Life in Ghana...Easy or Hard?
This blog post is for Sanders who has been reading this blog for a while wanted me to do a post on how easy or not it was to re-assimilate into Ghanaian life after staying abroad for so many years. Sanders wants to know what was easy and what wasn't and some advice for people like who are thinking about returning.
I'm treating this particular blog post as a conversation. It's got to be two-way. I'll talk about what occurs to me but if you have specific questions, ask in the comments and I'll try to address them, as best as I can.
Here we go.
How easy was it?
For me, re-assimilating into Ghanaian life was easy.
I had a rough first week or two when I moved back into my family's very modest home in Ashale-Botwe. And suddenly it hit me that this move was permanent. And having returned with no money, I had to ask my mom for money so I could pay for driving lessons. That was hard, and made me question if I'd come too soon. I remember even writing an email to my friend Yaw who was then still in the US and questioning if I'd made the right choice. That was about the only shock I had.
Thankfully I had a job lined up before I moved, so once I started working, things started falling into place. That first job helped a great deal because it came with a brand new car, a sign on bonus and a pretty sweet office. So once I started work, everything was groovy. And I loved my job. So waking up everyday and going to work on something I believed in and wanted to work on, made my days....very happy.
It felt right.
It was exactly where I wanted to be.
And if happiness is doing exactly that which you dreamed to do, then you could say that I was very happy.
The fact that my entire family supported my move back also helped. My uncle and aunts felt I had done the right thing. I could go and spend time with them and hear how it is possible to make it in Ghana. They affirmed my choice and helped me not question.
I did okay financially. From my very first job, I was able to save about 75% of my salary every month.
The one downside was inflation. When I first moved to Ghana in August 2008, the cedi/dollar rate was 1 :1. Six months later, the cedi had depreciated significantly. Assuming I was earning 1000 cedis/ month, in August that 1000 cedis was equivalent to $1000. By March 2009, a 1000 cedis was only worth $700. I felt like was being paid less. Hahaa. Especially when the time came to buy a ticket to visit the husband and I had to pay $1300 for the ticket.
One caveat about having done okay financially though. Remember I never actually worked in the US. So I moved from living as a poor student in the US to living in Ghana. Maybe that helped me maintain my frugal lifestyle, which has helped me save a lot. Sometimes I wonder how things might have been different if I'd worked in the US and gotten used to making "good" money and spending it too. But I guess we'll never know.
Have my expectations been met?
Absolutely. I'd say my expectations have been exceeded.
Did things work out as I expected it to? Nope. Not in the least. Things didn't work out. I left my first job after 6 months, and took another job doing something completely different. But you know what? It's been wonderful! I love my life, and am glad that I decided to move home. I've made some great friends at my second work place. I've had the opportunity to do amazing, fun work, and have been prepared for my next thing.
Is it all as rosy as I make it seem?
Yeah. lol. The problem with this blog post is...I'm the worst person to talk to about life in Ghana. Because you're not going to get a balanced view. You're just not. My experience has not been a balance of ups and downs. It's been up, up, up. I believe half of it is just...this is my place. I like being here. I like my job. And most of the time, I'm stoked.
Maybe I've just been lucky.
One thing I found quite easy about settling in is meeting people. Accra is not that big. Everyone seems to be connected. So my network has just expanded through the roof. You have to be sociable for this to happen of course. Go for parties. Go to bars. Check out events. Be curious. And open to many different kinds of experiences and types of people. The blog helps too, I think. I've met lots of really cool people through this blog.
There's a flip side of course...that very quickly everyone can know who you are and form an opinion about you. I keep telling people...you have to be careful who you piss off in Accra because everyone seems to be connected to everyone else.
One really hard thing about living in Ghana...if you're in a relationship, don't. Don't move here without your partner. What was I thinking? This long distance thing is hard. Impossibly hard. This isn't even about sex. Just plain old wanting someone to hug you, and laugh with you, go for movies with you. Plain old companionship. Did I say long distance sucks?
Men...Accra men...the fine ones are not many. hehe. But they exist. And every once in a while, even though you're not looking, one eligible super eligible one catches your eye and you do a double take. hehe. It is quite possible that they only pay attention to the unavailable women. You know how once you're in a relationship, all these men seem to want you, but the moment you're single, they somehow disappear? Someone has to study this phenomenon.
Things to do...when I first moved back, someone told me, it gets boring quickly. That after a while, you've been everywhere and seen everything. Err... I have so not seen everything. I want to travel, see more of Ghana, see more of Africa. Sleep at La Palm beach hotel and wake up next morning and have breakfast on the beach. Drive up the mountains and spend the night there. Go off for a weekend at Akosombo. Run a marathon. Read all the new books that Ghanaian writers are writing. How can I be bored when I still haven't done any of these things?
Here's my take... you probably can be okay anywhere in the world if you set your mind to it. You have to believe in the place. You have to believe you're gonna be okay there. It helps to love the place and want to be there. It helps to believe that place has opportunities for you. It helps to believe you can make money there. That you can have your dream life there. It helps to like your job. It helps to have family there. And friends. It helps to imagine the life you want, and take concrete steps to build it. It helps to like the color of your apartment. And if you don't, to change it. lol. It helps to choose friends who motivate you and get you excited about being here. This afternoon, one friend visited me at my workplace and he is so so positive about Ghana that it was inspirational just hearing him talk. I said to him..."you're such a believer" and he said to me "how can I not be?, I'm happy here". It really helps to have such people in your life. It helps to buy a car if you're someone who will hate taking tro-tro. My friend does not have a car and neither do I, but as he said to me..."how much happier is the car going to make you, Esi?". It helps to work hard. It helps to have hobbies. It helps to make enough money to go to the movies if that kind of thing rocks your boat. It helps to have friends who will take you along when they're going off to relax in their very nice cottages in the countryside. It helps to have friends who throw cool parties. It helps to be friendly. In the end, I believe, we create the life we want. And then sometimes we get lucky. It helps to have a positive attitude. And If you're religious, it helps to pray. And find a church.
In the end, your life in Ghana will be whatever you'll make of it.
All the best.
I welcome your comments and will answer any specific questions you may have.
Esi Cleland runs the AfroChic clothing store. Read more of her articles, at http://www.maameous.com