Browsing Category:


    Family, Lifestyle, Uncategorized

    Life, love and Immigration: What to consider before your partner arrives.

    So you are in love abroad or maybe your partner is… and you sit there thinking about the visa process and probably asking yourself about a million questions about taking this leap. I asked the same questions and my family and friends asked me a million as well. For a moment now, take a step back from the visa process and look at something bigger, which may seem impossible considering how HUGE the visa process seems. But something bigger, creating a life with someone who has chosen to leave their home to create a home with you. If it seems like a lot of pressure, I don’t mean to scare you. I just want to help you prepare for the road ahead and know that it will take work but it is so so worth it.

    Here are some things to consider before the arrival of your partner from abroad:

    1. How will they spend their time before they are able to work? And once they can work, what will they do? Start looking around now. Are there English classes they can take or another course that could help their career path? When Eric arrived I took some time off to help him get acclimated or at least a little comfortable before I had to spend my days away from him. Once I returned I had found classes at a local organization that offered English, GED and other enrichment programs. He took English and a culinary class and made friends from all over the world. He seemed happy and enjoyed this opportunity. If I remember correctly his green card arrived about seven months later and he was able to work.
    2. How will they get around? Drive? Public Transport? If your partner drives in their country, look into an international drivers license which will enable them to drive in some states for up to one year. This was a great decision for Eric and I as we do not live in an area with public transport. Eric did not however have much driving experience so we really had to work on this. I am good at a lot of things but my patience in teaching how to drive is probably not my next career path. Go easy on each other.
    3. Culture and Community.  Something we are still trying to figure out and you should consider with great care. Are you living in an area where your partner can thrive or could you consider a move? We decided to live in my home-town when Eric arrived because I had a network of people that could help welcome him, find him jobs and help with driving us around because we had one car. While there is not much culture here, we have a good community surrounding us and jobs with people we love. And we are trying to bring the culture here. It has been difficult for Eric to connect with others and make friends but we continue to work on trying to set up Ghanaian dance classes and invite others over to create culture in our own home. We also think about moving into a city where we would have more access to the things that make us both smile. But… I do love the ocean and the forest and this cute New England town.
    4. Don’t forget you. I have to remind myself too. Over the years I have been consumed with working on trying to set up a life for us that would make us all happy. I continue to worry about my husbands happiness as I know all he has left behind. But he also gained a beautiful life here and I have to continue to remember and cherish that. I’m working on not letting the worry consume me so I can just be here… with him and our little family and life we are growing. What do I do when I get a bit worried about him and his happiness? I try and find an event or workshop he would love to go to, he loves dance, performance and music; or we drive about an hour away to a Ghanaian restaurant and grocery store and fill up on all things Ghana.

    The moral of this story… it is ongoing. Your life and love is now blended and it’s a beautiful opportunity to have to work with someone from a different culture to create a balance. It takes great work, as all partnerships do. Be gentle with each other. Be strong individuals and know that you may need to change up what you know your life to be here in the States. Maybe it’s a new home, maybe it is frequent travel to your partners country, maybe it’s staying up late and talking about the difficulties and the beautiful times. We are here with you.

    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.)





    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.


    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