15 January 2013

how was africa, you ask?

To be honest, I would dearly love to hope that no one would ask me, "How was Africa?" in the coming days. Unfortunately, I know that is highly unlikely. For some reason that I don't fully understand, most people don't know that much about the continent of Africa or the countries within it. And when I think back on it, during the whole twelve years I was in school, the only time we ever talked about Africa was when we talked about colonisation. But even then we focused only on the colonisers, never the people of the nations. So really, I'm not sure where to place blame (or if I even should place blame) with regard to our vast ignorance of the second largest continent in both size and population. I mean, I've never heard of anyone who came back from France to be asked "How was Europe?" or someone returning from India having to find an answer for "How was Asia?"

I think I would love to start by saying that I lived in a large and lovely community called OLA, in the city of Cape Coast. I spent most of my time in the Central Region of Ghana, one of ten regions in the country which are home to 52 different ethnic groups made up of 24 million people who speak over 70 different languages. Ghana is located in West Africa, one of five regions of the continent of Africa which is home to 54 different countries--each one host to more diversity than I can begin to imagine. So I'd like to consider that, though referencing it as "Africa" can express a unity, we may also be doing an incredible injustice to the boundless medley of differences to be found in the many peoples and histories of the land when we settle for grouping them all as one.

But saying that might embarrass or bring shame to someone. They may feel confronted and discouraged from asking more. Which is hardly what I want.  But I haven't figured out a more subtle way to state that truth yet. So instead, when asked how Africa was, I might lead with some other truths: It was hard sometimes, but so so great. It sounds cliche, but it really was life changing in extreme ways. It's where the sky was so big and full of beauty I thought I would cry each time I looked up. It's where I felt a passionate anger out of compassion for another human being for the first time. It's where I found a strength within me to make hard decisions. It's where my life became as vibrant as the colours I was surrounded by. It's the land where I found endless welcome. And it's where I learned about what I value most in life. Medɔ Ghana.

1 comment:

  1. Was it Noël Coward who replied;"very large"