Gaining weight while in debt

Gaining weight blurbNot long ago, a Ghanaian friend posted this on his Facebook.

In Africa, people who gain weight are respected. It is a sign of affluence. Only people with means can eat well enough and relax enough to gain weight. If I come back from the US having gained some pounds, Ghanaians will congratulate my friends and family for treating me well, and they will tell me that I look healthy. So if someone owes another person money, does not pay it back and gains weight, that person is spending on himself the money he should be paying back. He is disrespecting the person to whom he owes the money. So “Gaining weight while you OWE me MONEY is a sign of disrespect…”

Culture is not just the outward stuff – what people eat, the kind of houses they live in, and so on. It is the ideas that shape how they perceive actions, such as gaining weight or losing weight. One can’t interpret correctly what people of another culture say without understanding their underlying perceptions.

A Ghanaian friend of ours makes cartoons with Christian messages. They show how common behaviors in Ghana are in contradiction with what the Bible teaches. Here is one of his cartoons which tackles men who ogle beautiful women. One look a the cartoon will tell you what characteristic is considered beautiful in Ghana. The point is, if you made this cartoon with a woman beautiful by Western standards, it would not be effective. Communication which does not take culture into account will fail.






Split Teeth

Don Lauber high school graduation photo

Don Lauber high school graduation photo

My dad has a gap between his upper two front teeth. As I child, I never noticed it until I was told that when I was little, I had the same thing and the dentist cut something (the labial frenum) so that mine would not have a gap. Both my sons have the same gap, as we chose not to have the same procedure done for them.

As they became young men in Burkina Faso (we lived there for the first 12-14 years of their lives), the people there would remark on how handsome they were. Sometimes they would specifically comment on that lovely gap between their two front teeth. That is how we learned that a gap between one’s upper front teeth is considered a mark of beauty in Burkina Faso and some other places, like Kenya.

Beauty can be, in fact, less than skin deep. It varies from place to place and time to time.

Family photo, May 2013, L-R: Ed, Mark, Lacy, Dayle, Matthew

Family photo, May 2013, L-R: Ed, Mark, Lacy, Dayle, Matthew