It’s not a picture that captures the essence of a country, it’s our personal experience of connection that does. My roster is full of flights again, the airplanes are full and the restaurants and cafés in Schiphol Airport are buoyant and alive by the stream of people going on holidays, returning to their families and being able to travel again. It was a sad scene to look at a deserted airport and fly in almost empty airplanes. The crowds returning feels like a joy to my eye, a cheer for the heart.
I got another chance to experience the vibes of Accra, the capital city of Ghana, in the 48 hour lay over that was given to me by the Roster Gods. And little did I know what inspiration was waiting for me in Ghana.
We stay in a beautiful hotel with a big swimming pool, surrounded by palm trees and green grass. But this is not the place to be if you want to have an authentic local experience so the seven of us decided to visit Labadi Beach, a pleasant drive away.
It’s a modest beach with several beach cafes that offer seating close to the Atlantic Ocean, or the Gulf of Ghana. The brightly coloured pillows and parasols give a holiday-like feel. As we were the only obviously looking tourists there, a small crowd of people surrounded us, each of them trying to pull us to their beach area. In a multitude of demanding and persistent voices we heard: “Come here, sit with us, we have nice colourful benches! We have sunbeds! We have food! Come here, just come and look, one minute away, follow me, let’s go.” It was chaotic and overwhelming to be honest. Once we sat, they all went away which gave us the much needed peace to just breathe and enjoy the breeze of the ocean. But not for long.
In the length of our stay, we were approached by merchants every 10 to 15 minutes. They came to offer their goods or services which varied from African handicrafts, to a horseback ride on the beach, to a fire swallowing acrobat performing his services, to African art, to a lady selling second-hand beach wear.
My face lit up when I saw two women walking with a basket of oils and nail polishes, the portable spa of the beach. I have never seen it before! They happily approached us and were not afraid to already start massaging you while trying to seduce you to take a 15 minute neck, shoulder or foot massage.
“Hi! Do you want a nice massage? I am good. My name is Elizabeth, what is yours?”
I was hesitant since all of us were sitting on these beach benches and I would be so relaxed in front of all my colleagues. Elizabeth saw me doubting and then asked; “Please support me”. And I thought: ‘Yes, why should I not? This woman might need it and I would love to have a neck massage while listening to the sound of the waves. Life is right now, I might as well enjoy it to the maximum.’
It was a good decision because I enjoyed every minute of it. I jokingly said to her: “Elizabeth, I need you in my life every day”. She laughed and continued to untie the knots in my shoulders. After it was finished, I turned around. She looked at me and said in a calm voice: “Thank you for supporting me, I love you” and gave me the warmest hug.
I felt completely embraced in the warmth of her heart and the gratitude she genuinely expressed to me. I could feel it through her words. This feeling was richer than the massage I just received.
I know the words: “Thank you for supporting me, I love you” are just words when you read this on the screen- but I could feel the energy behind it and it touched me. The crew also felt the endearing encounter that had taken place and the gratitude in her communication. It was tangible in energy.
We often hear more than what is spoken in words, if we are sensitive enough, we can actually feel the energy behind the words. Authentic, real and honest communication for me is when the words someone says to you matches with the energy you feel coming from them. When you speak from your heart, it is like giving a gift. In Ghana I felt heartfelt communication several times. It recharged my own heart and made me realize how much we need that heart in the Netherlands more. We live inside our heads too much, in comparison with one another, but less in the feeling of community and unity.
When I was walking alone on the crowded market, being the only white person there wearing a hat and obviously standing out in the crowd, several women protected me with good advice. They would act as my keeper and say to me: “You keep your bag in front of you, there are thieves here!” and another would say; “Take care of yourself lady”. I could feel their heart in their communication and that made all the difference.
It was a good reminder to for me to use my heart more and instead of always wanting to leave the Netherlands to experience this warmth, I can just create it myself here. Are you with me? Let’s let everyone feel the warmth of our hearts!
What the nightlife in Ghana taught me
I never go out clubbing. I don’t like it that much, that cat-and-mouse- game, the disruption of your night routine which is so important for your health and I don’t drink alcohol so mostly you will find me in a dance class, dancing my heart out in the evening but not in a club.
But when my colleague pitched the idea to visit Bloom Bar, I was curious to know about the nightlife culture Ghana had. I wanted to see the people and get to know a world different from my own. Oh, and not to forget, the dancing. I wanted to go dancing.
We booked a taxi and while we were on our way, we seriously wondered if we would be driven to some empty street in a forgotten area and robbed there. It turned out Bloom Bar is located in the surburban area of Accra! In between houses there is this loud and noisy club!
We were seated at a couch in a corner with a giant fan directed to us, which was fortunate to blow away the mosquitos and cool us down. When the crowd started to dance, I loooooved what I saw. The men were there to dance, not to chase after girls or to seduce (at least, my eye didn’t see that) and boy oh boy, they were talented, confident and good!! The crowd would film their dance moves with their phones with flashes and cheer them on.
The ladies all looked stunning and were beautifully dressed in tight clothing where it didn’t matter if you saw a roll of fat. They were celebrating their curves and body and it was empowering to see. When I wear something that reveals the slightest roll of fat, I change my outfit! Instead of just going for it and celebrating what I look like- whether that fits in the created image of perfection by society or not. Society just has to make room for the curves on my body and ANY body for that matter.
Ghana, I thank you for the inspiration of your warm and rich heart and for the message of empowerment! I love you!