Bitter Grass on the Other Side

Today I was alarmed to discover that not only will I never be able to live in Ghana, but after this visit I am very unlikely to make any effort to ever return, even for a short visit. If I do, the circumstances leading to that return would have to be extraordinary, such as some unspeakable calamity so pressing that it would be equally catastrophic if I were not present at such time.

I spent the better half of the beginning of this year poised and excited about the possibility of moving back to Ghana. At some point in March however, I had a moment of doubt, and publicly posed the question: Am I really cut out to live in Ghana?

Friends from Facebook chimed in:

Oh! How can you even ask that? Ghana dey jom!

Yes, yes! You can! Come home.

I dunno…Ghana life can be hard.

No! Don’t listen to them! Life in Ghana is great.

And indeed, life is Ghana IS great…for some. For about 5% of the population who control 80% of the wealth (these aren’t hard government figures, mind you), life is absolutely amazing. When you live in a house of 4 adults and have 6 other people waiting to do your bidding – like bring you a glass of water as you pass through the kitchen – life is pretty frikkin’ sweet. I, sadly, am not in that 5%.

It’s not that I want or need anyone to bring me a glass of water, or that I want anyone to wash my clothes (that is an actual need), it’s just that I had been set up to expect that these sorts of services and structures would be in place prior to my arrival. Sadly, I’ve been gravely disappointed. And my disappointment lies in the illusions I allowed others to create for me.

In the grand scheme of things, Ghana and America are not that different. Friends and family on either side of the Atlantic make promises and fail to deliver on them either because they can’t or won’t honor the commitments that might influence your decisions. That’s just human nature; and after all, people have their own lives to run too. When you pull back the veneer from American life, Africa is waiting just beneath the surface. The problem with Africa is that is HAS no veneer, and so corruption, greed, poverty and the seldom slips of kindness  and philanthropy that might try to address all these are far more glaring. And when everything is whittled away, I suppose the bulk of my disappointment in Ghana is that it is different from when I left. Ghana is neither better nor worse than when I left here permanently in 1996. The country’s development can be likened to that of an atom: moving neither forward nor backward – it’s simply unfocused and all over the place. I find that I do not like where the atom has landed; and the onus is on me to accept that the Ghana I left in 1996 and the Malaka that left it no longer exists.

Perhaps too it’s the frame of mind I came here with. I was supposed to be on holiday, and so far, I’ve spent virtually every day toiling like a wretched drudge. I hardly feel like recounting all that drudgery, for fear of sounding like a whimpering, whining simp. (And so what if I do? It’s MY glass of beer, and I’ll cry into if I want to!)

Back to the point.

I came here ready to relax and explore the possibility of moving back. So far, I am not relaxed, and convinced more than ever that all that ‘homesickness’ was just a hankering for some hot kenkey and a jovial conversation with friends – both of which needs can be met comfortably in my home in Atlanta through the local Ghanaian market and the magic of social networking. By my second week, I discovered my ‘home’ is where my husband is – and he ain’t HERE. I’m a bit annoyed that I had to spend over six thousand dollars and 12 hours in flight to discover this…but you live and learn.

I really am sad that this is my reality. I brought the kids here, so excited about this trip. I wanted them to love Ghana as much as I did…but how can they, when I no longer favor her myself? All the promises I’d made to them and to myself have yet to come to pass. Ghana had become a proverbial warty, slumped, shriveled prince that I had waited my whole life to live and die for. And what is the sense in that? My daughter pretty much summed it for me just two days ago.

“Mommy? I want to go back home and I never want to come back to Ghana again.”

Neither do I baby. Neither do I, I thought.

And then my heart broke.

  • I’m sorry you feel like this BFFFL. You know I’ve been one of the people wanting you to come home. With this post part of me feels like I’m loosing my BFFFL

  • No, no! Don’t feel that way! We have the internet. We will ALWAYS have the internet. And you have Rosy…that little scoundrel who is trying to take my place. She thinks I haven’t seen her.

  • Mom Five Times

    Aww Malaka. Home is where the heart is and you left your heart in America. Marshall misses you too by the way. When I see him and Stone I can only think of you and the girls. Time goes by fast. Hold on, your change is coming!

