Sunday, March 05, 2017

Obruni Cowboy & Bracelet Man

Ghanaians have a common name for anyone who is Caucasian.  We hear it yelled from all directions as we make our way through different areas;  "Obruni!  Obruni...  Obruni, you buy this, you buy it form me, Obruni!"  Obruni, literally translated, it means "White man".

Once you get to really know someone in Ghana, you might receive the honor of being given a Ghanian name.  While the people from the area we went to earlier today did not know Will enough to give him a Ghanaian name, as he was walking through the main street in Osu, vendors were quick to try to get his attention.  

"Cowboy, hey, Cowboy!  You need this!"  Apparently they thought he needed sunglasses, wooden sandals and a belt...  well, he did need a belt, but didn't want to buy it under pressure, so he politely refused.

He felt proud of his new nickname.  Rather than to simply call him Obruni, which he probably wouldn't have responded to, they took note of the hat he was wearing to protect himself from the sun, and went with it.  It worked, it got our attention, and we got a good laugh.  It was not a cowboy hat.

Although he grew up on a farm, he is far from a cowboy.

Other than the airport, today was Will's first taste of being set loose in Ghana.  We were hungry, so we figured out where we wanted to go and how to call a cab and negotiate a fare in advance, and then we set out to explore.  

When we were here in 2011, Joshua was approached by a very persistent street vendor in an area of Accra known as a hot spot for visitors. The same area called Osu that we traveled to earlier today.  This vendor had a very ingenious sales tactic, making it a memorable cultural experience for the whole team, but especially for Joshua.

I blogged about it here in 2011:

When we ventured out earlier today in search of food, the taxi brought us to the exact same place the taxi had brought us to in 2011, right in front of a popular local restaurant named Frankie's. As soon as we pulled up, I knew where we were. Before I had a chance to warn Will, the same vendor from 2011 pounced on Will on the same steps that he had approached Joshua in 2011, and started by asking his name, not once letting Will know it was anything to do with a bracelet. He just seemed friendly  *Intensely into-your-personal-space kind of friendly*. As Will answered him, I stepped in and said we were not interested in a bracelet. Jillian was behind me, saw the vendor's expression and later told me that he registered a look of pure shock when I mentioned the word "bracelet". He was likely surprised that we knew what he was trying to do, as most Obrunis (Ghanaian term for white people) wouldn't have known unless they'd been there before.

As we ate, I shared the story about Joshua and the bracelets, and as we talked about it, I said we should look for the vendor when we are done in the restaurant and see if he'd make a new one for Josh.

When we went back out, he was nowhere in sight. Normally, if he thought he might have a sale, he would have waited and approached us as we left.

We went to a few shops, I kept my eye out for him, but did not see him.

As we were about to take a taxi back to the guest house, we asked an older woman who had a roadside vendor spot if she knew where to find him. She did not know his name, but knew exactly who I was talking about because he's the only one that makes bracelets on the spot in that area. She left her shop without any hesitation in pursuit of "bracelet guy". This woman worked it like a boss on a mission, yelling commands up and down the street to the local vendors, and within minutes, Bracelet Guy was coming our way. He was SO surprised we had specifically asked for him, he asked me about it, reminding me that I had clearly told him we weren't interested earlier.

I asked him how long he has worked in this area. He responded that he had worked in that area for 8-10 years. So I began to tell him the story... "In 2011, we came here and you approached my son about a bracelet, but we did not buy it the first time. Later, we came back and you saw him, and yelled his name, and he was amazed that you remembered him." Bracelet Guy studied my face, and said "I had thought you looked familiar, like I had seen you before... Joshua ... red and white... Canada, but then he wanted Ghana colors and strange name!" He remembers!  He was the same one who yelled "Joshhuuuwaaa!" from what seemed like miles away.

I told him we had written a blog post online, had photos of him and never forgot him, and that we still tell that story when we talk about Ghana. I shared that while we were eating earlier, we decided to ask him to make a bracelet to bring home to Joshua as a souvenir, this time with our nickname for him (Jotz).   This would be a perfect and inexpensive souvenir for Jotz, since there was already a personal story and connection.  Laughing, I told Bracelet Guy that we looked for him when we finished eating but couldn't find him... so we asked for help. He seemed so happy that we made the effort to find him and told him that story.

I asked if I could take a photo, and he insisted on taking one with "Cowboy".  Apparently, he too had gotten the word on the street that there was a cowboy in their midst.

Jotz, Ghana misses you right back.  This one's for you  

P.S.  The vendor's name? Joshua.  Not kidding.