The magazine on the flight had an article that caught my eye. It read: “Travel enriches and heals, but you don’t have to spend months playing bongos on a deserted island. A quick jolt of something new can realign, restore and fulfil.” – of course it went on to promote mini breaks to Vienna, but I liked the sentiment. Travel has been a lifelong love for me, and maybe this is partly why. As I travelled, at great speed, 30,000 feet above ‘terre ferme’, I breathed out and realigned. I realised, once again, that the blue blue sky is limitless, a rich expanse of clear uninterrupted vastness. The earth became small, with field after field of nail-sized squares, rivers like silver string and villages like spilled salt. I remembered, once again, the world is so huge compared to my own, yet so tiny compared with the universe. On this flight, unlike any other, I was emigrating. I might have appeared like every other person going about their day, but for me the day was momentous, huge, life changing, almost unreal. On this day I left my English homeland to make home in another continent.
As I gazed out of the cabin window, shutter half down to avert the blazing unadulterated sunshine, I stared wistful over the care bear clouds and thanked God for travel. This life choice I have made would have been near impossible for me, a regular English girl, 100 years ago. But here I am, soaring into the sapphire sky, no limits on my ambitions or dreams, no barriers across the vista. What a privilege to be born into the generation I live in. I’ve always dreamed of going to Africa. I was always fascinated by Africa. In 1992 I started a project on the continent – I was 9 years old.
…As it was a bit of a major undertaking to do a project on a whole continent at nine years old, I didn’t get very far. But the seed in my heart had been planted. Over the 23 years since then, my dream has remained, and the seed has grown. Now the seed has finally grown into something solid – flight tickets to Ghana with my husband, and a future planned here. But every dream has a cost. And to me that cost is leaving my family and friends and all I love in England. As drew close to leaving I experienced the immense pull of separation.
In a sort of timewarp type freeze frame, I found myself almost outside my own life, looking in on it, and appreciating my life with immense gusto. A bit like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. I have been so grateful of those dear to me, and we have felt overwhelmed with the love of so many of our close friends. I have carried the farewell cards people gave us with us to Ghana.
In December, my whole family piled into my parents house for Christmas. Squeezed like happy little sardines into ever bed and floor space available, we had a wonderful time together. (You can see photos from Christmas Day here). Whilst there, I packed up some things I had at their house that I needed wanted to ship to Ghana. You know, the essentials: a string of giant starfish and an ornamental birdcage, a decorative gecko and my collection of lonely planet books. As we packed them into the car, we had to say goodbye to my brother Tim, sister in law Em and the children: Raphie, Nina and Caleb. My face couldn’t hide the emotions, and it was with sadness and tears I hugged them goodbye. Nina said, “Can I come to Africa with you?”, her big blue eye peering at me as she sucked her thumb. I said, “Of course, you can come whenever you like. Will you bring Rabbit and Froggy?” She grinned as only Nina does, and nodded.
Since then, as the packing continued, as we shipped our stuff, moved out of our flat, sorted visas, logistics and flight tickets, it all began feeling very real. I may have been following my heart and my dream, but it did not diminish the cost. The emotional cost of separation has run deep. My heart has felt as if it were wrenched from my chest as I have pulled myself away from my family and those dear to me, so I could choose to live thousands of miles away. Tears streamed as we hugged James and Hannah and little Theo, Hannah kissing my face whilst Theo pulled on my nose. And again, tears rolled as I kissed Margot goodbye, told her I loved her and waved her off in the car. And again as we hugged and sobbed and prayed with my parents the night before we left. Emotions pouring out like an upturned bathtub. The cost is great.
Every dream has a cost. My dream has been lifelong and I still want it as much as I ever did. I still feel it in my belly, something that calls me to Africa. I know in my heart that God put that desire there a long time ago, and that’s why it had never gone away. It is the knowing, right down deep, in the deepest depth of my heart, that this is right. There is not a doubt in my mind. I fully believe this is God’s plan for me and for Elikem. The peace I have deep down in my soul speaks softly but confidently – it whispers reassurance, encouragement and faith.
So as I stepped out into the garden this morning, and felt the Ghanaian warm air kiss my face softly, I exhaled. Peaceful about this new day, the first day of my life in Ghana. Birds sang overhead with exotic refrains. The colossal leaves swayed in the gigantic trees around me, oval leaves as big as your head, and spiky ones as long as your arm. A gecko ran past me swiftly, its skinny little body lifted high above it’s little legs, as if it were lifting its skirt to run through a puddle. But no puddles here today.
As I sit on the porch and look up, all I see is round fluffy cotton ball clouds moving lazily across the pastel sky. Looking up at the sky I breathed out once again, reminded afresh of the thoughts I had on the flight: the blue blue sky is limitless. Here I am. In my Africa home. I feel peace, expectation and unfathomable joy. I feel close to God as I take His hand, and as Elikem and I walk into this new season. “I am with you, and will keep you, wherever you go.” Genesis 28 verse 15