I haven’t posted a blog in a while. I should have put one up a week ago but I have had a serious case of ‘pro-longed’ jet lag. I spent close to 17 hours traveling when I left Ghana. 13 hours on a plane (Accra to New York to Atlanta) and about 4 hours at the airports. Transit through New York seriously sucks and is a very frustrating experience. And then I had to move. Yarda, yarda, yarda.
Anyways, I miss home, incredibly. As cliché as it always sounds, there really is no place like home. I can’t seem to wrap my head around it. What is it? Honestly, what is it about Ghana that we just can’t get enough of? And I know it’s not just me. No matter where we are, most of us call Ghana home. We look forward to going back home. No matter where we are working, struggling or having fun, our hearts and our minds are all back home. It’s a part of us we can’t shake, a part we don’t want to shake. So what is it?
Land of my birth. For me, perhaps the primary reason I feel a strong bond to Ghana is because I was born and bred there. It’s the only home I’ve known my entire life. I’ve only been in the US for about 3 years, compared to 27 years in Ghana. There are other Ghanaians I meet who weren’t born there, who didn’t grow up there, who do not feel the same affinity. They love the country all the same but for some of them, it’s often not at the level of the rest of us who grew up there. I wouldn’t trade my lifetime in Ghana for anything.
Family and friends. The second reason I am completely in love with Ghana is I have close family and friends back home. Home is often where our loved ones are. It would be a struggle if I had no strong ties back home. My parents are there, my brother, my cousins, aunts, close friends, work colleagues all there. I have a strong support system back home, people I care about, and as long as they’re there, it will always be home.
Culture. You know when you are growing up in Ghana, there was one statement you keep hearing over and over again, ‘Ghanaians are hospitable.’ It was a little irritating hearing it then but I know it’s so true. Ghanaians are truly some of the nicest supportive people ever. I watch some of my Ghanaian friends here, or in London who are struggling with parenting and work and I know it would be a different story if they were back home. Life abroad, if we’ll be honest, is on a very ‘me, myself and I’ basis. It’s each man for himself. Everyone is either too busy or too stressed to be there for you and to see you through whatever you may be going through. Back home, doesn’t matter what others are going through, it’s never more important than family, or friends. This may sound like a postcard note, but we have a culture of togetherness, a culture of oneness. Its one of the things I truly love about home.
So what’s missing? Why aren’t we all back?
Facilities. My friend Simon summed it up pretty nicely, its facilities, the ease of life. In the US, and other western countries, making people’s lives easier is the cornerstone of development. Its basic things like electricity, water, internet, food, cable television, cinemas, etc. It may seem trivial, but it really isn’t. When you’ve gotten used to affordable high speed internet, how do you go back to internet cafes? When you’ve gotten used to affordable electric and gas that cools or heats your home whenever you want, how do you go back to a place where air conditions are a luxury? When you have a spacious apartment and a decent car for $400 a month, how do you go back to your room in your parent’s house and ask for their car which is basically on its last legs? How do you go from a well oiled transport and road system to a place where trotro drivers are kings of the road and road rage is redundant? I think about it a lot, what will I miss when I leave? I’ll miss my car, which I don’t even own outright. I’ll miss my high speed internet. I’ll miss my internet so badly it’s not even funny. I’ll miss my gas and electric. I truly love air conditioning. I’ll miss my cable. How will I live without new up to date episodes of 24? Downloading pirate copies of any show will break my heart. I’ll miss my apartment, my own space. I can’t afford those apartments in Ghana so I’ll be back in my mother’s house for a long while. I’ll miss everything that has basically made my life just a little easier.
Work. The second reason people struggle to return home, besides facilities is work, truly meaningful challenging work that compensates adequately. I admit that quite a number of Ghanaians abroad get degrees from home and due to visa restrictions end up in jobs that does nothing for their careers. For instance, a Legon graduate in a cab call center. That’s not what I’m terming meaningful challenging work. I’m talking about the rest who are earning decent money in their fields, or close enough. I don’t think I earn much here, but it is still more than I could hope to earn back home. No matter how much you want to go back home, the paycheck often holds you back.
Lifestyle. There’s also the lifestyle, lower on my totem pole, but there all the same. My life here is nothing like my life back home. Whatever you wish to do, you can. Whatever good (or bad) fantasies you wish to satisfy you can, discretely. Whether it’s the clubbing, partying, barbeques, Sunday brunch, swingers clubs, anything you wish to do or you’re looking for, you can find. I term it ‘choices.’ Western countries present you with unlimited choices for your life. You can be who you want to be, and do what you want to do, and its all you. Back home, your life really isn’t your own. Ghana is such a close community that you can’t sneeze without someone hearing about it. There’s scrutiny and control from parents, friends, extended family and even strangers. It’s constricted and restrictive.
But does any of this really matter? I was driving to Vodafone whiles I was at home, and the traffic around Circle was at a level I have never experienced before. I really wanted to take a gun and shoot down every trotro driver on the road that day, no kidding! But as I sat there in the heat (the car’s air condition couldn’t handle the heat that day), I started to smile. I just kept smiling. I was having a truly bad day, almost late for a meeting and I was just smiling. I realized I still love the darn country. I still loved Ghana even when my mother was at the hospital and 37 didn’t have oxygen in the theatres for a whole week. I still loved it, even when the idiots at the 37 NHIS frustrated my life for two weeks. I loved it even when I felt the heat burning through my skull through to my feet. Ghana is my home, through thick and thin, for better or for worse and till death do us part.
This has turned into a long blog so I’ll end here. But I want to know, what do you love most about Ghana, what is keeping you away and do you plan to go back? I think most of us who still love Ghana, and call it home, need to go back eventually. This is really all on us.