Posted tagged ‘former students’

“Never complete. Never whole. White skin and an African soul.”

November 4, 2016

If I pulled out that dusty old dictionary of mine and looked up autumn, I’d find it is a noun defined as,”the third season of the year, when crops and fruits are gathered and leaves fall, in the northern hemisphere from September to November and in the southern hemisphere from March to May.” The words in the definition just aren’t enough. What about autumn’s almost indefinable beauty? What about autumn’s colors, its cool, sometimes cold nights, and its warmer mornings? What about a perfect autumn day? Well, I’ve got that one covered: today is the perfect autumn day. The sun is bright. The sky is deep blue but has a few wispy clouds for contrast. The air is warm, long sleeve shirt warm. A slight breeze is enough to drop the brown leaves off the boughs of the oak trees. They slowly flutter to the ground as if they know their time is done. Today is a day to be out and about.

I met two former students the other day. We did the pleasantries and caught up with one another. I met one’s baby and another’s nine year old. They asked what I was doing to stay busy. I described my life as a sloth and I mentioned traveling. They wanted to know where. “Africa,” I told them. “Wow,” was the response from each of them and both mentioned how exciting Africa must have been. I told them about the elephants. Seeing those elephants was nothing short of amazing for me, and they thought seeing elephants had to be the coolest thing.

Those conversations got me thinking. Elephants and game parks aside, going back to Ghana is almost commonplace for me. Were I to go to Mali or Botswana, I would think of each as an unbelievable trip to Africa. Ghana is going home. It is familiar again. I get to see my former students, and we are at ease with each other, the sort of ease which comes from years of friendship. I am not surprised by what I see. The rooster wakes me up, but I can always go back to sleep. I enjoy goat and Guinea fowl as much as beef or chicken. I know Ghanaian food is spicy hot and best eaten with my hand. I am adept at noticing and walking over deposits left by goats and sheep on the streets, the walkways and in the market. All the smells are Ghana to me. Ghanaians smile at me, and I smile back. I even greet them in Hausa and a bit of FraFra.

Though Bolgatanga is bigger and far busier, I just think of it as home. It being in Africa is merely serendipitous.

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“alone doesn’t mean lonely. It just means alone. It just means that for now, you’re on your own, and that’s not a terrible thing.”

August 30, 2013

Somewhere off in the far distance, I can hear a dog bark, barely hear that dog bark, but Gracie feels it is her responsibility to respond. That she is standing on the deck directly under my window is of little importance. A dog does what a dog wants to do.

Last night was so chilly I shut my downstairs windows. My feet were even cold. Yesterday was fall. I don’t care that it is still August. Fall drops in now and then to get the lay of the land and last night was one of those visits. Today isn’t much better. It’s still chilly and damp. School should start on a day like today.

My friends are leaving for Ireland on Tuesday. My other friends are going to Ghana in the middle of September. I feel like the poor relation. I haven’t even been to Hyannis lately.

I called Rose Atiah, one of my students, this morning. I needed a Ghana fix, and Rose is always good for a conversation. She said it was getting ready to rain, and I could picture exactly what Bolga looks like with an impending storm. Rose said she was doing nothing, and I told her I was doing nothing as well. We chatted a bit more, and Rose said she would pass along my greetings to Agatha, Francisca and Bea. Hearing a Ghanaian accent always gives me a bit of a lift, and I love that Ghanaians pass along greetings.

Sometimes I feel like a bit of a hermit. With no reason to go out, I don’t bother to get dressed. I make my bed, brush my teeth, do a cursory wash of hands and face and then let the day while by me. Today could easily be one of those days, but I have no choice but to go out to the pharmacy. Gracie gets to come because it will be cool enough in the car for her.

When I finally got to my house in Ghana, I was living alone for the first time in my life, and it was a difficult transition. During Peace Corps training, we had been herded and kept in large groups, and we had each other, but now I had no one to talk to about how I felt, no one who understood what I was going through. I was homesick, doing a rotten job in the classroom and an object of curiosity for my students and just about everyone in town. I fled to books and checked for mail every day at least a couple of times. I was starved for conversation and companionship. I was miserable. I don’t know when that began to change, when I knew I was home, but change it did. I loved living alone. It was fun going into town and to the market. People greeted me all the time, and I returned their greetings. I was madam, a teacher at the school, and that was all.

Talking to Rose today brought a lot of that back. She still calls me madam.