“I have found that if you love life, life will love you back.”
The morning comes early when your body is still on a different time. Today it was 5 o’clock when Gracie, Fern and I rolled out of bed. I brewed some coffee and read yesterday’s mail. As you can tell, the daily routine is quickly back into my life. When the papers came, I read them and did all my puzzles. Yup, just a regular day here in South Dennis.
I went to take a shower on my first night in Bolga after all that traveling. There was no hot water so one of the women brought me a bucketful. I had a bucket bath for the first time in 40 years. In the morning I went to have breakfast. It came with the hotel rate. I ordered fried eggs, toast and coffee. The fried eggs were not at all tasty and the coffee came in single cup pouches: instant Nescafe, exactly what I used to drink as there is still no brewed coffee. The milk in the pitcher was evaporated. It could have been my breakfast forty years ago.
On that first full day in Bolgatanga, Thomas and I went to Bawku. During training in July 1969 we spent three weeks there living with a Ghanaian family who spoke the language we were learning. I stayed in the house of Imora Sanda, a wealthy, respected man. His house was the only one with lights as he had a generator for his house and the movie theater. I use movie theater loosely as you stepped through a door to the outside and sat on benches; no popcorn anywhere. Mostly they showed spaghetti westerns with the strange-sounding dialogue and odd music. One time they showed the ending of the film in the middle and the middle reel at the end. Well, back to now: the road to Bawku was horrible. It was mostly hard-packed dirt and pot holes big enough to eat a car whole. Along the way were small villages and cows, lots of cows, as the north is where they raise almost all of the cows in the country. Bawku was small when I was there; it is now sprawling and like most larger towns and villages it is filled with people walking, sitting, talking and riding bicycles and motorcycles. There are far fewer cars in the north than the south as it is a poorer part of the country with no cash crop so fewer expensive cars. We rode around a bit as I tried to find my bearings. We stopped and asked a group of young men if they knew the home of Imoru Sanda. One of them said yes, and he would get the son of Imoru Sanda to come.
When he came, I introduced myself: sun na Ladi. My name is Ladi in Hausa: a girl born on Sunday. I then explained who I was, and he took me right to his father’s house. I knew it immediately, and I knew the movie theater two houses down the dirt road. We walked inside the house and started to walk upstairs. I said my room is the second on the left. There it was exactly as I remembered it in my mind’s eye. There is a door to a porch at the other end of the room, and I said below the porch is a tree on the left, a dirt road and a small mosque on the right. It was exactly the same, and I swear the same men were sitting under that tree as they had in my day. Imora, named after his father, said his mother is still alive, and we walked to the family’s house. In 1969 it was a compound, and I used to walk between compounds to get there. Always were small children around the house and something cooking on the fire, usually my dinner. When I got to the house, Imora called his mother. I told her my name, and she repeated it then gave me a giant hug and told me how I used to visit her and the other wives, two of whom have died and the other, the youngest, in here in the US. We spoke a while then I went back to the open part of the house where dinner was cooking and kids were milling. One cried-I always used to make the toddlers cry simply by the color of my skin. I took a picture of the whole family then they took one with me. I had found my Ghanaian family after 42 years away. Imora Sanda had died a very old man in 1990. I always thought he was old when I knew him. They gave me a picture of my Ghanaian father to take home with me.
That night, back in Bolga, I sat and finished dinner. No longer do the Ghanaians use talking drums to communicate. They use cell phones and four students, learning I was in town, arrived that night to visit, the one I had met the night before and three more including Lillian who is married to the Bolga-naba, the chief and is his third of four wives, Francisca and Florence. We laughed and remembered for a long time. We had all kept our memories close and they were easy to find.