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Gates of Ghana, Hear our cry
From a distant land, afar
Tomorrow, may we awake in Accra

“Hello lady, can I help you with your luggage? Those bags must weigh two tonnes!”

Ababuo turns back in search of the strange voice. Wow! An albino in Ghana!? She thought to herself. “My name is Appiah, may I know the name that suits this beautiful face?” the albino adds as he reaches to relieve the young lady of the heavier of the two bags.”

“I am Ababuo,” she smiles revealing her endearing dimples.

“What a coincidence! That’s my grandmother’s first name. Where are you headed?”

“I am looking for the GUFFS hostel.”

“Oh! You must be fresh on campus. That hostel is popularly known as Brunnei…” Appiah seems to be really popular here because almost every twenty seconds, someone calls out to greet him. If it is not one beautiful girl, it is a group of young guys strolling together, or some non-teaching staff… Light rays from the midday sun collapse midway on the albino’s bald head and Ababuo thinks she can see pieces of her own image staring back at her. She remembers how when she was only five, she thought Albinos were from Albania. Albania, a country she discovered in one of Papa’s big books, the one that contains the maps of the world. After some minutes of walking, Appiah announces, “Welcome to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana!”

“Ababuo!” Mama’s voice tolls from the back yard. “Aba-buo-oo…!” she calls a second time, then a third, her voice now approaching a crescendo.

“Mama… I’m coming!” Ababuo snaps out of her dream. She crawls out of the old rusty bed, accompanied by the jingling of tarnished springs, dislocated out of joint. Tired and still sleepy, she yawns and squints in the dark room. She feels the side of the bed, and the window sill for the torch. Outside the window, the day has suddenly sung itself into evening. The evening comes in slow steps, its star silvery and solitary on the girdle of the early night. She saunters out of the door, into the dark night which now engulfs the backyard like the devil’s parcel. She staggers and navigates the curved path to the kitchen, amidst rooms unconventionally scattered on both sides of the tiny passage. She walks somewhat unsteadily like a blind man feeling his way. She is led by a glimpse of the red glow of kerosene lantern down the path and the beam of light from her torch.

Night falls upon us

Photo Credit: Tosin Poluyi

As she draws close, the sweet aroma of peanut soup wafts along with intrusive smoke from the cramped dingy kitchen. “The soup is ready. Let’s make the fufu.” Mama pours the boiled starchy cassava and plantain into the giant, wooden mortar and pounds it into a glutinous mass, stirring to the limits of her endurance. She dumps a cup of the mixture into a wet bowl. Ababuo shakes the dough almost till eternity until it forms a smooth ball with sticky, slightly resilient consistency. She serves the fufu on five platters alongside the peanut soup. She takes Papa’s dish – the largest of all the platters – into the living room, and makes for the frontage where Papa and her two siblings are seated. Under the moonlight, Papa, a poor pensioner and head of a family scraping by on a single income, shares banters and stories from the good old days with friends. The kids in the compound listen, enthralled by the golden gloom of the past and the bright-hued hope of the future. They also enjoy the stories about Anansi, the legendary spider. She walks at an even clip towards her father, takes a turn around him, and whispers to him from behind, Papa your favourite is ready. Papa smacks his lips, then brings his Ghana-Must-Go story to a close and excuses himself. Five minutes later, power supply is restored to the street. Everybody, young and old, diffuses into thin air.

Two hours later, darkness descends on the community! The television flickers into nothingness. Ceiling fans whirr to a stop. Ababuo sighs, gasps, and laments as she reaches for the match box. She lights the kerosene lantern and her candle, opens the windows, and lifts the curtain for a release of fresh air from the street. The air is raw and pointed. She studies strenuously for another hour before the candle chills out. She cringes with pain in her heart. The stifling room continues to heat up as the smell of fossil fuels laces the air. At 12 am, the wail of a trio of power-generating engines in the compound gives way to the loud singing from a Pentecostal church, four blocks away. They must have started another series of vigils. Ababuo slips under the clammy sheets. She catches a glimpse of her Ghana-must-go bag as she tries to find sleep on the wafer-thin mat. Then she sees rivulets joining into streams on the forehead of every occupant in the room.

Many times, she wishes Papa had left when her people were forced out of this country. She hears of her native land’s progressive strides, how even Nigerians are now trooping to tap into the good of 21st century Ghana, and the fast pace of economic and educational development back home. She has learnt to see in the dark and think through the noxious fumes. Every day, she prays for success in her final secondary school exams and hopes for a bright future in a Ghanaian University. As she finally surrenders to a fitful sleep, Appiah the albino turns to her, “So Ababuo, what course have you been admitted to study?”