Monday, January 17, 2011


The aforementioned "puddle" on the way home . . .

Although the water level has gone down considerably (it used to be up to the doors) due to the fact that we haven't had any rain in a month and a half, we hear of at least 2 cars and a 4x4 each week getting stuck.


Somehow I earned the title of Ghana's favorite auntie.  Many folks who know me also know that after 3:30 kids aren't necessarily my favorite.  I love everything about them, their giggles, their strange questions and crazy ideas during the school day, but after that I value peace, quiet and clean hands.  Living in Ghana has put an abrupt end to my solitude and opened my heart and home in ways I never thought I was capable of.

Last Sunday, Samuel called and said, "Please, we are coming."  How naive of me, but I thought "we" was simply his wife, children and him.  Instead, I came down the stairs, rounded the corner and found
9 cuties lined up on the edge of the couch, sitting tall and stiff like the Von Trapp children.  When I asked them to introduce themselves,
they followed suit by standing up down the line, stating their first and last name, followed by their age.  What is one to do with 9 little ones, ages spanning from 3-16 on a lazy Sunday afternoon?  Run to the kitchen, find cake and chips, feed them and then bust out the drums.  In line with the usual festivities at Auntie's house, we drummed and boogied into the evening, laughing all the way.  At some point we figured the more the merrier and got the neighbor and her kids in on the action as well.  11 drummers drumming.  And of course, at the end of it all, the entire lot piled into the Kia tired and full-bellied, with one last nugget of chocolate in their hands to savor another time.

Kofi's daughter Rachel was to celebrate her birthday on Tuesday.  What better way to celebrate it, than American style at Auntie's house?  Well sort of.  Armed with Glynn's chocolate cake (that had to be served already cut into clumps due to a minor trauma in the kitchen) and a decorative candle placed on the side (praise me for my improvisational skills), we gathered 'round and sang Happy Birthday to a joyful little 6-year-old and allowed her enough chocolate to satiate her coco-filled dreams.

Wait, I'm seeing a pattern.  Maybe it's the good chocolate at Auntie's house that brings them in droves.

I spent the majority of Saturday hopping around town with a 17-year-old in tow and in search of the perfect dormitory snacks.  Priscilla is headed off to her second semester at secondary school and was in need of provisions.  As we filled her bags with a four month's supply of corn flakes, powdered milk and TP, we decided to spice things up a bit.  One step inside the US Commissary and her eyes popped out of her head at the sight of things she never dreamed she could eat.  A quick introduction to the world of Tootsie Pops, Doritos and Cherry Coke led to a full trolley and her road to the most envied girl in school.

Whatever it is that makes them come my way is irrelevant.  The point is that the door will always be open.  Suddenly that uninterrupted evening or weekend quiet time just doesn't matter much.  It's the squeals of delight, the light in the eyes and the little love notes left on my fridge that make it all mean something.  Whether they call in advance or I find myself the victim of a pop-over visit, I find myself secretly loving my new role as Auntie.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Dancing into the New Year

Before zipping off to the US for the holidays, what better way to end my 2010 in Ghana than to dance out?  My plane didn't leave until after 11:00 p.m., so I figured that final Friday should be spent with the people I adore most.  We danced, drummed, sang and cooled off with frosty beverages.

When I dreamed of living in Africa, part of the fantasy was spending each evening with rhythm.  I envisioned the pounding of drums and feet while the sun set.  I knew this to be part of the African culture and tradition and wanted it to be mine.  Now it's a part of me, and nothing lifts my spirits higher.

On that balmy Friday evening, we ended the year and kicked off the holidays with the blessings of one another.  Sweaty and high on life I took off for the airport and left many of my friends in the house behind me and still beating.  It was perfect in so many ways.  I guess I should also add that halfway through my US holiday trip, I felt homesick.  There I was in the land of Starbucks, smooth roads and instant gratification, and I longed to bargain for my cup of tea, buy a snack at the stoplight or bounce on a pothole.  The malls and restaurants just seemed so sterile and impersonal.  Where were the handshakes (we Ghanaians have a special handshake with one another), shouts at the neighbors as I pulled out of the driveway and someone to say "you are welcome" when I came home?  Not one single person called me "white lady."  Perhaps it was the incredible send-off and the lasting joy that came from the soiree that made the first world pale in comparison.  After all, experiences like that one leave an impression.

Now I am back in Ghana and in my home.  One of the greatest compliments I've received came from the immigration officer, my first point of contact.  When I approached his booth, I said to him, "Eh, Boss.  Good afternoon.  How is the day?"  His reply, "I think you must live here."  The following day Samuel showed up on our doorstep.  His initial greeting was to Glynn, a long and warm hug shared between the two of them.  And to me:  "Hey, Chale!"  On my first day back to work, the traffic on the main road was backed up further than usual, so Samuel took the "fast way" by barreling over the bumps and humps of the dusty shoulder, weaving around bushes and muffin sellers.  As we passed the stalls selling random biscuits and phone credits, the yard of spoiled buses, cars and machinery, and the broken down dump truck with rocks behind it's wheels to hold it in place, I thought to myself, "Wow!  THIS is where I live!"  I gave up a smooth ride but never have a dull moment.

2010 ended with me dancing out of Ghana, and 2011 began with a warm welcome home.  My plan for 2011?  Keep the beat, lift the spirit and enjoy the small things.  Cheers!