09.12.2002 Feature Article

Abrokyir Nkomo: Holiday Blues

Abrokyir Nkomo: Holiday Blues
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It has been a while in Obroniland, and now thank God, you are going back home for a holiday. You have been 'meaning' this trip for a long time. Naturally, as a Ghanaian, you have excess luggage, even if you are travelling on Ghana Airways, with its generous 40-kilo limit. As the aircraft begins its final descent, you peer out of your window to see the carpet of flickering lights below. Accra by night looks so pretty and charming from the air. Well, nowhere as bright as New York or London. From the sky it looks as if all lights in Ghana have a wattage of nothing more than 10, or that the power supplied is somewhat corrupted. But home sweet home-welcome to Kotoka, ladies and gentlemen. The first thing to hit you as you descend the steps of the aircraft is the whiff of hot air, but the less one talks of the ensuing sweat the better. Forget your white cotton handkerchief. This calls for a beach towel. The heat is merciless. When you go home on holiday, you could easily delude yourself into thinking you were some sort of celebrity or royal. Inside the terminal building, strangers materialize from thin air offering to clear you quickly through arrivals. Porters scramble over each other to carry your luggage to the car park. Dear reader, it would be a grave error to assume they are charity workers, for their noses are finely tuned to smell your dollars and euros, and they are eager to milk the money cow (i.e., you). And when you eventually get home from the airport with the delegation that came to meet you, the whole family assembles to greet and welcome you. If you live in a family compound house, then it is a mini-scramble as long-forgotten assorted relatives scamper out of the woodwork to see you. A few babies may have materialized in the household since your departure. Your mother beams with pride, and commandeers a standing fan to cool you down before you go through the 'akwaaba' formalities. You may feel slightly embarrassed by all this attention, but never mind. Do enjoy your celebrity status while it lasts, for back in abrokyir, you don't usually get this sort of red carpet treatment. Much as they are really happy to see you, there is always a silent (and sometimes not silent!) question-'what did you bring for me?' Do not try the old tired excuse-that you shipped your things and they have not arrived yet, for no one will believe you, and you will be known as 'boga-my-things-have-not-come'!! Dear reader, the Ghanaian has been primed to figure out a 'boga 'when he sees one. Even if you wear 'Adjoa Yankey' shirts and ordinary jeans, you will be fished out. It is the little things that give you away- the various cedi notes confuse you; you are always complaining about the heat; you unconsciously say 'dollars' when you mean to say cedis, and instead of water in sachets, you carry bottled water. Even when you speak your local language, you unwittingly speak with a 'brofolised' accent! Taxi drivers in particular possess this detection radar, and will try to make a quick fortune out of you by quoting outrageous prices when you take a 'dropping'. After all, goes their logic, you must be iced over in dollars, which when melted into cedis, would need a wheelbarrow to carry. You tend not to argue too much, especially when you mentally convert the cedis back into foreign exchange-it's mere pocket change to you. However, never assume, on this basis, that life in Ghana is easy. It is not. During your visit home, you are hardly alone.. You always have an entourage in tow. Old friends are eager to go out with you for goat meat khebabs and booze at Abrantee Spot, to share old memories, and to listen to your abrokyir 'toli'. Of course, the bill is all yours. Mere old acquaintances suddenly invite themselves to be your best buddies. Girls who would not give you the light of day before you traveled abroad would cheerfully sell their grandmothers to be with you. Dear reader, do you recall Pat Thomas' song 'Sika Ye Mogya'? Once upon a time, before you spread your wings and flew away, your views hardly mattered when it came to family issues. Now that you are back home with dollar power, you have suddenly become an oracle, and your wise opinion is sought on every matter. No important family decision gets taken without your views. After all, have you not been sending money home for the bills and school fees? What if you 'vex' and withdraw your funding? Although you may be talking rubbish, they have to swallow it, even if they choke in the process. Our elders say that when your hand is lodged in someone's mouth, you do not hit that person on the head. You are seen as a gold mine during your visit. People come to you with all their financial 'wahala'. If you think changing $100 will last you a week in HIPC Ghana, you are very very wrong!! You are further perceived as a travel consultant, with friends seeking help with invitation letters, and recounting their abrokyir dreams to you. Suddenly, it is time to fly back. God, you have been having so much fun living the high life. You have had maidservants and houseboys at your beck and call, doing your washing, ironing, cooking and cleaning. You have done the beaches, the posh restaurants, nice bars and clubs, not forgetting the exotic weekend at Akosombo Volta Hotel. You have really chilled out. Yet only diamonds are forever. One final thing-do expect to come back with very few of your personal effects, for your friends and family will strip you of everything before you leave. After all you can always buy new ones when you go back, they argue. Dear 'boga', next time you go home, do observe something at Kotoka airport on your way back. You can tell the first time traveler from the 'boga'. The first-time travelers cannot hide their excitement. The 'boga' tends to have a face as long as the evening shadows, and you can tell he is not looking forward to the trip back. The celebrity road show is over, and it's back to the daily humdrum. As you fly out of Accra, your mind is usually firmly fixated back home, and you keep re-living the lovely time you had. Be ready for post-holiday blues. “There is no place like home/home sweet home/when I go south, north, east or west/I will always come back home.” Edvy Edna Ogoli's song does indeed drive the point home!!

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