PENDLETON — Kofi Boateng will never forget that he was born on a Friday.
It’s easy, he says, because boys in his native Ghana, who are born on a Friday, are traditionally named Kofi. Boys born on Saturday are called Kwame. And so it goes for every day of the week. Girls have different day-related names.
That’s just one of the differences between life in Ghana and his new world — Eastern Oregon.
In September, the 35-year-old Ph.D. student traveled 7,000 miles from Ghana to work at the Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Center near Pendleton. He arrived in town just as Pendleton Round-Up week revved up. Boateng, new to rodeo, rustled up a ticket and sat in utter fascination as he watched the wild, colorful competition of bull and bronc riders, ropers, steer wrestlers, barrel racers and his favorite event, Indian relay racing.
The foray into the Wild West was a prelude to his first day at the agricultural center where he would assist in studying crop production and greenhouse emissions. Boateng has a special interest in this research as it relates to his own Ph.D. studies regarding rice production and greenhouse gases.
“We want to produce more rice without damaging the environment,” he said, “but rice production comes with greenhouse emissions. We want more production without increased emissions.”
The Oregon research project focuses on wheat, but Boateng says the principles of emission research are the same.
When he isn’t analyzing gas and soil samples, he is exploring his temporary new home. The weather is colder in Eastern Oregon than in Ghana, where the temperature ranges from around 66 degrees to 104. Ghanan food also is hotter than American fare.
But, “I’m adapting quite well,” he said. At work, his new colleagues “have allowed me to ease into the system.”
Boateng grins when someone compliments him on his impeccable English.
People generally assume he speaks a foreign tongue, but English is the official language in Ghana. There are upward of 80 languages spoken in this West African nation, he tells them, but English, inherited from the British during the colonial era, serves as a common language.
He speaks to his wife, Regina, and two young sons a couple of times each week. Using WhatsApp, they chat about life in America and what’s going on back home.
In March, he will leave Pendleton and return to his family in Ghana. Until then, he plans to soak in everything he can about American crop production and life in Oregon.