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Africa Travel

Visiting Africa for the First Time

  • February 23, 2023
  • 32 min read
Visiting Africa for the First Time

It is not common for Americans to visit Africa, and that includes African-Americans. In fact, despite my own personal Afrocentric leanings, the idea never really crossed my mind until I happened to come across an advertisement for a ‘Study Trip to Ghana’ during my university years. 

I was an anthropology major with a minor in Africana Studies. But still, I just happened to come across that flyer by chance, which was not marketed to me directly but rather posted on the anthropology department’s billboard. And as for the group that did end up making the trip, which was composed of individuals from different universities, there were only about 10 of us in total.

Of course a lot has changed since then, i.e. the late 1990s. Now the world has become more globalized and connected, and certain African countries, such as Ghana, occasionally trend. Now in the 21st century there are also more foreign Black celebrities coming over, the most recent as of this writing being Meek Mill. But still, even if there has been an uptick in visitations percentage-wise, people coming to the Motherland, especially from all the way over on the other side of the Atlantic, isn’t really that common.

Dr. Wentworth Ofuatey-Kodjoe

Many, if not most who do come from that far away already have African ties. For instance, the professor behind the ‘Study Trip to Ghana’, the late Dr. Wentworth Ofuatey-Kodjoe, on top of being a SUNY (State University of New York) professor was also a prominent Ghanaian.

If I remember correctly, his late mother’s image was on one of the Ghanaian currencies back in the days. And when we came over, his brother was the manager of the since-demolished Shangri-La Hotel, which at its time was perhaps the most-poppin’ hotel in Ghana’s trendy airport area. So of course that was the first place we stayed when we landed in late 1998.

Food in the Motherland (Africa)

The Shangri-La may have been relatively-inexpensive as far as American dollars go but costly when measured in the local currency. For example, I do recall a small, palm-sized bag of “groundnuts”, i.e. what they call peanuts in Ghana, being five times costlier in the hotel than outside. But that said, those proved like the best peanuts I ever had – well-cooked, very crunchy and most notably fresh. 

My mom used to boil peanuts, which are healthier than the ones you buy processed and pre-packaged. But still, being born and raised in the concrete jungle of New York City, that was the first time I tasted fresh-from-the-farm peanuts or even, now that I think about it, truly fresh food in my life. And it was a blast.

I can’t remember all I ate during that trip, but what I do recall was there being a general lack of availability as far as Western foods, i.e. those that I was accustomed to, were concerned. But what I did eat, such as the chocolate or fried fish, felt vastly different from what I was used to not only in style but also taste, due primarily to the freshness. And as for those peanuts, which the hotel tempted you with by placing them inside of the room, I’ll remember eating those for the rest of my life.

Money in the Motherland

Money is one thing you’re always mindful of when a novice in places like Africa, because chances are that the currency from your homeland is a lot more valuable. In those days especially, most of the stuff you buy didn’t have marked prices. They do have pre-determined – but not marked prices. Therefore when someone hears your accent, you can bet that in many cases you will be charged more than a local or someone who knows what time it is.

Incredibly cheap and delicious food

Whether or not such mark ups are justifiable is a perspective. Due to my educational background, I was well aware that as an American, I was inherently the beneficiary of a neocolonial system that exploits places like Africa. But at the same time, it isn’t as if I had anything personally to do with creating that system. So whenever someone would do something like that, it felt weird, to say the least, like I felt they were overcharging me. It was really a weird sensation (for lack of a better way of putting it), one that I wasn’t used to since where I come from, prices most often aren’t negotiable.

But for the most part, you’ll be amazed how much cheaper things are here than in the West. One example I recall is me and a likeminded member of my group, whom I will get more into later, going out to score some blaze. 

