Being in Ghana for a week without actually going to Aflao or seeing any of my friends and family convinced me beyond a doubt that they are the only real reason I have come back.
The reason I have missed this place so fiercely.
The reason my longing to be in Africa never lessened with time, and only grew stronger.
Yes, I like Ghana as a country. I think it is a beautiful, fascinating, amazing place. But without the people I love, it is just one of many beautiful, fascinating, amazing places I have been. If it weren't for seeing the people I love, I would have preferred to put the money I spent on this ticket towards visiting a new place instead. But- thank God- there are people that I love here.
Evans drove Karina and I from Accra today. By the time we reached Dzodze, Karina and Evans' hometown, I was getting fidgety. By the time we reached Denu, the neighboring town to Aflao, I was sucking in air so forcefully that Karina kept looking back at me. I recognized the junction that led to Rudy and Julia's place, the path I took to buy cloth at the Denu market with my Julia. We reached the outskirts of Aflao and I felt like someone had punched me in the gut- in a good way, if you can imagine there being a positive side to being punched in the gut. I was so tense with excitement that I could hardly breathe. I directed Evans down the Awakorme road, and he kept asking me, "Are you sure? Are you sure?" Evans, I'd never been more sure of anything in my life.
My house is at the end of an alley-like path off the Awakorme road. Waiting at the entrance were three little boys. I immediately recognized one of them as Christian, Worfa's nephew who frequently helps around the house, wearing a t-shirt my brother left him after he visited. "LET ME OUT!" I bellowed. I was tugging on the seat release before Karina was even out of the car. I didn't care if I was embarrassing him or if my overt show of affection was entirely un-African, I gave Christian a bear hug. This is the boy who was so upset the day I left that he refused to say goodbye to me, and here he was with a grin at least as big as my own. I paused only long enough to register that his voice has already deepened from the little boy timbre I remember- and took off running.
It's nighttime and Aflao doesn't exactly have streetlights, but I sprinted down the alley. There were twists and turns I had completely forgotten about, but my feet knew exactly where they were going. I neglected to notice two or three steps leading up the foundation of an unfinished house and stumbled on them, but managed not to fall. I'm not sure I was running so much as skimming about six inches off the ground anyway. I threw open the gate to my house and as I ran across the courtyard I wanted to call out, but no words would come out. Instead, I just opened the door at the same time as Victoria, who must have heard my footsteps, and got tackled by my host mother.
Victoria is not a person to be trifled with on multiple levels. She is physically imposing, a no-nonsense type woman, and the greatest champion a girl alone in Africa could ever ask for. The day I left, she scolded me mildly for crying and said simply, "I will miss you, but I will see you again." No muss, no fuss.
As soon as I came through the door, she scooped me into her huge arms, picked me up, twirled me around, and crushed me to her chest- only to set me down, scoop me back up and repeat the process all over again. She eventually paused long enough to let Worfa hug me, and then was back to waltzing me around the room and laughing. She walked arm in arm with me back to the roadside to collect my bags, let go just long enough to let me hug Karina goodbye, then firmly gripped my arm again and marched me home. As if there was any chance I was going to hop back into the car and zoom away... She asked about my family and I told her how much I'd missed her cooking, and then we settled for saying "I missed you!" "I missed you too!" back and forth for the next half an hour. She just stood there and kept saying it while I dug through my suitcases for the presents I'd brought them. I had painstakingly picked out the most glitzy, sparkly watch I could find, and after I gave it to her she spent the following half hour telling me how much she liked it, taking it on and off, opening and closing the box, etc. And occasionally throwing out an additional "Oh I missed you!"
I brought Worfa a huge stack of newspaper comics, Guideposts magazines and Reader's Digests that my mom saved for him. While Victoria and I continued our womanly babbling in broken English, Worfa had already settled himself on the couch with his nose in one of the Guideposts, munching on an Oreo. Worfa is well-educated, but more importantly he is voraciously curious and loves nothing more that to learn about new things. It would take at least a library to satisfy his hunger for knowledge, but my mom's carefully collected pile of small magazines is more appreciated than she may ever realize.
I couldn't tear my eyes off either of them. I have loved and missed these two people every day since I last saw them, and now here I am: Drinking hot tea in a stiflingly hot room that I couldn't have stopped Victoria from making if I'd begged, a Nigerian worship service blaring on the TV, telling them all about school and my brother's upcoming wedding and the trip to Mole. It feels so natural that it's hard to believe the last two years of separation even happened. Sitting here on my mattress on the floor of my room, I can remember stepping out of this room, saying goodbye. But now I'm back and it's still my room where I have slept and read and blogged hundreds of times before. The fact that I have spent the last two years wishing to be back in this room so intently seems unreal now that I'm actually here.
The house is a little different. The original three SISCO classrooms were at our house, but the school has grown enough to need a new location, and those have been disassembled. They installed new ceiling tiles to cover the sheet metal-and-wood skeleton of the roof and beautiful floor tiles that look and feel like marble. A large framed portrait of my family wearing our SISCO shirts is hanging above the door to my old room.
Tomorrow I will see all my neighbors and Meerkats and the rest of the Gomashie family. Tonight, I am content just to be here. Home.