As tear-jerkers go, a tub of Vaseline® is not one to bring out the waterworks. Recently though, it came perilously close to doing just that.
I took it out of the side pocket of my handbag, and was momentarily surprised to see that it wasn't the usual jelly-like glob it had been over the past two weeks under the Ghanaian sun - the one where if I wasn't careful whilst opening, a dollop would drop and land on my lap, and for the rest of the day, you just knew people would be darting questioning looks at the suspicious stain on the thigh of your jeans. No. It had hardened under the cooler British weather. And even though I was at London Heathrow when I made that discovery (signs that I'd really left Ghana), it was my little brown tub of Vaseline which was the proverbial last straw that broke the camel's back. It meant my trip to Ghana was really and truly over for now.
What a country! Surprising. Captivating. Confounding. Baffling. Beautiful. Our star is shining brightly in the firmament, an oasis of peace and stability in a volatile region with political unrest. This is not to say that all is hunky-dory in Ghana, for that would be a gross untruth. To take giant steps in building and sustaining the economy, the nation needs to project its key investment opportunities in Tourism, Oil and Gas, Real Estate and Agriculture, to name a few. We are developing fast, and with each passing day the country welcomes tourists who want to bask in the charm that is Ghana. It is therefore encouraging that more and more airlines are scrambling to get a piece of the Ghana cake. Iberia are the latest to pitch camp ostensibly from October 2011. This makes the country accessible as a year round travel destination from any corner of the planet. Ghana is a goldmine of rare natural and human resources, and each region has its own magnetic pull which, if harnessed effectively, could be one of the fundamental steps towards the reduction of poverty. It is a nation-building exercise that, little by little, will put Ghana on the map as the successful Black Star of Africa. With God on our side, we will attain heights greater than we imagined.
I'd like to choose my favourite moment of the entire trip...but why would I? Each memory seems more precious than the next. I could tell you about how happy I was to see family, friends - old and new - or how I sealed my status as a bona fide 'wanderer'. I could yet laugh over little incidences such as:
* the taxi driver who INSISTED on buying me ice cold water because of the sweltering heat, and then added, 'how many taxi drivers can say they've bought you water before?'. Huh. Perspective.
* the haberdasher at Kaneshie Market from whom I bought rolls of wool for crocheting, and, in the process, rashly promised to teach how to crochet a bag...who then proceeded to bombard me with calls for the rest of my time in Ghana. Perhaps I shouldn't have made that decision at the point of sale...
* another taxi driver who, after agreeing to a 5GH₵ charge for a journey, threatened a little too darkly for comfort: 'there's so much traffic in town, my sister, I won't even have to tell you to add an extra 2GH₵ when we get there.' Oh. So it won't be 5GH₵, then?
* the Asante 'dokono' seller in Kumasi who added two balls of kenkey at no extra charge. It's the sort of random act of kindness that strangers may extend towards you in Ghana 'just because'. It warmed the cockles of my heart.
* the female official at Kotoka Airport who, after frisking me at the security checkpoint to ensure I wasn't carrying any contraband goods on my person, smiled and said, 'Nice shape!'
...but, like I said, it would be difficult to choose just one.
Up until the last moments when I bounded down the stairs to the shuttle bus waiting to ferry us to the airplane on the tarmac at Kotoka, I wanted to shout, 'No, wait! I've left my passport!' Actually I was thinking something more melodramatic like, 'I left my heart in Ghana!'
It's an enduring love affair. And so the words to the song 'Till we meet again' is fitting somewhat:
'Smile the while you kiss me sad adieu
When the clouds roll by I'll come to you,
Then the skies will see more blue,
Down in lovers lane my dearie,
Wedding bells will ring so merrily,
Every tear will be a memory,
So wait and pray each night for me,
Till we meet again.'
Goodbye Ghana. It's been real.