I am leaving tomorrow and it has come too soon. Last time I stayed for 3 months and leaving also came too soon. I don't know what that means. Maybe I don't like leaving, or maybe it is that strong pull.
I was supposed to leave the orphanage yesterday and have 2 days in Accra before I flew home, but it didn't seem important. (I was also trying to pick up eye glasses for one of the teenagers, but when I finally made it, after a tro tro ride and a half mile of walking back and forth in the heat to find the place, the neighboring store said, "oh they didn't come today." It's like that here.) I wanted to be in the dirt, watching these kids push each other on bikes that had no chains or pedals. I wanted to eat lunch with them and invite them over in the evening. I wanted to hear them laugh one more time so I could save it. I wanted to stay, so I did.
This morning Bishop came to my room by himself, and it was rare for a gang of kids not to be following him, which means he didn't tell anyone where he was going. He called my name through the window by my bed at 8:20am, and I got up to invite him in. I gave him the 2 new outfits I bought him at the market so he could stop wearing around the 10-sizes-too-big Andre Berto shirt I had given him. It was just the 2 of us and it was nice. He was so happy, and he has the cutest little giggle when he lets himself be excited. After I finished packing, i took my sheet and my bug net and made his bare foam pad bunk bed into something nice. "They will steal it," he whispered to me. I found the 20 year old who stays with the small boys and told him that if anyone takes the net or the sheet or any of his stuff I will find out and come back to Ghana and beat them. It makes Bishop feel special when I threaten people for him.
My other two favorites, Morris and Clement, came back with us and we hung out while I packed, giving them various things I didn't need to take with me. The big hit was my left over gatorade bottles. "God bless you," they told me, as we all left my room.
I didn't prepare myself to leave. I kept forcing myself to forget how sad it was the last time, and how sad it will be this time. I came here to live in the moment and that is what I have done this far. Only the moment when I walked through the village one last time as I headed to the street is not one I wanted to live in.
Bishop held my hand and Clement offered to carry my Jordan backpack with all of my camera equipment. "Madame ittis heavy! You are very strong!" but he still insisted on carrying it when I said I would take it back. Some other kids followed me and I said bye as I walked through all of the others. I am sad to leave them all but you know there is only one goodbye that will tear me up inside.
When we got to the street, all of the tro-tro drivers yell at you, "WHERE ARE YOU GOING WHERE ARE YOU GOING O-BRO-NEE WHERE ARE YOU GOING" but I needed a minute so I waved them off. I hugged the kids who followed me and told them I loved them. Then I looked down to the little brown hand gripped in my left one. It was too soon to let it go. I didn't mean to, but the tears started coming. I should have parted ways at the orphanage, I thought, as i stood sobbing in the center of town, where everyone could see, and was likely looking.
I just stood and held him as I tried to pull it together. Morris, the sweetest, funniest little 7 year old said, "Madame Stephanie I do not want to see you crying, so stop." But I couldn't. Especially as I bent down to look in those big brown eyes that belonged to the kid I love so much. He is the toughest child I have ever met, but the tears got him too. They were slowly dripping down his face, like he was trying not to let them. The other kids looked shocked as they watched him wipe them away. Standing there in that moment, it felt like we had a secret no one else knew. I don't know what it is that connects the two of us but it is strong, and it was immediate, and I know it is forever. I whispered that I loved him so much, and I will come back for him. And I will.
Not everyone would love it here. It is hot and hard and it tries all of your good qualities to see which ones are still there at the end of the day. Traveling is a funny thing, because most people do it in luxury, for vacation. But if you really mean to travel for the purpose of knowing another place and another life, you won't go in luxury. You will put on a backpack and choose a destination. You will learn who you are when you are secluded from everything you know. You'll see who you can be if you push yourself to adapt and change and grow and embrace the uncomfortable. And if you are lucky enough, you will find another piece of your heart.