By Maame Adwoa Sekyi-Appiah Published on December 8, 2014 [caption id="attachment_1287" align="aligncenter" width="825"] London Heathrow Airport. Image from .[/caption] “Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la, la la la.” I sang while I handed in the semester’s last exam paper. School was finally over! I could not wait to leave the soils of Canada and see my family back home in Accra, Ghana for Christmas. The morning of December 21st, I woke up with same smile I took to bed. I checked my luggage at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport and I landed in London, England for transit. From hearing the Christmas carols to seeing the smiles of happy families to the people rushing to their boarding gates everything just spelled C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S!! Ghana is my home. I grew up there and my family still lives there. My family means everything to me. They have been my support system through every challenge I have faced. I was finally going home after two years! I was six hours away and I felt as though I was already home. [caption id="attachment_713" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Illustration by Maame Adwoa Sekyi-Appiah[/caption] Immersed in a book during my layover, I realized it was snowing outside. I whispered to myself – it is Christmas, so let it snow. Three hours later, I wished I could take those words back. It was snowing heavily. As I overhead people complaining about flight cancellations, I prayed to God to stop the snow. Forty minutes to boarding, they made the announcement I feared. There would be a short delay. I found myself constantly checking my watch. After a two hours of delay, the announcement came. Due to the heavy snow, all flights out of Heathrow International Airport were canceled. My bright and joyful Christmas mood suddenly dimmed. Tears rolled down my eyes uncontrollably. I want to be home, I said to myself. Home to me is my family, Not Canada and definitely not the Heathrow Airport. Tired from the tears I just shed, I lay my head down to nap. I felt lonelier looking at other people traveling with their. While watching them, I realized that family is everything. No matter where I am, having family with me made me feel at home. My flight was eventually rescheduled to the following morning. As we were boarding, the airline staff apologized for what had happened. The smiles they had on warmed my heart an assured me that today is another day and a better one. We were finally taking off to Accra, Ghana! When the plane took off I looked outside my window and I prayed to God to never let this happen to me or to anyone again. Although I was tired, cold and dirty, being in the air and finally going home put a smile back on my face. I started singing to myself “don we now our gay apparel, fa la la, la la la, la la la. Troll the ancient Yule tide carol, fa la la la la, la la la la.” [caption id="attachment_715" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Maame reading Maame presenting her story at the Second Annual Reading of On the Move in April 2014.[/caption]

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  1. What a wonderful story to share the experience of travel. Having being lucky to never have to face a flight cancellation in my own travel plans, Maame’s story is a reminder of how a place like the airport can have different meanings to different people, because of their experiences. I could connect with the image of the mind map as I think all students share the same excitement post-exams. Yet the one idea which I absolutely agree with is that family is home. This means that our homes are not static in physical location, but always following us and our loved ones.

  2. Taking long flights is stressful enough and having your flight being cancelled seems to be a very a distressing experience. I see that you have handled it quite well. Reading your story, I am reminded of the time when a family member was travelling by herself to meet us in India from Canada, and her connecting flight at Germany was cancelled. Being on the other side of the story, I identify with the concern your family may have felt finding out about your flight’s cancellation. I also took a note of how you identify home being where your family is, and that is a wonderful way to define home, a concept that is distinctly unique to each individual.

  3. This is a great story and a great reminder about the importance of family. I have been very fortunate to be living with my family my entire life and at times I do tend to take them for granted. After reading your story and reflecting upon others who live far away from their families, teaches me to value my family even more. I could not even imagine going a couple days; forget about two years without seeing my family. Your story also teaches me that memories, feelings and values also are a part of and represent a place.

  4. I really enjoyed reading this story as it reminded me how important family is. I think family is a large factor of what makes a place home. Your story reminds me of my best friend who was born in Canada, studies at the University of Toronto, but whose family lives in Dubai. Although she lives in a comfortable dorm, every break when I drop her to the airport, she always expresses how happy she is to finally go ‘home’. We call a place our home so easily but what constitutes a place to become our home is really so complicated.

  5. I really liked this piece because it is very relatable. It was the beginning of December and I had not finalized where I would be on Christmas day. I knew where I wanted to be and that was in Trinidad, where I was born and where most of my extended family still resides. Eventually I bought an overpriced ticket, but I was excited to know that I would be with my extended family for the Holiday season. As it turns out, after my 12 day vacation, I was more than happy to return to Toronto. This piece reminded me of the journey of traveling and how much I detest it, especially when there are cancellations or unforeseen events which delay one’s travel. I could empathize with Maame just wanting to be with her family and the mixed emotions that came along with the whole travel experience.

  6. This story really made me wonder about one visiting Ghana one myself, as I am half Ghanaian. Spending time with family is a magical feeling, especially during the holidays, so I can imagine that the last minute flight cancellation could bring you back down to reality. This story forces me to think that maybe there should be a direct flight from Toronto to Accra instead of stopping in a European country, which would make travel more convenient. Seeing as Canada has a large Ghanaian community, maybe the Airport industry and governments of both respected countries should begin the planning process.

    1. In the hundred times I’ve read and re-read this story, John, that was not something that had occurred to me. Perhaps you should start an online petition to demand a direct flight. 🙂

  7. Reading your story, I am reminded of the age-old saying, “home is where the heart is”. A place never truly feels like home, no matter how long you have lived there, if you cannot share it with the people you love the most. In the summer of 2012, I went to live with my cousin for a month in Oxford, England. I had always wondered what it would feel like to live on my own, and frankly, it was a little disappointing. Within a week I found that I missed my parents greatly, and longed for the comforts of my own home. Like many others, I am definitely guilty of taking the luxuries of living at home for granted!

  8. Tears rolled down from my eyes after reading this story. Unlike the author, I have not seen my family for almost 5 years. Although the multiculturalism in Toronto already helped me a lot on delivering the feeling of being home (via food and movies from my home town), the loneliness deep inside my heart is unexpellable. In this essay, I find it interesting that Christmas is not only a religious festival happens in the west, but also representing the idea of “a time with family” across the globe. For instance, celebrating Christmas has evolved into a trend in Asian countries like China, Japan and Korea. In this case, it could be said that “culture” is getting more complicated with globalization.

  9. Wow! Your story is truly one that can be felt by several people who travel home to see family and friends, especially around the holiday season. Canadian weather being so unpredictable can always either make or break a trip. As someone who has family in the Caribbean, I can relate to the feeling of missing something and wanting to reconnect to what feels most comfortable. Sharing moments and being around familiar smells, sounds of laughter, and feelings of togetherness really do bring out the best of the holidays. Home is where the heart is, but you can always bring memories of home with you anywhere you go. Realizing that it’s not about the location but about what you connect to that can make anywhere feel like home.

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