  • Agnes

    Interesting perspective 🙂 Ghana is definitely tough to live in but it gets easier once you accept it is a developing country that may never develop…

    2nd point – home IS where the heart is…so long as you have your loved ones with you, you can and should make it anywhere. i was homesick for my family really while in america, now that i have them, fighting in traffic etc etc, my car being vandalized by robbers all don’t seem so bad, we live, love and laugh TOGETHER….so definitely be with family wherever that is.

    3rd point – for those of us who don’t have other citizenship we might as well try to make this place bearable just in case anti-immigration sentiment in the west rises even more…so that’s what we’re doing. if i had an american, canadian, british passport duh. lol.

    anyway that’s that…i wouldn’t ADVISE anyone to pack up and move home per se, ie, no illusions…the bureaucracy, red tape, backward attitudes and traffic is enough to drive anyone bonkers, it’s just important to take it all in stride and do what you can in your small space.

    that’s my take on it

    xoxo,
    Kokarley.

  • Nana Afoah

    Malaka, I’m so sorry to hear this! I have also been one of the people supporting your move as I plan mine so I feel very bad! I wish it had been a great experience especially for the kids. I must agree with you though, home is really where the hubby is. You did give it a shot though so big kudos to you.

  • saturday

    Hmmmm, chin resting in palm, absolutely nothing to say. Cyberhug coming your way

  • nana wiredu

    I relocated here with my family and initially I had the same shock, but you see this Ghana and we can never compare it to the USA where everything is in order. How we can change how you feel. It is only you because you see when you have a choice, you would always want to escape to “heaven”. The question is who would change it for you to come and meet it like you want.
    What can you do to make a difference so at least your kids understand the difference. The biggest challenge is for us Ghanaians in diaspora to help make Ghana better, despite all the corruptions and some of the negatives practises we need to contribute to make this country better not run away.

    • Nana, everything you said is true! However I have just come to the conclusion that much of the frustration I was feeling was due to the initial shock, the environment I was living in (which included the people I was living WITH) and the day to day skirmishes required to do simple things like getting food or getting into town. But as Agnes said, all of those frustrations can be overcome with the love of family. I did not have THAT particular luxury for a short while. But I can’t give you the details. You know how it is in Ghana. As I have rediscovered, you REALLY don’t air your dirty laundry here. Such a ‘crime’ is heinous in GH. You may as well have tried to shoot the Pope.

  • I’m sorry about how you feel. Most of the time, home stays the same and we change, semi-expecting those thrills of our youth to still enthrall us.
    This same change has happened to me and living overseas hasn’t helped my view of America. But hey, it’s home and I’ll have to move back there, but at least I can live anywhere in the US and live like a queen! (Although I don’t have to live too close to some of the soap opera family members.)
    God bless the USA and I’m looking forward to you being back with your husband!
    Cheers,
    Misty

  • And Hubby cant wait until she gets back!

  • Mal – I’m so very sorry it’s not working out in Ghana. However, on the bright side if you live in the US, maybe one day we CAN meet. OK, I know that doesn’t make you feel any better. But maybe this will mean less headache w/ The Douchebag. 🙂

    • RRR. I can’t even LIE. This has been one of my few consolations. The distance between me and Douche Bag has done wonders for my disposition. It’s amazing how not being on the same continent with one person can make the sky seem bluer and your rum even tastier!

      And I do hope to meet you some day my friend. I need some visual motivation to unload the 450 lbs of chewed up bubble gum accumulating around my thighs.

  • Khadija

    I just realized that you didn’t log off and the comment I just posted was under your name Malaka. Sorry about that.

    • No worries! From the real ME. 🙂

  • Khadija

    I’m really sad that you and the girls are leaving today. At last I found a friend in Ghana and now she is leaving. If only we’d met six weeks ago, life in Ghana would have been a lot easier for you and we would have had more time to have fun together. But I am happy that you are going to be back with you hubby.

    Please don’t forget about us and come back home and give it another try. Remember you have a dual identity and two homes.

    -Your Purple Squirrel