Where are you from? The gentleman sitting by my side asked in the plane. I am from Ghana, a small country on the west coast of Africa I answered. Oh! Okay, he replied. Then after a few seconds he went like do you know LeBron James?
I lied and I said yes. Praying to God he doesn’t ask me who he is. I would have said he is a country music star. He went on to tell me all about Akron’s “King James.”
This is not to say that LeBron Raymone James is not famous in Ghana. But I am not a basketball fan. I am almost certain all the rich and poor kids who play and follow basketball on the professional and sometimes sandy turfs in Ghana adore him.
Then I stole a moment away from my babbling friend who couldn’t shut up about the greatest star Akron has known. I looked through the window of the aircraft from a thousand feet in the air and I saw Akron: an enchanting view, relatively green with trees almost everywhere. My curious eyes did not miss the tricky shades of the wonderful fall colors as it slowly sets in. I thought this was beautiful enough until we landed at the Akron Canton Airport and started a brief auto tour with my host.
Do you believe in love at first sight? Well I was infatuated with the city of Akron merely from the overhead view. When I walked its streets I fell in love. Akron has great weather, efficient transport system, sensible urban planning and very warm people. It’s simply a livable city. But as with many love relationships, there are often issues which worry one partner. This is my trouble with Akron. Why does your uniqueness surprise your lover till it worries his African eyes? There is something about your yellow painted traffic lights that feels like an allergy in my system.
In all of my travels to parts of Europe, and East and West Africa I have only seen a few traffic lights hang across the streets on cables. Even that is not much of a worry to me than the color. A yellow case for the traffic light? Among things that appear foreign to my eyes this is one item that rises to the top, if only because there are so many lights!
My dear Akron, Why? They sometimes look like unripe jack fruits falling from the trees.
But I guess this is one of the few things I have to live with, in my brief life time with you, Akron.
Then I took a long walk through the city last Saturday. Why did I walk? Well, I think the best way to know a place is to walk rather than drive through.
I came across a graffiti which revealed yet another side of my new found love and home. Some one here cares about the geo political climate in Syria. The graffiti did not arrest my attention when I first saw it but when I returned to look at it again, I was struck by a piercing thought that “Syria is now a scar on the conscience of the world.”
You want to know what that means? Just think of the millions of displaced people. I am sure you will get my drift.
Is Donald Plusquellic still the mayor of Akron? Maybe he is not. Because as a brand new lover, I think I deserve a better welcome.
I found this “Welcome to Akron” almost rusty billboard nailed to one of the electricity poles in the city. I want to believe there are better, more elegant ‘welcomes’ in other parts of the city.
Because you see, in the vicinity that I saw this welcome note, the city welcome message was the worse. The ones owned by banks, retails shops and others looked like somebody cared.
Love is enriched by the little things. But I still love you, Akron.
Editor's note: Henry Kwaku Owusu Peprah is a visiting journalist from Joy FM in Ghana, where he serves as western regional correspondent. He is taking part in an exchange program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists and U.S. State Department.