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    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.

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    Lifestyle, Travel

    My September Issue. Manifesting the Life of My Dreams

    September. The most beautiful month. New York City was cooling down just enough to make it tolerable and fashion week was getting ready to kick my butt for another season.

    For as long as I could remember I had been constantly chasing, something. A boy, a new job, a distant place, swallowed in my hopes for a dream life and internal happiness. I’d have meetings with others that I thought had what I was looking for. Then, somewhere between daily yoga, an exciting career, 5:30 a.m. runs and the decision to stop giving a fuck, I found me, just a little. I had been drowning in a situation I so desperately wanted to change but it just wouldn’t change for me, I let go. September.

    My mornings consisted of a trail run, home, dog walk, dress and drive 45 minutes to the train, a laugh with the sweet African man that worked where I parked my car, 15 minute train ride and 15 minutes walking upstream in a sea of city dwellers and commuters to my Flatiron 5th Ave office. My job as a production assistant for a small but incredibly wonderful fashion production company was exciting, fulfilling and in the opposite direction of my hope to work in writing and human rights, but I was happy. My bosses were two fantastic individuals who kept me excited and laughing. I had a fashionista’s dream, working backstage at fashion week for major designers, mingling at events with top movers and shakers in the business and flying to Paris for fashion week twice a year. And in my down time, I volunteered with an anti-trafficking organization who was rallying and actively rehabilitating girls who had been trafficked for sex in South East Asia ( I know, I know… two completely different worlds.) This was where my passion and my heart felt it was doing the right work for the right reasons.

    And then, like a shock to my heart and my plans, that thing I was slowly trying to change, let go of me. I felt confused but free. My girlfriends would text me and tell me it was time for me to leave this home and go see the world. Travel, write, explore and find myself even deeper. I spent my time after work exploring opportunities in anti-trafficking organizations abroad. I’d put an open search in idealist.org and fill in the location as, Africa or Asia. I needed to go, but where?

    A month later, that exciting and fulfilling fashion job, let me go. Not because they didn’t love me, but because they needed to and I guess, I needed them to also. The next day I had an email back from an organization in Ghana I had reached out to. By chance, the founder was looking to write a book and needed a ghost-writer. We skyped, our excitement jumping through the screen. But was I really ready to cross an ocean to chase my dream work?

    2 weeks after my job let me go, my roommates decided they wanted their own place. I was jobless, dumped, and had to move out of my apartment. But, I was happy. All of these things, as they came crumbling down, they didn’t shake me. I embraced them, and slowly realized, I had actually manifested this entire situation. The following week I was on the train to Washington D.C. to meet with the organization funding the book idea in Ghana and quickly following that, I got the offer.

    I don’t really think I had a choice, during my September issue. Perhaps that is why it felt so right, there was no weight. And now I know, that this manifestation of mine was completely driven by fate, something I never believed in. I was a huge cynic with the whole, love at first sight, find your destiny, business. I thought it was only about persistence and hard work, which is surely part of it, but there is a huge component in letting go and trusting.

    On December 31st, 2012, I flew through the night and landed in Ghana in a new year and new life.

    This story, a long one full of love, hope, happiness, tragedy and lots and lots of testing, is something I never dreamed could be real. But it is. It is my life. And I am so damn lucky. And now, 5 years later, as I feel a bit stuck again,  it is time for me to open up, believe and take some guidance from where the universe is pushing me. This time, I have some wonderful companions, my husband, daughter and all of you, along for the ride.

    There are stories to be told, places to be seen and a lot of letting go to do. So… here we go!!

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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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    Lifestyle, Travel

    Where to donate this holiday season: 2017

    Legos, and bicycles; baby dolls and puzzles; coffee mugs and graphic teas… it feels good to be able to purchase a gift for someone that you know they will love. But, this holiday, you could take the opportunity, forgo that cute mug that says, “Monday’s suck,” and put that $15 toward providing emergency transport to a woman in labor. Check out a few places I have donated to this holiday season and learn a little about how to narrow down you search.

