Rainy day Reflections in Accra in both senses of the word

A beautiful blue door in old Accra with paint peeling from it.

*These photos were taken in the rain on the outskirts of Makola Market, Accra.

I woke up on Friday feeling a little strange and a bit down, these are not unique emotions in these peculiar times given what the world is going through currently. It was another week of saying goodbye to lovely friends, and for the second time in the last few months we were meant to be heading for the airport yet had of course not packed any bags or taken out our passports. This time it was meant to be the final goodbye to Ghana and we were flying back to Durban to meet our precious new niece and cousin, and to be reunited with our friends and family back home. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ready to leave Ghana, in fact I love this place so much that I’m not sure I’ll ever feel ‘ready’ to leave, but departing on the 3 July was in the plan and as Dave’s contract would have ended there was no way we could have stayed, so we had all accepted that the time to say farewell was sad but inevitable.

A blue building in old Accra with colourful clothes drying over the walls. It is raining and a person walks past the building in a rain coat.
A blue building in old Accra with an umbrella in the front and clothes drying over a wall.

Several weeks ago we got on with the tasks associated with packings ones lives up after making a home in a country for a few years – we sold our car and sorted through all of our possessions to decide what we wanted to keep, sell and give away. Then we packed most of our boxes, not wanting the packers to be in the house for too long in these Covid times. After which we experienced that strange surreal moment that I’ve previously lived with dear neighbours, when we watched the material things we hold nearest and dearest exit the gates of our compound in a container truck and that was that!

A colourful scene in old Accra, yellow and orange walls with bright pink spikes and a prayer mat hanging from a railing.

But not quite in our case…..Dave has been in the process of securing future work for many months now, but it is taking time (and heaps of patience) and for various reasons there are lots of delays. Corona times are possibly the worst ones to try and find work and get the desired job certainty we would really love right now. So after sending our things off to be shipped, we heard that his contract here in Ghana will now be extended till the end of September, and if everything works out with the future job in question, we will likely spend some months back in SA due to expected admin delays before heading off on another adventure somewhere.  

Rain pours onto a pink wall and a plant in old Accra.

I’m still most grateful to be here but I’m missing our privileged home comforts like my sewing machine, kitchen appliances, the pictures on our walls, our books and all the other colourful pretty things that make it feel like home! Then I remember that most importantly this home is about who is in it and I know that we are so very wealthy currently considering we are together and we are all healthy and happy. Everyday in Ghana I’m aware that we have SO much more than the vast majority and that alone means we truly have nothing to complain about. We still have a beautiful comfortable house that we are so privileged to live in and are surrounded by wonderful neighbours and friends in Accra.

Makola market on a rainy day, A woman stands in a yellow raincoat in front of a store selling fabric marked A10, Kofo Textiles Trading

Yes, I do feel a sense of irony that we now need to pay for our boxes of possessions to be stored in the Tema port as they can’t leave Ghana until we do, and I do get anxious at times about all the uncertainty and heartache the world is experiencing and how a lot of that ambiguity has extended into our own personal circumstances. After being home for almost 4 months the kids are starting to climb the walls a bit with cooped up energy (I keep thinking of all of those articles on Facebook that tell us how good it is for kids to be bored ;-)) but we are actually only in week one of the official Summer school break! We are wondering about what to do for them school wise for the next year. But this week I was able to sort out required chronic medication in Ghana and that felt like a good win and another wonderful silver lining was that Dave found an unused coffee machine at his work that we can borrow, yay! After not being able to find the plug for our piano keyboard and worrying that we may have packed it, it cropped up in the most unlikely place and we will fill our house with music again !

An old blue mural in old Accra, Honeymoon matress Your partner for Life is painted on the wall, and children play near a motorbike.

With uncertainty being the only constant lately it seems, we are all challenged to try to become more comfortable with the discomfort that time in limbo makes us feel. Most days we are adjusting our sails well to accommodate the changed circumstances that new winds bring about. I’m always telling our kids that we need to be like trees – they stay firmly rooted in the ground but their branches bend and move when faced with wind – sometimes it is a light breeze and other times strong gail force wind. Having experienced the gail force wind nearly 6 years ago when I went through cancer treatment, I feel I’ve had good training for times of uncertainty. Anything that does not resemble that year of our lives, I refuse to get worked up about. The perspective from that experience is that all days that are ordinary and normal, even the ones when you only know for certain what the next 24 hours look like and the rest up ahead is pretty blurry and foggy – these are the good, great, incredible ones!

