When I was 19, my younger sister was “sent” to Ghana for misbehaving during her preteen years. I was actually envious of her punishment and could only dream up what it would be like live in Ghana—what experiences would she face? Thankfully, my time came to stay in Ghana long-term; no punishment needed, instead, for a great reward. I took a year off from work to teach in the Eastern Region and every moment was surreal. Of course, I looked forward to the obvious treats such as beaches and fresh, delicious food. But “returning” home meant a chance for me to bond with my extended family. Going back forced me to speak a language that I never had to converse in for more than 5 minutes. Being back in Ghana was a true test to my character and confidence as a young woman—I was constantly questioning myself on what do you want to learn from this experience?
Returning home was such a huge conundrum for me. I didn’t know how to feel about going to Ghana for a long term period. First, I wasn’t really going “back”. I was born and raised in the States to Ghanaian parents but was raised with such strong Ghanaian ideals, my birth certificate only confirmed my citizenship status— in my heart and in all aspects of my life, I was a Ghanaian. After visiting Ghana for the first time as a teenager, I just knew I had to return and I really wanted to get to the core of my history. I wanted to move past the obviously exciting tourist stage and have an experience that was meaningful and life-changing.
What did I want to gain from teaching in Ghana for a year? Was it to gain an invisible award for doing what very few westernized African youth seek out to do? Or was it the personal satisfaction of saying that “Yes! I had to cook in the dark daily, live without water, travel by tro-tro successfully—and I made it out alive! What about you?!!” No, returning and working back home was necessary. I needed it. I already define myself as a humble person but the experience truly allowed me to be grateful for all my parents did for my life and for the opportunities I have as a US Citizen.
But truly, going back home confirmed in my heart that I truly have a purpose and role in the Ghanaian community. In spite of the difficulties I faced, I cannot recall any personal annoyance I faced in Ghana. Of course, there were some days I couldn’t bear the constant “light off” but that was made up with fun nights playing ludo with neighbors or listening to bushbabies make strange noises as I fall asleep. I can’t recall any frustration I felt, I can only recall the happy faces of my students when they finally understood how a preposition worked in a sentence or they were able to enter the exam room with confidence to write an English paper. I can only sense my grandmother’s joy when I returned to Kumasi for the weekends, ready to eat her fufu and watch television with her until we both fell asleep. My long-term stay in Ghana was not my first return but it was the first time I truly had a chance to be a Ghanaian and with no reservations.
Now that I’m back in the States, I at times feel physically ill with homesickness. I stop in my tracks and try to remember phrases, smells, and sights that intrigued me on so many levels. At times I remember, at times I do not. I long for that simplicity of life, the easy access of delicious food, and the warm smiles I encounter on my daily stroll in krom. Of course, I may see Ghana with rose-colored lens but overall, I am well aware of the blessings and struggles of living in Africa and it doesn’t me phase in the least. I will surely drop everything to return to Ghana permanently if I could. I have an amazing husband who will do the same thing (given the right circumstances). That time may not be now but when it comes, I am proud to say that I will be ready. Happy and ready.