I have a friend in Sydney whom I met upon my return from Ghana through a Solomon Islander friend I met at Centrelink whilst contemplating when I’d see my husband again. She saw my daughter’s hair and we started a friendship because she recognised my daughter was either African or Islander. I met Atia through her and she is Ghanaian, married to an Australian.
Hers is a story of a strong-minded woman who married an Aussie in Ghana who was a big man and was made a chief in Odoye-Mani because of his large stature and business connections. She thought it would give her a better life, that this big man would make life easier for her. Instead she came to be his slave and then he got sent to jail. Now she is alone and is there keeping her two daughters with her, coping with irregular employment and managing life as she would in Ghana but in much harsher circumstances.
When we call each other we say, ‘hey, my wife’ as our greeting and when my husband, my daughter and I went back to Ghana we stayed for a few days with her mother as tia has not seen her in years. We did this so we could go and reassure Atia Ma (Atia’s mother) that things are fine, Atia is okay. She is managing but things are difficult. In her mothers lounge room is a big photo of Atia’s wedding day, her husband takes up most of the frame. Another photo is of her husband in his chief’s robes, sitting on his chief’s stool.
Whilst staying there a small boy in the house stole my husbands phone from under the door to our bedroom, which was locked. My husband told Atia’s Ma and we got it back. We left a day or two later to stay closer to the city centre as most of our business was there. No problem. Right?
When I came back I rang my wife, Atia, to tell her Ma was fine. She looked after us and we took care of her by giving her money each day. I told my wife, Atia, about the phone against my better judgement and it all fell apart from there. To me at first she was concerned as she’d told her mother to get rid of the boy years before as he was a bad boy and had thrifty fingers. Atia and I laughed about it and I thought that was it. Yet she rang me back an hour later to say she’d called her mother and her mother had obviously got on the defensive. She told me I should be careful when my husband’s son comes to live with us as these kids from Ghana can cause trouble and gave me warnings about danger ahead. I should be wary of my husband. Her mother said I was lovely but my husband should not be trusted. I stayed quiet, letting her go on and get it out of her system and then said my goodbyes and hung up.
But I was livid.
I sat on it, fuming, for a few days before deciding I had to speak to her about it. I am not one for confrontation but I cannot stand by and let someone insult my husband. Never.
I rang Atia and said I wanted to clear up some things from our conversation. I said I understood she was under pressure. Her husband is away, she has not seen her mother for many years and it is obvious Ma is aging and Atia finds that hard to judge being so distant. However, my husband and I have done so much to support her and she has no right to talk to him like that, especially as he spent every morning counselling her mother, saying good things about Atia and her husband and that all would be well. They prayed together often about it. She should not cast one stone and I forgave her because of the issues surrounding her at present would make anyone fall apart from time to time. She listened and apologised and we settled it as far as we could at that point.
Since then I have tried to call her three times and she has not called back. It has been 4 months. I’ll keep trying cause the issues are not hanging over my shoulders and I do care for her. I don’t think in any way she deserves what has happened to her and she is dealing well with it overall. She is a strong, African woman who is enterprising, energetic and a formidable gardener and cook of all traditional foods. Eating at her place is like going home on a daily basis. I wish I could cook like her.
I hope we talk again soon but I will never stay with her mother again. It’s obviously in no-ones interest to do so.