As many of you know, I took a 2 week vacation back to MA for my good friend’s wedding (Congrats Laura and Vinny!!!!). I desperately wanted to write this blog detailing my reunion with cheese, but then I realized most of you are in the modern world and might not be interested… so, for YOU, I changed my mind. And I want to thank everyone who made my trip home so AWESOME. AS much as I talk about all the food I ate, it was really the people that made it worthwhile, so thank you! So here it goes….
I don’t think I’ll ever get used to being a visitor in my own home. Does anyone? I guess I have been for a couple years now- spending most of my time at school or in various apartments, instead of the house in which I was raised. None of my previous “visits,” however, came after a full year away in a place so starkly different from Acton, Massachusetts as Gbeogo, Ghana. So of course, when I was making my SECOND attempt to return to the States, (my first flight was cancelled) I was expecting to come home feeling like a stranger. I was preparing myself for paralyzing culture-shock, and an overwhelming sense of alienation.
So what was different about this visit, you may ask? Well…to be honest, not much. YES the first time I ate my first bite of a new American dish was exquisite, but by the third bite I’d already forgotten how visceral my year-long cravings were. YES my first time back behind the wheel was exhilarating, but by the third gear-shift I felt like I’d never left the road. The speed at which I adjusted back to my old life calmed me, but also made me nervous. I was happy I wouldn’t have to spend any of my precious two weeks frantically searching Boston for fufu, or trying to buy all my groceries off of peoples’ heads. But at the same time, did my ability to fall seamlessly back into my pre-Peace Corps self mean I wasn’t learning anything during my time in Ghana?
Ok, ok, ok. It wasn’t ALL seamless. There were some things I never fully readjusted to in the 2 short weeks, but they were the small inconsequential things that I didn’t see as a sign of a change in my overall character. For example:
- We wear everything so SHORT! I’m guilty of it myself, coming from a mother who once told me that she believed nothing could be too short, and frequently sang the Producer’s tune “If you got it, Flaunt it.” But after living in Ghana for a year, the site of thigh catches me off guard – and I was REALLY caught off-guard walking down the streets of Boston. I even felt myself self-consciously pulling down on dresses I used to wear confidently.
- People use their left hands for things! At the airport on my way out of the US, I was still transferring my purse to my left hand so I could properly pass my ticket with my right…
- The smells. I got a headache walking around the mall.
- The food (only from my digestive system’s point of view….moving on..)
On the other hand, things I was expecting to have to readjust to came naturally to me:
- -Hanging out with Americans ALL.THE.TIME.
- No longer being a celebrity
- Having luxury items again (dishwasher, washer and dryer, hot shower etc)
- The availability of soap, toilets and toilet paper
- Not greeting everyone I passed in the street and every new, stone-faced, commuter who entered the T
- Being on time, and having other people be on time
- The food (from my mouth’s point of view…and the ultimate winner)
After 2 weeks in Boston I was so comfortable that I was nervous about coming back to Ghana. Once again I was saying goodbye to the people, things and cheeses I wouldn’t see for another year, and yet, although I’d done it all before, it was harder this time. I felt myself yearning for another day, another visit, another bite. I was SHOCKED. Again (it’s a theme isn’t it?). I hadn’t anticipated feeling so bad about my return to Ghana. I loved my anonymity in America, my clothes, my friends and hey, I could put up with the stomach cramps for some more slices of extra sharp cheddar! But I also remembered a distant vision of loving my students, my projects and my friends in Ghana too. Why was I so hesitant to board that return flight (not cancelled this time, but delayed)? Was I going to feel like a stranger again in the place I’d loved so much for the past year? I was nervous.
That is…until I landed in Accra. Breaking a sweat the moment I stepped off the plane onto the tarmac, waiting an hour and half to pick up my bag, and being proposed to by my cab driver was all it took. I was back. And I was ECSTATIC to be back. I slipped back into my Ghana voice and frumpy mid-shin skirt as if I’d never left. It dawned on me that a home is called “home” for a reason – it’s ALWAYS easy to come back to. So no, the ease with which I returned to America wasn’t a sign that I hadn’t learned anything from Ghana, I was just going home. And upon coming back to Ghana I learned that it’d become a home for me as well. A little dustier (perhaps), a little hotter (definitely), but a home nonetheless.
So was it great being in America again? Pfft, of course! Does it feel great being back in Ghana? Well… doesn’t it always feel nice to come home?
p.s. a full inventory of the cheeses I ate will be available on individual request.