We were able to buy a very-large amount for practically nothing, compared to how much it costs in the States. Maybe the guy who sold it added an extra cost on top, but still, against the power of US Dollars such minor additions didn’t matter. In fact the seller – who was holed up in some bush off the main road, away from the prying eyes of law enforcement – was happy just to greet foreign customers that day. And I perceived that peacefulness to be the communal spirit of Africa, because if an outsider were to wander into an obscure part of New York City looking for a “spliff”, he or she can easily end up getting robbed or wounded.

The corruption

But the dollar and other such currencies in Africa are like both a blessing and curse. For instance, the first person I remember speaking to me once I got off the plane was an airport employee who, in the process of checking my papers, asked “where’s my Christmas gift?” 

We had arrived during the Yuletide season, which would explain that query on one hand. But on the other hand, I didn’t know “homegirl” from Adam.

What I quickly came to realize, of course, is that she was asking for money. Where I came from dirty people on the street ask for money, not employees of an institution like an international airport. But Africa is different, being a continent where it’s more difficult to make dough than in the First World. And that’s something that becomes increasingly apparent the longer you stay. 

So whereas I didn’t judge “homegirl”, what she said was still a lot different than the ‘welcome home, brother’ I was expecting as an Afrocentric.

Traders selling stuff on the streets

Another thing you’ll probably see in Africa for the first time, especially if you’re from the West, is people carrying items, sometimes even extremely large and/or heavy packages, on their heads. When you land, it will most likely be in a major city. 

So even while riding down the road, you’ll see street hawkers carrying drinking water or what have you, even rushing your vehicle at some major junctions, especially if you’re on a tour bus that’s clearly full of foreigners, as we were. 

Some of these hawkers will also likely be children. That was actually my first glimpse of African poverty if you will, because you can swiftly calculate that given the cost of the item against the frequency it’s being sold, these sellers aren’t, excuse my French, making sh*t.  Also jumping in and out traffic, as they do, is intrinsically dangerous. So logic would dictate that a child wouldn’t be out there doing something like that unless he or she had to.

Availability of American goods

I also remember that American goods were just as valuable, if not more, than dollars themselves. That makes sense because having dollars in your pocket is one thing, but actually having access to covetable foreign goods is another. So I was able to trade clothes I brought over for some items, if I remember correctly, like arts and crafts to give to my mom.

Of course when you’re unfamiliar with the system but the other trader isn’t, then you’re destined to get taken advantage of. For example, there’s no way to truly know how much the dollar or pound or Euro is worth in Africa just by spending a few days or weeks there. But in some cases it’s all good, because by paying marked-up prices you’re looking out for the other person anyway. 

Even the most unsympathetic visitor can readily perceive that surviving in Africa is a lot tougher than it is in richer countries. So some foreigners tend to be pretty charitable, with quite a few coming over for that specific purpose.

So all things considered, if you’re visiting Africa for a short amount of time, how much people charge you for goods and services isn’t really going to matter. In fact due to all of the relative-suffering you see, you may even be inclined to pay extra. But if you come on a budget, people constantly finding ways to take more from you can prove annoying.

Romantic Interests in the Motherland

I’ll admit that when I first came over I wasn’t drawing a lot of romantic interest for a number of reasons. 

At the top of list would be the combination of me being unfamiliar with the system and also not flossin’. This was very much during my earthier days, which is the kind of spirit one usually must possess in order to come to the Motherland. 

So I remember this gang of female reporters came to interview our group, but none of them asked me anything. I guess the way I appeared to them was in stark contrast to what they expected from an African-American, since the only ones they tend to be familiar with, especially in those days before the internet, are the likes of rappers and other rich Black folk. In fact going back to the subject of money, that very issue, i.e. Africans generally believing that everyone from the First World is well-to-do, can lead to further misunderstandings.

African Women

I did notice some women of course, but my mind wasn’t really there. At the time, I had a girlfriend in the States that I was very much in love with. Also the whole time in Africa, since we were only there for a couple of days, was as if I were a newborn baby. 

