Africa

Handshakes in Africa can last for an entire conversation. At first impression, the sensation of having hands connected throughout minutes of interaction seemed rather awkward. After traveling around the African continent for almost three months, such bonding tradition got under my skin; and the circle of perspectives has reached a completion point.

On my last day in Humjibre, after obtaining all the necessary footage, I decided to go for a run from Humjibre to the neighboring community, Bekwai. The overwhelming heat certainly made the 8-kilometer distance seem longer apart; but having children chasing you, yelling “abruni” and waving relentlessly, certainly made each and every breath tolerable. It also brought motivation to keep running and searching for places that remain original.

Ghana does not have a developed tourism industry. If you happen to be not too keen of deficient public transportation, underdeveloped buildings, local street food and tropical weather, then Ghana would not be recommended – these elements are inevitable if traveling around the country. On the contrary, if you want to explore the rich culture of West Africa, then Ghana provides the fundamentals. From restaurants to bus rides, the culture comes alive through the population; and Ghanaians are righteously proud of their heritage.

The bus ride back from Humjibre to Accra turned into an emotional experience as we drove through rural villages. Children heading to classes in their school uniforms, women preparing breakfast and men balancing wood logs atop their heads – all visible through the glass window, and no longer within physical proximity. That was the precise moment when the prospect of leaving the African continent sunk in; then, the thought materialized into tears. Unexpectedly, at 6:30AM, the bus speakers started blasting out obnoxiously loud Ghanaian gospel music – and the moment was taken away.

The tears brought fluidity of thoughts, and the remaining 10 hours of the journey were enough time to reminisce about the past three months. Such short period was sufficient to alter preconceived perspectives (and expectations). If anything, Africa far exceeded each prospect I might have planned. It also made me realize that Africa is not savannahs, deserts, skies, oceans or mountains; nor elephants, lions, zebras or rhinos. Africa is the people. And handshake after handshake, I have bonded with Africa. Yes, this magical land got under my skin.

It is not uncommon to see children and adults alike lying down on the floor of streets and bushes – no cardboard, sheets or mattresses. For the unaccustomed eye, it can immediately seem a sign of poverty. Personally, I believe it represents a connection between the people and their land. Africans respect their Motherland, and such appreciation organically transfers to those seeking immediate contact with the culture.

Most of Africa lives with the very basic of needs – a heartbreaking reality, which deserves absolute esteem. A paradoxical statement, to say the least; yet truthful to the people. Overconsumption, excess, waste, misuse are foreign concepts to these lands. Water, food, clothing, provisions are based on the actual necessities of Africa – quite possibly, the precise motive for the exuberant fauna and flora throughout the continent. An immediate sign of reverence, I have come to respect Africa; and much will be taken along with me.

It will certainly take time before I comprehend the full effects of Africa. Country by country, person-to-person, lesson after lesson, I know I have changed. Positively, it is my true wish to have the same achievement on the people following the steps of this journey. Africa brought inspiration to grow as an individual, motivation to maintain the project within a righteous path, and ultimate understanding of this complex continent, torn apart after decades of brutal conflicts and finally starting to restore peace.

I am back in Egypt, bringing Africa indeed to a complete circle. I dislike the idea of circular motion because it inevitably implies the return to the original starting point, hindering the idea of progression. Yet, on this very last day in the continent, I rather remain optimistic and observe the circle within an escalating perspective. Circles, after all, move the world.

Does the thought of changing plans in order to accommodate more Africa in the itinerary battle within my mind? Certainly; yet, the main factor that keeps me from changing the itinerary is time itself. I believe I no longer battle against the minutes of a ticking clock. The present has never been so alive as it has been in these past three months. Seconds have become myself, and the future a far away thought. Hence, I rather stay within the original path and focus on the present than loose sight of the horizon.

Thank you, Africa. I might be leaving temporarily, but the prodigal son always returns home.