coffee is the only thing I could want and would have it waiting for me before I’d opened my mouth. They are always surprised when I order something else, asking, “Don’t you want coffee?”
"No, actually!"
Then I'd get the 'you're not following the script' look.
Then I'd make the mistake of asking, "Is it by force that I buy coffee each time I come here?
"On cue, the grin makes its appearance.

The funniest is when I just happen to be passing by and they call out telling me that my ‘scripted item’ is either out of stock or that they have it ready for me. I loved the puzzled look on their faces as I say, “I was only passing by!”
If I’m in enough of a bitchy mood, I ask, “Look, can I only pass by this way, if I’m coming to you? Does this pathway only lead to you? Are you the wizard of Oz to whom and only whom the yellow brick road can lead to?”
The grin or the glare plus a little confusion. Whichever of the two, the scripted scenario would be replayed the next time I’m in the vicinity. The experiences of yesterday not having any effect whatsoever on the repeated actions taken today.

Of course, there has to be a bright side to these time wasting sagas I go through. My warped mind has decided that these vendors - so happy to have me as a customer - feel the need to give me the utmost in customer care by remembering what I order, elevating me to VVIP status. The fact that they become disgruntled when I order something else is a mere blip on the radar, but I do worry as to why we continue to resist internal change while the rest of the world gallops on.

The ticking quandary clock was getting louder and faster, and then suddenly it hit me. Ping.

Could it be possible, that there is a genetic script that is encoded in each Ghanaian cell? An unchangeable script that is reinforced and justified by experiences of ‘this is how we do things.’ So, people learn to do and say the same things and expect the same results for those same actions, because each action is considered an entity on its own, therefore, the reactions and results should be the same. Basically, the domino effects of action reaction don’t apply to the Ghana script. There is only one road to the market. Are you still with me? Good, because it’s the only logical conclusion for those of us still muddling through the script.

A Strange Business Practice

WHEN I THINK I’ve got it all sussed, something or things happen to make me realise that I’m way, way, waaaay out of the ballpark. I suddenly realise that I understand and know so little about the city I live in or its people. This was my epoch of absurdities, not to say that I don’t experience them all the time. So why am I continually surprised?

A friend had been staying with me for a few weeks when one night, she arrived late, an angry noisy taxi driver hot on her heels. She entered, slammed the door forcefully and quickly headed to the bathroom. From outside I could hear someone muttering very loudly. “What’s that all about?” I asked. “Ho, don’t mind him! I’m fed up of these people,” she growled as she closed the bathroom door. The noise continued outside, and as you could imagine, I was curious to know what story waiting to be told lay on the other side of my front door.
I asked the man who had taken up residence on my porch, why he was making so much noise so late at night. “I want my one Cedi; tell her to give me my money.” Confused? I was! I shut the door on his muttering and went to the bathroom to find out what he was talking about.
My friend had stopped a taxi and after much haggling had agreed on a price. As the taxi drove off, the driver asked her to add another Cedi onto the agreed price. She told him she was going to only pay what they had agreed, no more, no less. He harangued her until she asked him to let her get out, which he was unwilling to do.
She endured with grim silence his complaining all the way from Tema to Achimota, never once interrupting or arguing. On arriving, she gave him the agreed amount but he was insistent that she give him the extra Cedi he had demanded. Fed up and, by this time, with no feelings of goodwill, she explained to him that she was under no obligation to give him anything extra as they had agreed on a price - a price he now wanted to change, by force – and that though she had planned to give him a little something on top, his haranguing had put paid to any benevolence she may have harboured.
He argued some more refusing to see her point. Her response was to give up and leave him outside, and therein started the drama that was to play out on my front porch.
My friend finished her bath and went straight to bed, oblivious to the increasing noise outside. She had already struck him from her mind. I tried to ignore it, but after twenty-five minutes of ranting, I got worried that he would disturb my neighbours and so did the silly – conciliatory, I thought – thing of trying to dialogue with him.
He had decided that by hook or crook, he wasn’t going to leave without the extra Cedi.
“But you agreed on the amount.”
“Give me my one Cedi!”
“I don’t owe you anything; I didn’t take your taxi.”
“I know she’s in there, tell her to give me my one Cedi!”
His one Cedi?
“Look, you’ve been here for nearly thirty minutes, you could have made that money elsewhere by now.”
“Give me my one Cedi!” Like a record with a stuck needle.
At that point, disturbed by the noise, one of my neighbours came out, and the story was repeated, plus the necessary theatrics. My neighbour, using the same arguments as I had, tried to appease the taxi driver, but still, he wanted that one Cedi, even if it meant his sitting on my porch for the rest of the night being chewed by mosquitoes. My neighbour also got fed up and left him to it. The driver was getting bored of his own voice and though he insisted on his – by now it was his – one Cedi, his voice was considerably hoarse.
I knew it was a loosing battle, there was no way of getting through to the man, so I closed my door, turned off my porch light and went to bed. I don’t know how much longer he stayed on my darkened porch with the mosquitoes but he wasn’t there the next morning. What a strange way to run a business, I thought.

