Friday, January 30, 2009

The Osei-Mensah Family

Hello Dear Friends and Family,
Well to start with, since this is the first time I have written in 2009, let me wish you all a happy, happy new year! Life here in Sunyani keeps rolling by at a pace that continues to amaze me, and in just a few short days I will be at the five month mark of this journey of mine, almost halfway through already! Today, I am finally going to tell a bit about my crazy and huge family, the Osei-Mensah family.
When talking about my family, one word will always come up. Big. Over the holiday season when all the family had come home, there were over twenty people here, four times the size of my family back home. So to start with, let me just list off the names of everyone in the family. The head of the family is without a doubt my host mom, who's name I believe is Vida, but who we all call Auntie. Although my communication with her is somewhat limited due to me not being able to speak much Twi, and her not being able to speak much English, she still has been a wonderful host mother so far. I mean first off, she has welcomed me into her already crowded house with open arms, which is incredibly generous, and on top of that she feeds me and makes sure I am happy, so I really cannot complain. Her husband, my host father, is named Charles, but everyone calls him Papa. When he is around, he is a man of very few words, so I really haven't gotten to know him at all, but despite that he has been kind to me in his quiet way. They have four children, B.B., who is 23, Nase, who is 21and is away at university much of the time, Mame who is 16, and is away at boarding school much of the time, and Solo, who is 13 and is one of the brother's I share a room with. All four of them are very kind and fun people, and I have enjoyed getting to know them all. All the other numerous people who live at the house are either relatives or just family friends who needed somewhere to live, and I'll quickly just list them all off as well. The guys are Kweku (twenties), Kofi (19ish), Oraku (15), Ben (15), Seth (16), Eminem (19ish), and the girls are Addie (6), Mamia (19), and Angel (2). These are just the regulars who are around most of the time, during the holidays the number balloons, and also occasionally people will just drift in and stay for a few days or a few weeks. Of all my siblings, the ones I have become closest to are Solo, Ben, Oraku and Seth, they definitely have there moments when they drive me crazy, but for the most part they are great, fun company. I also really enjoy spending time with Addie and Angel, they both are great little kids, and it is fun to have young siblings to play and joke with.
Well as you can see by reading all those names, the family is indeed big, quite big, and really it is the size that in many ways has made my family so much fun, and has also made it a bit difficult at times. Let me first explain the good. My relationship with my family is really quite simple. I think that because there is a bit of a language barrier between me and them, and also just because we are so very different because of the places we have grown up, I have not gotten to know the members of my family on an individual basis as much as I might have in say a European country. Because of this, the joy I get from being with them isn't from having deep conversations or from sharing common interests, but from a more simple, ancient thing, the wonderful joy of human interaction. If I were to make a list of things that I enjoy about my home life here, it really would be a very, very short list, and that is not because I don't enjoy life at home, but instead it is because the life I am living is quite simple. The list would look something like this: 1- Spending time with siblings. 2- Eating (sometimes) 3-sleeping (if my brothers don't wake me up constantly). 4- Watching football matches on tv. 5-Sitting outside and reading. And that would be about it. Because there are so few things to in the way of recreation or entertainment, I feel incredibly blessed that I have ended up with such a fun and lively family. The best times I have here are times spent sitting with my brothers and sisters, laughing, joking, horsing around, just being simple people enjoying the profound joy of being together.
Just as the lively environment I love about my family is partly due to its size, the aspects to my family that I don't like as much are also largely due to its size. The first thing that I find difficult is sleep, or more accurately the conditions in which I have to sleep. I love sleep, I absolutely love it, and especially here, after a long day spent sweating under the hot sun, the feeling of laying down and falling asleep is wonderful. Unfortunately however, I share a room with at least four other brothers all the time, and they often make it very difficult for me fall asleep or to stay asleep. Back at home in the U.S., sleep is such a respected thing in my family, and we never wake each other up unless it is urgent, and if we have to go into a room where someone is sleeping we tiptoe and make sure not to disturb that person. Here, sleep doesn't really seem to be an activity that people enjoy all that much, and because of that they, or at least my brothers, have absolutely no respect for people who do enjoy sleeping. As many times as I ask my brothers not to turn the light on, they still have to turn it on whenever they come into the room. Sometimes they'll barge in and bang the door open, and I'll have to get up to close it when they leave, only to have them barge in and out again without closing it. They also have these incredibly annoying cell phones that double as music players, and instead of using headphones they blast their music through the phone's surprisingly powerful speakers. I have been woken up at one in the morning before by these satanic devices, and again I have asked my brothers many times not to play music on them while I am sleeping, but apparently the forget very fast. Basically, they just don't seem to realize, even after I have told them many times, that I like sleeping and would like to do so in peace, and they continue night after night to disturb me despite my pleas. I really only have on other big complaint against my family, well really mostly against my brothers, and that has to do with the area of manners and general politeness. As much as I like my host mom, I really don't feel that she does all that much parenting, and because of this I think my siblings have grown up not knowing really what manners are. For instance, recently I have received several boxes from home, and I have been able to share things with my siblings like chocolate and Kraft Mac N Cheese. Unfortunately though, sharing with them has not been very gratifying because instead of saying, "Gee Wes, thanks so much for this Reese's, I've never had one before its really good!", I instead get, "This is sweet, give me more," and that is not an exaggeration. There are many other small things like this that come up often, sometimes I'll be watching TV and one of them will come and just change the channel without asking me, sometimes while I'm away at school Addie will take my toothpaste and use it and then not put the cap back on so that it spills all over my toiletry bag, basically just lots of small things that result from them never having been taught simple things like saying "please" and "thank you". Other than these annoyances, I am for the most party a very happy guy when I am at home, and I really do feel that I have been incredibly lucky in ending up with such a good family.
Well there ends my first post for this year 2009, I hope it has been successful in telling you all at least a bit about my family.


harv said...

you are there to adapt to them, not the other way around. As an AFS returnee in Ghana, yes those things are annoying for us Americans. But you have to understand how rude it is in Ghana to assume that everything revolves around you. Why do they blast music? To share? Why do they use your toothpaste? because you are supposed to share. Why do they keep turning on the light? They are telling you not to sleep, now is not the time to sleep, you share our room. Why do they change the channel? The TV is a community object, not yours! Why do you not change the channel? Why do you turn off the light? Why do you not share your toothpaste?
I know, it is annoying, but please do not be ignorant, learn to sleep with the light on, don't post on your blog that it is because their parent's didn't parent them. This truly is a case of "it's not right, its not wrong, its just different"

harv said...

"This is sweet, give me more"
A. this is sweet means this is good--I learned that when my grandma asked if Palm nut soup was sweet.
B. Those are not Ghanaian manners. Asking for more is the polite thing to do.
C. Really, think back to your AFS orientations, you are sounding like the ugly American here.