What do you do when you lose something? You’ve probably misplaced a shoe or some important documents. (Some people say I’d lose my head if it wasn’t attached, and I’m absolutely awful at “looking” to find things!). Or maybe you’ve lost a friend through a move or disagreement. Or maybe death has taken a spouse or grandmother or child. When we lose something, there’s a dream that dies within us. Maybe the dream of having it all together and getting out of the door fully dressed and on time. Or our dream of life together. Or our story written a certain way.
This month marks my husband’s and my one year anniversary of leaving Ghana. There I left my dream of living overseas. Of really learning a different culture and language. Of having a best friend who’s so different from me. Of having created a successful business that provides jobs, supports families, and reduces poverty. In losing these dreams, I also lost pieces of my identity — missionary, teammate, adventurer. Of being different, of being admired for the sacrifices I’d made, of people saying “wow” when I tell them about the work I do.
And in the death of those dreams and identities, something came alive in me. Fear. The fear of failure, of not being enough… Tough enough. Smart enough. Good enough. Godly enough. The fear of recreating a life. My slate was wiped clean. What words would fill the pages of my story’s next chapter? And the fear of forgetting the place, the people, the stories, the land, the faith.
What follows is a tribute to this one year anniversary.
We stepped off the plane. After 22 hours, it felt good to make it to our final destination. It was late, dark. The air was warm, thick and damp. Like breathing through a wet wash cloth. My skin felt instantly hydrated and sticky. After months of anticipation and preparation, we finally made it. Feet on African soil. (Deep, anxious sigh.)
Where will we buy groceries and get gas?
We sold or gave away our belongings, keeping our place settings from our wedding, heirloom furniture, favorite books, and winter clothes. The rest of our stuff – gone. So much detachment, change, unknown. We packed four suitcases full of our clothes and dreams.
How will people perceive us? Will we make friends?
We were the minority. White whiter in the presence of a land of black. As we left the airport there was a cacophony of foreign tongues, car horns and African beats. Men fought for our attention wanting to carry our suitcases, wanting our money. We loaded our bags in the back of a white and orange rundown tro-tro and boarded the minibus, wondering if it’d get us to where we needed to go. With no cooling system, the windows were open. We buzzed down the Tema Motorway, the air still thick but cooling my sticky skin. A sour and dusty smell filled my nostrils.
What will our house be like? Will there be running water? Lizards? A fan?
Traffic was very fluid. Fast. Black arms waved out windows. Pedestrians all around. Children ran barefoot. People walked, biked. Container shops open with one hanging light bulb. Mini fires littered the roadside. Open flames burned waste, cooked dinner, illuminated shops. I saw silhouettes of thin cows and scampering chickens near the road. I felt overwhelming curiosity.
How long will it take me to learn the culture? Will I be able to adopt their customs and language?
We got to the toll booth. We didn’t wait long because it was late. Hawkers were still out working though, trying to sell another bag of plantain chips or bottle of Fanta or pair of socks. Men and women (young and old) with goods piled on top of their heads walked up and down the road among the sitting cars hoping for another sale.
Who are these people? What are their stories?
We arrived to our new home. A wall surrounded the house. A large, black iron gate opened to a simple concrete structure with 3-bedrooms. There was a dirt lawn with a beautiful overgrown, flowering tree. We were greeted with no power. (What we would soon learn to be normal.) We wearily but excitedly walked through the door with our clothes and dreams in hand.
Would our business survive? Could Africa be our home?