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    Family, Lifestyle, Travel

    The Sling Diaries VII: Memory

    Jackie- logic. It is a phrase coined by my two dearest friends who hold the stories to some of my wildest times, some that only they will be able to replay as memories and will never be said out loud, hopefully. Jackie-logic is an idea, thought or suggestion, usually followed by action, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense but typically turns out quite wonderfully. For example: renting a car in Thailand, leaving our passports behind as a security deposit and touring Northern Thailand with just a map, making pit stops at caves and waterfalls, off roading into unknown towns and pulling over to take a ride on an elephant with some strangers. Or, the time where I saw a photo of a hot tub in the snow, nestled in the Swiss Alps and had to go check it out in real life. A train, a bus, a hike and a gondola ride later, it was everything I dreamed of.

    I’ve always felt that life was really for LIVING and perhaps I have tamed a bit in the last few years, but that wild heart still exists. Recently I decided to get transport directly to and from the airport in Cancun to our apartment in Tulum rather than rent a car and I felt like I didn’t even know myself anymore. I always go for the car rental so I can do my own touring but I was going for convenience this time. I am trying to hold onto this logic, these ideas that have created so many wonderful memories while also trying to be a mother, a wife and the maker of decisions for the entire family. In all of this I am trying to still be me which is a practice that takes time and effort and the occasional bad but good idea.

    You may call me stubborn, I know my husband would, when it comes to how passionately I feel about an idea that will take us on a wild ride or create a memory. I have the art of being able to research the hell out of things, digging deep and weighing the pros and cons, then not listening to the cons at all. And I especially do not listen to the people around me who may have suggestions.

    This logic, it isn’t always completely crazy. Sometimes it is just a little voice in the background questioning, pushing and wanting    to know and learn more. The most recent experience I have had with this, the greatest memory yet, was when I decided that at 32 weeks I was going to switch my doctor and forgo a hospital birth to have my daughter at home. Wild and crazy? Nope! To me the wild and crazy decision was when I had decided to have a hospital birth. Now, I am not by any means knocking hospitals or any women who     has decided to or has had to give birth in a hospital, this is merely my story of birth and was my decision. I thank that voice for giving me the push to decide to have my daughter at home. I labored in a blow up fishy pool I bought on amazon and delivered a posterior baby girl in her own nursery after 20 hours of labor with the support of amazing midwife’s, my husband and my Mom.

     

    So, while although this voice, this Jackie-logic has been tamed, although I may not at this time rent a car in a foreign country and off-road leaving the car on the side of the road as I hike to a Gibbon conservation project, this logic and this love for life is still very much there.

     

    And as I write this, I am getting the itch to do something a bit out of the ordinary. Last year it was a pixie cut (I know not quite as wild but I needed to shake it up a bit) and I am not sure what is in store for me yet in the coming months. But what I do know is that I have some pretty kick ass memories and will continue to push the limits, baby in tow. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, if Aurelia is as bold as I was, I am okay with it. For I dream of a life full of passion and adventure for her. (Okay, there may be a few things I would like her to forgo- but those are secrets I will never tell.)

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    Family, Travel

    The Sling Diaries Volume VII: Kinship

    I can still feel the heat, the way it wrapped itself around me like a thick blanket, the sun so bright it gave me squinty eye lines and tickled my nose with freckles. And I can still hear the late night Afro beats- it made even the shyest dance till the early morning hours. But what I can remember most, what I am still trying to recreate back in the States, is community. Relationships, kinships, friends and family. I am married to a Ghanaian man. I have three husbands and their wives are my rivals. Their children are also my children and my daughter belongs to them as well. Kinship in Ghana is far different than the family culture we are used to in the States. The USA is more of an individualistic society, while Ghana thrives on community. Its deep traditions are not always practiced in modern times, but they remain a reminder of the extended family bond and that we are all for each other.       

                                                                     

    So while although my husband’s brothers do not actually play the role of a husband in my life, nor are my sister-in-laws truly my rivals, we still do share a different family bond, a closeness that is rooted in traditions and a communal way of survival.

    When I lived in Ghana, I lived in a multi-family home. There were constantly people around, at least 15 children from newborn to teen and about four different families. Many children were living with their Grandmothers while the parents were out working in neighboring towns, another normalcy in Ghana. Some children lived with their aunty and uncles, whoever in the family was financially well enough to send the kids to school.

    I never had a moment of peace and quiet when I lived in Ghana- constantly surrounded while I tried to sit and read, wash my clothes or eat breakfast. Sometimes I loved it. Other times I would have just burst. But I find myself, as I sit in my cute little individual family home, just us, surrounded by other families in their own homes, just them, longing for that community.

    The community in Ghana has taught me a great deal of what I hope for while I raise my family. I try and channel the closeness of Ghanaian families in how I treat others, how I open my home and how much alone time I spend. I have learned to say “yes” more when people ask for favors and to reach out in times of need.

    Sometimes living in the states I can feel a bit isolated but I still have hope and continue to search for my own little tribe of like minded mamas, asking ladies out on mom dates and stopping people with toddlers in the store. For it truly takes a village and if you don’t live in one, you gotta create your own.

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    Family

    The story of our love

    ****

     As I drove from the airport in Accra, Ghana, the car windows were open letting in the intense heat and humidity of an African evening- the sky was so dark only lit by a few oil lamps, flash lights and the few who had generators. I knew taking a storytelling job with an anti-slavery organization in Ghana would change the course of my life but to what extent, I did not know.

     

    Eric and I met one and a half months into my trip. In my first weeks, I spent everyday interviewing for a book I was working on, at a local restaurant where Eric was a waiter. Eric had just left a job that he had for years and years, in search of a better life. I guess I was doing the same when I took the job in Ghana.

    Thousands of miles away from each other yet somehow we ended up at the same place at the exact same time. Just as he left his job for a new life I had packed my bags from NYC to Ghana in search of a new path and meaning.

    Everyday I looked forward to the interviews at the restaurant so I could see Eric. He had the brightest smile and his forehead wrinkled when he was concentrating. I would order a drink or food just so he had to walk over to our table and I could say hello. I was smitten.

    I left Ghana for a two week journey to Tanzania and thought of Eric daily.  While I sat bundled in blankets in the clouds, a view of Mount Kilimanjaro out my window,  I wrote in my journal that one day I would return with Eric at 35, married. We hadn’t even had our first date yet, but I knew.

    When I returned from Tanzania I had messages from Eric on my phone, eager to know when I was returning. When we met at the restaurant he wrapped his arms around me- my palms were sweaty, my heart thudding in my chest. And that was it.

    Eric use to ride his motorbike to my guesthouse every night after work. I could hear the roar of the bike as he approached. We would sit on the roof of a half built home on the compound, under millions of stars, the town pitch black from power outages and tell stories of our life. Eric would teach me to sing local songs and how to speak his language. 

    And then, I had to go home…

    After, skype calls, love letters and lots of immigration paper work, we married in a tiny chapel in my hometown.

    We welcomed our baby girl a year ago and we tell her stories of our love, her second home and family in Ghana and Eric teaches her to sing local Ghanaian songs. Before she could talk she was making noises in the beat of the drum from one of the songs. 

    And we still plan to visit Tanzania when we are 35 as I wrote in my journal. Some things are written even before we write it down ourselves.

    Photo credit:

    1. (selfie) 2. Jacquelene Amoquandoh 3. Dan Hall 4. friends of friends 5. my midwife 6. Amma Rhea 

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