I left Ghana one week ago today. It’s strange to think that a week ago, I was waking up in the East Legon apartment, sick, just as I am now, heading out to the Tetteh Quarshie art market in the morning to say goodbye to the woodcarvers, then over to Madina Estate to give the clothes and books I didn’t want to Papa Attah, then to the other obronis apartment to chill with them, doing nothing (what a common pastime) until it was time to go back to my apartment to shower, finish packing, and leave. I haven’t thought about it much. It’s easier that way. I know that I should be thinking about it, analyzing it, considering all the ways I’ve changed. But even now, it makes me too sad. I never really got that emotional in Ghana. I cried the first two times I talked to my parents, I cried once in the village when I was bored, I cried reading the Prince of Tides, I cried when I got the letter from Haz and remembered how much my sisters care about me, I cried every time I finished The Time Traveler’s Wife. But look at those, they aren’t emotions about Ghana. They’re emotions about books and home and being overwhelmed. Now, when I remember trying to go visit the Time Hotel where the manager always gave me rides down that super busy road where I couldn’t find taxis and he wasn’t there because he was sleeping, I get sad, because he wanted me to visit and now I never can because I’m in America. I never visited my Kumasi host family either, and my host brother would call so many times to ask about it. I get sad when I think about Wiz, and Papa Attah, and Kwame. I get sad thinking about 37 and all the people who switch tro tros there every day of their lives while I thought I was a regular after one month. I get sad thinking about all the people who would talk to me on the street. I even get sad when I think about how I refused to say goodbye to Kofi and made Kwame hand in my ISP after he yelled at me and made me cry during ISP presentations. (I don’t think I told that story, haha. Maybe I will now.)
Too many things make me sad when I think about it and I just want to be happy. So I haven’t thought about it much, instead I choose to be happy and be present and enjoy America which is what I’ve been looking forward to for so long. And man do I love America! It’s becoming a problem how much I have been eating out. But get this guys, I haven’t had McDonald’s yet. I know I said I was going to get it in the Amsterdam airport, but that was a European McDonald’s and it was weird. So I still haven’t had McDonald’s, what strange things happen! But I have had a lot of Mexican food, sushi, Panera twice, and Olive Garden. Strangely sushi is the only thing that reignited my ahem, digestive problems of Ghana. Everything else sat fine with me, even when I went with my dad and sister to Pedros and had a tamale half an appetizer plate and a ton of nachos.
People ask me about Ghana of course, but I don’t get sad when I tell them about it, because nobody (with the possible exception of my parents) really wants to know that deeply about it. Which is convenient, because I don’t want to talk that deeply about it – even though I may seem like I love to be the entertaining center of attention, it’s hard now to formulate long winded stories or explanations about Ghana. I’m sure it’ll come in time, but for now it’s easier to make jokes, to share tidbits, to use that self-deprecating complaining voice but at the end say “It was all worth it in the end, of course.” “I just got such a great new perspective on life.” “I just realized how truly lucky I am to live in America!” “I feel so much affection for Ghana now. I definitely want to go back.” What can I tell people that is a really deep explanation of the whole experience when I don’t even understand it myself yet, and anytime my brain attempts to make me think about it I just start to feel sad? So it will come in time, and for now I will stick to being happy because that is just what I want to do.
I know everyone says “it is really weird getting back from abroad, America will seem so crazy,” but I never believed that would happen to me and, well, I was right. It hasn’t. This is my explanation, and I had this explanation even before I left. Listen up kids, I lived in America for 20 years. Then I went to Ghana. I didn’t think Ghana was crazy when I got there, I just accepted it. I was like huh, this is new, but not entirely surprising. I just went with the flow, didn’t freak out, not too much culture shock, I knew it would be different, so I was like yes, this is different, and I accept it. Therefore I knew that going back to America I wouldn’t freak out either, because, um, I lived here for 20 years and if I didn’t freak out getting to a completely different country, why would I freak out going back to the place that I know really well? And I was right, no freakoutage here. Once I missed the street I was supposed to turn on because I forgot, sometimes I’m like WHY DO THE PEDESTRIANS THINK THEY CAN CROSS THE STREET ALL THE TIME (because I’m used to fearing for my life whilst crossing the street) and I have been a lot more direct with salespeople, but other than that I’m just like oh hey America, good to see you, I love your tap water. I also predicted this because for the first few times I came back from college I was like OMG MIDDLETON IS GOING TO SEEM SOOOO WEIRD BECAUSE I HAVEN’T BEEN HERE. But nope, it’s always the same. It’s never weird.
