on being back: the journey

the plane was huge — about the width of my bedroom at home and as long as a highschool hallway. my heart leaped as the clouds swallowed us whole. the huge buildings below became ants, and the highways became drawings etched in sand. i’ve always been fascinated by how thousands of pounds can fly in the air so effortlessly without falling. in that moment, i thought to myself: is this real life? am i really going to be home once again?

i sat beside a middle aged woman whose smile eased my nervousness as a gentle hello rolled off my lips. i must’ve had first-time-traveller plastered on my forehead because she asked me whether i was going to Ghana for the first time. i told her no, and how i was born there but haven’t returned in about a decade. she’d also only been back once since she left and she was returning to bring back her children with her to the states now that she’s graduated nursing school. i was in awe at how a mother could have the strength to leave her children behind to go build a life for them elsewhere. “They don’t really know me that well since they’ve lived most of their lives away from me.” her eyes were time machines going back to the last time she held them. “i’m excited to finally have all of us together again.” i was silent. i learned recently that some emotions don’t have to be put into words because words will never do them justice so i chose to smile with her and share in her excitement with all of my spirit, confident that she felt the loving energy i was sending her way.
(11 hours later) as the pilot announced our arrival, i beamed and leaned over my new friend who had the window seat. we both remarked at how Accra looks from above — like a painting of an artist who doesn’t believe in rules or uniformity. when we parted ways, it was as if i’d known her for a long time.
stepping off the plane, the humid air hugged my skin like a blanket and the air felt thick and damp in my lungs. rainy season was upon us and she wanted to make herself known.
after claiming my luggage, i kindly avoided the various “helpers” who wanted to help push my heavy cart. my parents’ voices echoed in my ear warning me to deny their offers because they wanted money i did not have. on the way out, i was stopped by a man who wanted to check my bags. “i’m only curious to know what you have in there,” he said in a mischevious manner. i didn’t see anyone else’s bags being checked so my paranoia mixed with anxiousness kicked in, which caused my hands to shake. “why are you nervous? now i’m really curious,” he laughed as my sweaty hands searched through my jungle of a purse to find the tiny keys to the lock on the bags. “open it” he repeated in a less than playful tone. a few moments after i’d finally opened up my bags, we both seemed to blush as the item he was checking for turned out to be my box of feminine products. “okay i’m satisfied, you can go now.” i forgot about the thickness of the air as i let out a deep relieved sigh. whew. travelling alone can be scary when you look 12 and lost in an unfamiliar place.
i felt like the most important person ever as my cousins embraced me with kisses. they remarked at how much i’ve grown and how i look like a replica of my mom. i was overcome by their beautiful spirits and the conversation flowed like water; as if there hadn’t been oceans and tides and tides between us.
i slept the day away to recover from jetlag and i ended the day with a treat: nothing says welcome home better than a bowl of banku and okro stew (with crab!! AND SNAIL TOO!!!)

i’ve been asked several times how it feels to be back. i learned recently that some emotions don’t have to be put into words because words will never do them justice. but “whole” comes the closest. i feel whole.



2 thoughts on “on being back: the journey

  1. So well written. I felt transported – as though I was on the journey. I will live vicariously through your blog. Enjoy it.

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