In many places, ‘time is money’ is an adage most believe in and adhere to, but strangely enough, though the biggest quest for many in our metropolis is accruing money, time doesn’t seem to be an important factor. People would prefer – as in the case of the taxi driver – to waste a lot of time over a little money – which he didn’t deserve, I might add – when that time could have been used fruitfully elsewhere to gain more money that was being fought over. A strange business practice indeed!

As if that wasn’t one absurdity too many, it wasn’t too long before I ran into the next ‘I’ll waste as much time as possible to get what I want, even if in the end it actually results in a lose of revenue for my business’ taxi driver. Why is it always taxi drivers, I wonder, and how do they reason their business ideals if the quest for money is the ultimate aim?

So, one morning, a taxi ride to a particular destination cost four Cedis and fifty pesewas. Soon after I caught another taxi back to my original point of departure. I must admit that I didn’t ask the price (silly me) before I got in, as I assumed that the price would be in the region of what I had paid earlier. Oh, how quickly I forget.
There was little traffic and we got back in record time where the taxi driver demanded eight Cedis. I had forgotten that my accent alone was proof that I had money to spare. I explained that the price was too high, as I had paid four Cedis and fifty pesewas not an hour earlier. The driver stated that HIS price was eight Cedis and that was what he was going to take. By hook or crook.
I insisted on a price somewhere in the region of what I had originally quoted. “I’ll give you five Cedis.”
“My price is eight Cedis!” said in no uncertain terms, and therein, began the long drawn out exercise in futility.
Now, I wasn’t worried, I was exactly where I wanted to be and handed the money to him. He got annoyed and parked his car; he wasn’t going until he got what he wanted. After 15 minutes of boring toing and froing, - yes, I had time to spare - he insisted on taking me back to where he had picked me so that I could get another taxi.
Was this a logical business strategy?
He, I suppose, expected me to beg and cajole and then the bargaining would go on until he got what he wanted. I don’t operate that way and as I had nothing else to do for the day, I accepted his suggestion and got back into the taxi. He was surprised, to say the least. One thing I’ve definitely learnt here is that in most confrontations in Accra, it ran nearly 90% bluff, and I was ready to bluff it out.
He continued his complaint but refused to get into the car. I folded my arms and waited for him. A few passersby got involved, as typical, pleading with him to take the money. He refused and I told him to stop wasting time and take me back to where he had picked me. You see what I mean by bluff, when the gauntlet is thrown down, most are unwilling to step up to the plate.
“My friend, if you are not going to be sensible and prefer to waste your valuable time, time in which you could have picked up another fair and earned more money, then I’m happy for you to take me back. I have nothing else to do with my time.”
His only answer was to glare. I continued to wait for him.
After much ado about nothing - as typical - he conceded and took the five Cedis that I had been offering all along and drove off, probably muttering to himself, after wasting over 45 minutes of his time, which I’m sure was never a point of consideration for him.
A strange business practice indeed!

