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Opinions of Friday, 7 May 2004

Columnist: Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng

Efie Nkomo: Back to Battan

Dear reader, all too soon, my holiday in Ghana is over. I am far from amused. I mean, how did the days metamorphose into weeks and whiz by right under my nose? I have a strong suspicion that someone tampered with the calendar to bring my departure date forward. I intend to unearth the saboteur sometime soon, but that can wait for the moment.

As I pack my suitcase, I cast my mind back to my time in Ghana. I have gone through a myriad of tricky situations-being stranded on a lonely bush road at night due to a punctured tyre, nearly getting run down by a crazy taxi driver who was probably high on some illegal substance, right through to being frustrated to my wits? end by incompetent officials, among others. But I have also enjoyed the kindness and warm hospitality of complete strangers (something I could hardly hope for in England), and I have most definitely enjoyed the relatively sedate pace at which life proceeds in the motherland.

It would be insulting and totally churlish to assume that just because you go home on holiday with a fistful of dollars to burn and thereby throw your weight about means ?Ghana is sweet?. On a visit home you may easily spend fifty thousand cedis on about seven or eight bottles of beer for friends without a second?s thought. ?After all, it?s only $5 or so?, you may say, rather dismissively. Yet this can feed a man, his wife and two children for a couple of days or even more in certain parts of Ghana. To the ordinary man, life is a harsh war zone, and keeping body and soul together is a titanic struggle. Ask the shoeshine boys, ?tro-tro? mates, street hawkers, and especially the hordes of unemployed young men and women who live each day wondering where their next meal will come from. Civil servants, teachers, nurses and ordinary public workers deserve special tribute, doing what they do with the abysmal pay conditions thrust on them.

Before arriving in Ghana, I had resolved to see as much of the country as I possibly could. And so I tried to visit most of the major attractions. I thought it was ridiculous that most of my non-Ghanaian friends who had visited Ghana knew more places in the country than I did, and I wanted to reverse that anomaly. It turned out to be a whole new voyage of discovery, for I was able to see the country from a totally different perspective. I scoured the country all the way from the Cape Coast Castle by the sea to the crocodile lake at Paga in the north. In so doing I experienced the great diversities of our motherland that still bind us together as one nation and one people with a common destiny.

I have stocked up on some delicacies and other essentials: a couple of tubers of yam, some dried fish, a gallon of zomi palm oil, a few ?olonkas? of gari, a number of batik tops to wear in the summer, and some wood carvings for a few work colleagues. My plastic red-and-white checked bag is heaving and groaning with the weight. I fervently hope I will not exceed the weight limit when I check in. I know that when I get back, a few of my friends will descend on me like a pack of hyenas and harass me for some smoked ?akrante?, smacking their lips with greedy anticipation, their eyes glinting like little diamonds?

Let me unearth the things I buried in a drawer after my arrival in Ghana -my house keys, passport, air ticket and credit cards. These items are a reminder of the other me, the undeniable fact I am split between two entirely different continents, and yet belong to neither in its entirety. Much as I call Ghana home, there are times when I feel (and I am treated) like a stranger when I come here, and related to as such, maybe unfairly. Perhaps some would say one cannot eat one?s ?bofrot? and have it. I say that you cannot take out your intestines and replace them with grass. My heart belongs home.

I arrive at the airport, wheeling my suitcase along. My heart is heavy, like the condemned man being led to the Teshie firing range. I sigh with resignation, for the die is cast. The aircraft, a gleaming white metal bird, beckons forlornly, bathed in the soft yellow lights sweeping down the tarmac. When shall I return for another pilgrimage to the sacred land of my ancestors? I know not, for a trip home requires a fair amount of planning, plus the generosity of your employer in allowing you to take your holidays in bulk. And cold, hard cash, of course.

I can hear the announcement on the public address system. ?Passengers travelling to London on Flight BA081, please proceed to Boarding Gate 1?. So let me breathe in the native air properly one last time. Let me soak in the ambience yet again, even as I clamber up the steps into the aircraft, to be greeted by the cabin attendants wearing their perennial plastic smiles of welcome. And as the plane thunders down the runway and slices upwards through the night sky, I will look down wistfully onto the carpet of blinking lights below, a smile dancing on my lips, my experiences imprinted indelibly in my mind.

Tomorrow morning, I arrive at Heathrow airport. I am back to work the next day. The worst part of a holiday is the first few days-or even weeks- of your return, when it takes the stamina of a Kenyan marathon runner to pull yourself to work, plus the tedium of work itself once you get there.

But then, dear reader, I console myself with the timeless clich?: ?All good things must come to an end?. With the notable exception of the Kingdom of God, of course. My friend, Osofo Prophet ?Dr?. Elijah Nankaba, of Living Faith Temple, Gomoa Potsin, Central Region, will readily confirm this.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.