You didn’t mind the word for the first few weeks. You swear you didn’t. You were a curiosity and a novelty, a white stranger; how else would people see you? How else could they respond?

What you did not expect was that after six months of working in the same very small corner of the same small town, the response would be exactly the same. This might have been different if you were a friendlier person, but you’re not sure. Small children still scream “OH-BROO-NEE-KO-KO!” as you walk by, repeating the words until you wave to them eight separate times or are out of earshot. Little girls and boys in green-and-white school uniforms still stand at the door of your classroom and gape at you. “Bye-bye,” you say firmly, closing the door on them. Your students have come to imitate this action. One day, before class starts, one of the oglers calls out, “Obruni!” The three students who have arrived early bring the child into the room and instruct him, in Twi, not to say “obruni” but to call you by your name. You are not sure how to respond.

On the first tro-tro, several old women in beautiful church clothes turn to stare at you as you scramble into the empty seat in the back. “Obruni,” one woman says with hostility, “you take drop-in!”* It is clear that none of these women are confident English speakers. “No drop-in,” you answer, trying to smile. “Tro-tro.” For the rest of the ride, all the women continue to steal angry glances at you, as if by taking this tro-tro, you have displaced a Ghanaian who should rightfully have your seat.

A young woman lets out a string of rapid Twi and stares at you as if she expects you to answer. When you smile and shrug, she laughs loudly and turns to the man next to her and, still laughing, lets out a string of conversation in which you catch the word “obruni” several times. He laughs as well. You keep walking.

On the second tro-tro a young man says, “Hello, what is your name?” “Akua,” you answer, reluctantly. He proceeds with the usual litany of questions–which country, where do you stay, can I take you as my friend, can I have your phone number–and when your responses are less than enthusiastic, he adds, “I have a friend at Legon who is white. You know that I like white people very much. White people are very intelligent. We blacks, we are not so intelligent.” You are unsure of whether to ignore him or debate with him. Debating usually wins.

When you get home, you will get on a subway and no one will speak to you, or even look at you. It’s gonna be awesome.

You spend time in the mall and at the University and in the neighborhoods where the white businessmen live, just to see what it’s like when you’re one of the crowd. You still feel you aren’t, quite. You are uncomfortable when you stand out and uncomfortable when you don’t. You are confused. You decide this is probably a good thing.

The gaping children come to the door at the beginning of your class, and then two of them shout, “OH-BROO-NEEEEE!” at once. Your student Juliana marches to the door and screams something at them in Twi that includes the name of a local private school, Glorious Child. Her classmates laugh, and the oglers leave.

“What did you say to them?” you ask.

“I said, ‘Ah! You go to a rich school like Glorious Child and you have never seen a white person before? What is that?'”

You recognize all the strange local snobberies and politics tied into that statement. But you cannot help but love being defended in that manner.

*A drop-in is a private taxi.

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