Despite being born and bred in London, I’m still very much Ghanaian. And boy am I made to know it!
From the strict up bringing, the food I’ve grown up eating (my favourite being waayche- Ghanaian rice and beans), the countless holidays to Ghana as a child- holiday meaning visiting every aunt and uncle there is to know. Later discovering many aren’t even a direct relation (and I only find that out because of some strange remark my aunt might say like ‘Oh, you know aunty Abena’s son is single… He’s handsome oh.’ Err, he’s my cousin!… No. In Ghana everyone older than you is an aunt or uncle. That’s a lot of cousins and potential insest relationships!
The sayings our elders come up with. Our wise elders who for some reason seem to repeat the same sayings for every piece of advice they offer (my aunt’s is ‘you can’t cut your nose to spite your face’ or ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it’ I Just nod along like I understand).
And my name. Kai (meaning remember. Guess there’s no forgetting who I am)!
So, if I say so myself, I’ve graduated with honours in being brought up as a Ghanaian.
This means no matter what country I’m in, be it a city or rural countryside, if there is a Ghanaian nearby, our paths will, most likely cross. My ears have become ultra sensitive that I hear Ghanaians speaking before I see them (as was the situation in Marseille a few weeks ago. I literally stopped on my tracks and did the ‘slow head turn’ and there they were, two Ghanaians talking loud enough for me to hear of course! And more often than not, they will approach me and ask the obvious;
‘Are you from Ghana?’
‘Oh, fine, fine…’
And a few moments of awkward silence. I can then use that as a que to leave the conversation, or continue with;
‘Which part of Ghana are you from? ‘
‘I’m from Accra.’
‘Oh fine…Fine. I studied there/ I have family there/ my cousin lives there’ etc.
The last ‘fine fine’ conversation I had was with a young Ghanaian guy who cleans the communal areas of my building. He must have forgotten that we’d already had the ‘fine fine’ introduction about 5 years ago when I moved into the building. The other day, I walked into my building, past him with a smile- naturally thinking that would be enough of a greeting. This is London. People don’t have all day to ‘stop and talk’ after all!
It was just my luck that the lift was up on another floor so in the 20 seconds it took for it to arrive at the ground floor, he turned to me and we had the full length ‘fine fine’ conversation. Except this time the awkward silence couldn’t have been more awkward. I couldn’t have been more grateful when the lift doors opened and closed behind me.
Conversation ended… But more to come. Might not be this month, or this year… But it will happen again!