When I was in Ghana in 2007 doing a clinical rotation at Korle-Bu, I worked closely with one physician who when it was time for lunch, would take out whatever she had brought or had one of the janitors go out to buy, look at me somewhat meekly over the top of her meal and state “You are invited” as she proceeded to dig into it.
I thought it was an idiosyncrasy of hers initially but then when I was invited to another physician’s lunch I wonder if this was a “thing” with this particular group of people. After all, since it was a lunch break that we were taking I had my own lunch which
often was roasted plantains and groundnut, ie. not real food in many
people’s eyes but what I wanted. Actually, what I craved and looked forward to all morning. I often wondered if that was why I was
being invited to their meal, as if to say, come eat some real food.
After this had been going on for a couple weeks, I asked a friend of mine from JSS why it was they kept telling me “You are invited”, when there didn’t really seem to be a semblance of sharing the food. After all, there was only one take-away container, one bowl, and if there were any utensils there was only one set. And usually by the time the sentence was completed the first bite had already begun. I was confused as to whether I was expected to join in or whether it was a mere formality. Whether my refusal or hesitancy was a slight on my part, or the expected response. Truth being that some of the meals I was invited to I wouldn’t have touched with a 10 foot pole so I did not want to seem rude.
My friend had a good laugh that day. Oh, K’chie, it’s just something they say, she replied. Just common courtesy. I felt rather silly, but I don’t think I had ever heard that phrase before then.