Monday, September 12, 2005

Leaving Accra, Stumbling through Ireland, & Going Home

Our last two days in Accra were spent with family. The images in my head are of packing and unpacking and packing again, of sitting in Jefferson’s uncle’s living room watching TV and listening to his sister and their younger female cousins laughing about everything, and of driving around town on various errands with Jefferson’s cousin, K, at the wheel. I took note of one particularly clever sign that we passed by at some point; it was a mobile phone store by the name of “Frank-‘O’-Phone.” Cute.

The 8 days that followed were like one long journey home, decorated strangely with a colorful youth hostel in Dublin and a double-decker bus tour in Belfast, among other Irish things. Mostly, I remember being tired, being at lots of airports and lots of planes, and wanting to go home. It’s confusing to re-enter Western culture in a country where everyone drives on the wrong side of the road. But at least Irish folks have really cool accents.

My coming home welcome was a head-cold. This was not surprising, but it undermined all my “as-soon-as-I-get-home-I’ll…” plans. The good news was that Geordi remembered us, and has even matured over the summer, now (almost) letting us sleep through the night (jet-lag is a different story). And I see my town, my apartment, and my life with new eyes. Which, I suppose, is the point of travel.

The streets seem unnecessarily wide. The sidewalks seem empty. Everyone’s clothing seems flat and inexpressive. I don’t know how to describe it, but people’s eyes seem to look inward, like their vision stops about two feet in front of their noses (e.g., at their laptops). I’m not saying that Ghanaians are always staring off into the distance, but that there’s a sense that their regular field of vision covers a wider space. A space beyond themselves; a more communal space. Or, maybe I’m just surprised that people don’t stare at me all the time anymore.

As I type this I’m at the local café that we always go to, drinking the coffee I always get, sitting at the table we always sit at. Doing the things I missed about home. At the same time, I already miss Ghana, and I’m looking forward to going back. Travel reminds us of life’s balance, enjoying where you’re at, dreaming of where you could be.


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