Had we not chosen to leave Australia and embark on this African experience our eldest daughter would have just finished primary school. She would have joined her oldest and dearest friends, and maybe even shed a few tears (I know I would have), to be clapped through a guard of honour, to mark the transition from childhood to the teenage high school years of growth, transformation and sometimes, tumult.
The last day. It has shone in our expectations since January 2007 when she started Kindergarten. But today, she headed off to her Ghanaian school to say goodbye. Where the close friends are fewer in number, and to be honest, most we are less likely to meet again. She says goodbye in the middle of a school year, to a middle school, and in many ways a school culture so very different to what she had experienced in Australia.
So we didn’t make the familiar walk from our family home, up our steep hill, past the cathedral and the sweeping views of the harbour and ocean to our sweet, little primary school. Instead we left our apartment, now scattered with packing boxes almost ready for another move, climbed into my little car and drove over potholed roads, through the chaotic traffic, past the water sellers and the yam stores, to say good bye to another school.
Becoming an expatriate family with older children is a tricky business. From a place of stability and familiarity, we wrenched them into another culture, another world. We were naïve in so much of what we expected, and so much of how we prepared all three of the children. There have been intense feelings of loss and of disappointment. But through all of this, there have been extraordinary experiences that would never have been possible had we stayed at home. Amazing holidays and intensely close views of another society, another culture, another way of life. A society which we will never truly be a part of, leaving us sitting with the other expats, on the periphery.
But positive and negative, it all has been a privilege.
The greatest privilege has been to watch our children grow. To watch them navigate across cultures, to adopt local figures of speech to make themselves understood, to develop the resilience to walk into a new school and be the new kids…again. Our eldest had the highest expectations of her new life here, and as such had the furthest to fall. But she has probably grown the most. We watched with breaking hearts when it all felt so very hard and hopeless for her. We watched with pride and trepidation when she returned to running as a solace and a way to regain her sense of self.
The end of primary school is a major transition for any child. And I see this long, lean girl, still mad on meerkats, transition yet again. Our journey, often as a very solitary family unit, has given her the time and the space to start her own journey. In a school where everyone aspires to be a lawyer, our girl with her creative flair confuses most of her classmates when she states she wants to be a set designer. The education system here has channeled her competitive streak into a glad seriousness about her studies. And we listen and talk and watch her opinions form. Whether it’s about her favourite singer or why it’s difficult to respect authority figures when they demand bribes, it’s always an interesting conversation.
And so as another year closes, with a new city and a new school to look forward to, we are so very proud of them all.
And while she may have missed her clap out and guard of honour, we look forward to being with her as she leaps into her future.
You were all missed and spoken about, especially our darling Cecily
Grace has you close in her heart
Have a lovely christmas and hope to see you soon xxx
Hello again from Rowena in umina beach. I experienced what you missed yesterday when ettalong public school farewlled their year sixes through the tunnel. There was music playing and tHe whole school seeme.d to be dancing. The atmosphere, was electric. My daughters best friend was visiting from Poland where she. Has been living for 3 years and she didn’t know what to make of it. Total chaos and sheer exuberance. Loved your post. Xx ro
Hi Rowena, Oh I am jealous. I love that mad exuberance around school functions, it’s that real sense of community I miss so much. Hope you have a great christmas and new year break.
“And while she may have missed her clap out and guard of honour, we look forward to being with her as she leaps into her future”.
Chris…and so does we/all of your newly formed extended internet family will be their in our own little loving, supporting, encouraging and voyeuristic way.
I can’t thank you enough for your musing and ability to share with such clarity and ease in your writing. As one of your many readers…we get it…It seems like your daughter is in great hands with you and your husband as you put it “leaps into her future” and the choices and direction you have given her so far…….the most fascinating thing of it all is watching and monitoring YOU as you seems to have hit a new initiative and direction in your life also. It seems Africa and your African experience has unleashed something that was dormant deep in the soul of your innerds to come forward (writing).. And without Africa i/we your newest friends and now extended family don’t have you. Yeah, Australia/home could have given you all of the tidiness that you lament about BUT! after listening to your writings (yes your writings come across soooo well we are all listening to you as we read) i can’t imagine home providing for this personal growth and outlet. So, share with your daughter that with all that she is growing and knowing that you are in the same fun boat ride. Rough tides and all.
Personally? i am glad you are out there and now frantically trying to figure out how i even found your blog…….hmmmmmm?
Chris…..finally i can describe you and your Blog and your writing story & sharing ability…
In common language it means inspiration. What inspired you to do something? -One of the Muses. In classical language it refers to goddesses from ancient Greece which had power over inspiration especially in art, poetry, drama, storytelling, etc In common language it means inspiration. Africa inspires and inspired you to do something.
During a period of reflection or thought.
meditation, thinking, contemplation, deliberation, pondering, reflection, rumination, introspection, daydreaming, reverie, dreaming, preoccupation, brooding;
“in my musing of late, I have decided that I need more purpose in my life”
And so she wrote/writes
Thanks Chris and thanks to your husband and kids
Your friend Don
> As ever Don, thanks for your kind words, and your support of our choices, some people think we are mad (and they are probably right!). I think you are right in that this move and experience has awakened in my a desire to tell our story. Although, living here has also made us realise that they’re are so many people around the world living pretty extraordinary lives, I just seem to need to write about it!! And I think your “cogitation: “in my musing of late, I have decided that I need more purpose in my life”” may be just the ticket. Hope you have a great Christmas and New Year break. http://sixdegreesnorth.me
I admire your bravery in taking the whole family to live in another country that’s so culturally different & so far from home. Your story of how your daughter is coping is very moving.
Looking forward to your news in 2014
I think you could consider writing professionally! How about a book for 2014….
I think your children will love you more for the experiences they have been exposed to. When they are older or middle aged they will love to read all you have written
Love from Neil & Lesley Simons Alligator Ck