A purple squirrel is a mythical creature; a being of lore. Something that has peculiar characteristics (like purple fur), but for the most part can still be identified as a squirrel. It’s kinda like a unicorn.
Last Monday a woman in black cloth and a black hajib approached me at my kids’ school in Adenta. She looked ‘African’ (but certainly not Ghanaian) but before she even spoke, I knew there was something American about her.
Why was she standing next to Aya’s and Nadjah’s teachers? Why did they nod in my direction as I approached? What was that white envelope she was holding? This was all very strange.
“Good afternoon,” I said to the group.
“Good afternoon,” they replied.
The woman in black was staring at my face, half smiling. Me? I was just confused.
“Please, this lady said she was looking for you,” said one of the teachers.
The woman in black spoke up quickly.
“I was reading your blog…”
“You were reading my blog??”
“Yes. A friend of mine in California directed me to it, and I said I HAVE to come and meet you.”
How the heck did this chick find me? In Adenta of all places?!?
“Your blog is hilarious!” she continued. “I read one of your pieces, and realized our kids came to the same school!”
“Wow… What a coincidence,” I said in amazement…and a certainly level of concern. I mean, she could be crazy as a bed bud for all I knew.
I stood there listening to her as she spoke, regarding her cautiously. I still wasn’t too sure how this woman with a mix of Ghanaian, Northerner and American accents in local cloth was able to find me on the internet. I mean, she looked like a market queen – like she should be directing small girls to go and buy and sell tomatos…not reading blogs.
“My name is Khadija,” she said.
But then, you already knew that, didn’t you? I thought.
After a short chat, we exchanged numbers and I hopped into my waiting taxi. Her children hopped into a massive silver Pathfinder. Ei.
The next day, my new unassuming friend called me to chew the fat (as much as you can on Ghana’s cell phone plans). She wanted to invite me for lunch. We went to a half chop bar/ half restaurant establishment with blue cement walls to eat. As we sat down to meal of jollof rice, salad and chicken – you know…’gentleman food’ - we talked about everything. Life in Ghana and what it takes to adjust and survive here dominated the conversation. She told me that she was really happy to read about my experiences and observations during my short trip here.
“It let me know that I wasn’t crazy!” she cried.
In the midst of conversation, I discovered that my very obviously Muslim friend was indeed Black American, and had come to Ghana to raise her children in fulfilment of a promise. After much turmoil, she’d built a home and was preparing to start a new school. She regaled me with tales of survival that had me ashamed that I considered $4 paper towels and the harvesting of rain water to bathe as hardships. I told her so.
“You have a maturity about you that I just don’t posses,” I admitted. “Yeah, I’m a woman…but you are a WOMAN.”
“Ehh? Is it true? A ‘full woman’, as they say.”
We both laughed. Khadijah likes to laugh.
Over the course of the next week, we saw each other just about everyday this hajiah and her Pathfinder. Everyday, she gave me a tidbit of information that shocked me. Among the tales of juju that had directed at her, stories about her insane ex-husband, and the treachery of both the Ghanaian businessman and layman that is always trying to cheat the next person, it was the revelation of where she was from that had me stuck.
“Girl. I’m from Compton,” she said when I asked her where in America she was from.
“Compton. You mean ‘Compton ‘Compton?”
“Yup,” she said with a broad smile.
Suddenly, we were discussing Snoop, hip-hop and car shows.
“Did you ever think you would be in Ghana talking about asymmetric bobs and hydraulics with another woman?” she asked with a laugh.
“Oh yeah. Sure,” I replied. “You can have these conversations in Ghana. In Cantoments, in Labone, in Osu…among Ghanaians who have been abroad. But not in Adenta. Not with a Black American woman dressed as YOU are, who is from COMPTON!”
Have you heard of such before? You haven’t! That is why Khadija (which is obviously not her gob’ment name) is my purple squirrel.