Universal humor

It appears to be universal that people turn problems into humor, especially when the problems come from their government, or from an important institution.

When we first moved to Kenya, the country was having rolling electrical blackouts because there was insufficient capacity to generate the amount of electricity needed. Reduced water flow behind a hydroelectric dam was the culprit. In a few months, they had put in place an alternative and the rolling blackouts stopped. During the last few months we have gone through something similar here in Ghana. The culprit this time was a dysfunctional gas pipeline. An alternative is in place that meets most of the shortfall, and more generation capacity will come online later this year. In both cases, local people developed a humorous way to deal with the inconvenience.

In Kenya, the electricity was supply by the Kenya Power and Lighting Company – KPLC. But Kenyan’s started saying that KPLC really stood for Kenya, Please Light the Candles!

Here in Ghana, we have the Electric Company of Ghana – ECG. But some now say that stands for Either Candles or Generators.

I have been told that in Nigeria, instead of saying Nigeria Electric Power Authority for their company,  NEPA, some say Never Expect Power Always.

My favorite, however, came in church when we were having blackouts in Kenya. The pastor asked the congregation what Kenyans used for light before they had candles. No one knew. So the pastor told them ­ they had electricity.

It is not just electrical outages that prompt humor. I have been told several humorous stories by Nigerians which deal with their high rate of deaths from road accidents. Humor is a powerful tool for dealing with stress. Where I have lived in Africa, it shows people’s resilience in the face of problems outside their control.

Apparently, this has been going on for a long time – at least since the writer of Proverbs penned these words:

Sorrow may hide
behind laughter
(Proverbs 14:13 CEV)

Tom Brown

I think that it was the morning after we arrived in Ghana. To get up to speed with her new job, my wife Dayle was looking through informational materials. She found ta rotating schedule for the food served at breakfast. For one of the days the listing just said “Tom Brown”. Those words just looked more than a bit shocking on a menu!

Package of Tom Brown

Package of Tom Brown

After a laugh, we set off to do what we ought to do with all cultural things that throw us for a loop – suspend judgment and get information. We wanted to know what, and hopefully not who, was Tom Brown.

We found the answer in the grocery store where you can buy packages of Tom Brown.  It is a dark tan flour made of toasted corn meal, ground peanuts, ground black-eyes peas and millet flour, which is used to make a porridge. Very nutritious!

Many cooks add lemon juice and ground fresh ginger. The lemon makes it pretty tart. So Tom Brown can be a bit of a sourpuss.

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