Growing up, we all fantasized about traveling to America. Blame it on Hollywood!!! We watched the “Home Alone” series and were never the same again. Our dreams started revolving around a “white Christmas” somewhere in suburban America, surrounded by well-manicured gardens and huddled around a tree sitting next to a fireplace. When GTV first showed “Richie Rich”, our conversations in primary school were never the same again. People who had never owned a passport were suddenly debating whether McDonalds was better than Burger King. Our “Yankee taste buds” were soured for a bit after seeing how rough the streets of Queens were in the Eddie Murphy classic, “Coming to America”. But the “American Pie” series re-sweetened them.
Needless to say, the American Dream has been present in most if not every Ghanaian child’s aspirations. When relatives who lived overseas came home to visit, we trod to their houses and kept vigil in their living rooms until we got a snicker bar or a discounted t-shirt from Burlington. When a colleague was about to leave the country and join his parents somewhere in Chicago after years of going through the “filing process”, we treated him like some god all in the hope that “he won’t forget us” once he left.
And so we harbored the hopes of landing at JFK for years. Post high school, most of us trooped to SAT writing centers after hearing of the scholarships offered by the ivy leagues, liberal art colleges and state universities. And that was where it dawned on us that “Uncle Sam was not in the business of randomly giving out handouts”. You had to earn it! So those who could either attain the high SAT scores and GPA or could afford the tens of thousands of dollars in tuition costs found themselves on Delta Air en route the palm lined campuses of Obama land. Those who could not eventually gave up the long held dream.
Well they did until they came to Legon and discovered the black gold; The International Student’s Hostel. One of the most sought after halls on campus, ISH, as it is aptly called has two appeals. On one hand the hostel is saved from the brunt of the irritable Dumsor due to the generating plants which run are throughout the night when “Mahama decides to visit”. The second and most important appeal of ISH the American students who spend their semester abroad in its confines.
On an international escape from the bland campus of some rural colleges in the Deep South or uppity liberal arts colleges in the cold north, most of these students choose Ghana because they never tasted the soup from the melting pot. And then there are the Black/African American students (whichever is considered politically correct) who choose “the motherland” to reconnect with their roots.
Here to experience diversity and a different culture, these students are as friendly as can be. In their eagerness to learn the Twi language, how to dance Azonto, eat fufu with their hands and occasionally discover the truth in the famed prowess of the African man lies the opportunity for those still chasing the American dreams.
And there you have it; the explanation for the tomes of people who tried to move to ISH at the beginning of the semester. Yes some people legitimately wanted to move in to enjoy Dumsor-free nights and “two in a room” comfort at almost the same price for “four in a room” at the diaspora (I know I didJ ha-ha). But for most guys, it was an opportunity to get close to the unsuspecting and sometimes indulgent Oburonis. A chance to “grab” a one way ticket to the greener plains on the other side
But who can blame them? For everybody wants to be a borga, fly to America and eat a McDonald Burger.