>I wrote this piece when Nic and I were in the Colorado Rockies, when I was hoping to freelance for an upcoming African website/blog in Manhattan. Well, that didn’t quite work out, but I just stumbled upon the story and figured I would put it on my own blog. So there!
Ghana and Colorado: Mutual acts of beauty
I have always had an adventurous spirit. Part of the reason this is so, I believe, is because I love the feeling of escape. Most of my ventures involve leaving home—going to foreign places with foreign people—getting myself into situations I cannot picture prior.
This is why I chose to study abroad in Ghana during my junior year of college. I was an anthropology major, so it made sense to travel to Africa. Yet, anthropology is a study of culture—any culture—so it would have been just as fitting to go to France, China, or Prague. But Ghana was exotic, Ghana was disconnected, Ghana was far. I wanted to hide away on the Gold Coast and experience adventures so unique that I wouldn’t even have to try and explain them to friends and family back home.
Indescribable, far away adventure.
Well, here I am now in the Colorado Rockies, sitting out on a rock off of Fern Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. I have just graduated college, and my best friend and I have decided to skip the whole Western Europe thing and drive cross-country from New York, camping out in Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. So far we’re saving money, seeing some of the most beautiful places in the world, and I too, once again, can escape.
And as I sit on this lonesome rock surrounded by snow, (it’s June) I cannot help but think about Ghana, my four-month home nearly two years ago. And the reason it comes to mind is rather interesting, for in many ways Colorado and Ghana are actually quite alike.
The feeling of similarity poked at me when I woke up the other morning in our tent, and headed out to the main ranger station about a mile down the road to get fresh, cold water. As I walked down the road, the heat soaked into my skin—warmth that comes with the rising sun. While hot, the heat was dry, something I prefer to the humidity of the Ghanaian tropics. Still, my walk reminded me of morning walks I would take in Accra; I would get up (the heat a continuum of a stifling, muggy night, rather than a new presence with the sun) and walk to pick up ripe plantains for breakfast from a woman down the road. These hot, morning walks in both Colorado and Ghana were calming and exciting—a soothing start to a new day.
Let me return to the walk in Colorado. I continually passed other campers and their tent sites as I made my way down the winding road. I shared a friendly encounter with each and every person I saw: “Good morning! How’s it going?” seemed to be my go-to phrase. Every now and then others would engage in a small conversation with me: “Where you headed today? I hear Cub Lake is a nice hike, and there’s not too much snow up there for once.” These encounters automatically lifted my spirits; the simplicity of friendly acknowledgment and conversation was all I needed.
My elated mood brought me back to my Ghanaian mornings, for I would always greet and talk to people as I made my trek to buy plantains. I would also say a version of “Good morning! How’s it going?” yet it would be in Twi, the language of the Akan: “Ma ache!” “Ete sEn?” Everyone I passed on the road was always smiling, even amidst the sticky air that never seems to leave. These smiles were infectious.
On both walks, I feel content just being.
I believe that the general happiness I have observed and experienced in these two vastly different places is thanks to the simple, natural beauty that surrounds them. The hikes I have taken in both in the Colorado Rockies and the forests of the Volta Region in Ghana have showed me how nature, too, exudes a contagious feeling of bliss.
I compare my hike to Fern Lake with one taken in Biakpa, Ghana, nearly two years ago. Mosquitoes join me on both, although only one comes with the threat of malaria. I am given an organized map, and embark on a clear trail on one. The other—I am provided with a bicycle helmet, a walking stick, and a hand-drawn map with landmarks such as “tree” and “big rock” to help guide me through the cluster of trees. Despite these differences, I find a common sense of elation as I am immersed in nature. You can hear silence in both these places, whether walking toward snow-capped mountains or through a maze of plantain farms.
I feel alive as I adventure farther and farther from the norm, from what I truly understand. Colorado and Ghana are unique, in that I have learned to value daily interactions with others, along with a natural stunning beauty that is embedded in their communities. So while these two places are thousands of miles away, there is a sameness I cannot disregard: satisfaction, elation, and peace.