Rose has become a vital part of our daily life, helping with the cleaning and laundry, watching the children at times and teaching me to cook some wonderful Ghanaian dishes. Although her work day should end at 5:00, it is often 5:30 when she is finally ready to leave for the night. Worrying about her walking home in the evening, I asked if she lived very far from our home in Adiebeba. “Oh no,” she said “I live very close.” When asked how long the walk would be she told me 45 minutes to 1 hour! Well, in my world, that does not count as close! Now I am really worried about her, knowing she has her own family responsibilities when she arrives home.
I was speaking with Abraham, our “Watchy-man” (translate: day guard) about Rose’s walk. I asked where she lived. “Behind the primary school.” he said. ‘But that can’t be,’ I thought. ‘That is right around the corner.’ The school is only about a five minute walk from our house! So I ask Abraham how long he thinks it would take Rose to get home in the evening. 35-40 minutes was his reply. “But I can do it in 10 minutes,” he adds.
At this point I realize that there is obviously a communication issue. I ask Abraham to explain the discrepency in times. He tells me that Rose is a woman and she has many friends. She must stop and visit many ladies on the way home.
And it is now becoming clear. The travel time is not based on the number of kilometers one travels, but rather on the number of friends one has along the way. And so the time it takes Rose to get home in the evening is not a burden, but a blessing. The importance of community is so great in Ghanaian culture that it is factored into everything. As an American, I am always thinking in terms of how quickly I can get somewhere or do something. I map out the shortest, most efficient route to finish my errands. I don’t have time for any distractions. Life is very different here. Here they feel fortunate if the shortest distance between two points is the longest because it is littered with many friends.