The dust kicked up in the market place fills her nostrils, and the beads of sweat come trickling down her forehead. The market is loud, hot, and bustling, but Myra Parks is enjoying taking it all in. Vendors try to tempt her with ripe mangoes and sweet pineapples. Women selling everything from smoked fish to plantains try to out-shout each other for her business. It’s a far cry from a comfortable, air-conditioned market in Los Angeles – almost another lifetime ago. But Myra’s not complaining. In fact, she’s never felt happier. Myra, her husband Del, and son D.J. have a new, uncomplicated life…in Ghana, West Africa. This is their story:
My husband and I had always wanted to move away from the United States and live abroad. Initially, we thought that the United Kingdom or Tokyo would be ideal countries to move to. But, after our son was born, we had a newfound desire. We wanted to know more about where we were from- our culture, history, and lineage — our “ROOTS.” After thinking and talking about this for some time, we knew there was only one solution: Repatriation.
“But why?” you may ask.
Upon completion of our post-graduate degrees, we thought life was going to be filled with great careers, fun times with friends, and a white picket fence with 2 kids and a dog. However, our careers as a sign language interpreter and lawyer left us no time for quality family time, hardly any real friends, and the harsh reality that student loans and mortgages don’t mix well. Luckily, we avoided the 30-year bondage (mortgage) and decided not to give up two kidneys and our first-born child for a house we would probably never own anyway!
“We wanted to live life, not just exist to pay bills.”
We wanted to be in a place where we could spend more time together as a family and focus more on hobbies rather than paychecks. We also wanted to teach our son about how to pursue things that bring him joy and the freedom to use his time as he pleased. So, we decided we would sell all our possessions using our handy-dandy “Offer Up” mobile app and move to a place with such values.
Choosing Ghana as our future home was a no-brainer. I have always had a spiritual pull to Ghana. Being a native of New Orleans, I’m almost certain my ancestral ties stem from West Africa and most likely Ghana. Even if my ancestors weren’t from Ghana, they most likely passed through…or at least that’s what I feel in my spirit.
When it came time to move, our packing process was very simple: If the item could not fit into one of our seven suitcases, it could not go. We had to let go of a lot of things, which we didn’t mind doing at all.
“We were willing to leave behind everything, including family and friends, for a better quality of life.”
One of the most challenging parts of leaving was to try and explain to our traditional, southern, African-American parents that we were leaving great careers and sunny California for a life in Africa. We heard everything from, “Don’t go over there and get Ebola!” to “They’re going to put voodoo on you over there!” The consensus was “Who in their right mind moves to Africa??!” We had to do a lot of educating when it came to family for them to feel comfortable with our move. Just goes to show how the media has done a great job of distorting the perception of Africa, where all you see is war, poverty, and disease! In the end, our families came around and even talked about coming to visit us in Ghana once we settled in.
Before we moved, we used online resources such as internations.org and Facebook to build our “village” of people on the ground in Ghana that could aid in our repatriation process. Ghana has a relaxed immigration process at the moment so getting long-term visas was extremely easy. Our housing was taken care of by a good friend that owns and operates repatriation transition apartments so we didn’t have to stress over housing. Honestly speaking, we didn’t have to worry about much once we arrived.
We have now been in Ghana for a short period of time. Living in a developing country after living in the States is a whole new world. Not being able to access the things you want when you want them, can make you want to scream. Sometimes there is a strong urge just to get on Amazon.com and order something. But, then you remember Amazon doesn’t deliver to Ghana or many other African countries for that matter.
Additionally, we were not prepared to eat the same food with the same flavor profile every day. Eating spicy, tomato-based food all the time gets old rather quickly.
“I won’t lie: There are times where we just want Chick-fil-A (with the Chick-fil-A sauce…mmmmmm!) or Chipotle. We do occasionally miss the convenience of things like that.”
Nevertheless, our new environment is a very rewarding one. We spend our day doing the things we desire. If we want to lay around and play “UNO” all day with our son, that’s what we do. We’ve come to appreciate not having to punch a time clock or be on anyone’s time. We are creating a community here in Ghana which treats us as family.
They are teaching us everything from how to make it out of the bustling food market without being ripped off or spending all our money, to surviving the long, sweaty, and packed ride on the “trotro” public transportation. Aside from trying to figure out what to eat every day, we are in the process of searching for land to purchase and hopefully we’ll begin building our home here soon.
By far, the move to Ghana has been most beneficial to our son. He’s becoming less concerned with digital distractions and discovering how to be content with just a soccer ball and a goal.
Repatriation is turning out to be the best move we could have made for our family and we are looking forward to all Ghana has to offer.
You can read more about Myra and her family’s adventures in Ghana on her blog therepatdiaries.com