Sunday, July 03, 2005

A Cultural Divide
Paintings by Njuguna
I am a people watcher.
I love to watch interactions, mannerisms, and facial expressions.
I especially like it when I get to do this in an environment I've never been in before.
Now, I've been the minority as the only whitey at an event more than once.
Sometimes I am welcomed and made to feel comfortable, other times I am not.
It's just the way it is when you're not part of the majority. But, last night...not only was I the only whitey...but I was also witness to a cultural divide.

Let me explain.

Our gracious hosts, A Jamaican man and his Ghanian wife, brought together cultures that are very different.
The party was broken into three distinct areas:

The Front of the House, where all the men were drinking and playing dominoes.

The Dining Room, where the Ghanian women, many of which were in grand and beautiful traditional dress in exquisite colours and patterns...were trying on clothes out of plastic bags brought by one expressive, and loud Ghanian woman. These women were changing and trying on clothes with ease and no sense of self-consciousness, with that non-western confidence and ease that says: "we are all women here. I have nothing you've never seen before".

The Kitchen, where the Jamaican women (clearly, mostly family) were congregated, eating, talking and laughing together.

And then there was me.

In this scene, no matter how gracious our hosts....
I am never on this Gods green earth, going to fit.
So, I sat...and observed.
Made small talk with any woman who sat by me, and watched the interactions between people.
The Ghanian women generally stuck to themselves, and the Jamaican women to themselves as well.

The Mister,(as usual) left me to fend for he knows that I'm pretty adaptable, and I didn't see him again until the end of the evening.

I watched the women in the dining room haggle, and shout at each other in minute with serious and angry looks...and the next minute smiling and pushing each other.
At one point, one of the women turned, and with a laugh said (in that fantastic Ghanian accent) "We are arguing...sorry...we are loud".

Just before we were getting ready to leave, the loud lady called to me to come and look at her wares.
She showed me all kinds of shirts, lipsticks and purses...most of which were way too busy for my conservative tastes..but I mentioned that I had seen one of the women trying on a lavender pinstriped shirt that I really liked.

"EH, AH!!", she shouted to a woman in a gorgeous purple caftan and matching headwrap. The two of them spoke in Ghanian for a few minutes and then the lady in the caftan and headwrap produced the blouse, and gave it to me.
I paid the loud lady, and as I folded it up, she said to me "Put it in your purse, and zip your purse your husband doesn't see!" and then she laughed.

There are certain things that cross all