I have returned. I fit right back in. I assimilated much easier than I thought I could. The family was there to meet me at the airport where I was excited to dole out the presents and show them all the things I’d brought back. I had milk, I had diet coke, and I curled my hair. Felt so good to be back. I went about my business. I didn’t really start missing Ghana until lately.
Now, the word ‘return’ has a different feel. Not to go or to come back, but many different things. I learned a West African symbol called Sankofa, which depicts a bird with its head turned around toward its tail and picking something up off the tail. It really means to “return and take it”, or to learn from the past. I learned that returning to somewhere I’d once felt at home, now felt different. It felt like anywhere I chose to make “home” could be my home. Pondering these things while attempting to study, I started to really realize that my life was mine to take. I can do with it and make of it what I wish. The possibilities are endless.
It’s hard to believe I did it. I went to Africa. I lived there. There are so many things I did and put myself through and handled that I never expected I would. I’m not a weak person, but this made me stronger. I had to fight. Some days sucked. I missed my family and friends and I had nothing to do so I had time to just sit and think. I had time to figure out whatever I needed to.
Here is a list neatly comprised of some of the things I miss:
I miss the people profoundly.
I miss all the things that were ridiculous because they were so different. I miss laughing at those ridiculous things. I miss being stared at and cat-called to. I miss walking into a bar full of people who think I’m beautiful and just “have to” buy me a drink…twist my arm! I miss feeling like I’m making a difference when I walk into a classroom of little kids every week. I miss learning new games to play with them. I miss the sounds of African drumming on campus. I miss the Ghanaian U.S. Embassy workers. I miss going to Maxx Mart and buying jelly for bread that lasts all semester. I miss reggae night. I miss the ocean. I miss tro tros. I miss bartering. I miss amazing colors everywhere. I miss attempting to call myself “The dusty foot philosopher” because that’s what K’Naan’s titled one album (and my feet were always covered in dirt/dust). I miss the sun beating down so hard on me that I felt like I was burning. I miss burning in the sun. I miss Vivian. I miss the night market. I miss Fui. I miss Akua. I miss remembering I was pretty cool and adventurous because I was in Africa. I miss Thelma. I miss her calling me “baby Miriam”. I miss Tuesday pizza nights. I miss running into our room and yelling, “SURPRISE!” to Thelma and having her laugh. I miss Pearl. I miss TT. I miss Emma. I miss class being completely pointless. I miss walking a half hour to class and sweating profusely two steps into the walk and then realizing that class was pointless. I miss going for runs with the family. I miss being hassled. I miss getting ‘flashed’ on the phone. I miss buying cheap things that are awesome. I miss the registry run with Scott. I miss being surrounded in people who have a strong passion for God. I miss being surrounded in really politically active people. I miss listening to funny remarks being made and written down in a notebook so we don’t forget them. I miss butter bread. I miss egg sandwiches. I miss soccer on the beach. I miss it all.
It has meant a lot to me to return. I would like to return home again. This reminds me of the poem by Robert Frost titled Swinger of Birches. I will conclude with a favorite passage.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches. And so I dream of going back to be. It's when I'm weary of considerations, And life is too much like a pathless wood Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs Broken across it, and one eye is weeping >From a twig's having lashed across it open. I'd like to get away from earth awhile And then come back to it and begin over. May no fate willfully misunderstand me And half grant what I wish and snatch me away Not to return. Earth's the right place for love: I don't know where it's likely to go better. I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more, But dipped its top and set me down again. That would be good both going and coming back. One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.