Now this headline might sound a bit creepy to you. But one of my biggest struggles for the past 1.5 years was that I felt like I had to live two lives at once. I always felt like part of my heart belonged to Ghana and the person I am there, and another part of my heart belonged to the German girl I am, with all its international travels, adventures, ups and downs.
What happened 1.5 years ago?
If you go back a few blog posts, you will see the one where I write about a visit to Ghana. In the end of the article I wrote “Thinking back, I almost have to laugh about the thought that I might not like Ghana anymore and that this trip might have been my last one.” Who would have thought that I found a new self on that trip in May 2016? It was like strengthening a relationship that I have had for years. Ever since, I constantly struggled with the deep feeling for the country because I felt like it is not just the love that I have always felt since 2010, but something more. Something about myself. Something like an identity. Months passed before I got accepted for an internship at the Human Rights Advocacy Centre starting in January 2017. And that is when it all started.
My 2017 in Ghana
The moment I moved into the apartment that I shared with a friend of mine in January, that moment I felt some kind of peace. I have never lived in a shared flat before, but the three months in that apartment were pure bliss. Long and deep conversations and discussions took place almost every nigh in our living room, where neighbors and friends of ours gathered for heated debates. Some mornings, especially on his morning shifts, my flatmate would turn up loud high life music in his room around 6 and when I opened my door while still being half asleep, I could see him dance down the hall. It was also in those three months that I sat down with another friend and tried to tell him how Ghana makes me feel. I told him that in Germany, I always look to be someone better, achieve something more, I feel like I am a wild lady running around on a mission that she doesn’t even understand herself. However, in Ghana, I feel at peace, I feel fine. Laying on the couch does not come with the urge to be doing something more meaningful. Spending time on a bench staring at the ocean and feeling the breeze on my face, feels good just the way it is. I remember sending my American mom an email, trying to explain everything and how I feel. I also remember the last days in April before I had to go home, how overwhelmed and full of pain I was, calling my mom in Germany at 5 am and crying into the phone because I didn’t know who I truly am and where I belong.
Sometimes, accepting change is very hard. It took me many months. And it was probably only possible because of my return to Ghana in June. Then, living with another friend, I was able to pick up where I left off. To explore more about that “other life”. And during these following 3 months I realized that I could not continue living two lives. I had to make it work to put all my emotions, love and this new found identity in one life. In my life.
I remember laying at the pool one hot Sunday afternoon this year and reading a wonderful poem by my friend Kea (who is sharing her poetry with the world on her Instagram account). I will display at first the German original text and then translate it below:
“Ein Zimmer, zwei Stiefel
und tausend Gedanken,
ein neues Stück Himmel
im Sichtfeld vom Bett.
Der Nachmittag schweigt,
im Nachbarhaus Lichter,
ich schaue in fremde Leben hinein
Steh da und ich frag mich
was wär, wenn ich bleibe?
Ganz einfach für immer
als hätt ich vergessen,
dass irgendwo anders
ein anderes Fenster
ein anderes Stück
dieses Himmels zeigt.”
Although I won’t be able to translate it with the glimmer of beauty that this poem holds, this is basically what it says: One room, two boots and thousand of thoughts, a new part of the sky from the viewpoint out of bed. The afternoon is silent, there are lights in the neighbor’s house, and I am looking into foreign lives. I am standing here and ask myself what would happen if I stayed? Simply forever as if I had forgotten that somewhere else, a different window shows a different part of this sky.
Don’t get me wrong. I never thought of simply staying in Ghana. However, I started thinking that maybe it is not so bad or wrong to love the view of the sky from this Ghana soil. Maybe I don’t always have to chose to leave Ghana, maybe it is possible to stay – in a metaphoric sense. Maybe I could start to love this glimpse of Ghana in my heart and make it mine, not keeping it separate.
Beginning of this year, I asked my then best friend to give me a real local name. I have carried around Efia for many years but it simply means that you are a woman and born on a Friday. He thought about it for a while and said “You should have the name of my grandma. You should be Korantemaa.” I said “Korantemaa,… I think I like it”. From that point on, I continued introducing myself to people as Natalie. But looking back, I think it was a major part of accepting this “so foreign identity”.
It is November now. I spent most of this year in Ghana and right now, I am finding myself in this hot and loud and loving country, once again. Over the past moths, my whole life got shaken around, many things changed and fell apart. The way to this new “me” was not an easy one for sure. Who would have thought that with 26 or 27 I would be fighting such battles? But now I am here in Accra. As full me. As Natalie Korantemaa. As a person who might belong to both places, Berlin and Accra. Every evening I am falling asleep in the arms of this still so foreign place. But now it’s all good. I am still with the Human Rights Advocacy Centre, as I was all throughout this year. But now not as an intern anymore, but as a PhD student. The new-found life is at full speed, without giving me much break in between. But I am at peace.