I have always said I want to live a hundred different lives. This is one of them.
Last time I traveled to Ghana, I didn't know anything. I got off the airplane and looked for someone to be holding a sign that said "IVHQ." I found him and we walked along a dirt road while he talked to taxis passing by in their local language - Twi - which means I had no clue what they were saying to each other. The worst case, I imagined, "Hey let's kidnap this girl and steal all her stuff." But I had decided when I stepped foot off that plane, to trust a country.
Yesterday I strapped all of my stuff to my back (in my giant travel pack), and all of my camera equipment to my front (in my Andre-Ward-given Jordan backpack). Easily carrying 50 lbs of stuff, I took 3 hot, packed tro-tros to a small village called Ofaakor. When I was dropped at the entrance, it all came back to me. Everything was familiar. I had lived here for 3 months, but it felt like a year, and a significant part of my life. Last time, everything was new and different and unlike anything I'd ever known or seen. I loved that. This time the excitement was matched, but it felt like coming home.
I walked further into the village, scanning the passersby for faces I have been waiting 4 years to see again. As I got closer to the kitchen building, a short woman with short hair came running out shouting, "STE-FA-NEEE, STE-FAAA-NEEEE!!!" It was awesome. It was Gloria - the lady who cooks the food for the orphans, plus the kids who live on the compound, plus the volunteers. Since she sees a million (mostly) white people come in and out, she is selective, careful who she is nice to. Last time I was tested, but when a few kids got Malaria and I took them to the hospital and kept them in my room until they were better, I passed. Then she knew I wasn't here to just hang out - as was the case of some other volunteers I'd seen come and go.
Back to the scene.
She ran out and sweaty (of course), I dropped my bags onto the dirt and she hugged me while she said, "I DIDN'T KNOW YOU WERE COMING!!!!!" Then immediately she ordered, "BISHOP! SOMEONE GO GET BISHOP!"
The main reason I came back.
I was going to leave this out because it's pretty personal, but I'm trying to keep it real and this is important to the story.
If ever there was a kid meant to be mine, it is this one, and I knew it the moment I saw him. He was the first kid I met when I came in 2012. I found him loitering outside the kitchen shortly after I'd arrived, while the other kids had gone off to school. He was so skinny and looked so sad. I asked him if he had eaten breakfast and he shook his head. I took his hand and we walked into the kitchen to eat breakfast together. They told me he didn't get food because he was a bad boy and didn't follow the rules and wasn't there when he was supposed to be. I don't like rules and I didn't care. I got us food and we sat down and ate and didn't talk much. I held his hand to school when they said, "take him," promised I would be here after, and from then on we were inseparable. I treated him like my favorite because he was. All of the villagers started calling him my "first born" because he was always attached to my hip. I didn't let the other kids be mean to him, and I didn't let the adults either. I am convinced he made himself sick because he was jealous I took care of the other kids with Malaria. He threw rocks at my door when I locked myself in my room so he would go to class instead of try to follow me around school. I was trying to show him some tough love but he showed me tougher. Which made me love him even more. When I traveled the coast of Ghana for almost 2 weeks, he hid from me when I came back because he was so mad. Which made me love him even more. His spirit was unbreakable and that is something I value in anyone. When I left for good, I held him, and we both just cried for a long time.
His name is Bishop and now he is 10 (even though he looks like he could easily be 7). He looked at me from a distance. I smiled and his eyes got wide. He did a back flip and ran into my arms. My heart broke into a million pieces, then fused back together just so it could break again.
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