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Kumasi Walkaholic

Ghana Reset

GhanaResetIt’s no mystery that I’m beyond the honeymoon phase with Kumasi. Two of my latest three posts highlight my lack of patience for the gritty street life in my neighborhood. The dust, smoke, blowing garbage, stench, cat calls, begging, and honking – all have lost their charm.

And yet, I refuse to stop walking. After I return to the States, I will rejoin the car culture and miss the opportunity to walk down the street for onions. Shopping will involve a series of asphalt parking lots rather than adventurous forays into the pages of National Geographic.

My friends are well aware of my dilemma. Most of them rarely shop on foot and say they can’t imagine exposing themselves to the back alley street life for hours at a time. Linda, who rarely walks says the taxis are her ‘legs.”

Chrissie reminds me that I have not been out of Ghana for nearly a year and a half. “You’ve got to get out!” she says with the breezy air of someone who spent her summer in Australia and Europe.

Kat tells me that it may be a ‘class thing’ because she is working with Ghanaian professionals who are articulate and interesting, refreshing to be with rather than draining. My Ghanaian interactions involve street vendors and taxi drivers and the people who call out to me when I walk down past their cook fires. It probably also helps Kat’s attitude that she recently returned from three months in Europe.

Fortunately, I’ve had a bit of a turn around. The shouting match with the startled boys on the bridge a week and a half ago helped me release pent up frustration and gave me pause. I’ve been rethinking my situation and gradually, begun acknowledging greetings again. A simple wave or a smile is better than nothing. Sometimes I even find the energy to call out “Ete Sen!” Heck, they all know my name by now. It’s not like I can hide behind those sunglasses I bought off one young man’s head.

When BJ and I walk together I realize we are seeing different worlds, she noticing the glitter as I stare at the grime. “I’m still very much in my honeymoon phase.” she says, almost apologetically when it becomes clear that we are having opposite reactions. She is sensitive enough to pick up on my exhaustion regardless of how much I hold my tongue.

But a strange thing happens when BJ exclaims over a spectacular tree or exuberant youngster. I see things through her eyes for a moment. See the beauty beyond the blowing black bags. The innocence behind the cat calls.

I also find it ironic that when I sat down to write about my reset epiphany, I came across this comment on the previous post, “Silence.”

Paula
September 12, 2013
Oh for goodness sake – they are just children.

Once when I was living in Kenya, I stopped one of the groups of children yelling ‘Msungu, Musungu’ (which means white person). I told them my name…after that they started calling all white people by my name.

I actually remember it quite fondly now, though in the two years I lived there, indeed I must have been shouted at thousands of times. How nice to be so admired — without doing anything — that kids yell in happiness when they see us.

I am living in Accra now. I think the children are more used to seeing white people, so there’s little clamoring in joy. They still do give me more honor and respect than I probably deserve, however.

This comment was written on the day of my reset. The day I re-surfaced as the neighborhood Obroni persona.  Paula’s comment might have inspired my conclusion to come back out of hiding had I noticed it before. It seems like too much of a coincidence, making me wonder if on some level, I heard her words.

I’m sure all of these factors helped me push the Reset Button. And although I’m past my honeymoon phase with Ghana, I’m no longer filing for divorce. I’ve chosen to absorb the hope and joy I encounter on the street, screen out the irritations and enjoy the few months I have left. After all, as Paula points out – they’re just children!

By Camille Armantrout

Camille Armantrout lives with her soul mate, Bob, in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.

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