Looking back to England

7 01 2009

I started this sitting in the departure lounge at Heathrow waiting to fly from a snowy England back to a sunny Ghana considering what observations to make after a month back in Britain. The first is that I need to explain how to pronounce the name of the town I live in, not like the Mexican food but with the stress on the last syllable, so tam-a-LAY (not ta-mar-lee). Petty I know, but worth mentioning rather than suffering in silence or annoyingly correcting people all the time. I have better things to be pedantic about.

I enjoyed my time back home and managed to do (and eat) most of things and meet most of the people I wanted to. Everyone’s been really kind and generous and I don’t think any of the things I was nervous of happened, although I did nearly get knocked over a couple of times – not so much from looking the wrong way as not being used to how fast people drive. Apart from that barmen were safe from being called “brother”, I don’t think I’ tss’ed once and no-one’s gardens got an unexpected watering. I didn’t spend as much time reading The Guardian as I expected (or doing their crossword), I only had one gin and tonic and there were a few people I missed but overall a great trip.

A few people asked me what it was like to be back in the UK after 14 months in West Africa, was it hard to adjust? Oddly enough the answer is “not really”, after all I grew up in the rich world and am used to it, I knew what to expect. There are things which I noticed more but many aren’t related to the relative wealth of the countries. Britain seemed a dull, drab, sterile place after Ghana full of quiet, pallid, overweight people who didn’t always seem terribly happy.  The wealth gap was obvious, but not shocking. It’s not Britain’s wealth that upsets me but Ghana’s poverty. I appreciated reliable services, good street lighting, smooth roads and, especially, hot water straight from the tap. The massive number of choices available (to do, to eat, to buy, to watch etc.) is fantastic, and a little overwhelming at times.
The other question I was asked was what I’d do when I get back. The Britain I left just over a year ago was a confident country, I returned to credit crunch.  I was surprised at the number of boarded up shops in the high street and talk of bankruptcies and recession in the press. My irrational confidence in my own talents and people’s ability to spot them may be put to the test in a few months time, but I’m not letting that worry me. The decisions I have made so far are that I don’t want to go back to London, either to live or work, if I can I’d like to return to Sussex. I think I’ll stay in IT but move away from programming and I don’t (at the moment) have any driving desire to stay in “international development” or the charity sector. That doesn’t mean I’m looking to back to the banking industry (which may be a challenge anyway). Now I’ve said it I’ll probably end up as a programmer for a charity in London.

I’m finishing this in Accra waiting to catch the bus to Tamale tomorrow while Ghana’s new president (professor John Atta-Mills) is inaugurated.  I ought to use the day to consider the rest of my time in Ghana or to write about the new president. I probably won’t though, I suspect I’ll settle down to read or do some of the crosswords from the book I brought back from Britain.




One response

9 01 2009

Hi Tim,

Akwaaba to Ghana.
Good to read you manage to chill a little(?) bit up yonder.
Keep us posted about your re-entry upheavals, if any.

Again akwaaba.

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