Aha chi Water? Aha chi Blood?

I was about 14 years old when my father concretized the lesson on family bonds. It happened during the long holidays in Cameroon when students spend over three months at home, from June to September. True to my teenage self, I decided to sew a stylish pair of shorts that July. I bought a nice piece of cream colored “material” a.k.a fabric which I took to a local tailor. I told the tailor what I wanted. My description was vivid. I remember I wanted two “inner pockets” with frills on the outside of each. He told me he would be done in about a week. After making a couple of trips there, one week stretched to two weeks. Eventually, I got the shorts, but I was so disappointed. He had sewn what looked like plain male shorts, the kind used by primary school boys. There were no frills. The shorts were also a little big for me. It almost felt as if the male tailor had actually sewn the shorts for himself hoping I would get upset and abandon them.
However, I took the shorts home and decided to give any of the big boys in our house who desired it. That evening we were on the veranda behind the house chatting and telling stories when I announced that I do not want the shorts and was willing to give it to anyone who wanted it. Immediately, my brother and one of my male cousins who lived with us declared their interest. I listened to each one of them express their interest in getting the pair of shorts.
What I did not realize was that my father was following our discussion closely from the living room nearby. After listening to my brother and cousin express their desire to get the pair of shorts, I was ready to make the big pronouncement on who was going to get it.

Even in those days I was a confident student of English, so I began my announcement with a proverb I thought I understood well. In my very authoritative 14-year-old voice I began, “You know, blood is thicker than water…” Before I could finish, my father pushed the door to the veranda open and confronted me. With a sly smile on his face he asked me in Kenyang, our ethnic language, “Hati meh, aha chi water, aha chi blood fah?” Translation: Tell me, who is water and who is blood here?’” The whole house erupted in laughter at my expense. My father did not laugh but he did not look angry either. He wore his expectant teacher face. He was still waiting for my answer. He knew from my using that proverb that I was trying to give the shorts to my brother without realizing that my cousin is also “blood” which made my use of the proverb faulty.
It was a brief moment that felt like eternity. I quickly realized my mistake and joined sheepishly in the laughter. Without saying anything more, Papa went back into the living room. It was another teaching moment in the G.T. Ashuntantang household. Under his roof, we were all the same. The blood that bound us as an enlarged family was sacred and sacrosanct! He had been teaching that lesson in many ways by taking us on frequent trips to the village so we could interact with our extended family as well as enthusiastically welcoming those who visited our home. Nevertheless, he could not miss the moment to drive the lesson home concretely. I learnt the lesson exceptionally well, and today I am very territorial when it comes to my enlarged family, but I have gone beyond this. I now know blood is thicker whenever and wherever human beings relate to each other in ways that are humane and uphold our collective human dignity.
Interestingly my siblings still enjoy a good laugh at my expense every now and then when they recall the incident. You can join them. The next time you see me, feel free to ask, “Hati meh, aha chi water, aha achi blood fah?” that is sure to make me burst into laughter!
(Picture above shows Papa in front of our house in Rocky Valley, Buea where this story took place)

23 thoughts on “Aha chi Water? Aha chi Blood?”

  1. Very captivating read.
    Nothing beats lessons delivered informally.
    My Old man till this day uses well-timed silence to allow me space to think and self-reform.

  2. I love the intervention in kontri talk. I can see repe ei face.

    Why did you want such big pockets? Did you use to collect buttons or🤣🤣🤣

  3. Very funny but Very profound! I can almost hear him. He was a great teacher. A very humble man and a very very very loving dad! Lessons learned with great humor.

  4. Haha.I used to say that all the time. The saying: Blood is thicker than water.But thankyou for this short story auntie Joyce. You are right when you say that it is not only about family but humanity as a whole. Please write more stories because you inspire me to write too.

  5. Haha…Funny and true at the same time. And I usually make use that saying: Blood is thicker than water. Auntie Joyce, you are also right when you say that it should not only involve family but humanity as a whole.Please keep on writing more short stories. When you write it inspires me to write too.

  6. Dear Prof Ash,
    You have braved the storms and waves to be where you are today with smiles and laughs. From those days your parents passed on, you grew up with that enthusiasm you teach us about today. You’re a special person. May the Almighty God continue to protect you and family. Love ❤️ you always dear. Just keep on glowing!

  7. Great lesson.Never thought of that way it till nowThe lteachings from our parents never failed..Canr wait to use ur dad’s words of chi water chi blood to u when I next see you

  8. I had read this story a while ago yet each time I read it, I also laugh at you like your family members. I grew up listening to kenyang but I do not speak. I love reading …’ Hati Meh’…Your eloquence in kenyang marvels me and I do give credit to your parents for this.

    1. Ha ha ha! You di laugh me eh!! I can see and hear you doing just that. Yes, our parents gave us the opportunity to learn Kenyang without formally enforcing it. I took it a notch up when I studied African linguistics and learned how to write it. Mandem achi anfai!

  9. Jolie, great true story. I believe in family being extended to include all those who care for us and vice versa. May your father be blessed where ever he may be..I will forward you something from a friend which will tie with this believe you just shared in this wonderful true story. 👍

  10. Waow Dr. You made me think of Papa and the whole Ashuntantang family. How they treated their extended families. We pray that their spirits guide us to emulate their lives and even do more. Like you said, we can extend our largesse to everyone person on the face of this Earth.
    Thank you sister for sharing . ❤️🙌🏿

    1. Ah! Thanks. Your memories of them blesses me. Yes, we can sis. “I now know blood is thicker whenever and wherever human beings relate to each other in ways that are humane and uphold our collective human dignity.”

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