The Spirit of Ghana
Obruni: in Twi, a person who comes from across the ocean
By Shih-In Ma - Peace Corps Volunteer, Ghana (1977 - 1979)
It’s hard to express in words
The warmth of the people of Ghana,
The richness of their spirit,
The love with which they held me,
A lone 19 year-old
On her first real trip
Away from home.
I can tell you stories
Of the love that I received.
Of dozens of students
Walking miles through the jungle
To bring me clean water
When the water pump ran out of gas.
Of Mensah, my student,
Doing my laundry
So it would not turn gray,
Who took care of me with such respect
In so many ways for so long.
Of the kitchen ladies,
Who worked hard in the heat,
Cooking huge pots of food over open fires,
Who taught me to speak in their mother tongue,
And laughed with me
And put eggs in my food as a special treat.
Of the countless people
Who pushed me to the head of the line
As we waited together in the scorching sun
For the next bus to wherever.
‘Obrunis can’t survive the heat,’ they’d say
As I’d gratefully collapse on the seat of the bus
While those who pushed me forward
Continued to wait.
Of angelic Georgina,
Who dressed me up and dragged me around
To greet everyone in sight.
Who showed me that day the Heart of the People
So I would feel welcome
Wherever I went
For two solid years.
Ironic that I should go
To a place some say is underdeveloped
To feel that I was really loved,
Such is the spirit of Ghana,
Of those who were taken as slaves,
Whose descendents live among us,
That spirit burns warm in my heart
Still, after forty years.
I know there is another way of being.
This poem was entered in the returned Volunteer category for the 2015 Peace Corps Poetry Contest. The contest received more than 1,000 submissions, representing over 50 years of Peace Corps service in more than 100 countries.