Holidays are officially over and reality is here.
Time to get back into the groove. This means school, it means seeing dad on the weekends and dealing with mum swearing in the traffic, it means early mornings and piano practice (but on the plus side, it means a pool at our new place in Kumasi!)
This morning the children and I made the drive to school, all with butterflies in our stomachs. While this isn’t a new school for us, it is the first day of a new school year and we all felt uncertain as to what would lay before them. There was the usual nervousness about whether they would be placed in classes with their friends, and some dread about particular teachers, excitement about others. This nervousness is definitely exacerbated by being expats. While we generally feel pretty relaxed these days about living in Ghana, a new experience really brings to light that as foreigners we are never quite within a comfort zone.
We’ve had lots of experience with how things work here. Early on, it was fraught with frustrations that nothing, ever seemed to go according to plan. There was always some Ghana moment waiting to trip us up. A sense of not quite knowing what will or won’t happen. We’re slowly learning to adjust our expectations and roll with the punches. But there is something so exquisitely delicate about watching your children face another new experience in which there is very little you can do to help them, other than to just be there, waiting.
The house is eerily quiet. The children have been on holidays for 10 weeks, yes, that’s right, 10 weeks. For those of you in the northern hemisphere I know this is the norm, but for us Antipodeans, who enjoy a 6 week summer break, it has felt, particularly over the last week, so very long. Nervousness aside, even the kids are looking forward to going back to school, with the eldest complaining she is forgetting things…I know how she feels.
A new year at school, whether it be September or January, gives a sense of a fresh start, a time that resolutions, and star charts, and chore lists should be drawn up. A big part of me wishes I was that mother who actually carried out all these wonderful plans. I love ticking off a list, so why not take it further and inflict (I mean involve) it on the whole family, or take it a WHOLE lot further and implement software development techniques to improve family functionality. I kid you not, read about it here.
And while we had a wonderful trip back home (and our little stopover in Dubai), I’m feeling a real need to get back to some sort of routine. But that’s the rub…being the dreaded trailing spouse, the handbag, the expat-wife, whatever horrid term you wish to give it, can sap the motivation of the most determined. It leads to an (at times) overwhelming sense of lassitude.
This is exacerbated by living in a developing country, where motivation seeps away like a slow leak in a tyre. When we first arrived anytime I made a plan, the seemingly inevitable result was boundless frustration. When for any multitude of reasons, things rarely, if ever, go to plan. And so I would try another tack, to try do it myself, with no outside assistance. And while that may work for chores and the like, no man is an island, and it is obviously impossible. Particularly when you are still getting to know your way around, both literally and metaphorically, and my response goes a long way to demonstrate how frustrated I was. The result of which, intended or not, was to let things slide, a little or a lot.
I was recently asked how living in Ghana has changed how I mother. And while the experiences here have changed us all, and changed our relationships with each other, I think predominately it has made me a more patient person. When you’re starting from a pretty low level of patience, anything is an improvement! But sometimes this new-found patience can slip into letting things slide. I constantly find myself putting things off until tomorrow, just to avoid the frustrations.
But right now, it’s about motivation. I’ve got some great plans for the blog (and beyond) this year, all I need is to get into the groove…and stay there. How do you get motivated? And more importantly, how do you stay motivated? Does paid work bring intrinsic meaning? How effective are lists? Goal setting? What makes the desire real enough to keep trying? To keep pushing through the bureaucracy, the petty clerks, the middle distance stares.
Let me know. How do you keep motivated?
On a cheerier note, here are some recent photos of Max. He’s settling in really well, and we’re having a ball.
Hope the kids had a good first day of school.
I hear you on craving a bit of routine. While regular life is a little easier out of Africa, the days can feel just as long with nothing to do. An introvert by nature, I’m quite happy holing myself up in the house with books and blogs and tv but even I start to crave some activity. September (as a former teacher) always feels like a fresh start for me and is generally when I have the most motivation so I try to quickly enrol myself in things before that fades. Once I’m committed, I’ll see it through. I’ve started French lessons to keep up my language and I’m still trying to talk myself into morning yoga classes (in Norwegian.)