It was just barely light out when Eric dropped Bob, Amy and me at the station to catch a bus to Cape Coast. Amy had been with us for three months and it was time to get out of town and go to the beach. As we walked into the nearly empty station we noticed two white women sitting on a bench across the room. I smiled and waved. After we checked in we headed for that bench. “May we join you on the Obroni bench?” Bob asked and we were graciously received. Introductions ensued.
We soon learned that Nauzley was spending a year at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital as part of her training to become a doctor. Her mother Nahid, was visiting from the States. They were winding up her visit with a trip to the beach.
Nahid was a little sketched out by Nauzley’s living situation downtown where a beautiful young lady walking alone was an easy target. In fact, Nauzley confirmed that men often grabbed her arms or worse when she went to market. Nauzley wrote her contact information in my little note pad and Bob gallantly promised Nahid we would stay in touch.
I asked Nauzley about her project and within minutes she had cut through the small talk and was delving into the cultural conditions surrounding infant jaundice. She spoke about her interviews with mothers who close their eyes in trusting deference to the almighty power of the medical system and God. Nyame Adom (by His grace.) When the driver opened the doors to the bus, I was so entrenched in conversation I practically had to be prodded up the steps.
Halfway to Cape Coast the driver pulled into the shaded courtyard of a modest hotel. As people filed down the aisle I realized this was a bathroom break. I quickly located Nauzley and Nahid and we wandered over to a pair of what appeared to be changing rooms. “I think they’re urinals” Nauzley said, “See that little hole in corner of the floor?” I handed out tissues, we agreed to get brave and Nauzley and I stepped in. As I relieved myself with my skirt over one arm, crouched as close to the corner as possible, clutching my tissue and trying not to splash, I wished the floor had a bit more of a slope to it or that I had let Nahid go before me.
When we were done we looked for a place to throw our soggy tissues and a water source so we could wash our hands. We found a bucket of water. Wiping our hands on our skirts we joked that we had now officially pee bonded. The whole business was embarrassing and awkward but entirely unavoidable given the circumstances. Nauzley laughed and shared a story about her first experience with an African urinal which involved a circular trough over which women crouched while facing each other. She recalled thinking, “I can’t do this.”
During her last four months in Kumasi, Nauzley became part of our family. She joined us for meals and movies, helped cook and often spent the night. She even went to the zoo with me, something my other friends had no desire to do. Since her return home we have shared many intense emails. Her journey down the path to repatriation illuminates my own impending transition with helpful insights. I have found a true friend, a guiding light and soul mate purely by accident.
It seemed like there should be a better way for expats to connect. I try not think what would have happened if we hadn’t picked the same bus to the shore. We wondered how many other obronis were out there, isolated in Kumasi. In fact, we met other expats who found each other the way we did and it became a joke that if you wanted to meet other expats all you had to do was hang out at the bus station.
Two months after meeting Nauzley I started a Facebook group called Kumasi Expats. With so many Facebook users out there, I figured it would be a good alternative to hoping you run into another white person before your assignment was up. Somewhere you could ask where to by a can opener, for example, something which took us 6 weeks to figure out.
Indeed, the group has flourished. Many of the posts begin with “I’m moving to Ghana” or “I’ve recently moved to Kumasi.” With 120 members Kumasi Expats has organized meet-ups and tours and given members a platform to share hundreds of tips about everything from shopping to healthcare.
Ironically, when I logged into Facebook this morning, the first item on my news feed was this quote on Nauzley’s timeline: “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” – Mother Teresa. As per usual, Nauzley is on my wavelength.
PS- As of February, 2017 the Kumasi Expats group has 850 members and they are still playing nice, organizing get-togethers, sharing resources, and helping each other find stuff.