Saturday, January 15, 2011


I find endless humor in the fact that my brother's name - Andy- became "Andrew" because the Ghanaians aren't familiar with the name Andy. That quickly became "Andrews", which then turned into "Brother Andrews" and finally ended up as simply "Brandrews." Hahahaha.
Thursday night Andy was sitting outside with all the extended family while I worked on some college stuff (ok, I was actually writing emails, but in theory I was doing official work). He said that Victoria and the aunties kept periodically pausing in their Ewe chatter long enough to give him a tragic look and  mournfully say, "Brandrews...Saturday!" Heartwarming that my whole family was so sad to see him go, but their rather funny exclamation turned into a running joke the last couple days.

I just dropped him off at the airport about 2 hours ago, so now I'm currently sitting in a restaraunt in Accra, whiling away the evening before I can go home to Aflao tomorrow morning.

It was surprisingly hard to leave him there at the terminal.
I mean...I'm used to being away from Andy for long periods of time. He went to college 8 hours away (NMU, baby!), and he was usually gone for most of the summers to work, so separation is nothing new.
But today after we'd said our goodbyes and hugged our hugs...I couldn't seem to make my feet move.
Which is kinda shocking. My mom will tell you that since my first day of kindergarten I've never had a problem saying goodbye... But apparently leaving is a heck of a lot different than being left. Heading to Africa was a lot easier than staying behind in Africa.

Which is not to say I'm unhappy here by any means or overly eager to go home- not the case at all.

It's just...I saw Andy become part of my family, and it's hard to let that go.
Ok, he's my older brother; he's technically been part of my family longer than I have. But I mean part of my African family, if I must make the distinction. He played Ludo with Rose and Victora (which takes a truly courageous soul, let me tell you. Those ladies are CUTTHROAT.) and had long conversations with Worfa. He learned most of the names of the 500 little Meerkats and won Donet and Christian's love by playing bottlecap soccer and cards with them. He took bucket baths, helped water our crops, complimented Victoria's cooking, learned how to kill my roommates the crazy fast spiders, pounded fufu and washed his clothes by hand. He was one of us.

Because he couldn't see Worfa and Victoria this morning, Andy sat down with them last night when we were all in the living room to thank them and say goodbye. Believe it or not, watching their interaction was one of the most powerful experiences I've had in Ghana. This might sound silly but I felt like I was watching the two halves of my life come together. The two halves of myself, really. I watched Andy struggle for the words to adequately express his gratitude and feelings for my host parents- something I've done myself many times. (He did a very admirable job at finding those words, by the way.) And I watched Worfa and Victoria humbly accept his thanks and return it a hundredfold as they sent their love and greetings to my parents and assured him that they would continue to take good (excellent!) care of me. As Worfa said,
"Send our greetings to your mom and dad. We have never met them, but we love them and thank them for sending us (me). We have made a relationship that will last forever, for the rest of our lives."
I've worried so much about how I'm going to bridge the gap between America and Africa, Michigan life and Aflao life, blood family and Ghana family, Katherine Louise and Nana Adwoa (that's me ~ the Monday-born princess!). Yet in that simple goodbye, I watched the gap be bridged.
And not just in the fact that Worfa and Victoria got a better glimpse of my roots- seeing me bantering and talking with my brother definitely brought out my inner American- and "Brandrews" got to experience my daily life and observe the ways I've changed, the Ghanaian mannerisms I've picked up.

It was more about the fact that those two halves fit together perfectly. Seamlessly.

I don't know how to properly convey the incredible relief that has brought me...

I knew Ghana would change me.
I knew Ghana would change me big time.
I never realized how much Ghana would change me.
I didn't realize until Andy came that those positive changes don't have to have negative effects when I return home.

There a million ways my experience in Africa has changed me, bettered me. But, although I am incredibly grateful for those changes- and actually came to Africa hoping be changed- I was always worried about what would happen when I returned home.
I love change; I respect it and I seek it.
That doesn't make it any less scary though.
What if I didn't get along with my friends anymore? Would there a be a wedge between us after nine months of evolving our separate ways? How would I feel when people were surprised or even upset by the changes they saw in me? I couldn't be sure how or if I'd fit back into my old life anymore.
I've spent almost half my time here obsessing over this.
You can tell me "You need to focus on being in Ghana, don't stress about coming home." "Don't think about it." "Don't waste your time worrying about what's going to happen in (insert number here) months." All of them words of wisdom, and I agree. But let's face it... it's impossible not to think about going home. I do live in the moment. I am present in Africa and focused on taking full advantage of my all too brief time here. That doesn't mean I don't imagine what going home will be like every single day. And I don't regret that fact in itself because I think anticipating my return is part of the whole mental/emotional process I need to go through. That said, I do regret spending so much time viewing that part of the whole process as such a negative thing.

For as many people as I've expressed my concerns to, no one was able to set my mind at ease as completely as Andy. Not that he had any spectacular words of wisdom or some magic solution. No, the comfort came out of the simple fact that my own brother didn't see me as a different person. I wasn't getting strange looks or the dreaded "Who are you??" reactions. Did he see changes in me? Yes, of course. Did it hurt our relationship or cause any conflict? No, of course not.
I realize that my brother and I have had a lifetime of shifting and changing and growing up together, so we're pretty used to adjusting to each other's various metamorphoses. And, since he's at a different point in his life than me and my peers, he's probably changed less himself than my friends will have.

But that's not the point.

The point is that I'd always assumed that because so many of these changes have gone straight to my core, they had altered my core. Well Andy inadvertantly made me realize that none of the changes I recognize in myself- I am more patient, more confident and independent, I have a fuller perspective and even higher ambitions- have changed my original content. All those character traits existed before, Ghana has just helped develop them further.
Of course some of the changes in me might make people do a double-take. I have a tendency to hiss at people when I want their attention and I can't tolerate weather colder than 60 degrees and I always try to snap after I shake someone's hand. I can sleep through anything (this is truly miraculous, I used to wake up if someone sneezed three houses away) and drink half a liter of water in under 30 seconds. But unless my friends are offended by being called "yevus," I don't foresee any of that having any negative effects :)

I am finally able to view my eventual return home as something positive, rather than something to be dreaded.

It will truly break my heart to leave. I didn't know it was possible to love a place as deeply as I love Ghana, and, despite having a million other places I'm dying to go, I sincerely hope I will make many return journeys in the future. But I'm excited to go home at the same time. There are so many people I miss very, very much and a lot of aspects of American life that I look forward to.
Everything in its time, right?

This peace about going home is the greatest gift my brother's visit to Ghana ever could have brought me. Thanks for the new perspective, Brandrews.


  1. Great post. Kind of strange to realize you are both in Accra, but may not be together. You are staying the night and Andy's flight was delayed 24, he's still there!!

  2. Happy to be a part of it Sista Katrine!