Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Leaving Ghana

I would like to begin by thanking all of you for reading what we have had to say. It means a lot to me to know that people out there have taken time of their day to read our (sometimes rambling) thoughts on Ghana.

I want my last post to be about my Africaness, and not necessarily about anything from this trip. My blood, my face, and my name are part African, and I've always (even when I've heard degrading comments about the continent) been very proud of that.

My Blood

I have more family in Ghana than anywhere in the world. I probably have more family in Koforidua than anywhere in the world. I met relatives on this trip who I didn't know I had, and whose names I won't remember. In Ghana, every relative becomes your brother, or sister. It's kind of cool (except when they remember me, but I have no idea who they are).

I also recently learned that I probably have "brothers" and "sisters" in Winneba and Anomabu (although I didn't meet any of them). Having blood-roots is a cool thing; having blood roots all over southern Ghana is even cooler.

My Face

I've always thought I looked more like my mother than my father, so it surprised me the number of times people said I looked like my father (someone even mentioned how my toes look like my father's, because they point up). I found myself looking at a picture of myself and saying "I kind of look like my dad in this picture".

It has been hard to convince people here that I am African. I've had people tell me I was lying, after I told them I was born in Nigeria (why would anyone lie about being born in Nigeria - some Nigerians don't admit to being Nigerian).

I still think I look more like my mother than my father, and I know I have Africa in my face.

My Name

"Kodwo-Kodwo". This is a common greeting from my older sister. Growing up in Nigeria, everyone called me by my middle name, Kodwo (pronounced sort of like kuudjo). On my very first day of school, we were asked to write our names, and I wrote "Kodwo". The teacher got mad at me for not writing Jefferson (which I don't think I even knew how to spell at the time).

I still feel more like a Kodwo than a Jefferson (or a Jeff). Jefferson has always felt like a title to me, more than a name. I use Kodwo in everything (several email addresses and my license plate come to mind). I would go by Kodwo more, but I find that almost no one I've met in the U.S. can pronounce it to my satisfaction.

I've enjoyed going through this trip, responding to the question "what is your name?" with the answer "Kodwo".

Final Thoughts

I realize this is the 11th time I have "left" Africa. We came to the U.S. every other year in my childhood, and I've been back to Africa several times since moving out of Nigeria.

Leaving Africa is difficult, because on one hand I feel like this is home, but on the other, I feel like this is not where I belong anymore. Even though I leave Africa, I never really leave Africa.

I would like to end my post with a quote by Ken Wiwa. The quote is from a wonderful book, In the Shadow of a Saint (it's on our bookshelf, if anyone wants to read it) about his father, Ken-Saro Wiwa, who was a Nigerian political dissident, executed in 1995. I think this quote helps describes how I feel about leaving, and how I feel about my Africaness.

"I can never leave Africa. It is in my blood, in my face, in my name."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I for one, and I am unanimous about this, have certainly enjoyed your journal. I wish I could have persuaded you two to stay longer. But I can't. And you wont; or you can't. All the negatives notwithstanding, you allowed me to experience Ghana just like I remember it - a fusion of the tear-inducing and heart-warming. Success with your life! I purposefully am refraining from saying the same for your careers. For with spirits like yours, you can sprint ahead of my well-wishes even with both hands tied behind your back. But life, ah, with its imponderables and paradoxes and hidden culverts, that's what to be always on the lookout for.
Kwasi Appiah in Chicago

12:28 PM, August 30, 2005  
Blogger emily said...

This is a great wrap up to your trip. Very sentimental and very reflective. I enjoyed what you wrote about your name. When people call me Emi it doesn't sound the same as when my African family calls me Emi. It's like a different name.
I also liked what Lauren wrote about the t-shirt.
I have enjoyed reading about this trip, I hope you have a great time in Ireland!

12:47 PM, August 30, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was busy yesterday and didn'thave a chance to respond, but I want to note that I agree with both Kwasi and Emily in appreciating your entire blog, but especially the latest offerings. They were thoughtful and reflective and summarized your moods as you wrapped up the trip. I'm glad you had the chance to make a more extended trip to Ghana--and to get away on your own to allow more chance to think about your connections there. (although I'm still wondering about who thinks my toes point up!)
--Kodwo's Dad (Yaw)

6:15 AM, August 31, 2005  
Blogger Kimberly said...

Very nice way to wrap up your travel journal. Thank you both for your posts. They were very enjoyable to read. I hope to see you soon as you gear up for the fall quarter.

8:56 PM, September 04, 2005  
Blogger Valarie Kaur said...

Just wonderful...

6:47 PM, September 12, 2005  
Anonymous Lawrencia said...

It's been past 5years since i have been away from home but everytime i read your blog, it takes me back. The pictures bring back the memories, the smell and the laughter of the people. The written part brings hope. The part about the name is definitely true. I still have people trying so hard to pronouce my name "Ayisibea", although i advice them not to try. You guys did a great job with this. You guys brought Ghana with you. It surely is in the heart.
Sorry it took me this long. For the record, Kodjo, you do look like your mom.

11:31 AM, December 26, 2006  

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