To some, the act of sitting on a porch and watching as nothing passes by all afternoon may seem innocuous and a little boring. To those people, I extend my sincerest commiserations because they clearly haven’t experienced a light breeze; the sweetness of finally getting rid of a speck of dust in your eye; freshly squeezed lemonade straight from the fruit orchard in the backyard to your glass; the wonderful inertia of a Saturday afternoon porch-sitting session.

I’m very sure that the disproportionate nostalgia I feel for a setting as mundane as a porch is easily explainable by the long periods of time I spend away from home, and from my porch. Actually, in Ghana we like to call them verandas. It’s one of those words that appears unnecessarily extravagant, as most relics of British colonial English can be. Another personal favorite of mine is bougainvillea, and I must admit I was a little upset when I found out that was the actual name of the plant, and not a term to which only Ghanaians could stake a claim. As far as I was concerned, bougainvillea only grew in my grandma’s garden.

Porch-sitting at grandma’s house is a very unique experience. Unlike many houses in my second home of Washington, DC (which coincidentally used to have a very significant porch culture and still do in certain neighborhoods), it is much more common for houses in Accra to be separated from each other by some sort of wall or fence, making it much more difficult to hold conversations with your neighbors the next porch over. It automatically becomes a more intimate experience; spending time with family in the fresh air, talking about everything and nothing in particular.

The veranda also serves many other purposes: a place to receive guests who are friends of the family but perhaps not close enough to be invited inside; a constant source of housework because of all the dust and debris that collect after thunderstorms; a ledge to stand on when you want to peek at who or what is causing commotion on the street. It is multi-functional and dynamic, and is probably the most important area of the house, blending the openness of the outdoors with the privacy of the indoors.

I vividly remember my mother giving detailed descriptions of what she wanted our porch to look like when she began designing our new house. Ironically, it was the last space in the house to be completed, and the one we used least, due to a lack of furniture and an abundance of chickens who had taken up residence on the cool clay tiles. Now, the pergola roof with vines blanketing the beams and rounded cane chairs that envelope you the moment you sit down have created a totally new mood. Our underused porch has been transformed into a little oasis of greenery amidst the red sand that seems to be encroaching on our property daily. It is now a place for reflection and for deliciously deep naps. As I bundle up against the piercing cold here in DC, I’ll be counting down the days until I can relax in my little inside-outside sanctuary.