By a couple days after my first visit to my old neighborhood, I was absolutely loving being back in Ghana, loving feeling so independent here, and, most of all, LOVING being fully immersed within a writing retreat. There was so much to say – both to myself, to help me understand and move on, and to everyone else, because I had very clearly been feeling the need to share myself lately. It was because I was so loving the uninterrupted time alone to work with all the writing that I began to wonder if two weeks in Ghana would be long enough.
This was a Tuesday, a particularly quiet day. The weekend had been so terribly loud, and now, after so many people had cleared out on Monday, the village felt blissfully relatively empty and quiet. In retrospect, it was the quiet that allowed me to even consider staying longer, to think that perhaps two weeks might not be long enough for me to spend here – only because there was so very much writing work to be done, and this was the perfect opportunity for it, and meanwhile I might also still need a few more exploratory missions to my old site.
These thoughts emerged after my daily exploration had taken me to Big Milly’s, the old guesthouse – the only guesthouse that was here in the village before, where I had spent my first two or three nights upon my arrival in 1999, before finding a bungalow to rent further down the road towards AAMA. Back then it had been the main (or perhaps only) place to go to socialize, and now it seemed to be known for its “Reggae Night,” held every weekend, so I had been assuming that the place gets fairly packed on weekends. This quiet day had seemed like the perfect time to check it out.
In all my explorations thus far, in all I had seen of Kokrobite, so far this, the original guesthouse, Big Milly’s, also known back then as Wendy's Place, was the one thing that I found to look somewhat the same, to have remained at least somewhat unchanged. Yes, it was more crowded with structures now – a surf school, a shop, etc.; but the guest-room structures looked the same; the bar, though looking very updated, was at least in the same place it used to be; and the restaurant… the restaurant looked exactly as I remembered it – it was the same open-air structure, up a short flight of steps, it had the same big thatched roof, the same sandy floor, same long wooden tables and benches. This was where I met Koro, where we had our first, exceedingly long conversation, where he showed up and sat down at the table with me and my travel buddy after we had eaten dinner, on our second night there, and began to talk and talk and talk and talk. And then he talked some more. And then he continued to talk extremely late into the night, long after the travel buddy had excused himself to go to sleep. There we sat – right over there. And here I was now, sitting at one of the tables, with a view out to the ocean – and it was all the same. And I did not feel any sadness.
After making a very specific and simple special-order food request from the kitchen, I ended up having a long talk about diet with a woman working there, who surprised me with the fact that she had tried out vegetarianism, veganism, and even raw foods and juicing – that she had learned about all these things there in Ghana. Vegetarianism was somewhat common amongst the Rastas, but not the mainstream Ghanaian population (and sure enough, she explained that while she had felt great, she had found all of these diets too difficult to stick to while surrounded by family and friends always eating the usual very heavy and meat-oriented Ghanaian diet); but it was really her interest in raw foods and juicing and the health aspect of it all that surprised and inspired me. Maybe some positive, conscious changes had taken place on the health front while I had been away… Eventually I told her about being here eighteen years ago; and when I asked if Wendy, an older English woman, who had been very kind to me before, was still the owner of this place, she said, "Oh yes, she is sitting and eating just outside there – let me take you to her..."
Wendy, of course, did not remember me, or even Koro, but she invited me to sit down and join her and we had a nice talk. When I told her that I had originally come here to study dance, she informed me that the local group with whom I used to study is still going strong. And when I mentioned my particular teacher by name, she informed me that she thinks Yaa has been living in America for a long time now. Then I stopped to consider whom else she might know. And this is how I found out that… Ernest is still around.
Ernest, a musician who had been a friend of Koro’s closest friends in Accra, had been the owner of the land on which Koro and I had lived, and I thought perhaps Wendy might know him because he had frequented this place so often. Yes, she did remember Ernest, and she said he was living somewhere around these parts, with a Swiss woman.
…I would love to find Ernest, I thought. Does he perhaps still own that land? He had never lived there, back in the day, because it was too undeveloped – there was no water, and he didn’t want to carry water as we did. I had figured for sure he would have sold it by now and the shack would have been torn down to make way for some big house, like all the others that have popped up everywhere around here. …But wow… now… for one night, at least, before going to explore more the following day, I would hold onto this glimmer of a possibility that he actually kept that land, that it was still out there, somewhat undeveloped...
Aharona Shackman has used writing as her primary practice for connecting with the Self pretty much since she learned to write. With the commencement of this blog, she is now beginning to practice the sharing of some of her writing...