Everything was new to me, an inquisitive student, and there was a sensory overload, so it wasn’t like I was particularly inclined to think about sex or romance outside of the one I was already in. For instance, I remember this one particular episode where we were in the tour bus going down a large, busy road in Accra, and a dirty herd of wild sheep or goats just popped up out of nowhere and started dangerously making their way across the road. The locals didn’t really look twice, except for drivers trying not to run them over. But as for me, like up until that point I’d never seen a sheep or goat in my life, let alone a gang of them crossing a major city intersection.

That Woman

A couple of girls in the group did garner notable romantic interest though. One of them, just to be blunt, would be considered obese stateside. But one night when we visited this night club in Accra, we literally had to fight dudes off of her. There were other girls in the group who, by American standards, were a lot sexier but not garnering anywhere near as much romantic attention.

Now that may sound like a comical or insignificant experience, but witnessing that phenomenon is when I truly understood that there’s a difference between book learning and actually seeing what you read play out on the field. In other words, being a student of cultural anthropology, of course I already knew that different cultures also had their respective worldviews. 

Actually seeing that with my own eyes – i.e. someone who would be considered unattractive in one place being deemed the bomb in another – really blew my mind and made me understand that their truly are vast perspectives out there in the world, and that all people do not think like yours or mine do. 

On one hand, I know that sounds like simple logic but on the other, actually experiencing that with your own eyes, after you’ve been taught to think a certain way your entire life, can be perspective-shattering.

That Special Woman

There was also this other girl in the group I fell in love with. My girlfriend at the time who was back at home, like I wasn’t thinking about breaking up with her or anything like that. But I have come to realize since that we weren’t what you would call kindred spirits. But as for this particular study-trip classmate of mine, we were more alike than we were different.

And when I say I fell in love with her, it wasn’t like I made a move or tried to hookup. It was more akin to me taking her as a sister. For instance, I remember this Ghanaian we met somewhere was about to get hot and heavy with her, but I shut that down. 

And again, it wasn’t like I was cockblocking or intending to do her myself. Instead, I felt like this natural need to protect “homegirl” out there in this foreign land. After all, even though we were young adults it wasn’t like we were experienced being out on our own, and we definitely didn’t have any practical knowledge of being out in Africa like that.

The professional footballer

A Ghanaian guy, who claimed to be ‘a professional footballer’ (though definitely didn’t appear as one financially), told me he intended to marry her. I guess he was just as young and stupid as the rest of us, thinking that he could actually tie down a young, ambitious American woman within the few hours we were spending in his locality. 

But later on I came to understand that such aspirations – or risks if you will – are quite common in Africa. That is to say that if a local is actually able to score a foreigner as a spouse, the latter can assist them in coming over to their homeland, which in this case would have been the most-coveted of all, America. But back then I didn’t really understand that.

Remnants of the Slave Trade

This is the part of the article where I start focusing more on the scenery, environment and attractions than the people per se. It’s cool interacting with Africans, especially Ghanaians, who are amongst the most-accommodating of Sub-Saharan Africans. But when a person comes to Africa, they’re also coming to see the land itself, which is not only rich environmentally but also historically.

For instance, since Ghana was one of the epicenters of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, there are a number of castles extant which literally served the purpose of exporting human beings.  At the top of that list would be what is referred to as Elmina Castle.

Let me reiterate here that my first trip to Africa was a long time ago, so only certain memories are fresh. I can’t remember all about that day in Elmina, but I do recall that it was a powerful experience, presumably for everyone involved the first time around. And for me personally, I made it up to the upper level and looked out across the Atlantic, that’s when I fully realized that, in an ancestral sense, I had come full circle.

The Cape Coast Castle

We also visited Cape Coast castle, which isn’t that far from Elmina. The Cape Coast Castle, a site that traces its origins back to the 16th century, is a lot more basic and less-extraordinary in general, though still pretty intriguing. As a matter of example, when you end the tour they take you to the “Door of No Return”, which all of the old slave castles had really. The “Door of No Return” is basically that last corridor the captives exited before heading out onto the beach and embarking on the Middle Passage.

