On our last night in the chalet that has been our home for almost the past two years, my wife Yaa poured a glass of wine for me and I stepped outside onto the back porch we never used, to take in the night air. The moon was shining brightly but still it was raining, great big fat drops that fell lazily from the sky one by one like tears. The termites were performing their dispersal flight, and the toads had materialized seemingly from out of nowhere and were having a feast.
A termite’s life cannot have much to recommend it: living in darkness, eating each others’ shit, and so forth. About the only bright spot would seem to be the annual dispersal flight, in which millions of shiny new alates, like teenagers resplendent in their prom finery, leave the colony and for a few brief moments start heading for the light. They’ve been doing this every year for untold millions of years, even though not one out of a million makes it. No second chances for them.
Almost three years ago, I received a letter from USCIS, saying they might not approve my wife’s visa for years, so I decided to go to Africa to be with her. Since then it’s been quite a ride. I have been to the island monastery where they brought the Holy Ark of the Covenant in the Fifth Century BC, and I came face to face with a couple of friendly hippos. I have seen elephants and hyenas up close. I have been baptized by the priest of the Crocodile God, and I have searched for a cryptid in the jungles of Ankasa. I have watched 92 baby sea turtles begin their lives, and I have watched a bouncing baby boy with my name begin his.
Feeding my grand-nephew Patrick, thereby proving I’ve done one thing to justify my existence
But, all good things must come to an end.
Initially, I had regarded this African sojourn as an interruption of my real life, but last March when I received word that I did not get a fellowship I had applied for in Medical Journalism at Johns Hopkins University, suddenly I had a hard time thinking of a reason why I should want to go back. I asked the NGO sponsoring me in Ghana if they would renew me for another year, but they said No. I understand. This was never meant to be a career.
I have to say, I had found a pretty comfortable berth to ride out the worst of this none-dare-call-it-depression. I have never seen things as bad as they were when I left the United States three years ago.
Then there is the little matter of health insurance. Three years ago, I had a policy with a $10,000 (not a typo) deductible for which I paid fifty dollars a month. The same policy today would cost me three times as much, as well as an equal amount for my wife. A policy that actually gave us a fighting chance of avoiding bankruptcy in the unlikely event of a really serious illness would cost several times that.
So I don’t know what’s going to happen next. We shall just have to see.
All photos by author