Chasing Chickens

Although she’s had a harder time adjusting to life in Ghana, my oldest daughter Nadjah has begun to receive all the benefits that I’d hoped she would. She’s learning to listen, not to talk back to adults, to be a little kinder – and most importantly – to use her imagination.

My great shame as a parent is that I have allowed my children to be socialized by iCarly, Sponge Bob and the ridiculous visual fare offered on American cable TV. As any parent (who actually cares to pay attention) will tell you, shows like these teach little kids that the little guy can/most likely will triumph over the tyranny of the adult world and that impudence is cute, amusing and to be expected. As my father simply (and harshly) explained to Nadjah on her third day here: Not in Ghana.

It’s taken all of two weeks, but she is coming around and understanding, to my relief, that those blofo ways will get you nothing in a country that expects nothing from its children other than complete and instant obedience.

My father has no cable TV in his house, no grass, no running water, no easy paved road leading to his house, and until I got the Vodafone hook up, had no internet either. The last 4 years I’ve visited him have been frustrating and miserable at times. These remote conditions also dismayed my daughter, who has asked me no less than 13 times a day when we are going back to Atlanta. I’m happy to say that as of Friday, she’s only asked me 8 times a day. However, it is due to these conditions that she is making such positive changes.

On our daily walk to buy bread and juice, she breaks away from me to chase chickens. Chickens, lizards, goats and whatever other domesticated animals are roaming the area in the morning. It does my heart a great deal of good. The other day while I was washing dishes by hand (shoot me NOW please!), I heard her outside with her sister playing with rocks, stones, sticks, seeds and other things not to be found at a retailer near you and assigning them names and various functions.

“Aya,” she said to her little sister. “This is a crabby patty. I’m going to be the customer, and you say ‘Order up!’ when you’re done making the food.”

“Okay Nadjah!”

Sitting shirtless and barefoot outside, they played a myriad of made up games that made sense only to the two of them – which is exactly what a pair of 4 and 5 year old sisters should be doing…not clustered around double PC screens playing nickjr.com for 4-6 hours every day.

Many mother’s will tell you that they have and will continue to learn a lot from raising their children. For my part, I’m learning to try to not sweat the very large frustrations that life in Ghana brings. Our useless crop of politicians, our poor sanitation, the difficulty in performing the simplest tasks because of the ineptness of the person sitting opposite you. I’ve had to contend with the fact and frustration that life in Ghana is NOT like life in America, and anyone who’s traveled between the two places knows what I’m talking about. I’ve had to complete own adult version of ‘chasing chickens training’ in these two weeks as well, and am a more contented (and slightly less cynical) person for it.

Thanks for the lesson Na.