The line was long and winding with no sense of which traveler was next. Some had defied the carry-on luggage requirements and this defiance was spread haphazardly around them. Ahead of me were two men, hands and faces a few shades darker than mine who kept eyeing me suspiciously as if questioning my presence in the “Nationals” line. The short, stubby-looking one was housed in a baby-blue suit two sizes too large, with his fingers struggling to hold on to the ends of the cuffs. His hair was Jherri-curled and I could see glistening globs of liquid suspended precariously above his neckline. He kept his head down, shuffled, and mumbled when he spoke. The other one believed himself more dapper and held his head high. Dressed in a deep royal purple linen suit, with matching crocodile shoes that clacked when he moved, he sported an ‘S’-curl look. It was evident that they lived abroad but frequented Ghana. They had not lost the Ghanaian accent when they spoke. They were people that had the outward appearance of having assimilated well into the foreign cultures they found themselves a part of.

“Wei ofi Ghana? Eyεm sε oyε Akata.” The taller and more Boga of the two asked in hushed tones. Traditionally, as I recall, Bogas were young men, usually unmarried who were making a living outside the country, often times illegally or in other clandestine ways. In recent years, the term had expanded to include almost anyone living and working abroad and often clothed in Western garb and sporting an acquired accent that they worked hard to keep.

“Oh she’s probably one of those Ghanaians born abroad.” The shorter and stubbier one responded in Twi.

“Ampa. Wo yε shwore sε onnti Twi?” Boga asked again.

“Ah how I dey fit know she no speak Twi?” Shorty blurted out in Pidgin as I caught his eye and smiled knowingly at him. In his confusion, he forgot he was supposed to be responding in Twi to his friend’s quandary about whether or not I was from Ghana and if I spoke Twi. Boga had used the term, “Akata,” the derogatory term Africans sometimes used for Black Americans.

“Sssh…” Boga reprimanded.

“Oh Sister forgive him. He loses his brains when pretty women smile at him.” Boga said, turning and smiling, seeing this as an opportunity to flirt with me. I faked a smile and fanned myself with my Customs Arrival Form.

4 thoughts on “Excerpt from Memoir (“Arrivals Hall at Kotoka”)

  1. This is really nicely written, my dear! I particularly love several lines, including “Some had defied the carry-on luggage requirements and this defiance was spread haphazardly around them.” And I love the way you describe and capture the distinctions/nuances of self-presentation and post-immigration experience, through your own attitude and your description of the two men.

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