Let’s see, what else. Um, I can’t really think of anything. I suppose I should tell a few tidbits about my last week or so in Ghana because I was lazy and didn’t update then.
- I got sick. I am still sick. This means I have been sick for over a week. Unpleasant. Probably not malaria, so you can put down your phone and stop the phone call to the CDC. Just some kind of cold variety with sore throat and coughing and runny nose.
- I got into a fight with my advisor (whose name I will begin to withhold in case the African art authorities come after me, but hint, it rhymes with Schmofi) (and fight is a pretty liberal word here…more like he told me mean things and I tried to disagree and then went off and cried) but anyway he said A. that I didn’t do the project I told him I would, which is funny, because my title was exactly what we had talked about and I answered exactly that question, B. that I disrespected his informants, which is funny, because he gave me no informants because he’s a lazy asswipe, C. that I should have been paying him $700 an hour for how important he is (go fuck yourself) and D. that I shouldn’t have done woodcarving with street artists which is funny because he told me to work with street artists. Then I cried and started drinking at 10 am during presentations. Fun times at Ridgemont High!
- On the other hand Wiz was the nicest man and told me lots of nice things and we love him.
- I had some great times with the obroni crew and I miss them greatly.
- I don’t remember anything.
- I cried leaving at the airport because Papa Attah and Kwame and everyone were there and I cried a lot saying goodbye to those two and thinking about how we’d been there three months ago and now it is three months later and we’re leaving and blah blah blah.’
- I love KLM. Greatest airline ever. I love the Dutch. The food they serve is divine.
- Papa Attah is the greatest man alive. We had a heart to heart on the last night, during which he was stroking my hair. IS THERE A CUTER THING YOU CAN THINK OF IN THE WORLD THAN PAPA ATTAH STROKING MY HAIR?!?!!
- My ISP presentation was the shit. I played music and had a slideshow and made everyone paint during it and it was just fantastic.
- This is after Ghana, but I am fat. That stupid banku and fufu and groundnut soup and light soup and the damn rice made me go up like 34345 pants sizes. Or at least two. I’m very angry. Apparently you cannot see it in my face but my friends might just be being nice. I’m hoping that going back to a diet of fast food and microwaveable snacks will help me go back to my normal size. YEAH RIGHT. But that does bring me to the paradox:
At home: I eat fast food, processed food, junk food. I eat a lot of it. I don’t exercise. Yet I stayed at the same weight.
In Ghana: I eat no processed food, walked for probably at least 2 hours most days during my ISP, was out and about all the time, and snacks were not constantly available. AND YET, gained a billion pounds FUCK MY LIFE.
Um well there that is, whatever. Now that I’m home I am doing lots of shopping and eating and also getting my hair dyed and shit like that, and I am also starting to exercise to hopefully eventually fix this little problem.
I’m running out of things to say but I will end with this: people ask really dumb questions and make really dumb statements about Ghana/Africa. I.e. Dental Hygienist: “Wild baboons just run around the street there.” NO THEY DO NOT! IF YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT A COUNTRY DON’T JUST MAKE THINGS UP! And Michael Schlatzberg (or whatever his last name was, my Africa professor at Madison,) was so right when he said that the first thing anyone asks you is about wild animals. Which is fine because I did see some elephants. But they were not just like chilling by the side of the road as the dentist seemed to think. They were in a National Park Preserve like most normal people would imagine.
So to end, I will probably write more blog entries once I am willing to actually think about and analyze my time in Ghana versus considering it and then deciding to buy makeup/read a book/paint my nails/make a scrambled egg/write Christmas cards/watch How I Met Your Mother instead. And if that makes me sound like a stereotypical girl? Damn right, I’m going to be as stereotypical as they come because I deserve some fucking eyeliner, teen novels, and eggs with salsa and cream cheese mixed in.