Madame the Expat and the Repairman

by Miss Footloose

Every expat knows that settling in a new foreign country can be a fascinating frustrating experience. So I was not surprised that setting up our house in Ghana, West Africa had its problems. Some time ago I posted the story about a dysfunctional stove and the repairman pretending to fix it.

As it turned out, my German stove was not the only defective appliance I encountered after we moved into our house. I had an international line-up of dysfunction. The brand-new Italian laundry-room water heater kept on not heating water. After it had been fixed and fiddled with for the tenth time, we received a replacement that performed better. Next I ended up with a French microwave oven with a problem. You’d think by then I’d gotten to the end of my defective-merchandise dramas, but no. Let me tell you the story of our new television set, made in Japan, and after that why not our Thanksgiving holiday turkey, made in the USA?

Painting of tro-tro (lorry) by Kofi Aryee

Missing Bits and Pieces

Ghanaian television programs are very culturally educational, and especially the locally produced love dramas and product commercials are fine entertainment. However, we are in need of a greater variety of programs to keep up to date with what is happening in the world. For a price, the American community in Accra can avail itself of a service that allows reception of American programming beamed in from the military bases in Europe. We can now be entertained by, among others, Judge Judy, Jay Leno, and Friends and I can’t wait. I know you think this is rather frivolous of me, showing mental shallowness and intellectual flaccidity, and you are correct.

Here comes the techie

The Ghanaian technician is a skinny young man wearing a neatly pressed pink shirt and a greenish tie. His thin face sports glasses and he looks quite studious, as if he has read many important books and his mind is weighed down with all this information. This look is affected by many Ghanaian technicians, and reaches its height of perfection among computer experts, who add a glossy veneer of arrogance that’s very impressive.

The TV techie works like a magician, because in no time at all, bingo, there’s well-known American TV presenter Matt Lauer on the screen, on the Today Show all the way from New York. It’s an early morning show, but here it’s already noon.

As the man fiddles with the remote, looking serious, I lament that I wish the color were better. I’ve never been able to adjust it right and I’ve labored under the assumption that the local reception is bad. Matt is bad too. Very pink. Not attractive.

Photo from Rubinstein / CC BY NC Pink added

The technician doesn’t speak for a while, perhaps needing all his mental faculties to deal with the situation. Or he’s simply ignoring me because he considers me stupid. He studies the picture, zapping the remote, trying unsuccessfully to create a clear and true-color picture. It gets really red, really blue, black-and-white. But no way do the colors blend well to make a natural picture.

Waiting, waiting . . .

Finally the man looks up, having come to a conclusion. “It’s not the reception,” he informs me with calm superiority. “It’s your television.”

“It’s new!” I wail in protest. “It was like this from the start. What’s wrong with it?”

He puts the remote down and looks at me gravely.

Here it comes:

“Madame,” he says solemnly, “your green is missing.”


We may live in Ghana, but since my mate hails from the US and I’ve been adopted into the country and culture, we must celebrate Thanksgiving at the end of November, eat turkey and count our many blessings. It’s an American holiday commemorating the feast held by the Pilgrim colonists in 1621 and members of the Wampanoag Indian tribe to give thanks for the harvest and good health. It’s a biggie as American holidays go.

The most expensive turkey I ever bought

So, Thanksgiving. I have much to be grateful for. My green is still missing, but my oven is working and I’m going to cook a scrumptious turkey dinner for Max, Natalie and other American friends, all lonely so far away from home during the holidays. I have managed to procure a nice fat American turkey, which hails from the state of Minnesota, so the label tells me. I’ve bought this precious fowl from La Maison de France, a tiny gourmet shop that imports goodies like French duck liver paté, frozen raspberries and goat cheese. For Thanksgiving, La Maison de France imports frozen turkeys to please the American customers, and possibly to make a few bucks. I’ve paid the equivalent of 48 (forty-eight) dollars for this sixteen-pound bird. But who’s complaining? Not me.

So, here I am, happily busy in my kitchen, contemplating the joys of my life while ripping the wrapping off the defrosted turkey. It’s a beautiful specimen, clean, plump and perfect.

No it’s not

One of the wings is missing.

* * *
NOTE: We took the TV back to the shop where supposedly they “put in green,” but it never gave us good color and we were too cheap to buy another TV set. However, handicapped or not, the turkey performed magnificently and a good time was had by all.

Do you have any stories about getting settled in a foreign country? About defective merchandise or handicapped turkeys from overseas? Or stories about repairmen and their attitudes toward mere women?




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Great post. “Madame your Green is missing” would be a great travel book name.

You always have funny ( probably not for you at the time) stories to tell. Now I wonder what happened to the wing :))


Hi, and thanks for visiting my blog. I’m enjoying reading through yours.. great stories!

Ah, the Ghana stories!! I think if you got a bunch of us together we could go on forever with stories just like this!!!

Great. Thanks! So who had to go without a wing? 🙂

We celebrated thanksgiving last night with a ginormous turkey procured and prepared by the local Marriot hotel. I’d love to be ashamed of what we did but it was tasty and involved less work than finding a working oven. LOL

Happy Turkey Day! 😀

I agree with PurestGreen (clever name too, considering). That would make a great travel book title. Maybe there has been a brain drain of competent Ghanaians? When we lived in the suburbs of Tokyo, the local used furniture shop had an employee from Ghana who was just amazing. His Japanese was near native and the woman he worked for claimed he could be prime minister of Japan after another ten years of residence. And one of my colleagues had his computer fixed by Ghanaian kid who managed to sort out a problem no one else could solve. Sounds like those… Read more »

LOL! no green???
I live in Paraguay and we just bought two small turkeys, imported from Peru. Now, these two little turkeys are not finished traveling yet! We will load them up, frozen and packed in ice, for our two day car trip to Uruguay, via Argentina, to spend Thanksgiving with friends. from Venezuela. =)

The Stewart Report

For years in Togo we couldn’t find turkeys in any capacity. One day my Mom was driving through a village and saw a small live turkey tied to a stick. She stopped and after a lot of bargaining bought it. The plan was to fatten said turkey up for Thanksgiving. Well devil bird doesn’t even begin to desribe this spawn of Satan. The turkey attacked everything that moved, ate us out of house and home, had to have the heimleich after swallowing a tennis ball. And pecked my brother in the eye. One afternoon not long after our gate was… Read more »

Victoria Allman

You beat me! I was just going to write to say hello. I, too, have a chapter in Female Nomad and Friends. I’ll look forward to reading your chapter. I assume the Groundnut Soup recipe was yours. It was delicious!
I look forward to exploring your blog more.

@ PurestGreen, “Madame, Your Green is Missing” is one of the titles I have for this book. I am glad it caught your fancy too! @ Turquoise Diaries: The wing probably was cut off by accident and ended up on the floor of the slaughter house. Hopefully it ended up in the garbage and was not carried off by rats 😉 @ Pale Observer. It was probably Olaf 😉 who went wingless. @ Karen, glad you enjoy the stories! @ CairoTypo, yes I know about the Marriott Thanksgiving dinners. It sure is easier to sit down there and being served… Read more »

Funny how he was wearing a thin green tie. Perhaps you could have asked him to take off his green tie and the color would come back in the TV. I just paid $34 for a 12 pound turkey from Trader Joe’s. Granted, it’s supposed to be free of chemicals and antibiotics. Perhaps that’s why.


We have turkeys here in Peru, I just don’t have an oven big enough to cook one. I leave that up to my mother-in-law, and I’ll handle the side dishes. 😉

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