Monday, August 22, 2005

Cutthroat White Man

Well, my Board and I are close to being ready to set a date for the commencement of a short term missionary assignment for me in Brazil, so I imagine I will soon have lots of more interesting stories for this blog about Culture Clashing! But for now, here is a funny one from Ghana in 2002.

I was with my Team touring the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park in downtown Accra, which has fountains, a museum, and the masoleum of Ghana's first President and the man who led them to independence from British colonization in 1957. Very interesting man whom I am trying to write a movie about, but that's a story for another time.

As we made our way back to our car, we were being bothered by various street vendors who see white people and think "MONEY, MONEY, MONEY" (sing Apprentice theme song for effect). One was particularly aggressive and kept bothering our team and we were dealing with a problem with our van, which had broken down. I tried to shoo off this vendor and finally he left. Another vendor moved in to take his place. Without thinking, I cut him off mid-sentence with a finger pulled horizontally across my upper chest as if to say: "NOT A WORD." He got a terrified look and moved off. Soon I noticed a crowd on the street gathering and talking and pointing my way.

My Ghanaian host, and dear friend, Lydia, asked me what had happened. I explained and she started laughing. "You just threatened to slit his throat. He is afraid of you." I felt terrible. Lydia said it was no big deal, just a cultural misunderstanding and seem very amused. Soon our driver fixed the van, and we left. But I have never forgot the fearful look on that poor man's face. Or the way the crowd stared and gossipped at the cutthroat white man and his friends.

Hope this gives you a chuckle. Just an example of how even our body language can cause culture clashing!