Hello! Bill here. A celebrity post to Chrissies blog 6 degrees north (datum: WGS84).
I think the technical term for what we’ve done is jumped. That’s the easy part. Landing is harder. It’s difficult not to either oversimplify or overlook the consequences of lining up as a family, holding hands, and launching yourself into West Africa Here are a few observations from my side of the first few months in Ghana.
Moving to Ghana has been an interesting home social science experiment. There have been challenges with food, culture, language, isolation, mobility, communication, power, authority and homesickness (which just multiplies on any of the above). This list could be significantly longer – it could include staff, security, weather, aggression, health, conditions, fear, intimidation and infighting. The latter are ‘big ticket’ problems – and thankfully, we don’t see them here. The wins have been experience, adventure, people, culture and doing something just a little bit different.
Firstly, my perspective. I’ve been in Ghana for a little while now and have had a chance to work a few things out regarding how the place works. As a comparative veteran, I’m probably guilty of forgetting how hard the change and challenge is and I can see that my transition has been easier because there has always been a bit of authority to wield if required – which I know makes dealing with issues here simpler.
I’ve been the hands-down winner in our Twi change (Twi is the principal language here). On the family scale, my life is super. I work 5 minutes from home. I see Chrissie and the kids a few times during the day and often have lunch with them. I am back in the fold as a participating parent, rather than a visitor. And having them here has forced me to change how I work – I now get to see Ghana as a workplace and as a home, a dramatic shift from a few months ago. It is a pleasure to help unravel some of the mysteries of why things happen (or don’t happen) and I’m thrilled at how well everyone has coped with a quantum shift in lifestyle.
Everyone is settling in ‘above grade expectation’ – the last few weeks have seen it swing from a blue patch to a purple patch. Needless to say, we’ve all had to face a few demons in the time here. It’s been really interesting – and occassionaly frustrating or heartbreaking to watch how everyone has coped with the disequilibrium – if not stress – but I’m sure its making each of us a little stronger (and maybe a bit loopier too).
The issues we have to deal with fall largely into the subgroups of frustration and homesickness. Chrissie suffers frustration that she can’t get anything to work easily – generating momentum in anything here is a lot harder than you expect (which reminds me of my long-lost friend, Mikes’ slightly pessimistic motto: “beginning something is the first step to failure”). The kids miss their friends – this is compounded by the frustration of a very different approach to school and play and a very different relationship with their peer group, where they are largely regarded as different kids with cool toys. For all of us, the mine site is a bit of a haven, and the kids have plenty of freedom to wander around and Chris can retreat into the house as required.
Chris has brought a priceless talent into the country – a McGyver-like ability to make good bread using only some flour and the furry stuff growing on an apple. She has had a string of culinary victories which are enormously appreciated. She has struggled with the realities of being an on-site spouse (and the lack of authority that comes with the office) but is fast learning that there are work-arounds to everything.
Cec has had to fight her way out of (and I’d say admirably) a bit of a deep funk – essentially the result of running out of patience with the inescapable differences in… everything, really. She bottomed out for three or four days not too long ago and then managed to piece things back on track from there (isn’t that what the army does to new recruits?). I’m proud to have watched that process – it was a significant challenge for her. Out of all of them, she has had the longest voyage so far but is also the one most determined to try to experience the place, which might be why she’s taken a few more hits. I guess you just run out of steam sometimes.
Lil appears to have coped well with most changes, and her attitude has helped her weather the worst of it to date. When she’s needed to, she’s buried herself in another world (Harry Potter) as an escape and she has a certain cheeky buoyancy that appears to keep her bobbing along at the surface of the more significant changes.
Jock has probably changed the most – he is now happy with his own company and has found an opportunity to live the Tom Sawyer life that any self-respecting 5 year old dreams of. He truly is a dirt magnet and has an impressive vernacular of Twi potty-mouth (his little buddy at school coached him on these crucial skills). He is having fun and has a world class man-crush on his dad.
Surpassed only by football, it is the national sport to shout “Obroni” at non-Africans when they drive past. I gained confidence that the kids integration was on course when they started “Obroni”-ing other Obronis on the road.
Almost nothing plays out to expectation, there is always a twist and a secondary or tertiary plan is required (which can be incredible fun or incredibly stressful depending on your mindset at the time). However, its not intentional or malicious, things just work differently and we’re getting there (yep – kids, I’m pretty sure the asylum is just around the corner).
We can’t really complain (a gormless expression in the same vein as the meek will inherit the world and that a change is as good as a holiday) because we made the decision to come here. We’ve got it OK might be a more accurate statement. If you’ve kept up with Chrissie’s blogging, you know that there has been plenty to do. They’ve moved around Ghana enough to get a real feel for it. They’re back in Europe next week and, later on, a trip to Australia and somewhere snowy for Christmas is in the pipeline.
We all swim or ride or get out when we can. The riding is fantastic because there are trails everywhere and very few cars (plenty on the bitumen). The trails have been worn down by generations of feet or by a fleet of mining equipment. There are a number of significant traps – in particular galamsay (small scale) mines (2 foot round bottomless pits) usually just off a trail, dogs, people and grass you can’t see over. The swimming is a salve, but has its moment. While swimming in very deep water yesterday we had a conversation that went;
”Are there are Boa Constrictors in Ghana?”
“I’m not sure… Jock, come over here near us!”
The jump has been a big one, but I’m glad to say that we seem to have landed on our feet.
Oh – and work is going well.
Have fun and stay out of trouble,