Friday, February 23, 2007

A sorry spectacle

The open sewers are a real hazard here, as Janet and I have both mentioned in earlier posts. Janet accidentally stepped into one at night a couple of days after she arrived. I learned early on to keep a close eye on the road...or so I thought.

I was walking down the side of the road one night last week, heading toward a tro-tro stop. There were no street lights and I was keeping a close eye on other people nearby because there are muggings here at night, and you have to be careful. Unfortunately I wasn't paying attention to the ground below and stepped into a pothole. It was very dark so I really had that feeling of the ground disappearing beneath me. Though the hole was three-feet deep I didn't really hurt myself - a slightly twisted ankle and a nick in my shin.

As fell into the hole and then proceeded to pull myself out, three young guys came running toward me. "Sorry, sorry!" they cried, and helped me to my feet. I thanked them and went on my way. It struck me as odd that they apologized - after all, they didn't dig the hole or push me into it!

I thought back to this incident yesterday. I was conducting a workshop in Ho, a town in the eastern part of the country (pictures and a full report to come sometime next week!). On the last day of the workshop, I was cleaning up the conference table and accidentally knocked over a bottle of water. It fell to the floor and splattered all over my pants. One of the Ghanaian journalists came rushing over. "Sorry, sorry!" he said. No problem, I said. I'm ok. Again, I thought to myself, why is he apologizing. I brought this up with my colleagues over dinner. They told me it was customary for people to say that, but they weren't apologizing in the way I understood. Rather, they were sympathizing with me, as in "I'm sorry that happened to you."

I had thought it was some kind of Canadian thing. You know how we apologize for every little thing, even when we're not responsible or when it isn't even something worth apologizing for?

The next time something like this happens, I think I'll introduce them to two other Canadian mannerisms - self-deprecation and sarcasm.

If they say sorry, I'll say, yeah, I'm sorry too - sorry I'm always such a clutz!

- Mark


Anonymous said...

Quite a story. It shows you can never be too careful. It nice to know people are the same all over the world. We look forward to the next blog about your assignment. And also the pictures.
Love, Mummy and Daddy

Jack said...

I'd have been really sorry if I'd missed your piece.
Stay out of the holes and keep your eyes on the road.
I hope you're keeping all these stories for the book you publish when you get back.

Anonymous said...

Cute story Mark! Hope you and Janet had a nice weekend. Thinking of you,


Richard from Canada said...

I've been enjoying your blog. I was in Vancouver all of last week and spent several hours on East Hastings Street with a friend who works there in out-reach. There is so much addiction and so many people that are HIV positive. It seemed like I was somewhere far beyond my own country. Keep the stories coming. Janet, you have a nice writing style too.

Janet & Mark in Ghana said...

Hi Jack, Allie, mom and dad. Thanks for the notes. Much appreciated. I do keep my eyes on the road now - especially at night! I also have a renewed appreciation for the kindness of strangers. - Mark

Chris Lloyd said...

I'm sorry I haven't been leaving more comments! Love the blog, and love reading both your writing styles.