My life has been filled with blessings. This past month, I was blessed again with the opportunity to visit my homeland, Ghana, through “Trip of a lifetime”.
It’s been ten years since I’ve been back to Ghana, when the opportunity to go back unfolded I couldn’t believe it. Not knowing what to expect I thought I’d just have a nice visit with my home country and get back to the States. Wow, was I wrong. Working with and living among these fine people of the Volta Region has had a life changing impact on my life.
In Ghana, everyone seemed friendly, but the people of Ando Tyisinu were more than that. An intrinsic quality of familiar easiness that is rarely experienced in my day-to-day life seems to be everywhere here. I remember getting off the bus and walking to the village, an entourage of people welcomed us, the physical village seemed to welcome us as well, cool breezes, soft red soil, and swaying trees greeted me as if I was a long lost family member who had been away for a very long time and has now come back, well Hmmm …maybe.
The kids in the village seemed extremely excited to meet their visitors. Their glaring stare left me to wonder why, when the stare was returned they turned away in a shy manner. They would walk up to you and not say a word, expecting you to converse. When you would ask, “How are you,” the only reply would be, “I’m fine.” Maybe they did so out of respect of elders? I never found out. A little three-year-old Momi stole my heart; she never spoke, her communication was clear though, an amazing little girl.
On my first night Linda, one of the village teachers had a group of students come sing for us, they sung a song about the Mississippi river, the students knew that it was America’s largest river. I was impressed and it revealed to me how much these students are learning in their classrooms, I wonder how many American kids know that? The problem is opportunity; these kids are still stuck in these circumstances. When I asked the kids what they wanted to be when they were older, some replied with a doctor or a lawyer, but they do not know how to pursue these dreams. A young couple revealed to me they will be farmers the same as their parents, not what they dream of but it was their reality.
My deep friendships have traditionally taken years to form, but the bond I made with Eugene was as if I knew him my whole life. This young man about my age is from the Ando Tyisinu. We shared a common language, Twi, which is not readily spoken in the village but it is my African language and it defines me. My friend Eugene wasn’t given the opportunities everyone deserves in life to succeed, but he seemed extremely happy with what he had. He taught me to appreciate life’s blessings. Like so many Africans, Eugene dreams of America, Ironic, isn’t it that my dreams were of Ghana.
I was invited to be part of a village discussion on how to assist a family of a recently deceased community elder. Through a translator I learned about how these people who have little to give would give anyway, because it was necessary. It struck me how the word community is used in the U.S; it is recklessly thrown around with little validation as to what really makes a community.
On my last day there was a big celebration, all the elders and village members were in attendance, even the regional politicians. What I didn’t know was that I was to become an official citizen of Ando Tyisinu. A new name was given, Mawuli. Words can’t describe my feelings and I’’ have to leave it at that.
As I left that next day I had the hardest day of my life, leaving Momi
I went to go say my goodbye to my little friend and I got choked up, tears flowed from my eyes. Momi just met my eyes with that characteristic stare. Did she get that I was leaving, probably on some level, I wonder? Her mother gave me the only picture she had of Momi, which I have displayed prominently.
I’m glad that I was vague in my expectations of this adventure because I could never have seen this coming. Who would think 8 days could define a life, but it has.