Another question I get asked is why did I move to Ghana (and subsequently I also why did I move back).
For this question, I will have to take you back to the late 70s early 80s, yes a lifetime ago. Where I lived there was a very tiny Ghanaian community, we all knew each other and we would meet up once a month at a tiny community centre where our parents would shove us in a room to go play while they ate, drunk and made merry. Outside of our little community on that monthly basis or when there were social gatherings I didn’t really have much interaction with Ghanaians.
In primary school I was the only Ghanaian female and when I got to secondary school I met one other girl who became my best friend, but I didn’t really know what it truly meant to be Ghanaian. Yes so I ate the food and I could understand the language but for the most part I was British. Which was also confusing in itself, I was encouraged to be British but then if I did something that was perceived as “non-Ghanaians” or asked one too many questions, I was always reminded that I was Ghanaian and “we don’t act like that”.
In addition, Ghana was the place that my “naughty” kids where shipped off to, to gain some discipline. So to be honest I don’t know what my perception of Ghana was but it didn’t sound like a place that I wanted to be.
As an African in general, during the time I was growing up it wasn’t as glamorous as it is now to be from the continent. There was no year of the return, afrobeats was unheard of and nobody liked us, not even our Caribbean cousins. Thoughts of Jamaica or the surrounding Islands would bring up associations of sandy white beaches, with Africa it was mud huts and poverty ridden babies with big bellies. I remember once I was asked where I was from and was told “you don’t look African”, meaning you are not dark.
This all changed in 1988, I was just about to start secondary school when we went on a family holiday to Ghana with the family. It was amazing, I just remember that my uncle’s house where we were staying was huge, there was lots of greenery, and of course the food was lovely and fresh. I asked smother if I could stay and go to school there, she said no. My younger sister, when it was time to go back said she wasn’t going as she was home, we all loved it that much. However it would be another 11 years before I got to go back and in that time I had been “brofolized” once again.
In 1999, I went back, this time a lot older and my cousins were driving so we would get to hang out at the beach, go to the clubs, on top of the touristy stuff and those 6 weeks re-ignited my love once again for this country that I knew was home but never actually lived there.
I travelled to Ghana once a year every year from then until 2004 when life happened. Got int a relationship and then became part of a couple and then lost myself in that couple bubble. When the bubble finally burst and I was free however, it got me thinking about “home”. It was all great me going for a couple of weeks a year, travelling around as a tourist, but how could I genuinely say that I was a Ghanaian when I hadn’t been down at the grass roots.
My family think that I moved to Ghana to get away from my ex, but actually although he was the catalyst to me going, he really didn’t have that power over me. I had wanted to stay in 1989, I even wanted to go after I finished University, for me it was just the perfect time and I guess God thought it too because I managed to get a job there. It was a rollercoaster of a ride, some days I would wake up and be totally in awe of my surroundings, then someone would piss me off and I would be ready to pack my bags and return, but I would not change that 7 year experience for the world.
So why did I return, I am going to be totally honest. I just couldn’t afford to live there anymore. I had made a few wrong turns in my personal and professional life which probably didn’t help, but essentially, when I purchased my house it was 1.3 GHS to the USD. A mere 4 years later the Ghana Cedi had depreciated to 4GHS to the USD. I was making the equivalent of $500 a month and my mortgage repayments were $400, the change was supposed to pay bills, service my car and of course buy food. It was also the dumsor era where we could go sometimes days without electricity so that meant buying fuel for the generator (or dying in the heat). So I had to make the decision to come back, and now here we are.
What Ghana has taught me is responsibility. I have to admit, up until probably 2010, I had lived a sheltered life, from my parents, to my ex, to my parents and then even my cousin (for the first few years in Ghana), I didn’t have to worry about accommodation, food, bills as I was either sharing the cost or not at all.
It has also taught me that I am a lot stronger than even I thought I was, here I was in a country that I called home but apart from my family and a couple of people, I had no friends, or any type of network. Today I actually have friends not only in Ghana but dotted around West Africa, Europe and America. This from a network of people I found whilst in Ghana.
Also, I have anxiety about trying something new or going to new places by myself, but I can get over myself and go so if I find myself in Timbuktu tomorrow, I will survive.
Lastly, I achieved my goal of being able to say I have a home in Ghana and I have my home in the UK. I’ve lived in Ghana as well as the UK.
I am British and I am Ghanaian and I am proud of my dual heritage.