I've been called a lot of names since I arrived in Ghana. Not all bad, most of them just descriptive and some very flattering. It has expanded the ways in which I self identify, and has helped show me much about Ghanaian culture and how I fit into Ghanaian society.
First and foremost is Obroni, the word for white man in Akan, which I hear pretty much everyday. When I hear it I smile and reply "Obibini!", or black man. It usually invokes laughter and I've made quite a few friends this way. There isn't a gender differentiation in Akan, as far as I can tell, so it works for both men and women.
Another version I hear is Kwesi Obruni, or white man who was born on Sunday. In Ghana people are often named for the day of the week on which they were born. For boys, Kojo is Monday, Kwabena is Tuesday, Kweku is Wednesday, Yao or Yawo is Thursday, Kofi is Friday, Kwame is Saturday and Kwesi is Sunday. So, when I hear Kwesi Obruni, I correct the person and say "Kwabena Obruni".
Another name I've been called, one which I find more than a little unsettling, is "Massa". A short form of "Master", perhaps used in reference to master and slave relationships, though I don't know for sure. It could just be used in the way that "Mister" is used, but for younger people who have not yet attained "Mister" status. It's a name thrown around liberally in conversation in the newsroom. It denotes a certain level of respect, and is often wielded in arguments just before a counter salvo. No one blinks when it's used and I'm probably the only one who feels strange about it.
People sometimes call me Jesus. I think it's because I'm white and have a beard, but it may also be the cherubic glow that accompanies me as I go. I find this name particularly strange, because Jesus, if a real person, would have been from the Middle East, and wouldn't have shared my complexion. It's another strange sign on this post-colonial road. A religion imported by white people, destroying traditional belief systems, setting up new acceptable social norms and creating an idealized whiteness for Africans to worship as their savior.
One man at work, a Kwame from the "Kwame and Kwame Show" has taken to calling me Jesus of Canada. Which, I guess, is to differentiate me from the other Jesuses.
Jessie, my JHR colleague sometimes calls me Eeyore, the pessimistic donkey, because, apparently I expect the worst. Like lost baggage to stay lost, tro tros to leave later than scheduled and hotel room bookings to go missing. I guess it's true, to a certain extent, but at the same time really annoying. This pessimism keeps me from maintaining my first-world standards, which I know are not applicable here. I expect things to go awry, and when they do, I'm not disappointed. In the newsroom, when the power goes out, and journalists lose the story they had been working on, they don't get upset. They expect things like this to happen. They wait for the power to come back on and start writing again.
Other names include Kevin, Kwabena Kevin, Canada Kevin, Kev, Obroni, and the old stand-by White Man. If I hear any new ones I'll keep you informed.