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First Year Blues

 

In my seven years, I will have to say, my first year in Ghana was the harshest, most cruel experience of my life. 

Though I made friends with a few people, I decided to trust the ‘family’ of my father’s new wife, considering the link suggestive of a worthy tie that binds.  I was made to feel like the long lost brother and son of my step-family and was duly directed to various persons that I could trust and go to for guidance.  Most highly recommended in every way, that is, he who could help I with any business, he who could introduce I to anyone, and he who could be trusted like a brother, turned out to be the most insidious, unscrupulous demon of the them all.

Having no knowledge of the magnitude of my holdings, by comparison to those I was being courted, I spoke freely and ignorantly about my plans.  I shared business ideas and solicited estimates on various costs.  They listened intently and keenly, as I naively exposed my worth.  It came to where they wouldn’t let I to do anything of any major feat, without their assistance.  This was very much appreciated, as I was very un-informed about the runnings in Ghana.  I needed the strength.  After leaving and returning from America with my young family (I was 28, the youth 1 & 2), my adopted  ‘family’ picked us up at the airport, with a government minister as chaperone. Nice. 

We landed with all our belongings in 4 bags and the rest on an ocean liner, in route to Ghana.  The house that I rented, was indeed beautiful, but several renovations were not completed, as had been agreed when I paid the bulk of the first year’s rent.  Bathroom tiles were filthy, mosquito nets missing and the security bars not in place. It was no coincidence that our landlord was a friend of the ‘family’.  It turned out, he was cocaine dealer, with no conscience and no ethics and new money.  It also turned out that the part of East Legon that we lived, consisted of many of these type of characters.  The first house built in our immediate vicinity is called America House because the woman, a known coke transporter, made her money from several trips to America and built a massive palace in the style of an American house, in what was, 25 years ago, bush. 

So we were here in this paradise, surrounded by snakes in our garden.  Once we settled in, we tried to acquire assistance to help with the small renovations, some interior cleaning and gardening.  Needless to say, our ‘family’ sent help for the house and we sought our own help with the youth.  A most important lesson I learned in retrospect, was how little we knew about the people, but how much they knew about us.  Coming from America we were extremely naïve.  Growing in America’s sub-culture is like growing in a bubble, sheltered from the world’s realities.  Most, if not all of what we were taught about the world outside of America is a lie.  All this to say,  I sought to find help from people very ready to help.  I found the pool of probable employees all too agreeable, seemingly humble and sincerely wanting to serve.  I was unable to read the hidden agendas written all over their faces.

At this time, my family and I were getting tired of living out of suitcases and eager to fill this big new house with our expected furniture.  We were ready to venture beyond the limitations of our compound, with the arrival of our car, packed in along with the rest of our belongings.  Just anxious to start living.  It had been almost 2 months before our ship finally docked and another 3 weeks before our agent could figure that out.  The worst ordeal of my life started when I began the pursuit of retrieving our goods.  Little did I know, this is where you go to get your every last tooth pulled, starting with your agent.  Everyone knows how badly a person wants their ‘stuff’, so they pull and pull, tugging at what ever you have, extracting fees, bribes and whatever else they could get in the process.  Already 3 months living out of suitcases, 2 small children and eager to clear my tools for starting gainful employment, I dipped, time and time again, into our dwindling savings.  This ordeal would  take no less than 4 weeks!  On the day of the final clearing, my ‘good friend’ was right there, ‘helping’ to get the customs agents to come down on the fees, while they took all our belongings out of the container and spread them out on the docks, for all to see.  Everyone was busy making lists of our shit!

With 2 truckloads, we finally pulled into the house, with no small parade, to unload our goods.  While unloading, I learned, that some of our ‘family and friends’ started taking things right there.  Exhausted, I simply left everything in the living and dining rooms.  Almost all of it, television, stereo, appliances, furniture, computers, etc. were new, still in their original boxes.  The next day I woke, thrilled, like a child on Christmas day, just going through my things, taking inventory and giving thanks.  The day after that, I woke to find half of it gone!  Devastated and speechless, I walked into the living room, still half asleep, and noticed the spaces between the boxes and the opened sliding door.  Nothing could have prepared I for this.  I would see my ‘friend’ one more time and never again.  The ‘family’ showed all kinds of concern and even offered to help with security. The fuckers.  I found myself extremely vulnerable, totally unfamiliar with my environment, no reliable confidants and no trusted soldiers.  I turned to one of those security firms and hired toy-cops to sleep in my compound, then put two of my own sentries in the living room, while I adjusted my own sleeping habits.   My first introduction to the real Ghana began then, and though it would still be a long time before I got a grip on what was really going on around I, I was forced to buckle down and pay closer attention to everyone and everything.  The stage was set with a different backdrop and the lure far more seductive, but the place and the people were no less dangerous than those I left, rather wicked and sinister, I would learn, though apparently harmless. 

Within the first year, the fiendish landlord attempted to eject I and my family unjustifiably. Apparently, he was eager to go after the higher rent that he could now fetch after I completed some renovations on his house.  During this time he made several visits to the house, at odd hours, threatening my wife in my absence.  Alone and puzzled, in my office after one of his such visits, I cried my first tears in Ghana.  The shit just didn’t make any sense.  Why was this happening? I lamented to my Creator for over an hour, over the harshness of my circumstances and the abandonment I felt.

Needless to say, the first year was the most difficult physically as well, which would have been more bearable if we didn’t have two infants to constantly worry about.  At first, we ran to the hospital for every little thing and spent countless hours praying for our children’s health.  With money spending like water flows from a drain I soon realized I was broke.  Even though the majority of my working tools were not stolen, my business plan had lacked in serious areas and was not viable.  No money was coming in.  The security I once offered my wife was now in question and my apparent helplessness, unattractive.  Our relationship took a serious dive, from which it would never recover, as she sought to protect herself, no longer having faith in my ability to protect her.

This and more, all in the tumultuous first year.  The years that followed immediately after, weren’t much easier, however, the greater part of the shock  was absorbed in the first year.  I eventually found true and trust worthy allies.  I have also lent my experiences to a few Repatriates that have avoided many of my difficulties and have gone on to prosper without paying huge initiation fees.

That was then, this is now, seven years later and I am no longer the green banana sticking out of a yellow bunch, nor have I run back to my oppressors for refuge.  My ascension began after my fall was complete and the first year was definitely The Test.

 

 

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