LIVING ABROAD: OH, THE THINGS YOU LEARN!

by missfootloose on May 22, 2010 · 23 comments

in Culture and Customs, customs, Expat life, Ghana

When you’re living the good life abroad, let’s say in Ghana, West Africa, your expat friends there often have fascinating stories to tell. Here’s a pearl of a tale my friend Natalie entertained me with one steamy tropical evening. Both Americans, she and her hunky husband Max had recently been married in a traditional Ghanaian wedding ceremony. This was much fun for all, but read what happened after the wedding was over.

Photo by super.heavy/cc

SHEEP’S BALLS AND OTHER FUN

The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline
of wonder. — Ralph W. Sockman

Natalie and Max come by for drinks on Friday, returning some items they’d borrowed for the wedding festivities. My eye catches the white bandage wrapped around Natalie’s left knee.

“What did you do to your knee?” I ask.

“I fell off my bike. It’s a long story.” She settles herself on the sofa. “I went out to buy a sheep yesterday.”

“You bought a sheep?

“For Bobo, who emceed the wedding, remember? It’s customary here to give a present of a live sheep to the person who presides over your wedding ceremony.” She rubs her bandaged knee. “So, since we had a traditional ceremony, we thought we should keep to the custom.”

My mate pours us drinks and we get ready to hear the tale. Natalie and Max always have such good stories.

It was interesting to shop for a live animal, Natalie tells us, she, a lawyer’s daughter from the American suburbs. “It was definitely a new experience for me,” she says in that calm voice of hers. Now that the wedding is over, she has lost the spaced-out look. She’s her normal insouciant self again, for which I am grateful.

Photo by Luke Bosman/cc

“How do you shop for a sheep?” I ask, thinking of all these filthy, malodorous, creatures scavenging by the side of the road everywhere. “What do you look for?”

“It’s all in the testicles,” she says, sounding like someone who knows.

It’s not the answer I had expected. Apparently the ram’s testicles are an indication of the animal’s quality, and are therefore displayed and palpated for the potential buyer. Here she was, a lapsed Lutheran female in a smelly animal market being shown a variety of sheep’s scrotums by long-robed male Muslim traders.

“I felt a little odd,” says Natalie.

No kidding.

“But I learned a lot.”

“Like what?” I fortify myself with a swallow of wine.

“Both testicles have to be there,” she states. “And they’ve got to be heavy, dense and solid. Especially heavy is important.”

I didn’t know this. “And this makes the meat taste better?” I ask.

My mate gives me a look (you can probably imagine what kind). “That’s for breeding purposes,” he enlightens me.

Natalie goes on with her story, how she looked over all these filthy rams, listened to all these friendly Muslim traders, the stench all around, the sweltering heat. She thought she might pass out, but the location seemed less than ideal.

Finally, having made her choice, she hailed a taxi to go home.

Photo by raysto/cc

“You took that sheep home in a taxi?

“They tied him up and stuffed him in the trunk.”

“That’s terrible!” I say. (Let it not be said Miss Footloose approves of cramming live animals into car trunks.)

“Oh, he had his revenge,” says Natalie. “He left a generous deposit. Fragrant, too. You should have heard the taxi driver, shouting there was an extra charge for sheep shitting in his taxi. It cost me dearly.”

I feel sorry for the animal, but am in awe of Natalie who will voluntarily go out and buy livestock, and then cart the creature home in the back of a decrepit taxi. I am so impressed.

“Oh, this isn’t even the story,” says Natalie laconically, and I’m feeling a growing sense of doom. Oh, no, what now? What about that bleeding knee?

Picture this:

Once at the house, the animal is released in the back yard where it seems happy to find grass to eat. Nana the hyperactive dog is fascinated, racing around in circles, barking frantically. Natalie is at the open gate, talking to an itinerant vegetable vendor about cucumbers. Somehow, unexpectedly, the ram sees an opportunity and tears into the street, chased by Nana who thinks this is great stuff, man.

In a moment they are out of sight and Natalie despairs as she thinks of the waste of all that money, the waste of a sweltering afternoon fondling sheep scrotums. She will have to find the beast.

Chasing on foot does not look like a practical solution so Natalie hops on her bike and goes in search of the animals and finds them racing across the open terrain bordered by the main road. Busy traffic – big, overloaded tro-tros, taxis, speeding cars. Le panique!

