Dorian Webb

Year of the Return, Part 1

dorian webb
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On a scale of 1 to 10, my interest in visiting Accra, Ghana was about 3. This had nothing to do with the country itself; in my mind it just seemed less foreign, and more staid, than Francophone Africa. 

If I had known that I would be visiting during what is Ghana’s oppressively hot “summer” during our springtime, that number would have plummeted deep into the negative.  But 2019 is the Year of the Return in Ghana, a time that marks the 400th anniversary of the slave trade, and is an occasion for many African Americans return to the motherland to explore their roots and reconnect to their ancestors. It is also where my stepdaughter is spending her junior year abroad. A visit was non negotiable. Fortified with 3 different types of sunscreen (you can never be too sure about adequate sun protection), and two cupcakes (I’ve got to eat!) I was ready for the 19 hour journey to Accra.  

The trip was not off to an auspicious start. A friend who had graciously offered to take us to the airport arrived an hour early. He asked if I was ready. I was not. He loaded my husband’s four overstuffed bags- filled with clothing, a laptop, books and electronics for Ghanaian schoolchildren, and one large, dedicated “snack bag”- into his car. Returning he hovered, eyeing my small carryon bag, half filled with my husband’s clothing. I could sense his eagerness to toss my bag into the back of his car, and sweep us off to parts unknown ON TIME. To distract him from his scheme, I asked that he take my husband to buy sandwiches for the journey. Once they left, I raced to finish last minute to dos: packing, cleaning the fridge and trying to fix my laptop that had been inoperable for months. Eventually realizing the futility of the latter, I resigned myself to typing with two thumbs for a couple of weeks, gathered my purse and my carryon and went out to the curb to make good on my promise to be ready to go when they returned. Roughly a minute passed. I ate a cupcake. The other one looked so forlorn by itself in the pink box, I ate that one too.

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The pastries were a distant memory when we landed at Kotoka International Airport in Accra the next evening. We congratulated ourselves on only forgetting two items in our friend’s car and added ourselves to the snaking line that led to passport control.  As we waited with our mandatory proof of yellow fever vaccination in hand, we were serenaded by a dapper man who, accompanying himself on an electric keyboard sang:

…It is Wednesday

The middle of the week

Relax

You are in Ghana

Welcome to Ghana

Akwaaba (Welcome)…

I was oddly touched by the singer’s earnest vocals and cruise ship energy. As his smooth voice and the plinking of his instrument filled the hall, even the most drowsy among us smiled and bobbed to the beat.  I looked over at my husband, who was elbow deep into his seemingly bottomless snack bag. Yes, our journey had truly begun. We were home. Akwaaba.