It’s been a long week.
Work has been very challenging, intellectually speaking. Just figuring out what it is my office truly does took a big chunk of my time. Now that I know, it’s nose-to-the-grindstone time to get a database prototype finished with my counterpart that meets the demanding needs of the office. On top of that, I moved away from the rest of the JFs and into an interim place on my own until I find a family. I still feel a little bit like I’m in transit, since there’s yet another move for me in the (hopefully near) future.
So after work today, I decided to take a relaxing walk in the neighbourhood.
As I strolled aimlessly down the street without particular destination in mind, I began to see just how vibrant this place is. Schoolchildren strolled or biked by in their matching uniforms, vendors swept their yards or called out the prices of their products at passing customers, a couple of baby goats butted each other playfully in a yard. There was a lot of things to see and a lot of energy to feel.
I rounded a corner onto the next street, choosing my direction at random. “Hey! Souleminga! Come play cards,” called a voice to my right. Three men sat around a yard with a deck of cards. They gestured for me to come over.
Squatting, I took the hand I was dealt and wondered how I might keep up with these guys. They each snapped a card down aggressively and in rapid succession onto the bench surface while keeping their remaining cards tightly hidden. The man who called to me–who seemed to be the only English-speaker–gestured that I should match the suit he led. I played an ace and they all exclaimed with the high-pitched Ghanaian “Ah!” I had won the hand.
I figured the game was similar to euchre, only much faster. I asked if there was a trump suit, but the meaning of the question was lost in translation. Instead, the men gestured that I should quickly play a card to lead. I won that hand, too. And the the four that followed, causing raucous laughter among the men.
“Come. Sit,” the first man said, patting me on the back and moving a small bench in place for me to play. Stunned, I sat down. I had won those five hands with my euchre experience and luck, but language and a complete lack of knowledge of the rules of this game were against me. Maybe.
I won the next five hands, as well. Now the first man didn’t seem so pleased. “You’re ruining my odds,” he said. The other two men just laughed at him–clearly he was taking the game a little too seriously. “We play again,” he commanded.
The next few rounds went a lot faster and it became obvious that the first two rounds were just beginner’s luck. I couldn’t keep up with the rapid pace of the game and I held my cards so that they weren’t completely hidden. Apparently cheating was a welcome part of the game.
One of the men swapped out with another and the third left. At that point, the game seemed to change and they laughed at my inability to keep up, without explaining any rules to me. Then, the game abruptly stopped.
“What is your name?” the first man asked. “Chris,” I responded. He laughed. “Okay, Christ. I am Yusuf. We must pray now. Come back tomorrow at the same time, okay?” Even the short version of my name is a challenge here in Ghana, I’ve noticed. I shook his hand and introduced myself to the other man–Ibrahim–before strolling away from the yard with a smile on my face.
I’ve never experienced such a sense of community and welcomeness in such a short period of time.
What an excellent way to end a taxing week.