I am riding home from the tro tro after a slow day at work. The commute is long and tedious, as it often is, but I am used to it. The mate goes around to collect the fare and I stretch my arm to give him the one cedi. After about a minute of going through his coins he beckons me to take my 30 peshwas in change. I reach my hand out but when he sees me do so, his arm retracts immediately. I stare at him confused. The change is for me right? I look around and make sure I’m not blocking someone from getting their coins. “Use your right hand,” the mate says. Of course. I mentally kick myself and awkwardly use my inferior hand to take the change.
For this encounter, I am jokingly inclined to say it’s my parents’ fault for making me this way. When I was a kid, I was ambidextrous, and my right hand wrote just as terrible as my left (albeit with a few more backward letters). In Vietnam, children who are left-handed are often forced to use their right hand, but I had an aunt who was too stubborn to change hands and as a result would be punished constantly in school. Thus, my mother said to me, “Just pick one. If you use both, you’ll confuse everyone else.” I chose the left.
I’m still not sure if I made the right (ha) decision. When I started group lessons in ice skating as a child, I was “left-footed” but they switched me for the sake of convenience. I kick a ball with my right foot. I think I swing a bat with my right arm. In martial arts, I carry a sword in my right. I was too lazy to change the guitar in Rock Band to lefty and so my later attempts at learning the mandolin were also with my right hand. If it’s any consolation, if I had to punch someone in the face I think either fist would be sufficient.
Of course when I really need it, my reflexes here in Ghana just keep leanning to my left. I once ate banku with my left hand and my co-workers corrected me politely, but I felt embarrassed for possibly offending them. I consider myself adaptable and I’m not afraid of trying something different or adjusting to a new culture. I’ve managed for these past few weeks, but I am a little frustrated that I cannot make such a simple change in my inherent behavior. I was chatting with Dr. Michael Williams at dinner once and he had thought that I was lucky to be able to have adequate skils in both hands, even if they were different.
I should have brought Rock Band here.