“and even when you think you’re finished, you’re not finished. you see, over here it’s really all about the people you know and not really what you know. this law degree will probably mean nothing because there are so many people going for only a handful of positions and each person has their own connect in mind. some people even know generals and ministers. so how about me?now i’m only safe if i have the president on my side”. Ama flipped through her marked up notes like it was the one hundred and oneth time, casually yet carefully as if the pages were fragile. she’d been up way before i woke, and i was surprised because it was only 7am. why do i lack this kind of motivation? there must be something in the water here. dear Lord, please let me catch it. i was reminded of the big shoes i have to fill. “i don’t have it all together at all. who told you that?” she scoffed. “at least you have a skill like writing which is your ‘thing’. i need a thing.” i told her how i thought i was good at writing till i came to college and i found out i was mediocre. she roll called names of successful people who had all received no’s on their journey to greatness: Shakespeare. Ali. Mandela. i seem to have this same conversation often and i believe in signs so i heeded.
today was an Ama and i day, which translates to laugh-all-day day. so we decided to go to Madina Market to indulge in the famous delicacies that line the street: waakye, kenkey, roasted plantains, roasted corn on the cob, fesh coconuts. that goes down as top 3 hardest decisions i’ve had to make in a while next to whether i should go ahead and get my hair braided or wear my hair natural for a while longer. anyway, we decided on roasted plantains. we wanted the hard ones that are soft in the middle. we made sure to specify. we asked for no groundnuts because we both break out easily and these nuts are sure to do it. when we opened up our snack which was neatly wrapped in hole punched notebook paper (innovative?), we were surprised to see a generous helping of groundnuts in the bag. Ama and i turned to eachother and laughed. the woman must have heard us debate whether or not the pimples were worth it and made the decision for us. afterall, groundnuts are basically mandatory with this combination. “i come against any form of calories in this food. i rebuke it in the name of Jesus.” Ama’s face was stern and serious as she laid hands on the food like a pastor annointing. “Amen.” i couldn’t help but laugh, and she told me it’s not a laughing matter. i think God was taking a nap during that prayer because our stomachs punished us the next morning. totally worth it.
next, we entered a beauty store beside the kiosk. the same spanish soap opera was showing on the tv sceen suspended from the ceiling as i’d seen on every other screen since i arrived. this show must be the thing right now. the two women who worked there welcomed us. as one helped Ama, the other followed me around in the store (more like stalked) as i browsed my favorite section of all beauty stores — the hair poducts. or so i thought. as i stared closely at the labels, i was shocked to read “skin lightening cream”. there were rows and rows..in fact a whole wall.. dedicated to a plethora of skin bleaching products from washes to creams to sprays to scrubs. what kind of horror movie had i stepped into? the lady stared at me as i slyly took a picture of the wall by holding my phone to my chest. the bright flash gave me away though and i awkwardly walked away slowly with my poker face in full effect. you see, i already knew skin bleaching was a popular thing because lighter skin equates to more attractive and more power. however actually seeing it in real life and in such abundance reminded me of the reality of it all. i read somewhere that Ghana plans to ban these products starting in August. But if you ask me, i don’t think that will solve the bigger problem of self hate and colorism. we have a ways to go in the process of decolonizing our minds. as we were walking out of the store, a full on sex scene was playing on the soap opera. i was the only one feeling strange about it aparently cause everyone was going on about their business. walking in after us was a woman who’s face was 3 shades lighter than her hands. she walked straight to the skin products section.