It’s mid-day in November, 88 degrees and 70% humidity.
I hear the murmur of tro-tros driving past the house outside, taxis honking anxiously trying to snag their next fare. Our housekeeper and her husband are having a laughter-filled conversation in Twi, audible through the door that separates our home from theirs.
I have a “dewy” face that is always the same no matter what makeup technique I use. My hair spends most of its time in a messy bun and I have a faint imprint the Havaianas ingrained on my feet.
I think back to my life just a year ago, and the sharp turn it has taken. I cannot recall exactly what I was doing on this specific day last year, but I am certain it was one of any number of overwhelming things. I was packing up a household of four, wrapping up ten years of employment, and saying goodbye to patients, co-workers, friends and family.
I know I was certainly packing. I was also preparing to host 20+ people for Thanksgiving, planning birthday parties for a two and four-year-old, and packing. I know I was also looking for a new home in the country we were planning to move to; all while I prepared our Colorado home for renters. Oh, and did I mention I was packing?
During all of this, I was also trying to be a supportive spouse, mother, friend, and medical professional. One thing is also for sure: I most certainly did not have a flip flop tan this time last November.
Over the last year, life has become much simpler and yet more difficult at the same time. Even though it feels like this all happened yesterday, it’s been almost a year since we moved to Accra, Ghana.
Sometimes Change Begins With “NO”
Our life change started with a very normal, seemingly benign, “conversation” just six months earlier. I put quotation marks around the word conversation because anyone who has tried to communicate with their spouse – or anyone for that matter – while their two and four year old’s run around the house knows that no real meaningful conversation can actually happen.
My husband had just walked in the door, having returned from a two-and-a-half-week trip to Ghana; his second in one month. All four of us were grateful he was home. I was making pasta for the children and they were running around the house skipping and excited dad was home.
And that’s where things really started cooking, albeit simply enough. Our conversation sounded something like this:
“How was your trip?” I say, distracted at the stove. “Good,” he says as he reaches over to dip some bread in the pasta sauce.
“So, they offered me a job. I would oversee the Accra office.”
“What does that mean?” I replied, totally caught off guard.
“The current Regional Manager is leaving and they want me to take his position.”
“Really? We’re not moving to Ghana,” I say laughingly.
“OK”, he says and he wanders off to play with the girls.
That’s the moment our lives changed. During that knee jerk reaction when I said “No!” I was so afraid of the unknown. I wondered if my kids would be safe? Would there be access to the modern amenities we were used to? How could we leave our family and friends? And how can I leave my job and desert patients I have established relationships with over the last ten years? The questions went on and on.
I never thought I would live in another country. My husband and I love to travel, but I expected our days of adventure and travel were on hold until our kids were grown.
This opportunity caught me completely off guard. But somewhere in my “no” was a “yes.” I was intrigued and the wheels started turning.
What an amazing job opportunity for my husband and a unique cultural opportunity for our family. Our girls would realize life changing experiences. BUT the worries about health care, infrastructure, and political stability haunted me. Would there be other expatriates living in Ghana and would I be compromising my children’s safety in this already crazy world?
After that first night when we talked about moving, I kept thinking about my husband’s offer. I let the idea marinate and to my surprise, it was the first thing that popped into my head when my children woke me early the next morning. A Google search over coffee with the keywords “Moving to Ghana with Children” was the beginning. This is our adventure.