Whilst the first week back in Gbogame flew by, the last week seemed to go the slowest ever at times as you find yourself saying "this time next week we'll be packing/leaving the village/getting on the plane/be landing in England etc etc". It felt like we were just waiting to leave. But then at other times I'd find myself sat on the ol' bamboo bench under the tree thinking about how much we've adapted to being here. I'd look back to how I felt at the beginning-vulnerable, naïve and nervous about how new and intimidating everything seemed. I carefully applied my mozzy replant religiously; tucked my net in with such extreme care it was hard to get out of again; walked to the summer hut or to get water nervously in the dark linked up with torches; drinking water out of a bag and trying to rip the corner off with my teeth without it spilling everywhere; inspecting every indoor area for those ugly, massive, flat, scuttly spiders we spotted on the first night in the village; washing from a bucket outdoors praying no one would peek over…by the end of it, my net was still up but half hung out as I could'nt be bothered tucking it that rigorously in when I was tired; I walked to get water in the dark letting my eyes adjust to the lack of light as I went along; water bags have become so much part of our lives we don't even taste that chlorine taste we despised to begin with; spiders don't bother me-there's one in the toilet but you just kind of sit there as does the spider not bothering one another-we've seen so many strange insects we kind of have got used to just brushing them of us or finding one sat next to your face on the bench; bucket baths have become a luxuary we half look forward to and half can't be bothered with as it actually involves getting a bucket-but chatting to people as you wash your hair, brush your teeth and wash your clothes has become so normal now that doing it in the comfort of my own home/bathroom will feel lonely when I get back!!
We've adapted to village life so much now I wonder if we'll need to adapt back when we go home. The closer it comes to going (tomorrow!!), the more excited I get to see everyone yet there's also that hint of fear creeping up on me that life will feel strange and mundane after this. Something new and out of the ordinary constantly happens here. Being woken by the door flinging open in the middle of the night by a tropical storm and feeling like we'll fly away like Dorothy; getting a massage on the table in the middle of the courtyard in the rain listening to trance after getting a sore back from too much raking; smelling that strong, hot, sweet smell when you reach the top of the mountain; Aunty Peace slipping a bracelet onto my wrist as a parting gift; endlessly bizarre conversations in the summer hut at meal times questioning whether fish have eyelashes; what would happen if cows were extinct and do computer games turn you into a psycho.
Yet amongst this constant flow of sweet, surreal and out of the ordinary moments there is this little tug, this itch pulling me back home. My Aunty Shelia says that no matter where she is in the world she gets that pull back-back to the moors. At the end of the day, homes home. Yes, I miss the luxuries: hot baths, tea leaf tea, freddom to eat what and when I want, my phone, fast internet, my sofa and bed, a change of clothes from the same outfits I've worn over and over again; a washing machine; the freedom of having access to a car and public transport, wine chest. But if these luxuries become so normal again so quickly will I really appreciate them as much as I've missed them? Won't I miss how liberating it is not having a mirror; of being able to throw on whatevers clean and not worry about it being the most mismatched outfit ever seen; the simplicity of village life-the overwhelming generosity of people who have so little in terms of material things yet more of a sense of community, openness and warmth than you'd find in a country of excessive wealth??
It is the biggest cliché to come back from Africa and question the material life we live back home, but I guess this experience has given me that predictable perspective on the culture I was born into. I'm not going to lie, I wouldn't trade in my lifestyle and listed luxuries to live here but it does make me ask a lot of questions. And like I said, home's home, and if I lived here I wouldn't find all these moments so out of the ordinary. They feel fresh and new for us, but for people who live here, I'm sure what we find so fascinating is predictable and everyday. So, I shoudn't fear finding life post-Ghana mundane, as it's not where you are, it's how you look at it. It's only because we come from such a different culture that we see this one with fresh eyes. When I go home, I've got to try and see it as a new country-see all our quirky cultural traits, go to new places, do random things-create these moments rather than waiting for them to happen. People said before coming here that you get out of the experience what you put in-life is what you make it so it's vital that we do the same when we go home, so we don't feel flat! It doesn't matter where you are in the world-like I said, it's how you see it, the people you meet and the people you share it with.
Leaving the village was hard as we ended up leaving earlier than expected and our "goodbyes" were rushed. Saying "bye" to Peace etc felt strange…they were just sat there with their head in their hands, and as the kids all came round the bus Ben was crying and even as I held his hand through the window, I couldn't feel sad as it hadn't sunk it yet. Yet as we drove away, rain pounding down (it's rained a lot recently) waving to the village through the window, I found it all hard to take in.
Well, we're in Accra now, back in the Pink Hostel where it all began. But coming back here after weeks in the village makes it feel like luxury-showers….soft beds!!! Time is flying by more than ever now, but we knew it would right near the end. I can't believe it's all over. I can safely say it's been an experience. There's been a fair share of challenges yet we've all pulled together as a group and took it in turns to pick one another up. I don't think we'll realize how valuable this whole trip has been or how strongly it's impacted us until we're back in the comfort of our homes and have that space to process it all. But I'm definitely so glad I've done it, and would recommend it to anyone!! Snowy Britain…here we come! J