Dreaming Between the Rubber Lines
With a Yellow Fever vaccination form signed by your doctor and a recent passport photo from CVS, you could apply for a tourist visa to enter Ghana. It would take you 15 minutes to visit Expedia.com and book a round trip ticket—New York to Accra and back—for a little over $1400. You could fly out the evening of November 22nd and be eating banku, light soup, and fresh tuna with my host family the next night.
After dinner, you could help Beth knead her hundreds of bread loaves and then help me teach Franklin how to read. Maddie would have you in stiches with her silliness and Kwame would impress you with his biting wit. You could rinse off your travel grime with a chilly bucket shower by the light of a headlamp. You could take the left, less lumpy side of my mattress and fall asleep beneath my mosquito net. It would be cramped, but I would give you my pillow!
You might be able to sleep in until my cell phone’s alarm goes off at 5am, but more than likely a goat or rooster would wake you before then. You could pee in my smelly latrine, brush your teeth in the darkness outside my door, and dress for work in the eerie blue lighting of my pink walled room. Beth would give you a plastic bag full of fresh bread and fried eggs and creamy tea. We would pile into Frederick’s pickup and drop the children off at their bus stop in Agona Kwanta before you could visit your first ever rubber farm.
You could get a farmer’s tan to match mine as we weed or open lines or collect rubber alongside each other. I would give you my gloves to protect your hands from the cutlass’ blistering wooden handle. You could meet Andrew and Kofi, Oto and Itu, David and Mr. Ocra. They would compliment and tease your efforts, and they would show you tips to make the work less tedious.
With your fresh eyes you could see all the beautiful and hilarious wonders that my own so often take for granted—the redness of the dirt, the way Beth hangs underwear to dry on clotheslines across the bread kitchen, the vibrant fabrics that pop against black skin, the odd and incongruous used-T’s worn everywhere. You could experience for yourself the moments I savor—Maddie greeting me with a running hug in the afternoons, friendly and broken chatter with workers after finishing the day’s task, Kwame’s goofy moods and surprising tendencies to break out into “Can’t Buy Me Love,” lying clean and well-fed and pleasantly sleepy on my mattress with my Kindle and a headlamp at the end of a full day.
After tiring you out at the farms for a couple of days, you could help me pack up my things and wish my rubber world goodbye. We could travel to the coast and spend Thanksgiving on the beach. You could crack into a fresh lobster and I would dig into a plate of tilapia acheke. We could eat a dessert of the sweetest pineapples and freshest coconuts in the world. We could sip Savanna Dry cider or Guinness beer or boxes of Don Simon sangria while sharing stories and memories and news and dreams laying out on the sand beneath so many stars.
Next, we could be tourists. We could see the infamous castles on the shore where centuries ago slaves were held before they made the harrowing journey across the Atlantic. We could explore Accra, where W.E.B. Dubois passed away after having his fill of America and is now one of the most poppin’ cities in West Africa. We could wander the big market and dress you in tailored Africana clothes and sample the mysterious street foods. We could check out the National Museum in the hot afternoon and then discover the capital’s night life in the evening.
On December 1st, we could pack our bags and take a taxi together to the airport. You could give me a memory card full of the latest pop hits in America and I could give you a bag full of items and gifts for friends and family back home. We could hug too many times and wish each other safe travels in the terminal; you would go west back to the United States, I east, onward in my journey to Tanzania.
You could return with stories and pictures and memories of a trip and experience you could never forget. I would arrive in a new place, aching from our goodbye as well as the goodbye to this place that’s starting to feel more and more to me like a home away from home, a place I would so love to share with you.
I would, and you could. Isn’t that incredible?