I had every intention of making this a weekly entry, a regular blog about living in Ghana. It would be full of interesting tales about our adventures! But the last time I wrote anything was in November and we are now almost at the end of February – did we just blink and skip January? And it feels like we have been endlessly unpacking…
The past few months have whizzed past in a blur. We had family staying with us here in Ghana over Christmas and New Years so we’ve been busy doing lots of sight seeing and spending as much quality time with the fam before we head our separate ways again for another year. Christmas was a real treat – forget the traditional ham, turkey or Aussie BBQ - goat and guinea fowl were on the menu instead, quite a different experience!
So among spending time with fam, we’ve also been doing our best to settle the kids back into a regular routine and make ourselves a home. House hunting has been a unique experience. The rent that some landlords are expecting is absolutely crazy. Some houses are renting for over $4,000USD per month. It blows my mind. You can have a street with large opulent houses then a short stroll down the road there is a mini shantytown with people living in poor conditions or squatting in incomplete buildings. When you rent a property, the landlord will collect a year’s rent in advance. So the commitment is big. Once you do settle on a house, the real estate agent will collect a fee not only from the landlord but also expect one from the tenant as well. We did have some ups and downs when house hunting but we were lucky to finally find a beautiful family home with swings, cubby house and small pool. The kids are absolutely delighted with the yard space and our landlords have been great to deal with. We were warned though of some fraudulent real estate agents out there renting houses, collecting a years rent when the house owner had absolutely no idea. So it pays to be very careful and check everything, chat to neighbours, make sure you meet/speak direct to owners and check their name matches the paperwork etc.
When it comes to selecting a school, there is a vast range of International schools. The cost varies greatly. Last year when Amali started Kindergarten she went through a great deal of anxiety. I believe it was partly due to the large size of the school and change in learning environment (Amali attended a lovely Montessori Pre School with a big change to a large primary school for Kindergarten). This influenced us a lot when it came to selecting a school for the girls and so we settled on a school close in proximity to us but also for its smaller size. They began school early January and I have been so impressed with the curriculum and have to say, it’s much more advanced than Amali’s school in Australia. In Australia, kindergarten focused a lot on forming letters, learning sounds (sound waves), sight words and reading. In their new school in Ghana, this is still a focus area but they start learning this at age 3 (when most kids begin attending school). There is a big focus on handwriting and children are expected to perfect their writing style early on. Amali is already starting maths equations and concepts brand new to her. School begins at 7.30am. After school they then have the option to choose 3 extracurricular activities: African dance, drama, poetry, science club, spelling club, reading club, taekwondo or entrepreneurship. The day ends for them at 4pm. They also begin learning French and using computers from age 3. The girls absolutely love it, they come home eager to do their homework and I am seriously wondering if the school has spiked the water or something!
Thanks to the amazing ability of social media to link people, making new friends has been no trouble at all. If you put yourself out there and join as many new groups as possible, you will easily find people you can connect with. And this I would say, has to be the number one important move to make when you first arrive. In some cases, it is not easy to find particular products or services and getting recommendations from friends is so vital to your survival! Sometimes it is just the little things like knowing where you might find that jar of vegemite you are craving or where you can buy a good cup of coffee – you know, the important things in life!!
So far, driving has to be the biggest challenge, as far as I am concerned. I have only attempted to drive once – and almost clipped about 6 people along the way! Not only do they drive on the opposite side of the road to Australia but drivers are super aggressive and completely impatient. Not to mention forget anything you know about road rules, the only road rule is do not hesitate and just go go go! We have had someone run into us and there were no exchanging details, the attitude was that’s just life and off they drove. There is no recourse or action you can take either. So my recommendation is go for a car you don’t care about, a big one, with a bull bar at the front! I know I have to suck it up and get behind the wheel at some point. There is also Uber or Taxify to use in the meantime.
My grandparents have shared many stories about what life was like for them in the 60's and I can see many similarities with how we live in Ghana. Infrastructure has come a long way in the past few years but there’s still much to be done and much more to happen. Garbage collection and recycling are privately run services and it is up to you to organise this for your own household. In our experience, even though these are paid services, they aren't always reliable or regular like we are used to. Power is another inconsistent service. We occasionally get "dumsor" -lights out, it’s not a big deal, just annoying and a bit of an inconvenience, it will typically happen right when you are about to watch the cliff hanger moment on your fave tv show or when you are about to use the blender to make yourself a sweet smoothie! The kids get so excited when it happens during the night as they love to grab the torches and tell ‘scary’ stories by the dim lighting. It can be a pain but having a back up generator helps or you just wait it out until its back on again.
What I love beyond what any words can express, is the fact that it is much more affordable to get help looking after the kids or other services like cleaning, cooking, gardening etc. We have a lovely Nanny/housekeeper helping us and it’s been a blessing to our family. Having an extra pair of hands to help around the home means I now get more quality time with the kids and Kelvin. We sit down every afternoon and work through homework together, we play outside together and cooking in the evening is far more relaxed and less chaotic. I can see the positive impact it is having on our family and how happy and confident the children are.
While life in Ghana is very different to Australia and it’s been a big adjustment, life is now certainly more relaxed. The heat never lets up so when you get that cool breeze, you take a moment to stop and enjoy it! Not everything is easy to come by, be it particular comfort foods or certain items, so when you get it, you don’t waste it and you appreciate it more. We’ve also had more time to spend focusing on our growing business and charity. We have spent time with the beautiful children attending the youth centres and focusing on our plans for the year. It’s been a huge move but we are finally starting to really settle down and find our feet.
Next on the agenda is a road trip up north to Bolgatanga, meeting with new artisans that will be joining our team, the beginning of a new chapter for Adinkra Designs and our ever-evolving décor style. Hopefully now being a bit more settled, I get more of a chance to provide more insights into our adventures here in Ghana.
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