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A Foreigner on Both Sides

Updated: Jun 2, 2018

My name is Roxanne & I'm 27 years old born to a Togolese Father and a Togolese-Ghanaian Mother. I am an entrepreneur, a librarian, and a Kizomba dancer/instructor. True friendships are the most important relationships to me. I enjoy reading, good music & travelling. I am chatterbox who prefers engaging in a healthy conversation with people or even strangers over anything!

Healthy Human connections fuel the soul.

I aspire to be motivational speaker - sharing my experiences to inspire others is my calling. I believe everyone is a traveler in this world. It’s therefore essential to first acknowledge where we are came from, then we can appreciate our current and next destination. When we're in touch with our origins, our purpose for relocating is well defined.

When I first saw the trailer for the Re(turn) movement on Instagram, I was touched by the initiative because it got me thinking. I definitely could relate. It made me question my origins and what measures I've put in place to reconnect to them. Unfortunately, not much. Such a shame right? Be easy on me. I didn't know how to love where I came from in the beginning. I wasn't taught how. I had to learn how to do that myself! Now, I'm inspired more than ever to put in more effort to reintegrate, to ask the right questions, experience and appreciate my cultures, traditions & values.

The (Re)turn Conversation has been long overdue. It was about time we sat down and opened up about it.

This phenomenon we are seeing is not limited to Africa and its diaspora. In my opinion, there are foreigners on every land and if only we took the time to listen their stories as to what motivated/pushed them to move, we may come to understanding & accommodating them! While People move for different reasons, the search for greener pastures tops the list. Over time we've allowed ourselves to accept that life in our own home is much threatening than elsewhere. This movement is crucial to us Africans, especially since we are the most scattered across the globe either voluntarily or involuntary (Slavery). I strongly believe that this conversations will open up our eyes, minds and hearts to embrace who we are & where we came from. That’s how we can appreciate what's on the other side. That’s when our delusions about the unknown land could be unmasked.

I have never been outside of Africa, but I've moved from one African country to another. I know what it feels like to be treated/regarded as a foreigner on both sides.

This is my story:

I come from a small village in the Central Region of Togo called Doufouli. My native language is called Añanga. Nope, I can't speak it. I only know “Faaña” which means you're welcome and “Fo’osu” which means thank you. I'm yet to discover the names of our foods, festivals and our history. As I mentioned earlier, I wasn't taught to appreciate all of those things. Although my dad, bless his soul, tried to get me to appreciate those things by taking me there twice. We lived in the South Lomé till I turned eleven. After my father passed away, I moved to live with my mother in Accra, Ghana till today. The move to Ghana was unexpected. I never thought I'd end up here, but life happened. At the time, I had mixed feelings about it because I was leaving behind people and things to which I'd been attached all the eleven years of my life. I wasn't entirely enthusiastic but I was curious about the new life ahead.

I noticed the vast differences between the two countries. It was so vivid. Ghana looked much better. The roads were busier and wider. I’d never seen so many cars! There were little or no motorcycles on the roads like where I came from. The buildings/houses looked so nice! I allowed myself to feel lucky to be Ghana. I was almost happy. But it was short lived as I was quickly reminded that I was a foreigner here. You see, at the time, I neither understood English nor the local language (Twi). I couldn't interact with people, especially in school. The language barrier was frustrating. I struggled to fit in. I remember how intolerant and impatient some of my peers were towards me. Now, I can say I understand why.

From my observation, Ghanaians looked down on Togo as a country. Their imagine of Togo was demeaning and here l was, a Togolese kid with a funny accent. How great! I was treated differently because of that. I was endlessly teased because even my name sounded different too. Back then, I wished I had a local Ghanaian name so bad. I was convince that where I came from was inferior. There were times I denied my Togolese origins. I didn't want to be ridiculed anymore. Anytime I was asked where I came from I mentioned my Ghanaian Grandmother's town. I also did it to avoid the follow up questions & comments, provided I told them I was Togolese, such as:

  1. ”Oh so you're an Ewe?" Most people assume Togo has only one tribe which is Ewe. Many are clueless about the tribal diversity of the country.

  2. ”Is there constant electricity in Togo?"

  3. ”Would you want to go back?"

  4. “So you are francophone!"

  5. "You can dance mapouka eh? What?"

  6. ”wow you don't look Togolese at all!” - As in I'm too good looking to be?

Well most were out of mere curiosity, but it affected me. It made me hate and yearn to be back to Togo at the same time. At least that's where people who spoke in the same accent & had the same name as me were. Five years later, the nostalgia got to me. My childhood memories were haunting me. Oh how I'd missed my friends, my cousins, my school and my neighbors! So, I returned to my motherland the first time at 16. I still won't be able to describe exactly how I felt when I crossed the Aflao border and was finally on Togo soil! It was so emotional for me. I felt like a child who had been kidnapped for a long time and was finally returned home to her parents. The first thing I did when I arrived was to visit the people and places I'd missed!

But an unpleasant familiar feeling struck me hard. Not only did I feel like a foreigner, I was treated as one! Damn! Not again! Like this is where I belong.

I mean I already went and still going through that in Ghana for God's sake! I couldn't blame them anyways .After 5 years of being away, so much had changed. Now my accent had been altered. I was more Ghanaian to them. I was different to them. I was the foreigner. Although I was happy seeing everything and everyone again, they couldn't relate to me as before. I couldn’t fit in like I thought I Would. I was a little disappointed as things didn't turn out as I imagined. I truly wished things remained the same as I left them; as I kept them in my memory, but “that's just the way it is...Things will never be the same” as Tupac puts it.

I'd been back to Togo(the south) a few more times and it gets better for me. I've learned to appreciate the place as it is no matter how some Ghanaians and other African nationals may look down upon her .Moreover I'm inspired by the Re(turn) “movement” to now go back to my actual hometown(Doufouli in central Togo).To learn how it all began-The history of my people, our traditions and core values. I'm eager embark on this journey now more than ever. Yes I'm Ghanaian. I have lived in Ghana for 16 years now but I am originally from Togo & nothing can take that away from me. I embrace her as my homeland, my place of origin, where the history of my people are buried. Nothing to be ashamed of! Nothing but pride! It is so refreshing!

I'd like to use this opportunity to congratulate the ReTurn team on this initiative and anyone else who's joined in on this movement. Also, I encourage anyone reading this to embrace their roots - even if you're in denial. Sure, you didn’t choose it, but just imagine

amongst all the many places in this world that you could have originated from, the universe decided that you have the identity you have. That’s powerful. Cherish it. Accept who you are and where you come from as valid and important and I promise you that nobody can tell you otherwise. Nobody can take it away it from you. It will forever remain that untouchable treasure, safely kept in the depths of your soul filled with so much gratitude and love.

- Roxanne

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