A Perpetual Saga

Since coming to Ghana, I have become addicted to Nigerian dramas. They are my guilty pleasures, with story lines that by mandate must feature a mixture of at least two of the following: a ghost, a death, a robbery, a pregnancy, an arrest, a fight scene, a “love” scene.

If Nigerian films were crack, and I the junkie, then my enabler is Perpetual, my friend’s house help who has been “on loan” to me these last 2 weeks. When I first met Perpetual, I did not know that our destinies would become intertwined so quickly, and that we would be living a Ghallywood film ourselves. In true African fashion, I present to you our film:

PERPETUAL 1&2!!!

Part 1: Perpetually hilarious

After struggling to my meet my father’s impossible living standards for 3 weeks, I gave up and implored my friends in the virtual world to direct me to alternate lodging arrangements. The suggestions came in quickly, but none was more attractive than that of El, a former school mate of mine. She was offering a choice of two homes –  one at Achimota and the other at Laterbiokwashie. When I met with her in Osu to discuss the arrangements, a 20-something year old girl was in the kitchen cleaning up. El introduced me to her.

“This is Perpetual,” she said.

“Good afternoon, mum,” Perpetual said in greeting to me.

“Good afternoon!”

I asked El after we had been seated if what I heard was correct.

“Her name is ‘Perpatua’, isn’t it?”

“No,” replied El. “Perpetual. One day, I wrote a note for her and spelt her name ‘Perpetua’, because that’s what I thought it was. She crossed it out and scratched in the ‘L’.”

“Clearly she thought you were an idiot.”

“Hmmm!”

After El and her husband helped me move in the house, she informed me that she would be sending Perpetual over to help me with the house.

Fabulous! I thought. Because I truly do not feel like sweeping floors or anything else.

Perpetual came in ready to work. She asked me what needed to be done first.

“The laundry,” I said. “The kids clothes need to be washed. We can tackle mine later.”

She washed with amazing efficiency, had the floors swept, and cleaned up in the kitchen. I was free to walk down the street to buy bread and phone credits, two things the kids and I find ourselves in constant need of. In the evening, after the kids had gone to bed, Perpetual brought me a plate on a tray with cutlery. I hadn’t been served like this in ages!

“Thank you, Perpetual.”

“Oh, you are welcome Ma.”

Over the next few days, Perpetual began to refer to me less as ‘Ma’ and more as ‘Malaka’, which I really didn’t mind. (I’m still getting used to people calling me ‘Madam’ when I’m in town.) She and Aya got on together famously. Perpe (as I began to call her) has a love for all things American, and she and Aya would stand in the kitchen slanging one another. I sat in the living room one evening listening to their discourse that permeated the walls of the house. It was laden with vocabulary that included “yers” (yes), “whart?” (what), and “no you dirdn’t”. It was an slaughter of the English language, but the two of them seemed genuinely happy that they had found someone that could finally understand the other.

Perpetual was an amazing humorist, and she and I would joke about almost everything. She seemed oddly overjoyed to be in the temporary employ of someone of American influence, and had me twice speak to her (assumed) boyfriend and her 2 sisters on the phone. I stubbornly refused to speak with a full on Yankee accent, but as one taxi driver informed me the other day, no matter what I do, I will never be mistaken for a Ghanaian.

It was wonderful to have another pair of female hands in the house. Life was 50% better because of it. In the evenings, Perpe would keep me up until midnight watching ridiculous Nigerian films where we would sip Coke and exclaim “Eii!” at the appropriate time. As we struggled to understand each other, a direct result of our own version of ‘slangs’, we would each get the drift of what the other was saying or resignedly accept that we would never ascertain what the other was trying to get at and end the exercise of Q&A by nodding our heads in false understanding.

Perpe was fast becoming a true companion.