Your Mother Says You Don’t Listen

Kikam is a township and far away from Accra, the main city. Kikam’s charm is the beach which served as the backyard to many. Selling fish, having a spot to sell beer, and driving a taxi or trotro are the ways to make money. Otherwise, the funeral ceremonies are a way for a party filled with Christian songs and all night music. Needless to say I was bored out of my mind. I needed a beer or 6, but since I am no drinker I decided not to test the limits of the acquired taste to see what version of Latoya would come out.

Chill Beach Setting

Somehow I ended up on my own – I can’t seem to remember how that came about, but I was alone for the first time in a long time since arriving. Helen, Emmanuel’s stepmother, was home as usual and I stopped to talk to her. Well, when I say talk, more like nod and try to hand signal what I wanted to say. She did not speak any English. I did not speak Nzema. Despite how excited I was to learn and start making mistakes in the language so I could learn quickly, Emmanuel discouraged me and was not as hyped as I was. He kept saying that the language was not easy as I was thinking and simply did not teach me. Emmanuel’s daughter was her grandmother’s caretaker and usually always around. Her own English speaking was about 5% better than Helen, so that meant that I was going to be doing hand signals to communicate.

Helen had a bad hip or a bad back, I couldn’t figure out which one. But sometimes she could not straighten up all the way in order to walk. This evening she was half cocked and giving Manuela orders on what to do. Fetch the water from the well, start the fire, go buy this, come give me that. Once the little 9 year old was done with her duties and the food was underway Helen sat me down in front of her. We just smiled and went in to our own thoughts. I’m sure she had a lot to say, but had no idea what to say.


“Lah-toy-ya. Something-something-something Adiaba e le tio.” Her and Manuela laughed. I was still trying to figure it out as she repeated the same line over and over.

Finally, I caught on that she wanted me to repeat after her: Adiaba, e le tio. She kept saying it to me as one would who is trying to teach a child. I did not know what it meant, but I still remember the words in Nzema.

Emmanuel returned and greeted us. I smiled and was glad to know some Nzema so that I could share it with him. I had been trying to show him how good of a student I was and hoping that he would take the time to teach me. It seemed he’d declared that with my American ways I thought I could learn the language easily and quickly and if he didn’t help me that would make it more difficult.

“Adiaba, e le tio.” I proudly said. He looked a bit taken aback and asked where I’d learned that. His stepmother chimed in and since I now had an interpreter I got to learn what it meant. It meant, Adiaba, listen. This struck me as a bit odd, but I accepted it. Your stepmother sat me down and gave me a good clue as to you as she knows you. She did not teach me endearing terms such as Adiaba, I love you. Not, Adiaba, I missed you, but Adiaba, listen. That means she often thinks of you as a persn who does not listen.

*Still more to come as Latoya reflects on her memories of being caught up in a sham of a marriage to a man with a plan to get to the USA. Be on the lookout for her new book, Wanted: Green Card on Amazon.