I stubbornly hold onto my MP3 as the ear piece blast noise that I find pleasurable, not because of its smoothness, but because of the fact that it drowns the noise that is coming from my parents. I went to visit my friend in skimpy clothes, yes, came late, yes, that does not give them the right to treat me as an outcast. I don’t know how we came to be like this. I was really close to them, especially to my father who now looks at me like an insect. Well, before I have time to close my eyes as I comfortably lie in the sofa, the earpiece is yanked from my ears. My father stands in front of me with hateful words coming out of his mouth:
“You’re going to the village. Stay with your aunt, go to the farm, battle with mosquitoes and other insects, when you finally learn sense, you will appreciate the life you have here, go and pack your things!”
I never thought it has gotten to this stage. “But papa, I am not that bad for you to send me to that uncouth place, those villagers live like animals” I cry.
“Well, you have developed horns, so you are now a bull, prepare to dine with those animals, Odo, I even forgot you packed her bag, bring it and bring that animal with you” My father angrily says. They really are serious. Before I can say a word, I find myself in the back seat as my father drives with a cloudy face and my mother cries.
I am an only child, was pampered when I was young. I have always been a clever student. I just completed my secondary school. Somehow, since I came home, all that I have been doing go against the norms of my household. My clothes, eating habits, friends, household work, church preference, everything I do annoy my parents. I am shivering thinking of those bush people. I have never been to the home town of either parent. But from what I’ve gathered from them, my mother’s home town is better than my father’s. So it seems I’m going to the worst.
We reach Nkawkaw and my father buys “nkyekyerewa” (a combination of boiled maize and groundnut), he doesn’t bother to give me some. My mother takes one and passes it to me, but I stubbornly refuse. Well, on reaching Abetifi Kwahu, I realize it is not as bad as they described. There are many trees here, and by my studies, I know the greens are good for the production of oxygen. I see very beautiful houses and my face lights, only to be sent to a mud self- contained half broken house. Why? The house is almost in ruins. I quickly inspect and there is no light. I look out for the taps and there is no pipe borne water. A voice in my mind screams: What is this?
I decide to get on my knees and ask for forgiveness but my father is not ready to listen. I also have my pride. In the first place, I do not know why they are doing this to me. I shut up as my aunt quarrels with my father on the state of the family house and looks on as he and his wife drive off.
My aunt serves me food in some black aluminium silver bowl; my first impulse is to reject it. The growl of my stomach reminds me, I cannot afford to reject this one. I take the food and it tastes like the best soup I have ever had. I laugh and my aunt asks why? I ask her for more and she serves. Little does she know I’m laughing at my mother for her sub- standard food taste though she has everything to aid her in cooking. Looking at the clay stove, the firewood, and the old cooking pots brings some irony which is too funny than Bill Cosby’s sitcoms.
My aunt tells me to be careful or the food will pass through my nose. I know what she means so keep quiet and finish my meal. My room is a very cosy place, small but has everything, everything but electricity and electrical gadgets. I ask my aunt how she listens to radio and watches television and she brings me some huge radio which uses batteries. I have a good sleep. I did not even feel one bite of mosquito.
The next day, my aunt wakes me up at 4 am for the stream. On our way, she tells me all about her children in the city and how they are suffering. She tells me how one is abroad and struggling to help those in Accra to also go there. I ask her why she lives the way she does and the response, I know, will make me think for a long time:
“Life without traffic, without noise, without labelling, a world you know you belong, that is the life I have here. I have lived in the city before, but never had a day’s rest. The heat was simply unbearable, the noise always threatened to make me deaf and every one was looking for whom to dupe, be it the seller or the buyer. Not an honest soul there. Maa Afia, here nature feeds me. The farm produces the best “kontomire” and coco-yam, not to talk of yams and maize. Never think living in the village is bad. I never lack, they send me what they can which I never get to finish before they send another. I’ll show you how cool it is. ”
I try to make conversation but end up failing throughout the journey to the stream. The water comes from some clean stones, she fetches some with her calabash for me to drink and it is the tastiest water I have ever drunk. I ask myself now, why did my parents make me believe the village is a monstrous place? We go fetching four times. The stream is about 45 minutes’ walk from our house. I have always heard from my father that my aunt is very aggressive, but now that I live with her, she seems like the coolest person ever. Breakfast is porridge and tea bread. I love the “pepre, hwintia and other flavours in the porridge. Though I miss using my laptop, iPod and watching television, I feel this is the safest place I have ever been.
My aunt dresses me for the farm, and I look ridiculous. Every part of my body is covered by dirty clothes. When I complain, she lovingly says she doesn’t want my beautiful skin to have scars. I become nervous.
“Aunt, what if we are devoured by lions?”
Her laughter eases my fears, “Lions? What do you learn in schools nowadays? Lions are not found in these parts. In fact, apart from some few snakes, antelopes and some birds, it is difficult to come by aggressive animals in our forest. All the lands around have owners who farm. So by now many are in their farms. Even when there is danger, you just need to scream and many people will come to your rescue.”
We reach the top of a mountain and she asks me to turn and look, standing here, I see the whole village, the beautiful houses and the not so beautiful ones, telling tales of all hands are not equal. The sight is so breathtakingly beautiful that I can stand here for days without moving. She tells me to let us go as time is far spent.
