It is Ghana’s Independence Day. On March 6, 1957, Ghana gained independence from the British under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah.
We are celebrating at our kids’ prospective school with local food, African drummers, grilled plantains, and traditional fufu (a mixture of ground plantains and cassava). The children of the nursery school are dressed in their best African wear. Everyone is celebrating and having a grand time.
My husband and I toured the school earlier that morning and were invited to come back and join in the celebration. After weeks of being relatively home-bound with the kids, unpacking, dealing with power outages and broken generators, leaking bathtubs and drains clogged with cement leading to repeated visits from the plumber…and the list goes on… we were ecstatic to get out of the house.
Also eager to join in the community, we practically raced home to change into our only pieces of African wear before returning to the party.
Yet it feels like we are on the outside looking in as we sit to the side at the party, drinking our coconut water fresh out of the tap and eating delicious grilled plantains.
I watch my girls gaze longingly at the other children who are dancing and laughing together on the swings, only to grasp my hands and hug my legs a little tighter. Gently I nudge their backs and urge them to go introduce themselves even though my own insecurity stops me from doing the exact same thing.
I watch the other parents talk; they all seems to know each other so well. I stand with a token smile as I eavesdrop on conversations held in Arabic and French. I listen intently for English in hopes of connecting, and scan the crowd for someone else that looks like me – another newcomer.
But I come away empty-handed. At a loss for words, I grab the girls in a moment of spontaneity and start dancing as we chassé to the dance floor and play with the drums.
We will get there, I reassure myself as I look out at the rest of the party from the dance floor and then down at my little girls’ red sweaty faces, now happy as can be to be dancing together and with mom.
On this Independence Day, I reflect on my own independence and how, in some ways, it has depreciated since our relocation. Things here are just different. In the United States, I considered myself an “independent woman”.
I was “on the go” whenever and wherever I wanted. I could hop in the car to run a five minute errand only to end up driving 40 minutes into the city.
If something was wrong at the house, we typically fixed it ourselves. I had a profession with a lot of responsibility. I made decisions and was respected for them.
In Ghana, I am at the whim of a driver. I cannot even drive our car because it is a manual. I can’t just “get up and go” if I wanted. I am now employed as a stay-at-home mom whose schedule is dictated by two tiny, demanding-yet-adorable toddlers. If something goes wrong at the house, or just in general, I find things don’t get done as efficiently here and often done get fixed on the first attempt. It’s so frustrating.
That’s when I stop and think: isn’t it really about perspective? Maybe this experience has actually given me the gift of complete independence. There’s an opportunity here, in this foreign place, to start anew. I have complete autonomy because I can determine the direction I want to go. I may need a driver to get to the market, but I’m my own personal driver in this life… now that is freeing…
I have learned a lot about this perspective over this last month, and my reclaimed independence is just one example. It is easy to get caught up in the day to day frustrations of this relocation, but there is always another angle, always a better way to see things.
While cliché, the world truly is our oyster if we focus on the pearls. Today was living proof.
We found an amazing school that does enriching activities with its students and their families. The day was exciting and yes overwhelming, but the opportunity for great things is present.
I realize I have found my pearl. What it means to be truly independent is a state of mind enshrined in the hard-fought independence reflected in the Ghanaian flag. The flag was designed by Theodosia Okoh and adopted in 1957.
She used the red stripe to signify the blood shed and lives lost in battle for independence. The gold stripe represents the mineral wealth of the country (what brought us to Ghana in fact). The green symbolizes the countries lush forests. And the symbol of the black star is for African freedom and unity.
On this Independence Day, we celebrate Ghana and I also celebrate my own family. We move forward in this enriching experience with a new found freedom. I look forward to seeing what the future holds and invite you to join me.