Friday, June 7, 2013

The Girl Who Went to Africa

Three years ago, I fell in love with a place the way most people fall for a person.
It's been a little over two years since I left Ghana, and not a day goes by that I don't think about it. In one of my early posts, I described homesickness as the heaviest feeling. I struggled with homesickness for Michigan often in Ghana, but nothing could have prepared me for the weight I would feel missing Africa once I was back in America. It is an intense feeling, difficult to describe.
My plane to Accra leaves in 18 days. My good friend's younger sister is doing a six- or eight-week (I can't remember which) study abroad in Kumasi, and she is also keeping a blog. You'd think I'd be the most avid follower, but I can't even read it. My plane leaves in 18 days, and still I am so jealous that I can't bring myself to read it. Likewise, when Julia went back to visit last summer, I couldn't look at her pictures. That familiar homesickness took up residence on my chest every time I even considered it. Sounds a little petty, doesn't it? I admit it- I can't stand the thought of anyone being there if I can't. 
A lot has changed in the two years since I last sat down to write for this blog. I'm halfway done with my speech pathology degree at NMU, and can tell you more than you ever wanted to know about your larynx. I have two jobs I enjoy: as a direct care worker at a group home and a respite caregiver for a little boy. (Both are, as it turns out, pretty similar to what I would have done if I had gone to Kentucky as originally planned for my gap year. Funny how life works in circles, huh?) But even two years later, I am still "the girl who went to Africa." Most of the people in my daily life- classmates, coworkers, friends- didn't even know me back then, but still it is a large piece of what defines me. It's not long after learning my name that, one way or another, you will learn that I am the girl who went to Africa. Many times the story even precedes me.
I am two years older, probably not two years wiser, and two years closer to getting back to the place that stole my heart.
Sooner than I think, I will be stepping on that plane with more joy than will fit in my carry-on and not a little bit of fear as well. You see, even going back isn't an easy process. I'm scared of the things that will have changed...The price of tro-tro tickets will be different; the kids will be taller. I am willing to bet it will feel overwhelmingly new and familiar all at the same time, and I suspect that will rattle me. Maybe more than anything, I'm scared that once I am there, I won't be able to leave again...
Then again not going back was never an option. I already told you- I fell in love.