The magic word. The word you will hear probably a thousand times before you finish 27 months in Ghana. A word that instantly pegs you in a crowd as the focus of attention and eyeballs. "OH-BROON-NEE." I had read about the term before learning much else about Ghana from comments interspersed through Peace Corps material. The term has been described in varying terms - the one closest to a translation that I remember reading was "person from over the horizon". As it comes out of mouths of young and old alike, it has the feeling of, "White guy!" as I walk down the road.
I am not (yet) upset by the word. Everyone that I know in our group has been called obroni to the best of my knowledge. And by far, it is *never* meant as an insult since I have been here, it is just what someone who looks different goes by in these parts. When you hear about 8 little children, none over the age of 5 yell it, you can be sure that they are smiling very large smiles and waving furiously for your attention. It is quite easy to laugh, pause and wave, and then try your darndest to surprise them with a bit of the mother-tongue to see their reaction. There is something really fun about doing that, and by far having children yell is like a free ticket to feel happy for the next five or ten seconds.
The best moment so far with obroni came when I was walking home one night from teaching. I was on a dirt path a few minutes removed from my homestay families' home, and three small little girls blurted out, "Obroni!" which didn't phase me. What was surprising though was they were all running towards me and no sooner had they reached me then they all gave spontaneous hugs just above my kneecaps. I couldn't move and had no reason to, it was just the silliest but neatest thing ever. "That guy looks different from us," "Yes, let us all run and hug him!" You can't make up neat experiences like that.
So to date, I don't have any qualms with someone yelling obroni. It is a great chance to practice some language, and it also means that they really would like to talk and have a new friend in town.
Of course, a few times when traveling about we see a fellow PC Trainee and we are sorely tempted to yell out of the window, "OBRONI!!" for the fun of it. Good times.