21.10.2002 Feature Article

Abrokyir Nkomo: Matters of the heart

Abrokyir Nkomo: Matters of the heart
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When the Ghanaman travels and settles outside the land of his birth, a lot of matters swim in his head at all times. One issue of great concern is his girlfriend/concumbine back home. Remember her? Yes, the one who clung to you like burnt waakye to the bottom of a cooking pot on the day of your departure and made you promise not to leave her ‘ no parking’. It is not such a big problem if you are married and especially if you have children with her. You are bound together, even if separated by oceans. For the unmarried but attached, it is a different ball game altogether. Some guys prefer to cut such links before they pack their portmanteau en route to Kotoka. Even then, they go about it with diplomatic skills to rival Kofi Annan. ‘Akosua Dwomoh, we have been together a long time. This traveling I am traveling, I do not know when I am coming back, or when I will be able to come for you. I would like us to remain together, but I don’t want to waste your time. If you meet another man who is ready to marry you, please go ahead.’ At which point Akosua, her eyes brimming with tears, vows to wait for you till the end of time, and declares her undying love for you. You don’t believe her. But least you have laid your cards on the table. Within a year of your departure you hear she has married some stupid guy. You feel a pang of jealousy, but you are relieved, in a way. For the not so brave, it is a bit more complicated. You leave things as they are, and promise each other that your love shall not be dimmed by the distance between you, that it shall be as steadfast as the Rock of Zion. Whilst you are away, she comes to receive your calls at the communication center near her house once every week. You spend ages on the phone whispering sweet nothings to each other. She is the sugar in your rice water, the okro in your soup, the palm oil in your yoo-ke-gari. You remit her regularly and she goes to visit your mother from time to time, making sure she stays in the family frame. Last Christmas when she went to visit the old lady, she gave her two chickens and a crate of eggs. The abrewa does not forget to mention her generosity when she sends a recorded cassette to you, praising her to the skies. Indeed, dear reader, this lady is a true Obaa Sima. It has been two or three years since you left home, and you have not been able to go back because you need to sort out a few things. You have tried to get her over here but you know these things are not easy. Your friends are telling you to stop wasting your time, because how can you be sure she is not fooling around all this while you have been away? They tease you because you send her money every month. To them, this is a classic ‘monkey dey work baboon dey chop’ scenario. Dear reader, if there is one thing that petrifies a Ghanaian man abroad, it is spending money getting his ‘beauty tree’ over, only for her to ‘start behaving like a white woman and being too known’. They say all she needs is knowing how to change trains and master the bus network, and you are doomed. They insist that after a while, when her dollar/pound/euro-earning power is established, (and following malicious advice and gossip from fellow Ghanaian women) she will insist on petty things like you doing some of the housework, keeping your bank accounts separate etc. Worse of all, it is said, she will call in the police if you have a little argument, safe in the knowledge that abrokyir police will ask you to leave the house for the night. It is claimed that because the laws of the system protects women, the Ghanaian woman takes full advantage of it. Now she has ‘seen the light’ in Abrokyir. After all, the Ghanaman is king of his house back in his country, and to be reduced to the equal of his wife in another man’s country is not something he relishes. He wants his woman to play her traditional role wherever they are, and any talk of her rights as a woman is irritating. After all, ‘was it you who married her or she who married you?’ But then on the other hand, when in Bukom, you do as the Bukomites do. In any case, the fact that you brought her over does not make her your slave. Whilst you are digesting these possible scenarios if she should come over, her friends back home are telling her not to be a fool, because how does she know you are not married to some white girl over there? You know what men are like, they would whisper to her. But they will not say it too much, for fear of being accused of being ‘skin pain’. Her family are beginning to ask questions and worry, because all her friends are marrying and settling down, yet she still has her sights on a man who is halfway across the world. You consider your options. Do you take your chances with Lolita, the nice Spanish girl you have been bumping and grinding for the past year over here? She is sweet, really. You have told her that Araba Awotwe, whose picture she saw in your album, is actually your cousin. Lolita is madly in love with you and wants you to marry her so you can go to Africa together to meet your family. Now you know your old lady’s position on this subject of white girls. And this one even smokes!! How will you cope with the unavoidable cultural conflicts? Will she be OK with you sending money home to your family all the time? With the inevitable stream of family members and friends from back home staying in your house when in town? In any case, lovely Lolita can only cook paella and Spanish omelettes, whereas what you actually crave for on Sundays is a meal of heavy cannon-sized balls of banku swimming in a sea of thick okro soup, washed down with ice-cold Guinness. So you prepare it yourself, but then the problem is you are utterly useless at cooking, and your banku looks more like koko. As for the okro soup, the less said about it the better. But then, you have a little ‘paper’ problem Lolita could help with…hmm!! Or do you stick with good old Araba, and move heaven and earth to get her here? Araba makes a truly wicked banku(or etsew, as the Fantes call it) dish, but then, man must not live by banku alone. You have known her a long time, and your families know each other. She spends most evenings at your mother’s house. Your mother likes her because she is so nice, helpful and respectful. How will you deal with the guilt of dumping her through no fault of hers? You have kept her waiting for too long. But then on the other hand, what if upon arrival she ends up ‘showing’ you? You have heard some disaster stories. What if, three or four years after her arrival, and two children later, she divorces you, hauls you to court for alimony and obtains court orders limiting access to your own children? Could you forgive yourself? You could, of course, kill two birds with one stone by going in for the ready-made option, i.e a Ghanaian lady who has already moved over. By so doing, you avoid all the trouble with connection men (not forgetting the cost), plus you get your traditional meals anyway. However, be warned: abrokyir –based Ghanaian women can sometimes be more westernised than even the native abrokyir women. And when you are having your inevitable rows, she will remind you that she came to abrokyir on her own, not on the back of your generousity, so you can’t bluff her. If she travelled abroad well before you first saw the inside of an aircraft, you will be reminded of that fact too. Short cuts can be dangerous. There is also the nagging little issue of Ayorkor, who spurned all your advances when you were back home. You really liked her, but she wouldn’t even give you face. Now that you have become a ‘boga’, she has managed to track your address and has been bombarding you with love letters, claiming that she all along loved you, but needed time to think. Yet you chased her for months!! Your brain cells tell you to ignore her, but your groin begs to disagree, albeit slightly… Decisions need to be made fast, for you are not getting any younger. At the end of the day, you have these options Choose Araba, for she will make a good traditional wife. Choose Lolita, for she can help sort out your little problem, and in any case you like ‘half-caste’ kids. You can get traditional meals from any Ghana restaurant. Have your ‘kelewele’ and eat it by deceiving each into thinking she is your sunshine, thereby straddling continents. You can buy time this way. Dump both and go freelance for a while. The ready-made option. She is a home girl, and she is already in town. Become celibate and consider catholic priesthood. (don’t be silly) The Ayorkor option (again, don’t be silly!!) Indeed, dear reader, with these options and other issues out there, it is no wonder the son of man’s mind keeps spinning like an Okomfo possessed. Choices, choices, choices!!

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