“that city of perennial anonymity amid the crowd, that place of relentless haste where eyes met only by accident and the smile on the lips of a stranger was a build-up for some kind of proposition.” – The Lost Steps, by Alejo Carpentier.
As I was reading this assigned novel, these words jumped out of the page like overenthusiastic puppies, licking my ears with the recognition of a concept so pervasive yet elusive, and neatly summed up in the latter half of a sentence. An angst-ridden journal entry sits beside me and echoes this description of a disconnectedness that I almost was not allowed to feel as I biked the roads and walked the alleys of Karaga. And here it is commonplace, though my tread across campus is interrupted by smiles and nods to people I know, the majority of them do not even recieve an acknowledgement of existence, and do not offer theirs.
But before I can go on about how everyone is so interconnected in Ghana, I rein myself in by remembering that this disconnectedness was my experience in Tamale also, where vast swarms of people still overwhelm our urges to connect with each other. While Tamale had its perks of ice cream and cheddar, and I felt more accustomed to its rapidity and clutter because of my Vancouver upbringing, I noticed its impersonality, unless I stopped to have that conversation with the egg and bread patrons, or made a joke with the shopkeeper, or sought out that acquaintance of the day before, or planned te be met at the bus station by my good friend. The cement halls and impassive puddles at SFU remind me that I need to keep stopping to have those conversations. Otherwise I may indeed fall in step with that restless anonymity where everyone is only ever on their way to somewhere else, and making new connections can never be an end in itself, regardless of whether it occurred by accident.