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THE IMMIGRANT’S ANECDOTE

CHAPTER 1: DREAMS ARE REAL
Will Smith once said, ‘I wake up every day believing today is going to be better than yesterday’. I remember the days when I would sit among a cluster of children just about a meter away from a bigheaded television in anticipation to watch the fresh prince of Bel-Air. Although I did not understand a single word of the English language, like the other kids, I would laugh along with the elderly, who always had the privilege of sitting on the 1990 rubber coated sofa.
At night I would lay in my bed picturing having the opportunity to go to school like Fiifi, my best friend and neighbor whose parents worked at the polyclinic and could afford him education. I would imagine myself speaking English as fluently as Kofi Annan, my idol, eventually living abroad, having the perfect family just like Will, preferably married to Ashley and most importantly owning my own television, not a black and white but a colored one and a leather sofa without rubber covering.
Even at the age of ten, I always knew I liked nice things. On my way to sell plantain chips at the Dunkwa market, I would always take a long 10minuits at the junction to admire the Benzes and BMWs before crossing the untarred roads to sneak myself into the trotro. Whenever the driver’s mate would catch me, I would tell him a whole bunch of stories, which he always found amusing and funny. It was no secret that I had a way with words and could talk my way out of any situation. I could make him laugh so hard that he would give me a seat right under his armpit.
Nevertheless, as traumatizing as this particular spot in the old bus was, I learnt to be enduring and persistent. My refusal to give up on life grew stronger by the day. Looking at my poor widowed mother struggling to put food on the table would always put a tear of strength in my eye. I would therefore try as much as possible to sell as many chips each day.
From dawn to dusk I sold to the rich and poor. I sold the chips for 2cedis to the woman with challewotey and 10 cedis to the man in tie. At the age of 12 , I could probably have ran for assembly man, since everyone knew me and many would ask day every day. From Monday to Saturday I earned a total of about 50cedis, based on more than 70 hours of hustle. This was not child labor; rather this was survival of the fittest. My only free day of the week was Sunday and I would wake up each Monday fervently looking forward to Sunday morning.
You see, Sunday was my favorite day of the week. This was because it was the closest I would come to my dream of being in school. Sitting under the palm tree with all the other children of which eighty percent were literates, would indeed give me a sense of belonging. The irony however, was that I seemed to be the smartest at Sunday school. I basically knew every story in the bible. It would always surprise deaconess Araba that I would use words like messiah and shout out names like habakuk when questions were asked. The truth of the matter is that although I did not attend school I was unconsciously learning the language which I so longed to speak by always looking at the words in my mother’s bible, which was basically the only book I could lay my hands on.
At 13, it was evident I was pretty intelligent. I knew more verses than Aunty Araba herself. She would call me each Sunday to tell stories from the Old Testament to the other children. My friend Fiifi was my hype man and together we were unstoppable. Around the month of November during Hamattan, Aunty Araba fell seriously ill. Apparently the doctors declared her situation fatal. I remember we went to visit her and in a private conversation with my mother about five meters away from me, she turned and looked in my direction with the most loving of smiles I had ever seen. The glow in her blink was like the sun’s rising.

From dawn to dusk I sold to the rich and poor. I sold the chips for 2cedis to the woman with challewotey and 10 cedis to the man in tie. At the age of 12 , I could probably have ran for assembly man, since everyone knew me and many would ask of my where about if I skipped a day of work to go and play aligoto with my korbolo friends, who would hung at the junction all day every day. From Monday to Saturday I earned a total of about 50cedis, based on more than 70 hours of hustle. This was not child labor; rather this was survival of the fittest. My only free day of the week was Sunday and I would wake up each Monday fervently looking forward to Sunday morning.
You see, Sunday was my favorite day of the week. This was because it was the closest I would come to my dream of being in school. Sitting under the palm tree with all the other children of which eighty percent were literates, would indeed give me a sense of belonging. The irony however, was that I seemed to be the smartest at Sunday school. I basically knew every story in the bible. It would always surprise deaconess Araba that I would use words like messiah and shout out names like habakuk when questions were asked. The truth of the matter is that although I did not attend school I was unconsciously learning the language which I so longed to speak by always looking at the words in my mother’s bible, which was basically the only book I could lay my hands on.

 

At 13, it was evident I was pretty intelligent. I knew more verses than Aunty Araba herself. She would call me each Sunday to tell stories from the Old Testament to the other children. My friend Fiifi was my hype man and together we were unstoppable. Around the month of November during Hamattan, Aunty Araba fell seriously ill. Apparently the doctors declared her situation fatal. I remember we went to visit her and in a private conversation with my mother about five meters away from me, she turned and looked in my direction with the most loving of smiles I had ever seen. The glow in her blink was like the sun’s rising.
The next day which was a Monday I woke up, took my bath and upon my return to my room to dress up and leave for the usual knock about as we call it, found a uniform on my bed. I found myself in awe to be holding in my hand a konkonte and groundnut soup uniform. In enthusiasm, I hastened into my mother’s room and found her awaiting my reaction. She hugged me and said, ‘Kofi Bediako, you have been favored. Enn3 wo b3 ko sukuu no bi’. I jumped with extreme joy and had a feeling of euphoria I had never experienced before. She explained to me that Aunty Araba had also been saving up for me to go to school and that she bought the uniform for me. At that particular moment I met grace, the unmerited favor of God.
After I had put on my oversized shirt and tight shorts, I put on my best socks, the one with the least holes, employed my yellow chalewotey and we headed towards the school. In fact I was looking fly or so I thought. After I was enrolled and introduced to the class of 9year olds, I went to my seat feeling extremely old. My spirit was even more dampened when I reflected on the day on my way home realizing I barely understood a thing. The day could not have been any worse, when I found my mother outside our hut in tears after hearing the news of Aunty Araba’s death. This Monday basically evolved from the best to the worst and that night I could not imagine myself as the fresh prince.
For a week I was living my dream, yet miserably unhappy.