7 years ago, I moved home to Ghana under the pretense of going to teach English. I use the word pretense because I got a job within days of arriving (whom you know!) I knew I couldn’t handle Ghana just on my own; a job would create for me that ready-made community of friends. What I really wanted to do was see if I could be a “been-to.” Someone who had spent years abroad and was returning to live in Ghana again.
Tonight, Facebook sent me memories with some of the pictures from a public reading I gave at the Goethe Institut the night of September 21st, 7 years ago. In the pictures, I am surrounded by my SOS students and several readers and writers who came to hear Mamle Kabu and me. What a joyous occasion that was! I had only been at SOS a few weeks yet my principals allowed me to organize a bus, and several of my students went along to Goethe to hear me read. I remember being so ecstatic. One of my favorite exes was in attendance. I was giddy!
In any case, my time in Ghana was mixed. I returned to the U.S. because I knew I didn’t want to teach and as a result, I felt I needed to not ruin anymore lives. I also returned because upon spending 7 months in Ghana, I suddenly realized that I wanted my American citizenship; the one thing I’d been resisting for almost 16 years. That spring after I returned from Ghana, I was sworn in. I remember thinking: now I can go live in Ghana and never worry about not being able to return. I went on a second tour of Ghana that August in 2012, and this time, I went with no job and I lasted 9 months. I wanted to see if I could be a freelance artist in my home country. The only problem is that, the things that were in the U.S. to keep “starving artists” afloat were not options back home. I couldn’t get Medicaid or Food Stamps or Cash assistance. My family had to be my safety net. They did their best but I couldn’t keep up with the bills in the U.S. while sitting there.
I left Ghana disillusioned and I have not returned since. When I was there if anyone would have told me I’d leave Ghana and never want to return, I’d have told them to shut their face. I was so in love with Ghana when I arrived. The circumstances that led to me dusting the red dirt of my shoes and vowing never to return were quite unfortunate and no one could have predicted them. At the time when it happened though, it seemed like that invisible hand I’d been praying for. I’d fallen in love in a heartbeat and we had made Ghana sweeter for each other. I had changed my return ticket to the U.S. three times and still, I didn’t feel like leaving. Then just like that, after I changed my ticket for the last time, tragedy struck.
I left Ghana because she had failed me. I think until tonight I hadn’t forgiven her. I was still holding a grudge. Accra took from me one of my greatest loves, and did it without batting an eyelash. I miss home, sometimes a lot, other times, it’s just latent. But tonight I think I finally let go of the grudge. Maybe I will go home again after all.
Tonight when I saw those pictures they reminded me of where I am now, working with a new crop of first year college students. Playing Mother Hen and feeding them with good food and love. The pictures reminded me of why I write, so I sat my behind down and started to write. This afternoon, I sat with a budding writer and asked her to dream big. I told her I think brown women are rarely given the directive to dream big. I said if you had your way, what would you do for J term (the weeks between the end of the Fall semester and the beginning of the Spring one). Go to London! So I said: then go to London! She was so petrified that I told her that and didn’t hold back or ask her how she was going to pay for it. I gave her some directives and I said you have work to do! I sent her on her merry/petrified way. Hopefully petrified enough to get her ass in gear and start fundraising. But as I asked her to send me writing samples, I thought to myself: what have you written recently? Your book is sitting and has been for 6 years. Are you dreaming big? So here I am at least writing some words down. I have the luxury of caring for no one but me and yet somehow I manage to fill my days to the brim without ever plugging in time for writing.
Perhaps I need to dream big and take a walk and write each night. Perhaps I should start small. Lol