It was supposed to be some type of spiritual experience going through the “Door of No Return”, but I personally didn’t feel anything. There were a bunch of people out around the beach doing their own thing, not really thinking about the castle per se. There was some traditional dude, under the employ of the facility presumably, chanting and pouring libations once you reach the door. And whereas I understood why he was doing so, to me personally it sorta cheapened or commercialized the experience.

The University of Cape Coast

While in the ‘hood we also used the opportunity to visit the University of Cape Coast, which was damn cool, i.e. being a college student and having the chance to tour another institution on the other side of the world. Well actually we didn’t really do that much touring of the grounds. Instead we were primarily there for a lecture since, to reiterate, this was a study trip.

I don’t recall who the lecturer was specifically, but I do remember that it was a lady. The main topic was along the lines of discussing the Transatlantic Slave Trade, since during that era in history so many Africans were forcibly deported from this selfsame Cape Coast area.

I don’t remember all that she said, but there was one thing that really stunned me and has stuck with me since. This professor who’s actually a scholar living in Cape Coast as opposed to an Afrocentric living stateside, said that the Transatlantic Slave Trade ‘would have been impossible without the cooperation of Africans’. And the reason that fact blew my mind was because up until that point, I was firmly under the impression that the White slave traders were the sole villains of that venture.

In the decades since, it has become more widely known that some African chiefs and businessmen were in fact swapping with the Europeans during the Slave Trade. But maybe it’s one of those kinds of concepts that a person can’t really grasp unless they come to Africa.

The Chiefs

And speaking of African chiefs during the slave trade, remember that incident I mentioned earlier where we were flanked by reporters? That was actually after meeting a group of Ga chiefs in Accra. Ga is the dominant and indigenous tribe of Ghana’s capital city. And if you visit Africa for the first time and especially on a guided tour like we were, it’s inevitable you’ll visit traditional sites, like palaces or museums, some of which may be extraordinary but others not so much.

Actually meeting chiefs, as we did, isn’t as common unless maybe it’s part of your itinerary. And for us it was since, once again, Dr. Ofuatey-Kodjoe was a bigshot in the ‘hood.

So we all sat around in a circle and got to chatting with the chiefs about this and that. I don’t remember much from that conversation except for two talking points. One was my classmate, the one I fell in love with, kept asking the traditional leaders what does the term “fetish priest” actually mean. And after a while some of the chiefs started getting frustrated, as they kept explaining to her that it has nothing to do with the word “fetish” as understood in the United States.

I also decided to ask the chiefs what exactly they were doing during the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Of course I didn’t mean them literally but rather their institution, as in how was the Ga chieftaincy involved, if at all.

When I asked that question, they all started squirming. Then after the query was basically ignored the first time around, I asked again and got snubbed. Then I knew to just leave the matter alone and if anything go and research it myself later.

Cape Coast

The entire southern border of Ghana is coastline, so there’s a number of areas that meet the Atlantic. But the main coast, in terms of cleanliness and accessibility, would probably be Cape Coast.

I was never an outdoorsy person, but back in New York I had at least been to Coney Island, so I knew what the ocean looked like. But being in Cape Coast was different, not only due to how long the shoreline is but also how pristine and tropical it was, on top of seeing fishermen out in their canoes and stuff like that. 

I also remember there was this large pond nearby that people were bathing in. That really blew my mind, almost like my eyes were seeing something that I read in the Bible. But I know the area isn’t that free anymore.

The pre-industrial lifestyle

Ghana – and Africa as a whole – has modernized significantly since the first time I came. But one of the coolest things about the Motherland is that you can still readily see how people survived prior to the Information Age – or even the Industrial Age for that matter.

And that was actually one of the main reasons I came over. At the time I was reading this book called “Victims of Progress” by John Bodley, which I was introduced to via an anthropology class. It was that text that really made me understand that the world as we know it, especially as residents of the First World, it’s not how it has always been. So I wanted to see firsthand how people not as reliant on technology – or money even – survived.

