This is what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real. It just so happened to be at my executive meeting yesterday! Meeting was supposed to start at 9, didn’t start until 11. Luckily, I brought an excellent book with me. Makes the time go by much easier. Also, I have a parasite chilling in my stomach causing me nothing but pleasant stomach pains. I named her Gladys. I’ll be gladys when she is gone. Gladys eating for me. Anyway, so I sat around waiting for the meeting to start in stomach pain and extremely fatigued. In fact, I fell asleep for a few minutes. I was about to go back home and call it a wash when everyone showed up magically at the same time!
So the meeting starts. Everything is in Twi. Blah blah blah. English word. Blah blah blah. Twi word I understand. Blah. So the discussion starts getting heated and people are raising their voices past extremely loud (the standard level). So I raise my hand and ask my counterpart to briefly translate what they are discussing so Chris and I can understand wtf is going on. She takes all of 20 seconds to clarify and then I am back to day dreaming. So, about 10 minutes later Chris’s supervisor tells us that they aren’t going to translate anything for us, since Cynthia is taking notes and she can just debrief me later. Well that didn’t make me very happy. How am I supposed to contribute to these meetings if they refuse to include me. So the Chairman says to me in English: “and you have to learn our language so you can understand what we are saying.” I tell him in Twi, I am sorry I don’t understand what you are saying. I don’t speak English. Luckily, he got a kick out of that, so did everyone else.
I turn to Chris and ask him, alright, want to get lunch? So we leave and walk around town. We come back about an hour and a half later and the meeting is still going. I hear them change subjects about 5 minutes later to something I have strong feelings about: a union accountant. So I let them discuss, but then I can tell that the conversation isn’t going the way I want it to. So I raise my hand to make a point. I explain to them that all good unions in America have accountants. I explain how important it is to a buyer that we have an accountant and any cost associated with an accountant can be factored into handling charges when negotiating a contract. I talk for probably 5 minutes on the importance of an accountant. I see the lights go on in the executives eyes. AHA. They are coming over to the light side! (See what I did there?)
So then Chris’s supervisor asks me in English and he is sorta asking everyone else at the same time, what if I were the accountant. Oh no. Oh nooooo. SHIT SHIT SHIT. He explains that I am a neutral third party, I am here for two years, I am here in Wenchi and I am white. Because I am white all buyers will instantly respect our decision and trust us. Great. Awesome. So, he asks me if I would be the accountant. I am getting strong armed into this! I explain that my mother was an accountant and I have a financial background. So I guess I could. WHAT ARE YOU THINKING YOU IDIOT (me)? As soon as I noncommittally committed I wanted to take it back but they were so excited and so happy. I honestly can’t remember what I really said, but I think I said it more like I could help. I saw no other alternative based on the previous discussion, so I guess I was thinking – eh at least I can look at the books.
What were you thinking? I am not an accountant. No sooner than it was written in the minutes that I was an option for an accountant did I go outside and start to try making phone calls. And then the network went down. And is still down. No calls in, no calls out. Of course. All I wanted was to call my mom and say: “mooooooommmmmm! help me and send me accounting books.”
So after that my brain started to melt and my stomach started to turn. What did I get myself into? This is one of those oh great decisions that you regret. So, the meeting continued for another hour while I sat in my own personal hell torturing myself with you idiot thoughts. Then shit started getting real. People started standing up, pointing fingers, screaming. Then, no kidding, a fight broke out that included some swings and fighting over a bag of sacks. That’s right a bag of sacks. There were three grown men each grabbing onto the same bag, fighting for it. Tugging it back and forth. People were holding this one guy back. I called them small girls, then laughed then went back to fighting. More shouting. WHY IS EVERYONE YELLING? A few more crazy looks and then they were done and everyone left.
And that’s how meetings work here.