Never a Recommender Be!

THIS WEEKEND I returned a camera to my friend, who wasn’t too happy with its return in the same state it had left his hands. The unhappiness, I would like to believe stemmed from the fact that I, uncharacteristically, hadn’t kept my word.
A few weeks ago a friend asked me to find someone to fix his video camera, which incidentally, he had loaned to another friend, who had broken it and returned it without saying a word as to the new status of the once working camera. Hearing this more frequent than is necessary story, of course, I would go out of my way to help my friend fix his camera. The moment I give my word, I would go through fire and hell to keep that word. I have a motto . . . well, I have several actually, but the motto pertinent to this story is, ‘people can say what they like about me, but they can never say that I don’t keep my word.’ Unfortunately, this motto can and did ultimately lead me into trouble, as well as surprising a friend who knows that I always keep my word, unless something hinders me. This is more often than not the case in this geographical location of the world. As they say, ‘no man is an island on his own,’ meaning that often others have to be relied upon and the ‘keeping your word’ motto has a more than one thousand percent chance of running into serious trouble. I love taking risks.
Many times I’ve admonished myself for not taking my own advice. I still loan out – never to be returned - my things even though I know much better. Years of making that mistake and still there exists optimistic neurons’ – which by rights should be extinct along with the dodo if the number of my mistakes are anything to go by - hiding out in the derelict parts of my brain, alert like snipers waiting for the opportunity to fire with precision, optimistic ‘this might just be different’ bullets that would pierce through the thick wall of cynical neurons and gatecrash my befuddled senses. “Oh, sure you can borrow my CDs.” “Huh,” my other neurons would scream in unison as the sniper neurons mark off another success that translates into me pulling out my hair and kicking myself for not being smarter. It’s a pity bad borrowers don’t have sniper neurons to fire them with guilt ridden ‘return borrowed items’ bullets.
In the recesses of my mind, I have always known that along with ‘never a lender be’ was ‘never a recommender be,’ but would I listen to my instincts? Oh, no. Would I learn from my mistakes? Hell, no! The sniper neurons are getting better and better at hitting their targets and I’m getting better and better at tearing out my hair and kicking myself. In some circles this behaviour is referred to as being ‘thick.’
But no more! Obviously, it had to take me getting myself into big trouble before I learnt that lesson. Never a recommender be, folks, never a recommender be! Trust me.
Prior to learning this ultimate lesson which with prior experience I can tell you that I won’t learn from for too long, my friend Shalonda’s laptop upped and died on her. The screen refused to light up when the ‘on’ button was pressed. She called me, “Can you recommend someone who could try and fix it for me.” I didn’t know anyone but wanting to help, I did the next best thing. I asked people I felt I could trust. First mistake. With hindsight, I should have simply said, “Sorry, I don’t know anyone,” and lived with the guilt of feeling mean for not having made a bit of an effort to help a friend in need. But then, I’ve never liked easy things, if I did, I wouldn’t be here. Right?
You’d think with all the artisan, seamstress and tailor wahala I’d had over the years, I would have been more cautious, but, no. And that was in the first person where I had personally chosen the destroyer of my things, now, I was really sticking my neck out and going third person to pick a destroyer for someone else’s property, in my name. I was laying my reputation as a person who could be trusted on the line.
Within a short space of time, I had found someone I trusted who had had a computer fixed by the recommended expert. Obviously, I didn’t have firsthand experience of this person but felt I could throw caution to the wind. Ha, ha, haaa!
A week later I received the call I didn’t want. “He’s messed up my computer.” “Great!” I mutter to myself. “He’s not picking up when I call him.” “Great!” I mutter to myself, again. Darn, why do I get myself into these situations? Hell, I can’t trust the people I pick for my own things, why am I stupid enough to think I can choose a good person for someone else? I always find myself thinking, when I’m in this situation again. Like déjà-vu.
A four thousand dollar computer messed up, and in my name. I needed to rescue my reputation as a keeper of my word. I wish I had been struck down with lightning before I had stated with a hundred percent assurance, “I trust my friend and if he says ‘this guy’s good’ then the guy is good. If anyone can fix your laptop he can.” Not only did the so called expert con Shalonda with a long story in order to take her laptop from her house, not only did he pull it completely apart when it wasn’t necessary, not only did he toss her backwards and forwards and annoy her to distraction but he had the audacity to blame the manufacturer of the laptop for positioning a particular piece in a particular way or it wouldn’t have broken when he twisted it. Yeah, blame the manufacturer.
