Accents and Grounding

I just got back from Rhapsody’s, one of Ghana’s nightlife establishments and it was jumping or hopping, not sure which. However, except for the people in modernized versions of bright African print dresses, one couldn’t tell you were in Ghana.
I felt very uncomfortable. For starters, I had on the wrong outfit—my Berkeley staples of jeans, a jersey knit top, and a black cardigan. I was surrounded by lots of curvy sisters clad in brightly colored short dresses with a gazillion ruffles, while others eschewed the ruffles and went for amazingly low necklines that left nothing to the imagination. I didn’t have the dancing fever that seemed to have taken hold of everyone around me. And to top it all off, I was in flats, when most people were in heels, and so stood at least a head shorter than most. I felt like I was in people’s armpits, and in Ghana especially, that is one place you don’t want to be given the amount of B.O. issues people struggle with daily.
Subconsciously, I think my discomfort had something to do with being reminded of what I had left behind in America. I might have been perfectly at home in there if they were playing Ruff n Smooth or V.I.P— something to ground me. Who knows?
It’s been exactly three weeks to the hour (give or take) since I arrived at my flat in Tema to begin my job and new life in Ghana, and I desperately needed grounding. I was with amazing women, the Fabulous Feminists (yes, there are some) but they were all in Ghana for the most part and were living it and loving it and doing their thing. I think I was envious. Would I be living it and loving it and doing my thing in a few months or will I be forever questioning my move and life goals? The other interesting thing too was that most of them still lived at home with their families, and so had the comfort of being cooked, laundered, and cared for by the family and family helps. Living on my own, I lack that extra ingredient in this move. It is weird to be here and have my nuclear family back in the States. It was like that for almost eighteen years of my life and here I am doing it again, only this time, doing so voluntarily.
I see several things I want to tell you all about everyday but then the time flies by and I don’t make the time to write and tell you. After a while, these things seem mundane and I feel silly telling you about them. What hasn’t changed or turned mundane is the ability for me to switch my accents on and off. I hope you will also think so.
My accents change a million times a day depending on who I am interacting with. Sometimes I wonder what I genuinely sound like. Or are all these accents parts of me? Sometimes I find myself repeating my words because people can’t understand me. But then when I switch to the heavily intoned Ghanaian accent, I can’t recognize myself! I panic. What if in a year, I sound totally Ghanaian and I have to begin re-integration all over again? Accents are such funny things! For months that first semester in the U.S., I took my speech class very seriously, taping myself and practicing in front of the mirror. I patted myself on the back when I first heard those coveted words: “wow! you don’t have a Ghanaian accent!” Now I’m on the other side of the coin reveling in people’s pleased, yet surprised remarks that my Fante, Twi, and Ga are not “accentized like some people.” They are proud that I remain fully, truly Ghanaian. But am I? Can I ever be fully or truly anything after such a hybrid life?

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