*This post is pulled from one of my several blogs scattering around the Internet.*
Ghana is home of the warmest and friendliest people in the world. Ghanaians are never too busy for a brief conversation or a friendly handshake. People smiled. People waved at me. People yelled, “Oburuni (which means foreigner or white person in Twi language),” when our eyes met. I yelled, “Obinini (black person),” back at them and we laughed it off.
One night, Catherine, Elora and I hailed a cab to Osu, the quarter filled with tourists in Accra, as our first adventure without the big group. Being oburunis, hailing a cab for a local price was a challenge. After a few unsuccessful attempts, Steven, a random guy standing nearby, helped us get a taxi for 10 cedi.
Instead of wandering around Osu as planned, we stopped in Osu night market, which was tucked away from the busy, crowded Oxford Street. Osu night market was smaller than I expected. The market was mostly for local food such as grilled fish, roasted pig and different kinds of stew. We walked up and down the street twice, tried everything a human being could possibly eat and decided to go home after awhile.
On the walk back to Osu’s main street, we paused to watch a woman pull fresh baked shortbread cookies out of a cast iron oven on the side of the street. I randomly asked the owner, Beatrice, if I could just stand and watch her bake. She nodded and approached the big black oven set by the door. Beatrice pulled out a warm, aromatic batch of shortbread cookies in front of us while gently asking if we would like to try one. Seeing our excited faces from her offer, she laughed and gave us a bag generously full of warm cookies.
At first, we all thought that Beatrice misunderstood because we did not want to buy a full bag of cookies. I asked how much we owed her for those. Then, she gave us the biggest smile and said, “It’s a gift from my heart to yours. It’s my pleasure.” Beatrice’s kind smile made me froze while my brain was searching for an appropriate response.
Right at that moment, something familiar reminded me of home. On busy streets of Greater Accra, in the thick humid air and the yelling and shouting of strangers, it felt like I was standing in the heart of Saigon, surrounding by family and friends. And I knew that I was home, although Vietnam was a few thousand miles away.