National Service is over, halleluyah!! Now to settle and find a permanent engineer job and all of that! Ei, God is good oo. Na adzɛn!!
To celebrate the end of National Service, I went on a boat cruise on the MV Dodi Princess to Dodi Island, many nautical miles off Akosombo. That boat is a real princess, I say. Three decks, a grill on the upper where you can have gizzard and tilapia, beautiful live band music on the middle deck and a little pool and a tanning area on the lower deck. The trip was just gonna be fun and as soon as I got on, I was sure of it.
So, expectations were that I’ll have a smooth cruise to the Island, see what it has on offer and then return better refreshed…in fact, shedding off the stress of these past few months. It couldn’t have been more appropriate. And if the Captain of the ferry will allow, I’ll peek into his cabin and see what sea-farers have been hiding in..lol. Little did I know I was going to come back changed!! Changed and challenged!
So there were diverse people on that boat; Caucasians, Indians, Americans, in fact, one American Joey came to ask for my standing space on the upper deck so he can smoke. These people! Ah well, I obliged! The cruise was breezy and I was snapping away at the sights, taking in the entire cool for its worth. I wanted to have fun and I was having it well.
The Island was a long spit in the distance soon and when we all got wind we were almost there, the excitement built up. We just wanted to go shake it all off. We got to the Island at approximately 1315GMT and we were to be heading back in 30minutes. So, in thirty minutes, shake off the stress, see what you can, take what pictures you can, and hop back on the ferry. Good to go! In thirty minutes, get your life changed, you don’t know!
You see, it was a trip that was made by us urban folk, going to sight-see. When we got to the landing, we saw a troupe of young people, ready with drums and all, to dance us a welcome. But us? We deserved it? That was for presidents and dignitaries. At least, that’s what the news has shown us all along. But these people were merry, simple-hearted people who had nothing to give us but their song. And in that minute, they made us their dignitaries.
When we got down to the landing, a few of us got out our cameras and stood around the troupe to send these scenes and memories back to mainland. Others joined in the now-began dance. The Island people wore clothes that you and I would most nearly use for rags and in the rising heat, many of us tourists started asking ‘Where are their houses’? Nothing showed!
You see, the Island is rocky! There’s bush all over the hillside. There’s no single structure as far as the eye can see from the landing. In fact, when we crossed the hill to the other side, we deepened our curiosity. Still no semblance of habitation, yet here were happy people, giving us their song. It looked like all they had. We didn’t even know where they had appeared from on the Island. They were poor, but in that minute, they seemed richer than us. They were the people who were alive!
Listen, the real life that God may have given us to live, still resides beyond the cliffs and the rivers, in the hearts and eyes of people who are not intelligent enough to know what a bomb is, what a gun is used for, what it means to see your neighbor suffer while you celebrate. I kept absorbing all this in as we walked up the cliff, past pockets of natives who had gathered themselves around different forms of instruments, and entertained us as we went. All they asked were any stray coins that we would be kind enough to drop in their little bowls and plates, if we thought they were doing anything worth it at all with all their music.
Along this line was a little girl not more than four years, maraca in hand, not knowing any tune to play, with a bowl in front of her, who just looked up at us as we passed. She had no song but in her eyes, when I stopped, I could see that she wanted to play us the best tune on the Island. She was adorable with her hair held up in those innocent African knots that don’t get done anymore by anyone in the city. When I knelt down beside her, she looked down shy, not even knowing what to do to please my demanding gaze. With her head still bowed, she tried to play me a tune. Incoherent, unrhythmic and not audible enough for me to hear the words! The Island people were Ewes, like me, and at least, I could have understood her just as I did all the others. She was the only one I wanted to understand. I couldn’t. She moved her maracas and made a slow rattle sound that accompanied her tune. Her grace cut me to the heart. This girl was the reason why I came to the Island.
I pushed a tear back (yes, I mean that!!) and a note into her side pouch. She stopped playing, looked up and saw that I had stretched my palm out towards her. She smacked me a five and then I got up, got her to pose and then I took this picture of her. We didn’t exchange any words but her eyes told me everything. And if she looked hard enough, she would have noticed that she had changed me.
There is life still beyond those rivers, I thought, when the ferry pulled away finally. I left my heart on that Island as the ferry cruised away. One day, many years on, I will return with this picture. And find the little girl who made me see that we are running around here in circles and missing the joy that God has put in the little things that we should enjoy.
We circled the Island before we could finally see tiny huts and mud-houses scattered on the hillside. The Conductor told us that the people live this far away and ferried all the way to the landing just to give us a welcome. They gave up their whole day just so that we can return with a smile.
When we pulled away, a gleam of light caught our eye. It was aluminum roofing and we were informed that it was the only aluminum roofing on the Island. It belonged to the chief’s palace.
I owe that Island a return. Maybe you do too.