Weeks later, not only had he worsen the situation of her laptop but he was refusing to return it claiming that there was a problem with the sound card. Okay. Shalonda put pressure on me and I put pressure on the recommender hoping, at least, to get the machine back to her. We, ‘the recommenders’ burnt units, sweated buckets and wasted a lot of time trying to be keepers of our words. Then it occurred to me that in many Nigerian films, people pay the police to go and arrest people. In the movies, the police don’t even bother to check if the request is an arrestable offence as long as money is being waved in their faces. Apparently, this doesn’t only exist in the realms of Nollywood. So, that was going to be my next move. I had visions of myself arriving with the eager police in a taxi, storming the ‘expert’s’ workshop and pointing at him, “Officer, arrest this fool for trying to ruin my reputation and, oh yeah, my friend’s laptop,” and then watching with glee as he pleads while they drag him off to give him a good beating in the police cells. If only real life could play out like that for me. After much to-ing and fro-ing, threats, near slam down and drag out sessions, Shalonda’s laptop was returned and the manufacturers resolved the problem. So, what’s the moral in this tale? Never a recommender be!
For those of you who need a more blatant example of ‘Never a recommender be’ including the psychological processes we all go through when we fall into the trap, the scenario goes something like this . . . oh, and it applies to every single one of us and all service providers. And by that I mean anyone who provides any kind of service. A-ny-one! You call a carpenter to work in your house, he arrives on time, he charges a decent price and, the juicy cherry on the icing on the cake, he does a fantastic job. You are impressed, obviously. Amazed at receiving this type of rare service in Ghana, you feel blessed and exceptional, as if God had specially singled you out of all the millions to shower His blessings upon. This knowledge ultimately instils a little arrogance and a sense of invincibility. Nothing can happen to you. Nothing at all!
Like when you see someone dash across the road and get run over. In your mind you blame them for being unfavoured because you know that you can run that same stretch of road and nothing would happen to you. Why? Because you are favoured and special and God isn’t going to allow anything bad to happen to you. Nyame adom! This is the psychological process we go through when we finally meet an artisan who does a good job for us. The fact that the optimistic sniper neurons fire you with an overdose of ‘this will be different’ bullets leads you to conveniently forget the previous artisans who left your home in destruction and you weeping buckets. The drug – or disease depending on which side of the fence you’re sitting on - of ‘shortmemoritis’ is secreted into the blood stream and the feeling of ‘it won’t happen to me’ superiority kicks in. You feel invincible.
So, still in invincible mode, a friend asks if you can recommend a carpenter. Of course you can. You can boast of having the ultimate carpenter. Good grief, you’ve shown his work off to all and sundry and just stopped short of taking out a full coloured page advert in the newspaper. You recommend him without batting an eyelid; after all, you ‘the favoured one’ have special connection with the almightily. What can go wrong? What can go wrong, indeed! Not to say that it ever passed through your mind!
You always forget the gods of trial and tribulation are always looking for fair game. YOU! You also forget that St. Coincidence may have had a role to play in everything going right the first time; it had nothing to do with you being favoured. You also forget that you are in the gateway where anything can and will go wrong. It’s called Sod’s law and it takes no holidays.
A few days later the phone call arrives. “Your f#%*!> carpenter has ‘more bad language. I thought you said he was good.” You hold the phone away from your ears for five minutes while your friend gets their frustrations off their chest. If you are brave enough, you go to survey the devastation ‘Tsunami carpenter’ swept through your friend’s house. You try to give excuses. Of course you’re shocked. You would be, especially, when the realization slaps you upside your head with the subtlety of a sledgehammer that your special status card had expired without your being informed. You come crashing back down to terra firma and know that that special card was nothing but a fluke. Darn, it ain’t fun being a mere mortal, is it?
So, after looking at the video camera for a few weeks and blocking out the snipers neuron bullets and huge doses of ‘shortmemoritis’ threatening to be secreted into my blood stream I returned the camera and explained, as I have done here, all the reasons that I wasn’t going to run the risk of recommending anyone. My other neurons whooped with loud applause, firing off fire crackers and sending out party invitations while my sniper neurons threw down their guns in a tantrum. The best thing though is that I didn’t feel guilty as if I were a bad person in not trying to be more helpful. I just felt relieved. Ghana, let each person find the destroyer of their items on their own, don’t feel bad and always remember, never a recommender be!

