An Unwanted walk down memory lane
AUGUST 3, 2019
It has taken me roughly 30 days to gather my thoughts and emotions surrounding our visit to the Anani Memorial International School in Nima.
Upon arriving in Nima, we were greeted by the music instructor and principal of the school. Their faces displayed excitement secretly laced with anxiety; a facial expression I too would adopt over the next 2 hours at the school.
They guided us down a weaving pathway to the heart of the neighborhood. As we jumped over puddles I could see into these doorless houses, catching a brief glimpse of clean dirt floors where mothers cooked, old men slept and young women hang up clothes between the rooftops.
I felt out of place. A foreigner walking right through someone else's home; uninvited.
I tried to smile and seem approachable, but I knew my smile faded to a forced expression.
I felt the energy of the school before I saw it. I could feel the excitement of the children drawing me in. Their screams of enthusiasm echoed throughout the neighborhood and as we descended upon the little school-house I was over-powered by emotions.
Walking into the school I experienced an old, forgotten yet familiar emotion which made my gut churn; I’m still not sure if it was excitement or dread.
The small schoolroomhoused 20 desks each filled with at least 3 children, all in purple uniforms and all excited to see us obrunis (foreigners). The children looked at us in awe and we equally looked upon them in awe.
After a brief introduction, the students began their pre-planned performance which they had prepared for what seemed like months as it was a whole production made up of songs, dances and spoken word poetry in Twi, English and French.
The energy in the room was almost too much to handle. Despite wind flowing freely into the open building, I felt like I was suffocating and needed air. Most of the time I had to look away from the singing children as well as the smiling faces of the students in the background. Much to my surprise, I found tears flowing down my face as I succumbed to my ambivalent feelings of extreme happiness and sadness. The pounding of the drums, their smiling faces and their tiny powerful voices touched deep in my soul.
Throughout their entire 20 or so minute performance I struggled to keep my emotions in check.
Being in the schoolroom reminded me of the orphanages in China.
A few years ago I revisited China on an AGBOST (Adoptees Giving Back Orphanage Service Trip) where I worked in an orphanage with other adoptees coming full circle with my heritage and giving back to the community which has created so much of my identity. I was told that during the AGBOST trip I would experience a range of emotions both positive and negative. I was informed things may trigger us that are unexplainable, like the cries of the orphans or the smell of sour milk. I went on this trip when I was 16 and am still processing all the emotions I felt during those 10 days in China.
Interestingly enough, when I visited the Anani Memorial International School, I felt some of the same strong emotions I felt when working with those orphans in China. In both instances, I experienced a feeling of helplessness and I felt the same nauseousness when I turned my back to leave them forever.
After both their and our performances, the children rushed towards us like a tsunami engulfing us in a sea of their tiny purple uniforms. I could see the smiles on everyone's faces. I could hear chatter, laughter and screams. I could feel the excitement and the energy but all I felt was anxiety.
Everyone’s experience at the Anani Memorial International School was different. What made it difficult for me to go to the Nima school, was that I saw a piece of the children I had left in China in the Ghanaians students, as well as a small piece of myself.
I will never forget the little boy who could barely walk yet waddled his way to the group of dancers 5 years his senior to wiggle and giggle.
I will never forget the small girl with little twisted braids who danced with her whole mind, body and soul.
I will never forget the little girl who screamed her poem for everyone to hear because she NEEDED to be heard.
I will never forget how the children hung onto us like their lives depended on us.
I will never forget the face of the little boy who begged me to buy him peanuts and the heartbreaking face he made when I let go of his hand and left him behind.