The Spirit of Ghana

Memories of the love and hospitality constantly exhibited by Ghanaians.

Vocabulary:

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,

Wholly accepted.

Such is the spirit of Ghana,

Of those who were taken as slaves,

Whose descendents live among us,

Maligned, oppressed.

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.

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