A friend visited me in Ghana! And not just any friend but my BFF, one of my oldest friends – twenty years and counting – Gloria aka Glo. She is the friend who when we were kids, would not let me leave the house looking like a slob. And as the day progressed and my slob-like nature would creep out, she would fix my shirt clumping at my armpit. She is the friend who, when I was struggling to pack for Peace Corps and put away the rest of my life, extended her visit by a week and essentially packed for me and kept me in check when I was near tears wanting to bring my waffle maker with me. Oh and she also accompanied me on a 800+ mile round trip journey from DC to Ohio to say bye to my grandma and uncle and put ‘the rest of my life’ in storage. She is a good one, this Gloria. ❤
And now here she was, visiting me in Ghana! YES! Reunion of the most epic kind. Two weeks was simply not enough time. I had to cram as much as was possible into this fortnight. And we do marvelously. Gloria gets to visit seven of Ghana’s ten regions and we get to do a lot of things I had yet to do at all. I loved, even more, getting to do this with my best friend. Some of those things were Mole National Park, the Kristo Buase
Monastery and the Cape Coast castle. I got to take her to Chuck’s on a Friday night (one of my favorite things in all of Ghana), we went to Bolgatanga, where she promptly fell in love with the baskets (knew she would!) and did a day trip to the Koforidua bead market, which she also enjoyed big time. And we did this all on two to three pairs of clothing, tros and overnight buses. We were a delight to everyone’s olfactory systems, no doubt! She did not complain once. Instead, she delighted in riding in a parcel van with no windows and the door wide open, bombing it down the Tamale – Kumasi rd. She’d so do it again – right? Gloria?….hello? :p
There was something else I realized too. So, Gloria is also a Third Culture Kid. That is someone who grows up in a culture different to that of their parents – Gloria is Colombian American and grew up in Peru and the Philippines. And mainly in the Philippines, where her light skin, brown hair and green eyes never went unnoticed. Growing up she had to deal with a ridiculous amount of staring, proposals from strange men and being treated…well…white. At the time, I did not fully recognize why she was treated like this. Obviously it was because she is white (her Latina side is also quite light) but I did not know why that affected how she was treated nor what that meant. It was only having her here in Ghana that I realized that the difficulties I face in Ghana were the same for her in the Philippines.* But I have only been experiencing it since 2015. She had been dealing with it since 1998 (at least). And I call these ‘difficulties’ but what am I, or any non-black foreigner** to Ghana, supposed to expect after centuries of colonialism? Despite the fact that I am brown, in Ghana, I am white. Gloria’s patience and grace is something I need to channel more often. To smile and laugh at the situation more often than not. And always use the experience as an opportunity to teach there is more than black and white.
One thing I wish we got to do more of was spend time in my community. I wanted us to make koko with Fata, batik with Tisug ni Taba and paint world maps at a couple of schools. She is an artist, so that would have helped me out big time. 😉 But then again, when she came, it was still super hot and humid and she seemed to love the kids yelling my local name, Mandiaya. She thinks it is delightful and that I should love it. Heck – she even joined in with the kids. I guess she does have some flaws as my best friend.
*My experiences as a mixed race child in the Philippines are completely different and beyond the scope of this post.
**Being black in Ghana is a completely different experience and not one to be brushed over. Check out PCV Media Ghana’s video on this exact topic, titled Black In Ghana (BIG)