I was young and have since realized that back then I was overtaken by a naturalistic fallacy, if you will. For instance, now I realize that those selfsame fishermen, if they had the wherewithal to run a tech company for instance, would probably do so because, most simply put, it pays more. But still, there’s things in life you can’t fully appreciate unless you see them with your own eyes. And those same types of pre-industrial lifestyles are now espoused and promoted by the West, since they are less environmentally destructive than that of modern men.

Pollution

There was one area in particular we visited, though I can’t remember the name of the locality. In fact the entire memory is sort of vague, but what I do recall is like this large industrial plant, processing I don’t know what. The whole area was very dirty with like a big black cloud of smoke from the facility over it. That was one of the parts of the trip where I felt most appreciative of being a resident of America. We all know that pollution is a b*tch, but at least in the States we have tighter regulations, so you don’t see stuff like that.

Visiting Africa and Accra in particular was also the first time I got a gander of open sewers. Such systems are not only unpleasant on the eyes but also the nose. I remember at the time US President Bill Clinton had recently visited the country. 

We met with the Mayor of Accra, who was apparently part of Bill’s hosting party, and he told us that Clinton said he was impressed with the cleanliness of Accra or something to that effect. When he told us that, three thoughts instantly crossed my mind. Either Clinton didn’t get a holistic look at Accra, or he was just saying that to be political. Or maybe he was implying that, from his perspective, it’s clean as far as African cities go.

The Arts Centre

Not too far from the mayor’s office is this commercial area called the Arts Centre. Africa, as a tourist destination, is known for largely its arts and crafts. Therefore, the Arts Centre is a place that foreigners frequent. But I saw the type of filth there that I had never seen in my life.

For instance, I remember this dirty herd of pigs roaming about. When I saw them it reminded me of that part of the New Testament where Jesus is said to have cast an evil spirit into a flock of swine. And I remember there was also this very big man, huge like an NFL or NBA player, walking around butt naked.  That’s another thing you will notice about Africa, how the peoples’ physiques tend to be stronger and shapelier than an average Westerner. 

Also nudity is not as much frowned upon as it is out West. So if you’re coming from outside you’re bound to see a thing or two in that regard, i.e. people revealing themselves in a way that’s not common where you come from, even if it’s only the likes of small, naked children roaming free.

But as for this guy, who was over six feet tall and muscular as hell, he was a madman and therefore an extreme example of that phenomenon. And while we were there trying our best not to stare at him, I really felt embarrassed for the ladies in the group and was wondering what was going through their minds.

Africa doesn’t care much about her image

Back then during my radical days, I had many gripes with the American system. But one thing I came to appreciate, through visiting Africa, is that at least the United States takes its infrastructure and image seriously. You may find yourself in the very-worst part of New York City but it’s unlikely you’ll come across open sewers or crazy naked people being allowed to walk the streets.

The Flight to Africa

The flight to Africa was direct from New York’s JFK International Airport to Ghana’s Kotoka International Airport. Well actually we did stop in Lagos for a spell. If I remember correctly, the flight from New York to Nigeria was about 12 hours long. Then from Lagos to Accra took around 45 minutes.

I came to and went from the Motherland via Ghana Airways, a company that has since been defunct for about 20 years now. I remember when I was coming, the plane was rattling and all types of stuff, and I was imagining that the screws were going to come loose and that the aircraft would fall apart. This was before I knew that turbulence was a normal part of flying.

The scary thing is that a few years later, Ghana Airways was actually shut down in the United States due to its airplanes being deemed unfit to fly. And I was sitting there thinking to myself like wow, maybe what I was imagining, that the plane could come apart, wasn’t that far off after all, smh.

But the flight going back was turbulence-free. When returning, we instead stopped in Dakar (the capital of Senegal), as far as I can remember. We were only there briefly, and again, the entire flight took somewhere around 13 hours.

Who knows if Ghana Airways will ever get off the ground again. But in more recent times, I do know that Delta began offering those same direct flights from New York to Accra.

Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings

Coming to Africa for the first time will be a memorable and hopefully pleasant experience no matter who you are. But our adventure, in all honesty, was made special due to it being under Dr. Ofuatey-Kodjoe. If you come over under normal circumstances, you’ll undoubtedly get to see the slave castles and that kind of stuff but you likely won’t be afforded the opportunity to meet the First Lady of Ghana, as we were.

When we came over, the late Jerry Rawlings (who was basically a dictator turned democratically-elected president) was in power. His wife, the First Lady, was Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings.

First off, I remember she was very-tall and strikingly beautiful. She was also immaculately-dressed, highly-articulate and extremely intelligent.

A lot of times when you’re a student being lectured or a layman dealing with a politician, in the back of your mind you’re thinking that the teacher or official isn’t really any smarter than the next man. He or she may be more knowledgeable concerning the subject matter at hand, but that doesn’t translate to real-world intelligence. However, when interacting with First Lady Rawlings, I knew I was in the presence of someone who was naturally, so to speak, on a higher level than I was. 

It wasn’t as if I wasn’t used to dealing with strong women. African-Americans probably wouldn’t exist without the recurring presence of strong women. But in this instance I must admit I was taken aback, even if my wonderment may not have been visible to those around.

Totally Mesmerized by this Strong Woman

I was so much in awe that I don’t recall if I asked her a question or not. But I do remember that one of the ladies in the class did inquire concerning how African men react to the career aspirations of their women, as in the United States for instance it’s kind of common to have dudes beef about their significant others being too ambitious.

Now compared to America, it’s almost as if Africa, especially in those days, was stuck in the past. So I’m expecting to hear the First Lady say something like the women there are relegated to the home or socialized to be subservient to men. Instead she said that in the village, when a woman decides to go to the city and work, her husband will be happy, because she’s going to make money. 

Hearing that really blew my mind and destroyed a number of misconceptions that I held. Of course not every guy in the village is going to be like that, but it made me realize that repressing a woman’s career ambitions out of fear that she may outperform or leave you or cheat wasn’t universally practiced. And standing right there in front of me was a breathing example of what such a lady could potentially become if set free, if you will.

Ghana, The Gateway to Africa

There are different countries that visitors prefer when coming to Africa for the first time. Places like Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa also tend to be high on the list. But I do believe that Ghana is called “the Gateway to Africa” for a reason. 

For instance, amongst that list, Ghana is the most peaceful. Unlike virtually any other country in Africa, Ghana achieved independence peacefully. In fact another thing that shocked me was visiting the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum in Accra and seeing an old photograph of President Nkrumah, in Ghana around the time the country first gained independence, chillin’ alongside Queen Elizabeth II. 

The reason I was surprised was because up until that point, I was kind of under the impression that all African independence movements were bloody affairs.

Ghana is also the country where African-American scholar W.E.B. DuBois settled in his old age and eventually died. In his wake, W.E.B.’s former home has been transformed to what is now known as the Du Bois Memorial Centre, a tourist attraction complete with a notable library. We were able to hit up that location also, which felt pretty cool. In fact now that I really think about it, DuBois is still perhaps the most prominent African-American ever to permanently come back to the Motherland.     

These Bloody Mosquitoes!

I remember encountering a mosquito here or there during my childhood in NYC, but in Africa the potential threat they pose is a lot more serious. So I did have to get a shot before coming over which if I’m not mistaken was for yellow fever, which is transmitted by mosquitoes. But of course the bigger threat was malaria. In fact this one fellow student I came over with, this very-cool White girl, was sick as a dog on the plane back because she had contracted malaria.

Be mindful of the “Moskeet”!

While in Ghana we were required to share a hotel room with someone else in the group. Besides for me, there was only one other male, this Japanese dude, so it was he and I who ended up being roommates. It would have been cool to have remained in contact with him throughout the years. But this was before the days of social media, and it’s not like we really clicked anyway.