It's the Intention that Counts

“OH DON'T WORRY, I have every intention of returning it!” She said in a tone that implied, ‘how could you think any less of me.’
The ‘don’t worry,’ aspect of her sentence had me worried for a jiffy. As you know the moment anyone tells you not to worry in Ghana, that is the time to start crossing your finger, toes and everything else for that matter, because worry is what you need to be when those three words fall out of any Ghanaian’s mouth and make contact with the open air.

As I eavesdropped and my mind harrumphed at the worrying implications of the ‘don’t worry,’ a loud ping sound cut short the harrumphing and the lights came on clearing the fog from before my eyes. Another piece of the jigsaw puzzled slotted into place as the word ‘intention’ zoomed into a big close-up. IN-TEN-TION!
That sentence which enlightened me further in the complexities of Ghanaian attitudes and behaviours was the close of a conversation where a book had been loaned out and the owner, after three months, was still chasing for his property to be returned - I totally understood his frustration.
Making matter worse was the fact that the book, at the moment of the conversation, was in the young lady’s bag, but as she had every intention of returning the book, she didn’t see why she should hand it over to the owner who was demanding it’s return.

Over the years, here in Ghana, I had had several of these types of conversations until I decided not to loan anything out again. It makes life simpler. I couldn’t understand the logic behind the need to keep other people’s property, especially when they ask for it to be returned. So, instead of trying to understand the motivation, I decided to circumvent this problem by not putting myself into a situation that would cause it to rear its ugly head.

Having reached the decision not to loan out my things anymore – though I do slip up on occasion - I find myself happier and less involved in unsavoury situations where I waste time getting upset and chasing people – who have the audacity to get offended with my persistence - to return my property.
The ping sounded and I thought, 'Ahhh, so it’s the intention that counts? Hmmm, so that’s where I had been going wrong all these years!'

Previously, I had only seen the act of borrowed items not being returned from my simplistic point of view and coming to the conclusion that in Ghana, 'never a lender be.' This being, if you borrow something from someone, you must return it. The deed must go the full cycle – you borrow an item or money for a certain period of time and then you return it back to the rightful owner. Simple. But of course, I had it all wrong, I wasn’t analysing it from a Ghanaian logic perspective, the script per se.
It’s the intention that counts! Nothing else.

Another variation of the word ‘intention’ is ‘planning.’ I heard that one a few days ago.
“Oh, I was planning to return them tomorrow!” It didn’t come to pass.

A few months ago, under duress, I loaned out a couple of my favouring movies. Silly me! Yet again. As easy as pie, when I asked where my videos were, my friend told me she had loaned my videos out. “You’ll get them soon. I’ll tell her to bring them back.” She didn’t.
The loaning out of other people’s property is another thing I’m yet to understand, after all, if I borrow something, then I’m responsible for it being taken care of. However, if I go on to loan it out to someone else, I loose control over how responsibly the item is treated and would have to face the consequences if the item is damaged or lost.

