Don’t read Ayn Rand in close proximity to encountering beggars. After a day of training that went more smoothly than could be expected even if it hadn’t been cross-cultural, passages from “Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” keep popping into my head as we look for a craft market and find a group of street children following us around instead. Their plan’s subtle enough that one doesn’t mind it upon first encounter: maybe these kids really are bored enough to want to know where you’re from and do request your address just to send a friendly letter once in a while. Just don’t think about how many people they must have done this to if they approached your group of white people as soon as you got out of your van. Also, try not to question the extreme coincidence of this happening at most every stop: maybe you just look really friendly. Most of all, avoid Rand’s questioning of the validity of presenting suffering as one’s only claim against the world and by what right these kids eventually ask for a donation. And if you’re going to answer their greetings with “no hablo ingles,” don’t let them hear you speaking to your friends a few seconds later.
If you don’t follow these rules, you may end us with a little situation, ie a little Ghanaian with big anger shouting that “you’re not Americans: real Americans are friendly” before his friend follows up with a smirk and something like “Saddam Hussein! Saddam Hussein is not dead. You think he is, but he’s going to come to America and kill you all.” After some bewilderment and a quick evaluation of their size / quantity / the distance to well-lit safety, I answer with “you’re not real Ghanaians” and we make our way away from what’s a few too many little street urchins insisting that we owe them something.
Of course, Cujo the van guy was nowhere to be found during this little incident. When he finally wanders back and we return to our hotel, we try and talk Abraham, Cujo’s boss and second in charge among our minders, into being on time for a relatively early (7:30) pickup from our hotel tomorrow. I try “we don’t believe you: there’s no way you can make it here on time!” and think it actually might work until I hear him tell Cujo “you need to pick them up at 6:30 tomorrow, O.K.?” We finish the night with Ghanaian lagers, a long card game, and a poll about what time Abraham will arrive tomorrow. With the winner being the closest without being later, the earliest bet is for 7:35 and the latest is around 8:25, with agreement that the latest is probably the best spot.