Chapter Ten

March 2020

Two weeks before her trip back to Accra, Noelle got the news she’d been dreading for the last month. There had been reports on the news about a virus spreading around the world and rumors of international travel being affected. Every time she scrolled through social media, there were videos showing empty city streets and people unable to get groceries and other vital necessities. The President announced that the U.S. had everything under control. For once, Noelle wanted to believe him, but when could he ever be trusted? She held her breath. One by one, more countries reported positive cases and, one by one, closed their borders and all air travel was grounded. Her trip back to Ghana, back to Kofi, was canceled. 

“I should’ve come in February!” she texted Kofi. “Now I’m stuck in America, stuck in my house.”

June 2020

Three months of lockdown could either mean a lot could happen or nothing at all. When it came to Noelle and Kofi’s budding…whatever it was…a lot had progressed. Daily video calls and text messages became the norm. With the entire world quarantined in their homes, the time difference was no longer an issue. And even though travel was banned, Noelle and Kofi found themselves becoming closer and closer. It was a nice distraction from the world being on fire…especially in the U.S. 

The pandemic only highlighted the ills of America and Noelle longed to be back in the melanated bubble of protection that Ghana graciously offered. In addition to political leaders not knowing how to address the pandemic known as Covid 19, Noelle witnessed her country at war within itself. Recorded for the world to see, another unarmed Black person was murdered at the hands of police. People were tired, angry, scared and disconnected from their communities. Riots broke out in the streets, mental health deteriorated and the death toll continued to rise. Whether or not you chose to be involved,  you were forced to be. Coverage was on every news channel, radio station, and social media platform. Noelle couldn’t turn away if she wanted to. And although she had an activist spirit,  she desperately wanted to.

Conversely, the pandemic also seemed to bring people back to true connection. To get fresh air and cure her cabin fever, Noelle took walks around her neighborhood. She witnessed fathers playing basketball with their sons in the driveway, mothers running after small children on their bicycles, neighbors distanced yet conversing in the common areas. As an advocate for authentic connection, it made her smile widely. Maybe there was a greater purpose in all of us slowing down and reconnecting, she thought.

October 2020 

The time had come. After several months of uncertainty, Ghana’s borders reopened. After 10 long months of texting, FaceTime calls, surprise birthday present deliveries and endless social media DMs, Noelle would finally reunite with Kofi in a month’s time. Initially, Noelle planned to spend time in her melanated bubble for four full days. It was her dad who convinced her to extend the trip to eight. She laughed to herself as she remembered his words. “You’re going to go halfway across the world, in the middle of a pandemic, with no vaccine available and only stay for four days?” he asked.  The death toll in Ghana was a tenth of the number in the U.S. And, unlike D.C. in November, Accra would be 85 degrees and had lots of open-air venues, which meant better air circulation if social distancing wasn’t an option. 

“How crazy am I for traveling internationally at a time like this?” Noelle asked Ryan. “Very crazy. But you were masking and wiping down plane seats and tray tables well before Covid so I know you’ll be safe.” Noelle was shocked. Even though she was the younger sister, Ryan was overprotective. Noelle took the opportunity to FaceTime Kofi.

“Hey, what do you think about me staying a little longer? Instead of leaving on Monday, I was considering extending my trip until Friday,” Noelle asked nervously. Yes, they’d gotten to know each other much better, but was she pushing her luck? Would it be awkward when they finally reunited in person? “I’d like that, actually,”  Kofi smiled. “It’s too bad you can’t stay one more day. My best friend gets married that Saturday. It would be cool for you to experience a Ghanaian wedding.” “Oh, wow! Umm…yeah, that could work.” Noelle exhaled. Noelle adjusted her itinerary to ten days in Accra. Finally, something to be excited about.

Song: What’s Going On x Marvin Gaye

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