While wandering all over the world it is inevitable that someone will enquire as to your country-of-birth. The vast majority of these new encounters follow a relatively easy path; where you’re from, what you’re doing, how old you are or if you’re married – but some take you by surprise and lead you to completely new and unexplored regions. The following is a transcript of my conversation with a taxi driver in Accra.
Taxi: Are you American?
* I screw up my face *
Shem: No. What gave you that impression?
Taxi: You look American.
Shem: Really? I always thought I looked Eastern European.
Taxi: I know lots of Eastern European people and they don’t look like you.
Shem: So why do you think I’m American?
* he glances at me *
Taxi: You’re tall, your head is round and you have a pointy nose.
Shem: Hehehe, I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t have a round head. You have a round head and you’re tall, you must be an American too.
Taxi: No because I don’t have a pointy nose.
* driver does not look amused *
Shem: Do you like Obama?
Taxi: Yes, he’s African and he came to visit Ghana.
Shem: You mean to say he’s of African ancestry but really he’s American.
Taxi: Do you like your president?
Shem: Obama isn’t my president because I’m not American. Actually I’m not even sure who the president of my country is any more, there have been too many presidents since I left Australia.
* driver’s face lights up like a Christmas Tree *
Taxi: Australia — Oh, Kangaroo :)
Shem: Yes, Kangaroo.
Taxi: Are you married?
Shem: No, are you?
Taxi: Yes, but I’m going to have a divorce.
Shem: Why? Is your wife a bad woman?
Taxi: All the time I have headache. I work but my wife doesn’t want to, she’s lazy.
Shem: That’s not good.
Taxi: Even in the morning when the children wake up she doesn’t get up, I do everything in the house.
Shem: How many children do you have?
Taxi: Three — Boy 6 and two girls 5 and 4.
Shem: It must be difficult for your wife to look after them all when they’re so young.
Taxi: She does nothing but party with her friends at night and sleeps all day. She is not a good mother or wife.
Shem: That’s not good.
Taxi: When a woman has feelings for you she wants to be touched; my wife doesn’t want me to touch her, she never comes to me. We don’t have the sex. I do the tapping on the shoulder but she just sleeps.
* his hand constantly poking at the air as if she lay beside me *
Taxi: It is good you are not married; I want to be single too.
Shem: If you find a good woman you won’t have headaches, but it’s difficult to find them.
Taxi: I have found a good woman and she will be good to my children.
* his eyes glow brighter *
Shem: But won’t your wife take the children when you get a divorce?
Taxi: Everything we have will be cut in 3, for me, my wife and my children. But I will take my children because she is lazy.
Shem: Does your girlfriend have children?
Taxi: Yes, she has 2 children.
Shem: How old is she?
Taxi: She is 25 – much older than my wife.
* driver shakes his head *
Shem: That’s very young, how old is your wife?
Shem: How old are you?
Shem: Wow, we are almost the same age.
Taxi: No, you are very young.
Shem: Trust me; we are like twin brothers – same age, tall and round head.