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We are all allowed to have days when things feel a bit heavy and when we allow ourselves to feel the emotions that these stressful times bring about. That is healthy feeling and processing of emotions, and we can’t be Polyanna about everything all the time but we can choose how our days look and we can choose to focus on the good instead of moaning about small things and inconveniences. We are all in times when we need to hone in on the mundane moments of our lives and realise just how good they are. To be super grateful when these days don’t involve sickness and stress, and if they do, to believe that we have the resilience and capabilities to overcome what we hope are temporary obstacles.

Old Accra, a man sits in front of a blue door and a yellow wall that is peeling from many layers of paint.

So with Ghana whispering ‘Stay a little longer’ I will make the most of being in a place that I love. In the last week I’ve made our home a little cozier but sticking up a beautiful print that my artist friend Gill Douglas @gilli_douglas who now lives in Kenya is offering as a free gift! (sign up for her newsletter here to access her beautiful print and to see what a talented painter she is). I bought a plant that I had put off buying because we were leaving so soon but had admired for its unusual pretty pink stem. My friend has kindly lent me her sewing machine. There are so many incredible books to read. The kids are finding new ways to amuse themselves! I have more time to re-live experiences through writing about Ghana.

A young boy walks in front of a blue door on the outskirts of Makola Market Accra, the wall has many layers of paint that are peeling from it.

We are all challenged to be comfortable with ‘BEing’ with maybe less of our comforts around us or less of the things we usually depend on to make us feel good and well in the world and in these times that we can’t fully operate with our usual ‘DOing’ ways, I’m usually a big ‘DOer’ and am trying hard to lean into a new way of ‘BEing’. A quote by Havelock Ellis that really spoke to me this morning was “All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on”. I am trying to let go of preconceived notions of how things ‘should be’ and our human desire to always be looking ahead and have things planned and sorted out, and I’m currently ‘holding on’ to the little and big things that I love about this life and treasure, and in our case we are ‘holding on’ to our Ghana life for a while longer.   

The old Ford building in old Accra on the outskirts of Makola Market, with peeling paint and an architectural style that dates back many years. It is rainy and people walk by with umbrellas.

Yesterday we woke up to a very rainy Saturday, the blue sunny skies we are used to have been replaced by more grey ones and we have been having frequent showers now that we are in the rainy season. I told Dave that I really needed to get out of the house for a change of scene and wondered where we could go and what we could do. I posted a photo on Instagram of the Rex Theatre that was built in the 1930s in Ghana and decided to get my camera out and asked Dave to drive me around. I’m usually always inspired by the landscape here and I currently miss being an onlooker and admiring everyday life on regular drives around town when we have errands to run, places to go and people to see.

A colourful building in old Accra on the outskirts of Makola Market. A lady who owns a wig and braiding store is about to step out of her shop.

We enjoyed a takeaway Vida cappuccino and had good catch up time in the car. Dave patiently waited for me while I wandered around a few (only very quiet) streets when something caught me eye and made me want to capture it.  I was amazed that despite the heavy rainfall the marketplaces that we saw from the car were still just as crowded and concerningly many were not wearing face masks. The Ghanaians will not be deterred by some rain – the only differences in the landscape were that there were already a few true entrepreneurs selling umbrellas at most traffic light stops and we saw plenty of naked mannequins getting properly cleaned with a good shower 🙂 and the pavements were full of people wearing raincoats.  

A rainy day in Accra, market vendors still sell vegetables in the rain and they are wearing raincoats.
Mannequins are not clothed as it is raining so there are numerous naked mannequins at the Makola market

In these crazy times we need to more than ever to do the things that bring us joy and make us happy to be alive, we may need to do that with less than we usually have or without our usual crutches that we depend on. We need to count our blessings and keep on keeping on despite how turbulent everything may feel. Sound mental health is very much needed to weather this storm. Some days like yesterday I feel I’m doing well, and on the others when I’m struggling, I try to be kind and gentle to myself and realise that we are all in unprecedented times and are allowed those days.

A purple and blue door at Makola Market with an orange chair in the foreground.

I hope this week that you are inspired by the beautiful normal around you and that you hold all that is dear to you in the world extra close. I think we are all in need some time at the ‘Take Care Lodge’ that I saw yesterday 😉

The Take Care Lodge in old Accra on the outskirts of Makola Market.

 

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