The chirping of the birds, the green shrubs and the trees which tower above make the road to the farm beautiful and scary at the same time. Although aunt tried allying my fears, I still have a little lurking that a snake may try acting wild and chop off my legs. We see people going to farm in our direction, and others coming. Everyone we meet greets and mentions my name as if they have known me all their lives.
“Aunt, how did they know my name? Did you tell the chief to announce it this morning with the village radio?”
My aunt laughs and I see her shedding tears. Now I want to know what amuses her. She tells me I look like my father so immediately they see me, they know who I am. Then she nicely tells me the way I talk is funny. How funny? My mother will cry out that I am being disrespectful without telling me how exactly, but this woman finds it funny. Then I ask her what she means by funny. She tells me a story rather:
“Once there was a girl whose parents died when she was young. She had no one to teach her manners, so she spoke as she thought fit. She never thought of being rude but everything she said was rude. Because of this, many people decided to shun her company. The river goddess of the village became so sad that the orphan was being treated that way. So she decided to visit her. Knowing her beauty, she knew many will know she is the goddess if she visited her during the day time. She did not want to scar her by visiting her in the night as her brightness will give show her identity. For she shone bright in darkness.
She waited for the perfect opportunity. Tuesdays were days the Anomakodee people rested. No one was to go to the farm. Sweetie didn’t know and the people wanted her dead, so no one told her, she went to the farm every Tuesday. The river goddess started accompanying her to farm, teaching her how to speak to the elderly, to her peers and how to be polite in the awkward of situations. She taught her instead of rudely saying, “what do you want?” She must say, “Please how may I help you?” Instead of saying “I did not do it intentionally”, she must say “Please I am at fault, forgive me” Instead of asking “Who did this to my house” She must ask whoever she sees around politely, “Please did you see anyone around here?” When something happens to someone she must first say “Sorry” and try to see if the person is hurt, no matter how funny it is”
By now, we are at the farm, I am uprooting some leaves as she sorts out the maize for planting. I am too engrossed in the story that I do not appreciate her pause, but I manage to say “Please aunt, then what happened?”
She laughs delightfully and comments on how intelligent and wise I am. Yes, I do not want to be like the girl who didn’t know how to talk and so had no friends. I have learnt my lesson even before she finishes.
“Sweetie learnt well, day by day, she behaved well after visiting the farm on Tuesdays. The people of Anomakodee started seeing her like a goddess, because no one goes to the farm on Tuesdays and comes back without an ailment. She started having many friends who asked her how she became that refined. Upon telling them, they got to know she was being tutored by the great river goddess. A hunter once saw them talking and came to tell the chief of the village. He died immediately afterwards. The prince of the village saw her and fell in love with her. Her way of talking, her way of dressing…”
At this point, I have to ask how she dressed:
“Like an “aketeesia” meaning one who covers herself in wait for her true groom. The prince married her and she became the wisest queen to ever grace the throne of Anomakodee.”
This woman is the most refined woman I have ever met. She is not an animal at all. If humans were to be animals, then those in the cities will top the chat. Who could ever think that this woman had so much wisdom in her? With one story, she has convinced me to speak properly and dress properly. Thoughts of calling her an animal gnaw at my heart. I was wrong to tag her in that category, No one must be tagged that way, if I will become a queen wherever I find myself in the future, I certainly must think well of people. If this woman is this good, then why does my father have only bad things to say about her? Before I could control myself, the question jumps from my throat into her ears:
“Aunt, why do you always quarrel with my father?”
She smiles and tells me;
“He is my brother; he comes directly after me, so surely we will fight. He loves annoying me, and I love annoying him, but make no mistake, we love each other as much as we love our families.”
In the evening, I help her prepare ‘fufu’ and palm nut soup, she only used natural spices to prepare it but it tasted superb. My pleas for her to make me pound does not work as she stirs with one hand and pounds with another. She only asks me to keep an eye on the soup.
After eating, we hear sounds coming from other houses, we go to the street and see many people gathering for the farm, one farmer has not returned from farm since yesterday. The men go into the forest only to come with the man alive and healthy. He has built a hut in the farm and enjoys staying there sometimes. He does not know why his wife makes mountains out of mole hills.
Then it strikes me, the fact that we are each other’s keeper in the village. Who has that time for who in the city? Even when you are knocked down by a car, the best you will hear is “sorry”. Here, many will go as far as feeding you even when they barely have enough. These thoughts root me in the village and I promise to give myself this peace.
Many educated youths met at the village square to sing and dance, this communal games warmed my heart. It was not that they had no television in their houses, it is just that they loved human interactions more. They are the most enlightened beings to ever grace my world. In the areas of sports, politics, current affairs etc. I find myself awed by their thoughts. Villagism is true wisdom untainted, I tell you.
I stayed with my aunt until my results were released. I passed all my subjects and my parents came with their happy faces to take me to Accra. I told them I would love to live in the village with my aunt. All their pleas did not work. My father quarrelled with my aunt for stealing me from them, this time; I knew they were faking so I paid no attention to them. I was admitted into The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology where I am offering medicine. I visit my parents occasionally but stay permanently with my aunt. My father finally renovated the family house.
Amoafowaa Sefa Cecilia © 2014.