Strangely compelling.

Living here often feels harder than it needs to be. With challenges in language, resources, history, climate and all manner of other issues, large and small. We’ve taken to calling it the ‘G’ Factor, or when something goes seriously awry, the verb is you’ve been ‘Ghana-ed’. It can seem there is a whole world of frustration waiting for you, for the chink in your armour to push you over edge into la-la land.

It’s a bit like eating an olive. The first taste is revolting, but the more you try it, the more it kind of grows on you. Things that would have reduced me to an angry ball of frustration (or as I’ve been previously called, a cat in a tin drum), can sometimes, just sometimes, be taken with just a little more calm. Or as I will say to anyone who will listen…it’s all about managing expectations.

Yesterday was a pretty typical day. School finished early with the start of mid-term break; and I loaded the car with three kids, a savagely meowing cat, a sewing machine, Wii games, feather quills, teddy bears, music keyboard, snacks, wine, tennis racquets and all the other paraphernalia we seem to need for a weekend in Konongo.

We headed out on the Accra road:

Logging truck unexpected unload. Pleased I wasn't there when it happened.

Logging trucks often specialise in a rapid unload technique.

We passed through the bustling village of Ejisu. Always a fabulous sight on market day:

Ejisu Markets

Ejisu Markets

Ejisu Markets 2

Rainy season means mango season.

Rainy season means mango season.

It always seems to be watermelon season.

It always seems to be watermelon season.

Ejisu signpost

Ejisu is about the half way point to Konongo. You know that feeling, the mental shift. The road changes from double to single lane, the traffic moves a bit slower, but it’s ok. It’s the weekend and you’re heading home. Relax.

It was in this frame of mind that I started to ignore the unresponsive accelerator and the weird clicking noise coming from the engine. Hell, I was nearly home. Or so I thought.

As they say in these parts (actually they probably say it everywhere outside of communist dictatorships and Australia), but thanks be to God; that I broke down literally at the toll, and not along the road between towns. The car was clearly sick of being ignored and did the only thing it could…it conked out.

breakdown at the toll

Now I’m a pretty regular face at the toll, but there was a sense of hilarity in the air as the white woman with the three kids, the cat, and all the assorted crap; starts to push the car off the road. Everyone loves a distraction, so I had plenty of willing helpers (and plenty of insistence afterwards that I buy cocoyam, mentos, avocados, water and corn from the helpers). Ghana is overwhelmingly a very helpful place, it’s always a case of don’t consult your map, but ask someone for directions. And thankfully for me, the local taxi contingent was on hand to offer advice, get water for the overheated engine and locate the source of the water leak. I rang my husband, but not with an edge of panic in my voice like the old days, but with a fairly relaxed sense that things will turn out ok. While the engine cooled the kids pottered about and kept the cat alive (phew!), and Lill wowed the local ladies with her long hair..surely it is a wig…no!

Some lovely ladies who work at the toll between Kumasi and Konongo. Corn [maize] is in season! Fast food...Ghana style.

Some lovely ladies who work at the toll between Kumasi and Konongo. Corn [maize] is in season! Fast food…Ghana style.

So after a whole bag of water sachets was poured into the steaming car, the source of the leak was located and discussed at length, and I was never once admonished for letting the car overheat (I think they knew I felt silly (a strong word in Ghana here)). We crossed our fingers and the car started. We limped back to Konongo, again the water tank dry by the time the 19 kms were done. The car is now ensconced in Adge’s workshop and I’m hoping he can weave some magic over the weekend. What could have been a freaking tedious, hot afternoon, ended up being, with the sense of cameraderie over a problem solved, sort of fun.

And the moral to this story?

I don’t get out enough.

No! I guess it’s in the attitude. These experiences which can either drive you bonkers or become part of the adventure (or both!) are what makes life away from ‘normal’ sometimes strangely compelling.

Earlier in the week we heard some very old friends are moving to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. They aren’t very old, we’ve just known them for a long time. Australians, they’ve lived overseas for years; Africa, Russia and lastly Singapore. So to congratulate them on their impending move to Bishkek, my husband wrote them this email. I think it sums it the strangely compelling nature of expat life:

I forgot to congratulate you on your f*#king stupid idea of moving to Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan).

Someone had to say it. But ‘f*#king stupid’ can also translate to fun, interesting and adventurous, which makes life seem like its progressing slower. Haha – sometimes it seems like its taking forever!!  So thumbs up from me!


p.s.  Hope you’re enjoying the #30days challenge. Find me at Instagram.

9 responses to “Strangely compelling.

  1. Great to hear this next amazing day in your life. You are so…… calm about it all. Well done.


  2. Hi! I really enjoy reading of your adventures in Ghana! I’m an American who grew up there. We used to call it Wawa – West Africa Wins Again! 🙂 I have found that the attitude of laughing and patiently working through obstacles to be very helpful even now. Maybe your kids will too.


    • I love Wawa! We all think its hilarious and has now become part of our family language. It’s good to heat that the laughter and the patience found here has been a helpful thing for you. I keep reminding my nearly 12 year old of the same, some days she believes me, somedays she just feels Wawa-ed. How long did you spend in Ghana? In Accra?


      • I lived in Ghana about 13 years. My parents went there when I was 11 months old. We were in the Northern region where my dad was a doctor at a bush hospital. I did go to school down in Accra for Form 1. It can be (is!) hard to be a girl growing up in another culture, but now I wouldn’t change it.


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