Relocating – Living abroad A personal experience

Relocating – Living abroad A personal experience

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My first attempt at moving from Ghana my home country to live as an Expatriate in Papua New Guinea was in 1981. It was to take nine years for me to take that position as a Tourism Lecturer in Lae Technical College, Lae Papua New Guinea.

Yes, for some of us the de­cision to move from our land of origin to live in foreign lands comes after great con­sideration and preparation.

The psychologists will explain one’s travel patterns and there may indeed be much credit to their travel behavioural analysis as the word ‘wanderlust’ resonates with what perhaps led me to a South Pacific island.

In our geography lessons in 1974, I had been fascinat­ed by the teacher’s explana­tion of Borneo as a tropical country. In my Ghanaian teenage-world then, I’d known only Africa, and oh yes, parts of South America as the places on earth with sunshine all year round; Eu­rope, North America and all other parts of the world were different in the four seasons they had in a year. They were ‘cold countries’ to which my parents, their friends and other members of the family had returned to from their studies.

The ‘coldness’ of England had been confirmed when I had the opportunity to visit London for two weeks before going on to secondary school. I had not liked the cold much, neither had I enjoyed being indoors for most of the time with the cousins I’d stayed with.

The living style of the people in Borneo in my mind’s eye as Miss Owusu of blessed memory went through those Geography lessons where the people of Borneo lived the outdoor life as I knew it in Ghana was very appealing.

Seriously tucked away somewhere in my sub-con­sciousness was a deep imprint of a big factor that was to decide where else I could live should I at any time decide to leave Ghana for abroad. This, added to gaining the most in terms of economic fulfilment made the choice of Papua New Guinea where a childhood friend had relocated with her husband, a very alluring one.

I needed a place to give me not just a head up in the static economic situa­tion most newly-graduated Ghanaians are familiar with, but also an outdoor lifestyle that would give me warmth internally and externally.

Other sunny beautiful places in the South Pacific were no options because of a lingua franca problem. I transact official businesses in English!

Nine years; understand­ably a long time but a time that saw a sustained jour­ney of academic and skills preparation; of a maturity of my tenacity of purpose; a journey which also meant I now had the added respon­sibility of getting two young sons ready for a long journey far from home, school and church.

When one decides to travel into a 10-hour time zone from their original place of abode, a country that exists only in the history and geography lessons of family members, there is the added challenge of getting elders of the family on whose guidance and mentoring one has de­pended or hitherto buy into the whole idea.

These are no mean ‘elders of the family’ as is known in Ghanaian society-the un­cles who turn up with a list of bride price nor are they those whom one meets only on funeral occasions at the village.

The ‘elders of family’ in this wise were uncles and aunties in the city who have great knowledge about ‘abrokyire’ – countries of the great beyond – the UK, U.S.A. and other such places; not places in the South Pacific!

So it was that their nod in such a venture was very vital.

Needless to say, there were overt and covert deeds and words of discouragement that eventually changed to prayers for the welfare of my children and I, when it dawned on everyone nothing could change my mind.

Having acquired the necessary skills, academic advancement and experience in the industry of my choice; and having also researched for and laid hands on pic­tures of anything positive from Papua New Guinea to get my sons excited, I set about voicing my intentions of gaining employment in my ‘dream country’ to any and every one.

A colleague at work picked it up, introduced me to Ghanaian Expatriates on Christmas holidays from Pap­ua New Guinea in 1995 and before anybody could dis­count this dream of mine fur­ther, my very young sons and I were on our way from Accra through London, Hong Kong and finally arriving in Port Moresby on April 11,1996!

That is almost 28 years ago…..

As I listen to the elder of those two young sons I em­barked on this journey with steps to relocate, I find my inner self smile.

A smile that means it may have been all worth it if he indeed sees that experience as having impacted his life positively enough to warrant him tread a similar path.

My chats with him informs me he’s done his homework well. Being a Mentor, I’ve had to add a few. The Expa­triate life has a ‘shelf life’ and one needs to ‘know when to hold them’ and ‘….. when to fold them.’

One needs to research the terms of their contract vis-à-vis what other condi­tions of service, and pension pot contributions they would have had to work with back in their home of origin.

Completing mortgage payments, issues surrounding children’s education in higher institutions, changes in syllabus etc; simply a return from dreamland to reality so to say.

Above all, ensuring the baton of broadening hori­zons in forms that may not necessarily be exclusive to a relocating, is handed over to the next generation.

By Dzigbordi B-A

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