Photo by Stig Nygaard/cc

The animals are heading straight for the road and visions of blood, gore and worse come easily to mind. Natalie is trying to cut them off, careening on the rough, unpaved surface and manages to get ahead of them. Before she can come to a proper, dignified stop, she falls off the bike and with her left knee bleeding she goes for the sheep, grabs it, but it slips away. It’s tearing along the side of the road now, with Natalie, on foot, in hot pursuit.

Cars stop. Lorries stop. This is better than the movies – an obruni woman chasing a sheep!

“You should have seen the audience I had,” says Natalie. “People got out of their cars and stood there watching me and laughing their heads off.”

Finally a true gentleman comes to the rescue. “Do not worry, Madame,” he says, “I will catch the sheep for you.” And so he does. After which he slings the animal across his manly shoulders and hauls it back to the house. I visualize Jesus with a pretty white woolly lamb, like we see in children’s Bible story pictures. Only this savior is black and the sheep is a filthy beast with a ragged, stringy coat that does not inspire thoughts of soft sweaters. Still, his testicles are in great shape.

With the animal back in the yard and the gate closed, Natalie staggers up to her bedroom with her bleeding knee. In the bedroom is Max, just waking up from an after-work nap. He takes in the sorry sight of his exhausted bride with blood running down her leg.

He yawns. “What’ve you been doing?” asks he.

* * *
Do you have an animal tale to share? Go on, entertain me!

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Share

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Mara May 22, 2010 at 9:04 am

I loved the way you told that story. No wonder you became a writer! Unfortunately I have no such stories to share, because they never happened to me. Perhaps I should move to Ghana instead of Canada…

Reply

Ann May 22, 2010 at 10:03 am

She should buy a NEw Zealand sheep. We do export life sheep to Arab countries. Nice and fat wooly sheep.

Reply

Writer Lady May 22, 2010 at 12:33 pm

I’m grinning. I loved the sheep story. I could just see her chasing down that silly beast.

I always thought sheep were followers, not leaders. Now I have to revise my opinion.

I wish your friend a happy marriage.

Reply

Vanessa Rogers May 22, 2010 at 1:20 pm

What a story! I may be an expat, but my stories aren’t so entertaining I must say!

Reply

Boonsong May 22, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Super story, and I learned a new word too – laconically. Thanks for this.

All the best, B

Reply

Mireille May 22, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Such a funny story! Loved it! and NO there doesn’t come an animal story to my mind… sorry!

Reply

planetnomad May 22, 2010 at 8:29 pm

This was a fun one!
I have a story about buying sheep, but it’s not funny, just a good way to start a chapter in that book I keep telling myself I’ll finish some day. I also have a story, or several, of sheep slaughtering, but they are too long for your comments. Some of them are on my blog.
I remember when the student’s goat was sick and he fed it with Coca-cola! And the camels who lived in the vacant lot next door and went out every morning to find water and graze. The neighbour told me their owner loved them more than his own daughters, but I couldn’t decide if that was a good thing or not!
There was the time we shot bottle rockets at a pack of wild dogs chivvying some donkeys and keeping us up.
I guess I have lots of animal stories!

Reply

Carolina May 23, 2010 at 9:26 am

Hilarious. The way you wrote this story, I saw the movie while reading it and chuckled all the way through. (Have to say I missed the photo of the hunky American.)

Reply

Madame DeFarge May 23, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Great story. Lovely images of the sheep.

Reply

Miss Footloose May 24, 2010 at 11:40 am

@ Mara, instead of animal stories, I bet you have weird people stories 😉

@ Ann, your nice woolly New Zealand sheep might have a tough life in tropical Ghana! Even the local sheep don’t seem to look like they live in paradise.

@ Writer Lady, glad you enjoyed the story. The sheep may have had a premonition about his future that made him run.

@ Vanessa, you have time yet for lots of stories. Take notes! 😉

@ Boonsong, thank you! English is not my mother tongue either and I remember learning the word scintilate, or rather the adjective scintilating. A new friend of mine used it all the time: “Scintilating conversation!” “Scintilating diatribe!” Usually with mocking intent. I loved the way it sounded.

@ Mireille, wasn’t it you who came home from a trip and found two zebras drinking from your swimming pool? That was some photo!

@ PlanetNomad: Camels, donkeys, wild dogs–yes, you have some stories! I love the one about the man saying he loved his camels more than his daughters! Let’s hope it was not true. but you never know…

@ Carolina, thank you, I live to entertain. As for the hunky husband, his wife might not want his photo on my blog and in cyberspace.

@ Madame DeFarge, yes that sheep was poetry in motion.

