African me

I’m back in America. I left Ghana two days ago and got here late last night.

My friends and I are sharing an apartment, and last night we were up talking; by the time we went to bed, it was 4am.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been so used to waking up at 7am every day (even on weekends!) for the past two months, but I automatically woke up at 8am today, with no help from the alarm.

I opened my eyes, fully expecting to see brown bed sheet next to peeling walls, brown curtains, a wobbly, dusty table full of my things, and to hear the sounds of people washing and cooking and having lively conversations in Dagbani.

But what I saw was a room with tiled floors, large luggage bags lying open, sturdy wooden study desks and sleek window shades.

There was no one saying “thesiba”, no chorus replying “Naaaa”. No sounds of children quarreling as they walk past my window. No whooshing of a ceiling fan, no splashing of buckets of water onto the dirt ground, no television sounds from the next room.

Instead, it was quiet. Very quiet. My housemates were still sleeping, the air-conditioning was turned off. Everything was so still.

And then I lost it. I started crying, couldn’t stop. It wasn’t like I was shedding just a few droplets of tears — it was a fucking dam that broke.

When I opened my eyes and realized I was not in Tamale anymore, my heart dropped. I wanted so, SO BADLY for the kids to start knocking on my door, for them to go “Ko-kos” (kind of like knock-knock), and me telling them to go away, come back later because I’m still sleeping. I wanted someone to call me on my MTN cell phone line, to say good morning, would I like to go over to hang out today?

It’s ironic that I’ve returned to Grinnell from the longest time that I’ve been away (9 months, due to being in France), but this is the time when I am not at all excited about being here.

I have to research and write a 15-page paper due on Monday, which is in 3 days. I am screwed, but I can’t think right now. My head is still in Africa.

I had a family send me off at the airport when I left. Do you know how lucky I am to have that? I was in Tamale, 12-hour bus ride north of Accra, and yet, I still managed to have a family send me off at the Accra airport.

I was already about ready to cry when I was in the airport. Then I got on the plane, and that was when it started. Other than the first time I left Malaysia to go to school in America, leaving Ghana was the hardest goodbye I’ve had to go through.

Everyone I knew kept telling me to go back some time in the future, but two people actually said to me, “You HAVE to come back. You have a family here.”

I have a family there! In Ghana! I have a family in Africa!

This is, by far, the best summer ever.

I am going back. I’ll find a way to go back.

* * * * *

How do you know I’ve been spending time in Africa?

From my burnt skin. My arms, face and neck are 3 shades darker than my stomach and legs. It’s not even a tan, it’s just dark. Like, burnt. Once, this kid in Tamale told me that from where he was sitting (on my bed), I look black. Meaning I look African, like one of them.

Wooooo every time I meet a friend for the first time since coming back I will be greeted with, “You have become so dark!”

It’s okay. I think dark skin works well on me lol.

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