In fact he kept reasserting that the only reason he came over is because he was doing research on Ghana for the company he was working for. So I don’t recall having any deep conversations with him as there was also, to my recollection, a language barrier. But I do know that he was fiercely scared of mosquitoes, which he referred to as “moskeet”. So he was always covering himself with repellant. And if I let the room door linger open for even a second upon entering or exiting, he’d start screaming “moskeet, moskeet”!

I know from other peoples’ experiences of coming to Africa for the first time that no matter where you are, mosquitoes can prove a noteworthy pest. I personally wasn’t afraid, but in hindsight, I realize I was lucky that I didn’t get sick considering some of the risks that I took. In other words, if you are coming over for the first time, it’s wise to take the proper precautions and, like the Japanese dude, at least remain mindful that the threat exists.

The People of Africa

New York is a city where residents are often stereotyped as having a bad attitude. Well I actually grew up in NYC and can tell you that in a lot of ways, it can be even worse than what you may come across in the media. So when I first came to Ghana, I was taken aback by how friendly the people were in general.

For instance, I met quite a few individuals who even went as far as to invite me into their homes upon first acquaintance. Since then, I have learned that such gestures may not be completely altruistic, as such people are usually hoping to swiftly strike up a meaningful friendship with a foreigner which could benefit them, in one way or another, monetarily. But still, no matter what a New Yorker may hope to get from you, he or she isn’t likely to invite you into their home the first time you meet. 

In fact in NYC, if residents conclude that you’re a foreigner with a significant amount of money in your pocket, then you stand a good chance of being targeted by muggers.

And coming from such a background, that’s the thing that really stood out in my mind pertaining to the people of Ghana. There we were, traveling around a good portion of the country, and in the process we found ourselves at quite a few places that were common or, in some cases, can even be deemed impoverished. Yet, it was never as if we felt we were in any physical danger.

Harmless Aggression

Some of the locals, like the ones I traded clothes with or the sellers at the Arts Centre, can be relatively aggressive. But it isn’t as if they would go, call their boys and then make an attempt to rob you, i.e. the type of fate that could and often does befall vulnerable travelers in the big cities of the United States.

In fact I’m not trying to disrespect anybody or anything, but coming to Ghana was the first time I had really been around a mass of civil Black people. I grew up in an environment where the main method of conflict resolution is violence and where young men are socialized under a criminal, street-based culture. 

In the years since my first visit to the Motherland, I learned that Ghana has its fair share of criminals also, but at least they usually aren’t of the violent variety. And for me, that whole experience proved that Black people could in fact co-exist without always fighting and all types of stuff, i.e. contrary to how we behave in NYC or how we, including Africans, are commonly portrayed in the news.

The Conclusion

I never heard anyone say that they regretted having visited Africa for the first time. Of course you have to be on your Ps and Qs concerning who you deal with. But if done the right way and with trustworthy people, the trip will undoubtedly prove to be a timeless and harmless experience.

For me personally, visiting Africa that first time changed my outlook of the world. This is the birthplace of humanity and a continent upon which the global economy remains highly dependent. And there’s a lot to be learned and seen by coming back to the land where it all started.

About Author

Aaron Malcolm

I’m a writer and digital nomad who was born and raised in New York City (Brooklyn to be exact) but am currently residing in the beautiful West African country of Ghana.  I have a B.A. in Anthropology from the prestigious Hofstra University, which is also found in New York.

2 Comments

  • Nice post! Great to see you mention Prof. Wentworth Ofuatey-Kodjoe. I took a course in international relations with him at CUNY in 1987. I had arrived in NYC to study for an MA from London UK and knew nothing about IR and very little about colonialism until I took his class. He was a great teacher, very charismatic. One week he walked out of the classroom, heading back to his office in protest that most of us had not done the reading. I think we talked him into returning. Eventually. It was effective: we worked harder after that (even though the readings, much of it rather esoteric American IR theory, were not too exciting)!

    • Yes, he had an unforgettable character and helped introduce a number of Americans to the Motherland. May he rest in peace.

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