It hit me as soon as I began to descend from the plane to the tarmac.
The smell of Ghana.
What was it? Humidity, yes, but something else too.
A deep inhale.
The red earth? A particular plant?
Too quickly, my nose adjusted to the smell, and it was gone.
My first stint in Ghana was nearly four years ago. I was in the country for a study-abroad program with Trent University, and somewhere during those eight months, West Africa got inside me.
As the taxi from the airport whizzed through the dark streets of Accra that night, I felt content. It was all so familiar. I knew I would feel comfortable in Ghana, but I didn’t realize how it would go beyond “comfortable”. I feel at home.
The first few days confirmed this feeling. The greetings, the heat, the calls of “obruni”, the falling cadence of Ghanaian English, the taste of fried plantains… It’s true, there are some things I had forgotten, but like the smell of the air, in the moment after my conscious realization that that aspect of Ghanaian life had left my memory, the past met the present, the familiarity won out, and it seemed impossible that I could have ever forgotten something so natural.
The handshake with a snap at the end is back, I’ve slowed my walking pace, and I feel perfectly comfortable hissing at people to get their attention again. I can call women “Sister”, ask strangers on the road how they are doing, and invite others in the shared taxi to share in my snack.
Because why wouldn’t you?
There are certainly cultural differences between my life in Canada and here, but no more than if I wandered into some parts of rural Ontario or even too deep into Toronto (where it is not uncommon for people to look at me and say, “You’re not from Toronto, are you?).
My mental maps have blurred, my knowledge of Twi, one of the local languages, has faded, and I don’t always know where I’m going. But I do know how to find out where to go.
To all my friends and family at home, my point is this: I have not gone on an adventure to a foreign land. I’ve returned to a place that I know and love.
**Note: The title of this post is Twi for “I’m going home.” It is a phrase I use often here to the delight of those around me. Unfortunately, I do not yet know how to change it to the past tense.**