Langa Langa

Nana, Camille, Ingrid and Allison

Bob and I along with Jay and Allison went to Ingrid’s for dinner last month. Mr. Justice, an older gentleman who drives for Eric transported us and waited with the car in Ingrid’s lush, park-like yard.

We met Ingrid’s partner Tim, newly arrived from Zimbabwe with his teen aged daughter and her friend. The four of them had spent a few days on the coast before traveling inland to Kumasi. I was amazed that she could pull together a party so soon after traveling but as she told me on the phone, there were four of them so she had lots of help.

Unable to go anywhere empty handed, we brought food and wine. The spread included Ingrid’s home made bread and chocolate cake, German sausages, four kinds of salads, two dips, veggies and chocolate mousse. Bob made a plate and took it out to Mr. Justice. We ate and told stories and laughed for three hours until we had our fill.

This was a party for Nauzley, designed to give us all a chance to say goodbye. Nauzley and Kirsten arrived shortly after we did and a bit later a couple of Ingrid and Tim’s friends joined us. Nana, the watchman’s daughter, a serious little girl in a bright party dress sat on a chair with her legs sticking straight out, working her way through a plate of sausage.

The story that really got us going was told directly after Bob asked Ingrid about their trip home from the beach. She launched into a saga about getting stopped by the police, which touched off similar stories from the rest of us. The cops searched her boot (trunk) for a reason to detain them further, finding nearly everything required by law – the jack, spare tire, fire extinguisher, and so on.

Nearly everything. “You don’t have a langa langa!” the officer said triumphantly.

“What’s a langa langa?” Ingrid asked, her irritation beginning to show. Turned out it was a cutlass (machete.) According to this one uniformed man, there is a law that you keep one in the boot. When pressed to explain why, he explained that it was in case a fallen tree blocks the road so you can get out and chop the tree out of your way.


Nauzley, Champagne Princess

By now, the big guy had arrived in his white pith helmet, wishing he didn’t have to spell it out for these obronis. Ingrid is not the kind of woman to be pushed around so she wasn’t making it easy for them. As she told the story, she repeatedly ran her hands through her hair, lamenting her lack of patience and quick temper. The image of her making the cops spell it out for her is one rich with poetic justice. The bullies had met their match.

Finally, the big boss had no choice to begin hinting that money would solve the problem (surprise) so Ingrid asked them what it would take.

“Well, my men are thirsty. They would like some beer.”

“Well, how much will it cost to buy them beers?”

A sum of 20 cedis each was thrown out and there were four men, so 80 cedis ($40 USD). As Tim and Ingrid and the two girls had already been detained for the better part of an hour, Ingrid pulled out 50 cedis and handed it over. Looking into the back seat of their car, Mr. Pith Helmet spied some ground nuts (peanuts) and, thinking they would go nicely with those beers, confiscated them. And as easy as that, they were on their way.

But back to Nauzley. She graciously received a going away present from Ingrid, a beautifully carved chair made in two pieces which made it portable, and in a child’s size version so it would fit into a large handbag. We all laughed as Nauzley assembled her gift and sat down with Ingrid waving her hands, slightly embarrassed to see her perched on such a small chair. Nauzley held her ground and graced her new chair as if it were a throne, glass of champagne in one hand and bowl of chocolate mousse in the other.

We were the first to leave, bellies distended by copious amounts of food. The comforting smell of baking bread enveloped us as we passed through the kitchen to the back door. The guests had devoured the Sour Rye bread on the buffet table so they were baking another loaf.

On the way home, Bob asked Mr. Justice what that was a Langa Langa and Justice began gesturing above the steering wheel, searching for the right word. “Is it a cutlass?” Bob asked and Justice nodded enthusiastically saying, “Yes, the longer one.” We all got the joke at the same moment and burst out laughing. Of course – it was a Longer Longer, the opposite of Small Small!

The next time I rode with Eric on a shopping trip, I told him the story. He laughed and said “And if you did have a Langa Langa in the boot, they would have accused you of being a robber!” Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Although Ingrid isn’t ready to lay down for the law just yet. She’s working on getting a copy of the official rule book so she can look up the Langa Langa Law and any other Law she gets accused of breaking.

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.

One reply on “Langa Langa”

My favourite story of outwitting the police is used by an Australian lady I know in Accra. Every time she gets pulled over she greets the officers with “God Bless You”. She’s sure the guilt works wonders and she never pays a dash! It sometimes helps, but not always, to have the kids in the car with me…I dare you to ask for a bribe with children present!!

Don't be shy - leave a comment!