African Columbus

by Nana Ama Temeng
(Ghana)

African Columbus
In my mind, planes were an adult’s version of a kid’s roller coaster ride.
I never thought kids could go on planes. They looked too formal; most of them were white, some with a few strokes of colour. I guess that’s what made each airline unique. So, when I arrived at the Kotoka airport, dressed in my best clothes, my eyes bulged out in shock as every corner of the departure hall was filled with so many people- men, women, children and babies. Plane rides were for everyone? I stood in front of the departure desk as the flight attendant handed over our boarding passes to my mother at the airport in Accra. I was elated, largely because I had “upgraded” to plane status and had never sat in a plane before. I could not wait to tell my friends. My “Christmas Break” essay was going to throw them off balance for sure. I knew I was going to see my father again but I did not know that a 45 minute flight, 254.48 miles from home, coupled with goose bumps as the plane ascended into the sky, would come to be the peak of my identity. I never got to write that essay.
When the pilot announced that the plane was about to take off, I started to pray. At that point, I closed my eyes again and held tight to the next structure beside me. Soon enough, I found comfort in the smiling hostesses in low heels and identical uniforms. The tension I felt as the plane soared on seemed far-fetched as I tried to picture what my life would be like. Would I make friends? Are there Ghanaians there too? I thought of the new place we would be living in, I thought of the easy access to Nigerian movies because I was going to a country with arguably, the second largest film industry. Turns out, it is still hard to get them when you are hustling and bustling in a noisy market with over a million people squeezing through themselves. Forty-five minutes. That was fast! My mother smiled and spoke in our native language ‘We have arrived”. Passengers began to call their rides, reach for the luggage but me, I just sat there and watched.
As a seven year old, Lagos was a destination not a home. At home, all the people I ever knew were Ghanaians, I had never really had relationships with people from another country and so it was very difficult for me in the beginning, to talk to people who were not “Ghanaian”. In primary school, I spent a lot of time in the music room because my teachers were also Ghanaian and spoke my native language. It took me a while to open up to having friends who were not from my country but breaking out of that bubble enable me become the out-going person I am now. Slowly, I began to grow out my hair. I had moved from saying “doctah’ to “doctoh”, the thought of writing back to friends at home began to fade, I would dance and sing to Nigerian music and would blurt out a few words in Yoruba as I bargained with traders in the market to get lower prices. When I went back to Ghana two years later, everything had changed. We became the old neighbours, my friends now looked down on me as they were now taller, the yam seller had upgraded her stall and Ghana became the destination not the home. I myself began to feel different even though I could very much identify with the people around me.
Now, at football matches between Nigeria and Ghana, I pause before deciding who to support and bet my money on. I still feel like a tourist when I arrive in my own country and I guess that would be the case now as I approach my tenth anniversary as what some people would term a “Ghanarian”. Someone who was originally born in Ghana but has Nigerian traits. We do very much exist in this world and split our nationality depending on where we find ourselves spending Christmas or Summer. We love our countries very much but we are also grateful to have lived in a country that has equally given us that joy as well. In the end, its always okay. If it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.

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