Let me start by expressing my previous profound ignorance about the whole returnee demographic. Maybe I need to get out more, but to be honest, I hadn’t really given much thought to the ‘plight’ of the Ghanaian who was in cultural limbo. I only vaguely thought about returnees once, when I read an interview featuring Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond. She is the author of the Simon and Schuster published “The Powder Necklace”, a novel loosely based on the time her parents uprooted her from her New York existence straight into the unforgiving boarding school system of Ghana. Even with that, she left Ghana soon after that. Little did I know there was an entire thriving community of returnees in Ghana (vibrant and distinctive enough to be considered as their own ethnic group, if YesiYesi is to be taken seriously).
That all changed when I stumbled across Love African, scratch that, Rambling Roommates. Stumbled is not the accurate term here, because the blog was introduced to me by Amma via email. She found me through my blog Life in Kumasi. Yeah, so I guess it’s beginning to make sense to you how I was so clueless about returnees, being a Siano** and all. Here’s the thing – I do know a few people who lived a while in the US or UK or U-name-it. Case in point, my three best friends all spent the better parts of their childhood in England, Canada and Germany respectively. But I don’t think they quite earn the returnee tag because they came back before they, you know, went over to the dark side (just kidding, indulge me). Then there’s my cousin, who was in Accra for like a week. I guess she would qualify as a returnee, if she had stayed. Then there’s my other cousin who came back from the US after about 10 years. Still, not quite a returnee in my estimation because he was already a teenager when he and the family moved over to the Land of the Brave. Or maybe he is, I don’t know. I’m no expert on this returnee thing. I hadn’t even heard the term before I read Rambling Roommates. And yes, even though I’m a verified Siano, that is surprising, because I happen to know many, many words.
In a strange concatenation of events, I found out about An African City, courtesy Leila Djansi, soon after finding out about returnees. Does that ever happen to you? You spend your entire life not knowing about something, then in a space of like a week, you discover it from 3 or 4 different places independently? This swell storm of events led me to ask: Is there really a dating problem for returnee women? From watching the show and reading Rambling Roommates, it seems to me that at least some of these perceived problems are easily solved. In An African City, the women give the impression they’re looking for love, but we see them to be mostly more interested in sex. Everyone knows when you’re pursuing sex, you tend more toward variety but when you’re pursuing love, you move closer to exclusivity. So if you’re changing guys every so often, but in the meantime you say you’re waiting for the one, then I don’t really get that.
And then there’s Ngozi. In the show, she abstains from sex, and she seems to be really trying to find someone to settle down with. But if anything, she’s more unsuccessful than the others. In the first episode, she said she dated a man for a month, and the whole time the man never mentioned he was married. I think one solution for Ngozi-related dating problems is getting help from the local talent. Obviously I’ve heard of non-returnee Ghanaian women who have dated married men, but it’s not so often I hear about them dating a married man without knowing his marital status (though, of course, it does happen). There are signs that would be obvious to the indigenous Ghanaian woman that a returnee woman might be oblivious to. Having female friends who know the Ghanaian system is an indispensable resource for a returnee lady. But women, who are infamous for being catty with each other (no chauvinism intended), sometimes find it hard to get along. And it appears to me the returnee woman is no different. However, if there really is such a dating problem, I don’t see a better solution than having a close friend who has been on the ground here all the time you have been away. Ngozi could sure use one.
To conclude, I hope to meet and interact more with returnees from here on out. I’ll probably have to make sure I get a Harvard degree in the meantime, though, so I’ll fit in better. All I’ve got is a KNUST*** education. Was that a low blow? Nah, I don’t think so.
**Siano means Kumasi (or someone who comes from Kumasi)
***KNUST: Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (located in Kumasi)