Tag Archives: Africa

The tale of badly misconstrued measurements

It was a hot hazy day in Ghana, just as every other day had been while we were there. Harmattan was in full swing. We had been there for a few days already and I was starting to think about looking for a dress for Aurora. She had made it very clear that she wanted an African dress and some jewelry. The home we were staying at was just down a short dirt road (subdivision seems like the wrong word….) with a few houses on it a 1-2 minute walk from one of the main roads, we had to walk it every day to go to the market or get to the church where we were teaching in the evenings. We noticed that there was a seamstress right there and decided to stop in and get a quote from her, and pick out a style before heading into the market to find the right fabric.

I know a little about sewing having grown up with a seamstress for a mom (she will freak when she sees me call her that but it is true) so I knew that I would need her waist measurement and the height from nape of neck to floor. Armed with these measurements (via text to my mom) I head across the street with Lesley, Anna and Millicent ready to do business. The problem is that although Ghana is technically an English country, it really isn’t. In the city most people speak a little bit of English, you need to speak slowly (our accents….) and not use big words and you should be ok but the further you get from the city the less English they speak. In Nsawam most people speak a tiny bit at least and the people who came to the teaching spoke enough to understand and communicate quite well as long as we were careful to speak slowly and clearly. Well, this seamstress spoke none. Ok, I can handle this, I have Anna and Millicent, they are both Ghanian and speak Twi as their first language. So they rattle off with her and I just stand there like an idiot trying to be useful.

I chose a pattern and told the seamstress Aurora’s age and start to give the two measurements that I have…. Now my second problem starts. I am not good with details. This is a slight understatement. I really do try but it seems the harder I try the worse it gets. So I start giving measements to the seamstress’s assistant using the numbers and signing with my trusty hostesses there to help if needed.

“Ok. Waist – 43 inches.”

They look at me with confusion, then start rattling off to Anna again. “How old did you say she is?”

“Oh she is 7 but she is very tall so she is more like 8 in her size.”

They continue to look at me with confusion but not wanting to show how horrified they are at my ginormous offspring they calmly write it down. Waist 43 inches.

“Ok, Height – 26 inches…wait a minute….”

Luckily I realized my mistake, giggled about it and tried to explain. Ok no problem. She gave me the amount of yardage I would need and sent me on my way.

Next stop, slightly down the road there was a tailor, I would stop in quickly and ask about a boy’s shirt for Gideon. Since Gideon is a tiny little guy I didn’t bother getting measurements, he is a bit smaller than most African 4-year-olds I hung out with so this would be easy. For some reason it wasn’t. Usually even for an adult outfit this tailor just needs to see a picture of someone and can make an outfit to fit them perfectly. (seriously….skill!) I told the tailor (who spoke even less English than the seamstress, and being a man seemed to understand my signing less than the seamstress had) his age, that he is small and even showed a video of Gideon to him so he would see what he looks like. Nope, I need measurements

“Nope, I need measurements.” he told Anna, but did tell me how much fabric I would need.

We headed off to the market, chose our fabrics and brought them back later in the day. By this time I had gotten a text back from my mom with Gideon’s waist measurement and the length that the shirt should be.

“Waist – 22 inches, length – 14 inches”

“What about his shoulders?”

“Oh, I will have to ask and come back.”

My mom had already sent this measurement, but my dislexia¬†and attention to details flared up here again. She had used numbers to write the other two measurements but had written out “five and a half” for the length of one shoulder so I didn’t notice it. (me with details….).

The next day (time difference…) I get this response:

That’s 11″, it would have been double the other one

Ok, head back to the tailor and tell him, I could do this one alone it would be easy, I wouldn’t need a translator. Caleb went with me.

“Shoulders 24 inches.”

He writes it down and doesn’t even look at me funny.

I leave feeling accomplished.

Several hours later as we are all sitting quietly studying for the evening class I start thinking over what I told him.

“Oh crap. Did I really say that?”

I check the text from my mom. Shoulders are 11 inches, the double it was from the “five and a half” in the first text. Did I say 11? I think I said 24. Where did I get that number from?!

“Hey Caleb, did I tell the guy that Gideon’s shoulder are 11 inches or 24 inches?” I called from the other room.

“I think you said 24.”

I burst into uncontrollable fits of laughter, woke up Lesley and disturbed the guys who are diligently studying. I came stumbling out of the room sobbing, doubled over and attempted to explain what I had done. I say the “double it” and doubled the 11 – except even that doesn’t really make sense because 24 isn’t the double of 11……

I began to picture what this shirt would look like. What this child would look like.

Shoulders: 26″ wide

Waist: 22″ around

Length: 14″

More fits of laughter. Oh dear. “I need to go fix this!”

Then I remembered what I had done with Aurora’s measurements and laughed even harder picturing these two freak of nature children standing side by side. Mr. Football shoulders and Miss Beachball. Oh dear. I am such an idiot!

Thankfully when I stopped in with Paul (our host) he was able to explain the extent of my stupidity and the tailor had already figured out a plan.

It was pretty hard to walk past either place afterwards though without fits of laughter.

Moral of the story: I cannot be trusted with details or measurements.

signed

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The tale of the chicken taxi

It was always very dark when we left the training sessions and headed back home. Paul had made it clear that it was safe for us to walk TO the church for sessions (just before 5pm) but walking home was not safe. It wasn’t likely that we would get robbed or hurt walking home all together, but it was very possibly that a ruffian might follow us to find out where we were staying and rob us in the night. Safety is something we are always aware of, we don’t want to put our host family in any extra danger and we don’t want to lose anything valuable, especially our passports.

As we had done every night, we walked to the road, Anna hailed a couple taxis and all the ladies piled in and started for home while the men waited for the second taxi to follow.

The taxi Anna flagged seemed like it might be trouble (it had stalled 2 times just turning around to get us and had no tail lights) but most cars here have issues so we hopped on in and started for home.

I need to pause here to mention that Anna had spent about four hours removing her awesome weave, walking down to the road side “salon” getting her hair washed, moisturized and redone with big curlers that had to sit for many hours before being taken out. It was a long process for her and had taken most of the day.

Ok, back to the story.

The speed bumps here are insane, even going as slowly as possible most cars scrape as they go over, so our driver decided to go a different way which included a fairly steep hill (We are in the middle of some small mountains here.) but avoided all but one speed bump.

After stalling for the 30th time and not wanting to start again, Lesley and I started getting nervous. We didn’t know where we were, √†nd knew we shouldn’t walk at night. We were beginning to think we would likely get robbed and I would lose my expensive DSLR and all our money, we were just hoping we would make it home unharmed even if we lost everything.

I sent a text to Pete letting him know that we kept stalling and didn’t know where we were, hoping that Paul could help them find us. The mood in the car was very tense. Did I mention it’s 30C? The fumes were pretty strong too.

Suddenly, the silence was peirced as something large came flying in the window through Anna’s hair straight into the cab driver. There was screaming and flapping and feathers flying everywhere. Finally the cabbie caught a very terrified and parcially plucked bantam chicken. The car erupted in laughter. Even the driver was cracking up. A chicken….flew into the cab….into Anna’s hair….

Apparently a dog was chasing it and the taxi seemed like the safest place to be.

The driver was able to get the car started and we slowly puttered/stalled our way home still laughing hysterically.

We teased the driver alot and waved goodbye to our “chicken taxi!”

signed

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