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On the Way Out

Six years ago I was young. I had graduated from high school, among the youngest of my class. It wasn’t my fault, or more appropriately, it wasn’t necessarily to my credit. It was circumstance, that of a driven father who thought two and half years was a great age to start kindergarten. Five years ago, I left Ghana to go to college in America. It was not my fault, nor was it entirely to my credit. It was circumstance, that of a visionary brother who had carved a path that seemed obvious to follow.

Frankly, I never thought much about why I wanted to go to America, so when I was asked “why do you want to go to Macalester College,” I had no idea.  That probably explains why I did not get into Macalester. By the end of college application season, ten American Universities had asked me the same question. Only one believed the answers I told, and even that one had significant doubts. I was waist-listed and eventually admitted at St. Lawrence University. St. Lawrence soon realized they made a great bet – to the loss of Macalester and her friends – and I, too, realized, not long after, why I wanted to go to America.

I went to America because I wanted to grow up. Not that America is the place where only mature people live, but I wanted to live on my own, to experience life without the safety net of my father’s house, the nurturing bosom of my sister or the proof of sanity having many friends provides. I wanted to “step out of my comfort zone,” to use one of the many clichés that adorned my college application essays. America was my choice because there was already a path – and Europe, except for tourism, is lame.

In that regard, America fulfilled its promise. But there’s more to life than the fulfillment of a promise, and in this regard, my inspiration for riding the flood out of Africa is inextricably linked to my inclination, ultimately my decision, to join the stream back.

Because I did not go to America for its “greener pastures,” returning home to graze was relatively easier, and perhaps inevitable. Because the source of my happiness was not clean streets instead of dusty shantytowns, the subway instead of scrap metal buses (aka trotros), and  an efficient electrical grid instead of perpetual blackouts, I found it easier to come back. I knew nearly 18 years of happiness and I was cynical that 5 years away would make me incapable of rediscovering it. And even so the true profit of exile is the return home.

ix years ago I was young. I had graduated from high school, among the youngest of my class. It wasn’t my fault, or more appropriately, it wasn’t necessarily to my credit. It was circumstance, that of a driven father who thought two and half years was a great age to start kindergarten. Five years ago, I left Ghana to go to college in America. It was not my fault, nor was it entirely to my credit. It was circumstance, that of a visionary brother who had carved a path that seemed obvious to follow.


Place du Souvenir, Dakar-Senegal

Frankly, I never thought much about why I wanted to go to America, so when I was asked “why do you want to go to Macalester College,” I had no idea.  That probably explains why I did not get into Macalester. By the end of college application season, ten American Universities had asked me the same question. Only one believed the answers I told, and even that one had significant doubts. I was waist-listed and eventually admitted at St. Lawrence University. St. Lawrence soon realized they made a great bet – to the loss of Macalester and her friends – and I, too, realized, not long after, why I wanted to go to America.


I went to America because I wanted to grow up. Not that America is the place where only mature people live, but I wanted to live on my own, to experience life without the safety net of my father’s house, the nurturing bosom of my sister or the proof of sanity having many friends provides. I wanted to “step out of my comfort zone,” to use one of the many clichés that adorned my college application essays. America was my choice because there was already a path – and Europe, except for tourism, is lame.

In that regard, America fulfilled its promise. But there’s more to life than the fulfillment of a promise, and in this regard, my inspiration for riding the flood out of Africa is inextricably linked to my inclination, ultimately my decision, to join the stream back.

Because I did not go to America for its “greener pastures,” returning home to graze was relatively easier, and perhaps inevitable. Because the source of my happiness was not clean streets instead of dusty shantytowns, the subway instead of scrap metal buses (aka trotros), and  an efficient electrical grid instead of perpetual blackouts, I found it easier to come back. I knew nearly 18 years of happiness and I was cynical that 5 years away would make me incapable of rediscovering it. And even so the true profit of exile is the return home.