Reply

Writing Without Periods! May 24, 2010 at 3:44 pm

That truck filled to the brim would have freaked me out. What wonderful photos. I always feel as if I’ve been on vaca with you.
Thanks.
Mary

Reply

Mary Witzl May 25, 2010 at 5:28 am

Another great story, entertainingly told. We’re getting close to the end of our semester here. A colleague and I, heady from exhaustion and test marking, read your story together and laughed our heads off!

Our landlady in Japan found a snake eating a frog in her backyard and called my husband to come get rid of it. He carried the snake, a good meter long and very lively, from her house to the park and accumulated quite an audience in the process. Afterwards, EVERYBODY asked where we’d gotten the snake and kept assuring us that it was a ‘foreign’ snake, but we doubted that this was true. In Japan, anything a foreigner does or has looks foreign by association.

Shoot. I’ll have to write a separate blog post about that one, I think…

Reply

marigirl May 26, 2010 at 1:43 pm

ha ha ha! so she actually…weighed…all those goat bits…with her hands?? ew!! 🙂 hats off to her for going native!

Reply

Mary and Sean May 26, 2010 at 6:27 pm

Good tips to know the next time I buy a sheep!

When I lived in Namibia, I remember thinking that the animals had an agenda of their own. Sometimes I’d hear a knock at the door, thinking it was a visitor, and it would be a donkey just looking at me.

Reply

GutsyWriter May 26, 2010 at 9:49 pm

I don’t need to watch the comedy channel anymore. Your story is enough to keep me going for quite a while. Thanks for entertaining us.

Reply

Doris Gallan May 27, 2010 at 11:36 am

That’s hilarious! The locals think we foreigners are nuts anyways, but your friend gave them pretty good proof running after that sheep. Good thing she found a good samaritan. I love your stories! Doris

Reply

The Prodigal Tourist May 27, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Ha ha, that’s just great. I would have loved to see the taxi chap’s face. Though I don’t know what you mean about a far cry from American suburbs, our neighbor’s dog looks just like a sheep, well, a goat actually. Never felt up its testicles I must say, blasted noisy thing.

Reply

ProdigalWife May 27, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Great story! Here’s mine: I took a basketball team of teenage boys to Soviet Georgia way back when, and we were invited to a picnic. When we arrived, a long feast table was beautifully laid out in a field (like in Endless Feast), and everyone was excited, especially when a sweet lamb (not like the one in your photo) came gamboling up to us–until the boys realized itwas to be our “picnic” dinner! Apparently the biggest honor is to show how fresh your food is by killing it in front of your guests! I thought it was fascinating and took lots of pictures, but several of the boys wouldn’t eat anything (suburbs indeed).

Reply

Miss Footloose May 28, 2010 at 12:45 am

@ Writing without Periods: thank you so much! Giving someone a free vacation is a kick! (I love your title, by the way 😉

@ Mary Witzl, so glad I gave you a good laugh! Sounds like you needed one. Teaching teenagers is the work of heroes!

Thanks for the snake story. Do write it up!

@ Marigirl, yes, she really surprised me with her fondling of sheep bits 😉 I’m not that brave, I know that!

@ GutsyWriter, the Comedy Channel no less! I am humbled! Glad you’re entertained by my stories!

@ Doris, yes, foreigners are nuts, but she sure gave the locals a good laugh. I was in awe of her!

@ The Prodical Tourist, better leave that goaty dog next door alone!

@ The Prodigal Wife: Oh gawd, yes I know about those Caucasian barbeque slaughterings! In Armenia I went to one and found they’d brought the sacrifical lamb stuffed in the back of a car (what is this with people stuffing animals in cars, anyway?) and proceeded to kill, skin, butcher etc. the beast right in front of everyone.

Reply

edj July 19, 2011 at 7:16 am

I thoroughly enjoyed rereading this! Hope you don’t mind a double comment. Better than the movies indeed! I’m still chuckling!

Reply

Jennifer Avventura November 9, 2011 at 2:25 pm

What an adventurous story, I loved every moment and even laughed out loud at sheep scrotum’s! Thanks for the great adventure.

Reply

Sara March 16, 2013 at 9:37 am

Bless you.. what a great ‘Tale’ .. how I bless my parents for teaching me to love to read.. it is pouring with rain here which is not good as I have 8,000 sq ft of vegetable garden that I would like to be working on but I cannot think of a better to spend the day than howling with laughter at things that share on their Blogs.

Reply

missfootloose March 16, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Keep reading, Sarah! There’s a lot more fun stuff 😉 Rain is really not a fun-booster!

Reply

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

Previous post:

Next post: