Having struggled with my mental health in a lot of my adult life, travelling alone “to Africa” seemed absurd, and yet, not absurd. I wouldn’t have my therapist to speak to if things went south. 3 weeks into the first country I visited they did. Right here in Techiman, Ghana where this beautiful lady made bread. But I can promise you, depression or anxiety is easier to cope with when surrounded by the beauty of Africa, the serenity, the people who seem to ooze happiness and serotonin from their Traditional Clay Ovens
Let me explain
I heard about a lady who lived 5 minutes from my hostel. She not only baked the bread for all the shops in this neighbourhood- but did it without using electricity. As she answered her door, the language barrier became apparent- How was I now to say ” Please may I follow you around with my camera as you bake so that I can learn, and by the way, the balance of my mental health and looming depression depends on this”
My therapist had warned me that ‘No matter where go, you will take your problems with you”.
I was working in a school in Techiman, but had been feeling so low, alone and I was being hard myself. I didn’t think I was a good enough teaching assistant in the primary school (I asked to be a nursery school assistant instead). I was frustrated about going out of budget because apparently my Southern Africa taste buds didn’t understand West African food. I was hating how I was not more confident when I met new people and felt like I kept missing opportunities. If I didn’t ask her how this bread was made I was ready to brand myself a failure in life, too shy, too useless. Can’t do anything right. This is the dramatic nonsense I didn’t need right now, I knew it could get worse. I HAD to ask her
It’s true, I had chosen to swap paying for therapy sessions for paying for flights to Africa. The last line of J hus song was “I had to go to Africa for Spiritual Cleansing”, so here I was Jhus. Where is the cleansing?
This lady I believe was God sent. She is an example of going over and beyond and then further, untainted kindness. I found that a lot in my solo travels. People going out of their way for this naive sort of African, but sort of British black girl who is obsessed with recording everything on her camera.
I did it!
I knocked on her door, found out she only spoke her language, so she asked someone to translate. They told her I make travel videos, I have never seen bread being made, can I record, I’m willing to pay. She didn’t want the money. I think the idea of imparting knowledge was enough, but I paid anyway. I came at 6am the next day as she said, you can see how happy the experience made me in the video below. We laughed together, I recorded, she was so kind – did I mention she made me lunch later? I decided to adopt her as my Ghanaian grandmother, she did so much for me mentally, I couldn’t communicate that in words but I know she could tell.
I left. I had everything I wanted, I couldn’t use harsh words to attack myself- This time. I was proud of having gotten over my shyness. When I came back with the money to pay she walked me to the bicycle taxis instead. I didn’t know where we were going, I didn’t care though because remember she was my new grandma? She led me to this building with people greeting her, smiling – her friends – saying hi etc. I could hear these mechanic sounds as they in turn greeted me too. I realised that this is the bread factory where she makes the dough for the bread. Full of people, working all saying hi to me, all being super nice. This was going over and beyond!
I felt at peace and at home.
I hated when I had to leave. But the memories are vivid, she was just looking at me talking with other people and smiling. Then she made her dough, I’m telling you her arms were strong. Without speaking the same language, she knew that this was something that would make me happy.
I wanted to add how fascinating it was that she makes bread without electricity because in my country we rely on electricity, at least in the towns. At the time that I was with her, my courtly was experiencing power cuts from 6am to 10pm. This affected production in various industries, combined with the wheat shortages made bread very expense. Imagine if we tapped into some of our traditional methods of production like this – because my grandma here makes bread for the whole hood without that fancy stuff.