Hi! Welcome to the first of a series of enlightening, multifaceted, raucous, protruding guest posts.
Adam is a sophomore from the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, and he studies biology and chemistry. Besides being a good friend and travel buddy, Adam likes plants, books, and speaking Spanish. If you’d like to learn more, there’s a link to his blog, Africa Trek ’11, in the sidebar (wink wink).
One of my favorite hymns begins:
This is my song, Oh God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine.
I come from Wisconsin, land of big trees and big cold. I love my home. I made sure to bring books with me to remind me of the land I love. One, a mystery set in the winter in Isle Royale National Park to remind me of a season I love that decidedly does not exist in Ghana. Two, Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac to keep connected to the place I call home and the processions of the year. It is this connection with Wisconsin I hold dear. As much as I enjoy traveling and as dear as Ghana is to me, these people will never understand sleeping in a snow-cave in 20-below weather just as I will never be able to get a taxi at as low of a price as natives. I will never be at home if I cannot pick up a copy of the Wisconsin State Journal, or go to a Concert on the Square, or paddle a canoe through the northern lakes (or the Boundary Waters in Minnesota, my honorary home).
Verse one continues:
But other hearts in other lands are beating
With hopes and dreams as true as high as mine.
The impossibility of Ghana becoming my home implies nothing further than my connection to my homeland. I have met wonderful people here and there will be many things I will miss upon returning to the United States. For example, sharing is so liberal here. Friends (and strangers) will freely and completely help you. In fact, some people say, “Ghanaians will so friendly they will always help you, even if they don’t know how.” I’ll miss the frugality here. As scary as it is to ride in a trotro that is spewing smoke and making severe popping noises, it is refreshing to see that people repair things when they need to be repaired. Not to mention, Wisconsin has no oceans, rainforests, African drumming and dance, or Night Markets. I can–and have–made this place as dear to me as home, but it cannot be home. It can be a temporary home, or even a second home, but never Home. People here will never understand that the reason we (the girls, mostly) seem cold to their friendship advances is that we get them all the time, often from unscrupulous people. Wisconsin is the place to which I am grounded, and to try to act as if I can ever become Ghanaian is to be dishonest. Though, there are many virtues in integrating in ways like learning Twi, understanding new perspectives, living styles. beliefs. Honestly, one cannot experience the truth of a place without integrating. Whenever I go to the mall and see dozens of foreigners who I know will never set foot on a trotro or barter for goods, I wonder what these people tell their friends when they ask about life in Africa. I will always be a child of the prairie, of Pheasant Branch, of cheese, of snow, of seasons, of skis. But I will be a cousin of Ghana now, an eager relative of trotros, of adinkra, of kente, of hissing, of open markets, of waiting. I came to this strange land, and parts will still be strange when I leave, but now I know:
My countries skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
Oh hear my song, oh God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.