Dear Blog Followers:
My major apologies for the long silence. As many of you know, I have been busy living in Ghana since September 26. You have been on my mind at least once a week, and more than that in the last two weeks. I had such great plans of writing daily, posting weekly, and even reorganizing my blog when I left the U.S. Thank you for continuing to support me through the dry periods. As I mentioned in my first post from the continent, it’s not for want of material. It has more to do with overwhelm, and at times with the monotony and fatigue that comes with elder-care. I have been the sole care-giver for my 88 year-old Grandmother since November. I have also hosted two U.S. friends, both for two weeks at a time. In all honesty, I have not had a night by myself in 91 days. I do write at various times when my muse sets up shop (I am feverishly typing them up so I can begin sharing), but it’s been challenging finding that protected space to just disappear into my head.
As I sit on my yoga mat in my childhood bedroom listening to repeated plays of “I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on me, please have snow and mistletoe…” I can’t help but miss the snow (just a tad bit, mind you) and the mistletoe and the family I have left in the U.S. For seventeen years I have wished to spend Christmas in Ghana and now I am here and frankly, it feels so anti climatic. People I know fly home (Ghana) just for Christmas. Last year, I flew home (back to the U.S) for Christmas. This year, my mother and uncle asked me to stay until my mother could arrive to take over care of Grandmother. I acquiesced thinking, there’s nothing really tying me to the U.S at the moment, so why not?! What I didn’t anticipate was that I’d truly miss my other home. Miss the way the season unfolds over there. Miss the stillness when the snow is falling. Miss the excitement of my family of choice creating new holiday traditions. Miss delivering or serving meals at a shelter. Miss some alone time to reflect and write. Miss my sisters, mom and aunt and our own special traditions that have developed over the years of living in the U.S. I’ve been almost in tears at various points in the last week.
As a transcontinental woman I have been faced with leaving family behind at various times in the last 30 months since I began trying to live on the continent after fifteen years away. Each departure in each direction has been fraught with some anxiety, some sadness, and some excitement. My hope is that eventually it will get better or Ill choose one location (the Bay or Ghana) as my home base (most of my Ghana-based family are placing their bets on the latter). Moving back and forth so much requires that I not have any expensive possessions. I have now lost track of who has which item of clothing, piece of art, or my numerous collections of books. At any given moment I am of split mind: thinking the food culture in the Bay is where I ought to be with my gourmet cooking skills, or Ghana is where I ought to be starting my own writing coach business improving the writing skills of people. I continue to wait for a sign to show me the way. So far, I have had not received any definitive answers about my location. Or perhaps I have but I am not ready to accept them…
In the meantime I would like to share with you the highlights of the three months I’ve spent in Ghana:
You first heard from me after a month of being in Ghana when my college best friend came to visit Ghana. I stayed up all night like a kid on 24th night waiting for Santa and completed that poem I dedicated to our friendship. We had a glorious time, literally running around from dawn to dusk. I introduced her to a bunch of my Ghanaian friends, showed her my preparatory and secondary schools, tried every food Ghana had to offer (except kokonte and oto), and reconnected her with the family members that she had known in the US. It was lovely to have this relationship come full circle. I am still thankful for that protected amount of time we had. We had never been together in the same room, same bed, for more than 2 days at a time. We made it through the two weeks although towards Day 11 we needed a break away from each other. We made memories that I’m sure will last our lifetimes.
After she returned to the US, I was faced with a series of challenges key among them, the departure of the woman who had cared for Grandmother for almost seven years. I didn’t realize how much we had grown to depend on her over the years. Her smooth-running of the house made it seem effortless. After she had packed her bags I was at a loss for how to operate a home in a country I had never been an adult in. My panic had to quickly give way for a new adult to develop. Grandmother needed me, and I had a home to take charge of. Almost immediately, I discovered that there were various tasks that Grandmother had been putting off doing. The house needed a new septic tank, soak-away (I don’t think we have these in the U.S.), several electrical repairs, and a massive overhaul of the house including masonry work and painting. Grandmother had been resisting any form of modernization of her house so it was an uphill battle every day a new workman showed up. I was doing all this and taking care of her as well. Needless to say I grew several grey hairs within that first week. Towards the end of week three I cracked, told her I’d change my flight and leave immediately if she didn’t permit me to get her new care-giver. Somehow taking charge in this manner gained me the respect I’d been begging for the last ten years. Thankfully all repairs have been completed and I now have a new care-giver who Grandmother can tolerate. Although her presence gives me some wiggle room, she also needs daily direction so I have mostly become a full-time housewife with one child and a house-help, stealing pockets of writing time every so often. The 35 year-old who arrived 3 months ago is most certainly not the one who currently exists.
Another friend arrived just in time to save me from myself around the first week of December. MB was a Bay area friend I had known for only a few months. When she heard I was headed to Ghana, she asked if she could visit. Although her trip was a more subdued one because the country was under the stress of the democratic elections, we managed to make some memories as well; visiting Kumasi which KT and I were unable to do. Her visit made me wish I was returning to the Bay for the holidays.
By the end of her trip, my mother had booked her flight and informed me she would be arriving on New Year’s day, throwing the house into another frenzy with cleaning and re-organizing. See, I clean, but my mother is Mr. Bean’s character in that TV series (help! I can’t recall it for the life of me and IMdb is not helping); you can almost eat off her kitchen floor!
Throughout the three months I have cooked more than I cooked when I was in Ghana last year, however my true success came a couple days ago when I cooked my first Ghanaian four-course meal for Christmas day. I topped that with a Boxing Day brunch for 10 people. I just might have a career in cooking! 😀 In addition to cooking, I have tried to do more touristy stuff (when I can sneak out) and have met some amazing new people in the process. All is not lost! Cooking, writing, and these new friends have kept me going the last three months. (well that and Skype and text conversations with Bay Area family)
I have re-booked my ticket for late January with no real sense of whether I will return to the U.S. then or not. In the meantime I’d like to leave you with promises of posting more in the next few weeks as I settle into having reprieve from care-giver work.
“Climb Every Mountain…” is the instrumental playing as I end this update. Perhaps this is appropriate given my dilemma about permanence and location. I hope that your Christmases and other Holy Days were everything you set out for them to be.
Thank you for a wonderful year of support and love as you have read and commented on and offline. I pray I can be more faithful in the coming year. Keep me in prayer as I climb all my mountains to discover my dream. And may you do the same with the advent of this new year.