Archive for September, 2010

My final days in Ghana pass quickly. The non-stop attention from Ghanaian men propel me to count down the hours to my departure. On my last day in Ghana, I take a five-hour tro-tro and sit next to a young man. I know he will eventually ask for my contact information and mentally prepare by making up a fake email address. He asks me about the process and price of visas to the United States, and then asks for my contact information. It’s been a long day of travelling and I am tired. So I veer from my fake email address game plan and simply say, “Sorry, no.” He won’t take the refusal and keeps pressing me, so I explain to him the cultural differences in the US and that we don’t give our contact information to strangers. The more he pushes me, the more my irritation grows. He finally relents and will instead give me his contact information. And in a burst of my usual bluntness, I tell him I’m not going to contact him which further upsets him. The remaining ride is awkward. When we get to our destination, he asks if he can take a taxi with me to the airport!

My arrival in Greece is discombobulating. After spending two months in Ghana surrounded by Africans, it feels strange to be greeted by a sea of white faces. On the rare occasions that I see a black person, I want to hug them (this is the same way I felt when seeing Asians in Africa). Grecian aromas are heavenly. Everything smells fresh and clean. From the buses to hotels. The lack of plumbing and sewage systems means people urinate everywhere in Ghana. There is no sense of modesty and it’s totally normal to urinate in public places. This means there is a foul smell everywhere, especially on hot, dry days. There are many things I miss about Ghana, but I do not miss the rank smells!

I spend many days doing absolutely nothing. Island hopping from Agristi to Paros to Naxos. Lounging on the beach, swimming in crystal blue-green sea. Eating tzatziki, grilled lamb chops and anchovies. I map out my itinerary to go to Turkey, and visit friends in Italy, Sweden and the Netherlands. Multiple men ask me out on dates. They are old, young, Greek, Abanian and French. They are all mild-mannered and immediately accept my polite refusals, completely different from Ghanaian men.

But then a single email changes everything. My mother tells me she has colon cancer. I read the email hours before I’m going to check out of my hotel and ferry to the next island. I can’t even comprehend what it really means. As I wait for my ferry, I wander idly through the town’s narrow, winding back alleys. I visit a 1700 year old church, and silently plead with God. It’s full of “please-” this and “if-” that: the standard bargaining during times of crisis. I research online about colon cancer and feel a sense of relief as I absorb the information, learning about stages, survival rates and treatment options. I speak to her doctor. And I schedule a flight home to Seattle. My mother is the strongest person I know. It is unfathomable that anything can really happen to her since she is so vibrant. I waver between wondering if I’m in denial, and a deep calming conviction that she will be fine.

I’ve been in Greece for two weeks and haven’t taken a single photo of doors. Tourists usually return home with hundreds of photos of blue doors in white plaster buildings. I thought I had more time. But all I really have is this moment. In this moment, I just want to be home with my mom.

I recently watched a movie about the destruction of the world. The government builds ships to save a small group of people to create a new civilization. At the time, I thought that if I got a plus-one pass to this ship, I would pick my mother. People frequently ask me if I’m homesick. And I’ve honestly answered no. But now that I’m headed home after six months on the road, I realize I am homesick. It’s a very good thing to go home and be with my plus-one.

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