It was as though there existed some unspoken agreement that such little debts were not to be repaid with charcoal, oil or whichever borrowed item but rather to be repaid in kindness or solicitude whenever today’s debtor became tomorrow’s borrower. It was in one such town in
When I lived in the
I preferred the conditions under which I’d grown up, exactly the same as how no matter how well macaroni and cheese was prepared, I could never please my abom-craving palate. Abom is a pureed mix of nkontomire, (a grean leafy vegetable which my Africanist boss might describe as the superior cousin of spinach), spiced with a dash of chili pepper, salt and a lil somn somn – aka momoni (a well loved, little-acknowledged and almost never praised (in elite circles) local season).
So I longed for my old neighbourhood and when I thought back on how well known and well liked I was by not just my immediate neighbours but everyone on Peace-Be street, I grew increasingly dissatisfied with my new lonesome life and community whether it was on Walnut Street, Anderson Street or Finley Street, all in Durham, NC. Although I no longer had need to borrow salt, oil or anything else, I wished for people with whom I could chat as had been the practice on Peace-Be street, and what I knew to be life in Ghana. So one can only imagine my excitement when my studies were complete and I was home bound.
The newly constructed Tetteh Quarshie traffic circle missed my attention, and soon we were right in the middle of madina. I’d practically grown up in Madina. I’d walked through most of its sidestreets and tasted much of its street food but somehow Madina looked different. It was painted in brown dirt, the open sewers on both sides of the road sat before the small, brightly-painted, ever-present kiosks that littered the streets. The yellow MTN kiosks belonging to those who sell MTN phone units by the roadside worsened the town's appearance, lending it a semblance of a badly done collage, not unlike the Ghanaian commercial roadside paintings. However it did strike me as ironic that I would buy a painting of madina to display in my living room someday but I would not want to live there. Funny how art is able to impose beauty on reality eh?
Madina looked like the projects. Even before reaching home, I was disheartened and I longed for
The cab laboured on and finally brought me to my parents' house. Right in infront of the house, there was one of those uncovered gutters that are ubiquitous in Ghana I became furious at the contractor who had constructed the gutters on Peace-Be Street. I faintly recalled that my old schoolmate Kamal’s dad had been involved. I made a mental note to seek Kamal’s whereabouts and express my displeasure.
Home wasn’t much better. Like most Ghanaian homes, there was too little space. My mom had built her nursery school in front of our house and on the sides. All our neighbours had some sort of new structure attached to their house for whatever commercial venture they pursued. What did I want? I wanted grass, not the hard concrete design blocks that paved our compound. Why couldn’t our porch or living room not be made of concrete? My room was too small. Even the new bed sheet displeased me because it looked like it was imported from overseas. I was sad. I can’t live here, I thought to myself. Was this the past I’d so longed for? But this was my home. This was where I’d made all those great memories. I wept.
As I’d planned to move out of home even before my arrival, I soon set to that task. Estate agents were wonderful about finding me places to look at. The first 3 places I checked out at Osu quickly changed my mind about my own home. Heck, I’d rather live at home than in these slums that were being offered in Osu for 150 cedis, which is about equivalent of 150 dollars. Sure it may seem like no money to those of you who live in the
It quickly became apparent to me that I didn’t really want to live where the average Ghanaian lived. Even though I had thought to myself before returning to
I’m smack in the throes of an identity crisis. In some ways, I identify most with the Wofa Yaws and sister Akos’ who are always on foot, but in other ways, I derive some pleasure from fraternizing with the Mrs. Ocanseys who drive big brand new SUVs.
I imagine that if I’d grown up in Ghanaian elite society, I’d be comfortable living at
I’m still looking for that perfect apartment/house. The latest house I’m chasing is at Airport residential area. It is likely that once I move there, I will not know my neighbours because there, walls are not just meaningless structures but demarcates and signifies personal space. I don’t know if it will be exactly like it was in the
For now, I reason that people cannot fight poverty when they contribute to the problem by being poor themselves. Maybe I’m an inspiration to Auntie Akos’ daughter who may now see that the future for people who live at Ashale-Botwe can be better. If I had hope in the unseen, perhaps she will have hope in the seen. For the first time in his life, my little brother Ato knows how it feels to be dropped off at school in a brand new car – something I’ll never know. So I must achieve great things, but I keep reminding myself that life isn’t like this for everyone and that I must never forget the people I have left behind in my pursuit of the better life in