My simplistic analysis once again. Obviously, as the average Ghanaian – preferring more complex forms of analysis – would not lower themselves to indulge in such a simple thought process. Or, could it be because they don’t care?

Returning home for Christmas, I once again asked for my videos to be returned. In an exasperated tone, my friend said, “Eh, I’ve been asking her to bring them,” as if it was my fault that the videos landed in the hands of someone else.
“I loaned them to you, not your friend!”
She had the decency to acknowledge my point and told me not to worry, as the videos would be returned the next day. They weren’t!
Oh, those words again. Don’t worry.

Obviously - many of you may not agree with me - the average Ghanaian doesn’t seem to give a hoot about other people’s property. My understanding of the ‘do unto others’ theory rarely seems to be applied; as long as they are okay then you can whistle for all they care. Funnily enough, those same people will whinge and whinge when they find themselves on the receiving end of bad borrowing behaviour. But, when the boot is on the other foot . . . ahhh, I understand now, ‘do unto others’ in the Ghanaian logic context means ‘do unto others as they do unto you,’ so, if you have been on the receiving end of bad borrowers then logically, you should level out the playing field by also jumping on the bandwagon of bad borrowing behaviour, though you rightfully complain when painfully on the receiving end. Why be the exception?

Fed up of requesting nicely for my property to be returned with no results, I asked my friend to give me her friend’s phone number. She did with glee, seeing it as reason to wash her hands of the responsibility of retrieving my property.
I rang her friend, introduced myself, and asked about my videos.
She simpered, “Oh, I love the films. I watch them every day!” I made agreeable sounds as she told me which parts of the film she liked best while my mind asked, ‘who cares, just return my bloody videos.’
With that speech, what was she expecting me to do? Feel guilty about trying to divorce her from my videos that she loved so much? Or did she expect me to say, ‘hey, why don’t you hold onto them for a few more months so that you can find other parts of the films to love even more. Or, even better, why don’t you keep them. I wouldn’t want to forever carry the burden of how miserable your life may become if you are parted from my videos you lurve so much.’
Unfortunately, curtailing my sarcastic nature is also high up on my New Year’s resolution list, and with difficulty I clamped my mouth shut, though this was a perfect opportunity to unleash it. Oh, why did I put that one on my list?
After she went on and on – as my phone units ran - describing loved scene after loved scene in Technicolor detail, I finally managed to interrupt her monologue and asked when I could get my videos back.
“Oh, but I was planning to bring them to your house tomorrow.”
I felt the need to remind her that she didn’t know where my house was. “But, you don’t know where I live!”
After a slight pause, she rectified her statement, saying that she was actually planning to take them to my friend’s house.
Of course, she didn’t or I wouldn’t be whingeing about it.
I can imagine her right now, avidly watching and looking for more scenes to love while her mind carries the intention of returning my videos. But, only after she has found and loved all the scenes that could be possibly loved in the films.
Now, since my quest is to search for the silver lining on actions that irritate me so much, I’m glad that these two examples have given me the solution to this particular quandary. ‘Intention’ and ‘planning.’
She was planning, which means that she had – and still probably has - every intention of returning my property, therefore, I have no cause for complaint. The book borrower also has the intentions of returning the book. When? Your guess is as good as mine.

You see, it’s not that complex after all. It’s the intention to do things that counts, not the act of completing the deed. So, the next time you become the victim of bad borrowing behaviour, instead of tearing your hair out and grinding your teeth, thinking that the borrower is being thoughtless and uncaring of your feelings, please understand that the intention is not to keep your property. They have every intention of returning it and that – the intention – is paramount and completely supersedes the act of actually returning the item. In their minds, as long as the intention is there, then there is nothing wrong with the action of keeping your property.
It’s as simple of that, so, get with the script and deal with it!

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