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.