    Near and dear to my heart: Challenging Heights

    Almost 5 years ago now, I moved to Ghana, West Africa to work for an organization called Challenging Heights, an anti-trafficking and child’s rights organization. While there, I witnessed first hand that a grassroots organization can be run well, and really do great work.  Challenging Heights is an all-star in my eyes. The entire staff is Ghanaian except for a few interns and one or two positions that rotate an international candidate every year or two. This staff is incredibly knowledgable and experienced in child’s rights and the trafficking issue on Lake Volta in Ghana. CH has programs in rescue, rehabilitation, reintegration and also offers support to the family of the trafficked child. I could go on and on about the amazing programs and how well this organization runs but please check them out yourself. This staff and this organization changed my life and I am hoping maybe this holiday, you would consider changing the life of the children they work with. To donate visit, http://challengingheights.org/donate/

     

    Circle of Health International: This organization has been on the ground helping moms, babies and pregnant women in crisis zones, working with local clinics on the ground to provide needed health care, supplies and training. In their 13 years they have trained over 7 thousands health care professionals, delivered $800,000 worth of supplies and in just 2016 they have served over 212,000 refugees providing prenatal, neonatal and reproductive care. Domestically, in Texas,  they have trained 385 nurses and healthcare providers on identifying human trafficking survivors. Check them out at http://cohintl.org/our-work/impact and follow them on instagram @circleofhealth. 

    Partners in Health International: This long time running organization has an excellent rating on charity navigator and has established long term relationships with organizations on the ground in areas hardest hit by poverty, building health systems and strengthening communities. Partners in Health has programs providing mental health care, maternal health, HIV/AIDS and is currently crowdfunding to build a maternity ward in Pleebo, Liberia. Check out their amazing work and consider that $100 can provide a safe, attended childbirth in Sierra Leone where 1 in 16 women will die in pregnancy or childbirth. https://www.pih.org

     

    Locally base in Southeastern CT and RI:

     

    Alliance for Living:  Alliance for Living is based in New London, CT and provides support and care for people living in the area with HIV/AIDS. They have programs in case management, housing, medication adherence and nutrition. For many people living with HIV/AIDS in the area, Alliance for Living has provided them with the needed support and services to maintain a happier healthier life. http://www.allianceforliving.org/our-services/

     

    WARM Center: Located in Westerly, RI, is the only comprehensive shelter services to adult men and women in South County, Rhode Island and Southeastern CT and is open 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They also have a soup kitchen that provides lunch and dinner to the public 365 days a year. Other programs include: work Readiness and Culinary Job Training; Attire for Hire and a children’s summer lunch program. Check out their site for a full list of what they do for the area. http://warmcenter.org

     

    Wherever you decide to give this season, pick a cause, do your research and feel confident in your giving. And give the best gifts you ever could.

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    Lifestyle

    How to keep culture alive at home

    Ghana- Filled with dance, loud music, spicy food and positivity. My life in Ghana as an American was an extraordinary experience. When I first arrived I lived on bananas, bread and uncertainty but as the weeks went by and I let go, the culture, the people, the food and the music opened my heart and my eyes. With my husband (then boyfriend) as my guide, I danced to Afro beats till 2am and spent afternoons with his family talking over an open fire, spicy peanut soup cooking.

     

    Now that we are in the States, I do what I can to keep his culture alive in our home. Below are a few ways we are doing our best to live a culturally diverse life.

    Food: Soup. Fufu. Stew. Rice. Repeat. Primarily in our house, we eat  Ghanaian style which typically is a soup or stew with a starch on the side. On Tuesday afternoon’s our house is filled with the smell of hot spicy chilis, peanut soup and ginger or spicy tomato stew; red palm oil dominating the air. We eat these meals with our hands and family style (all in one bowl), as you would in Ghana. Tip: try adding some spice to your cooking. Curry, Cumin and Smoked Paprika. My favorite: Egg Stew and Ga Kenke (fermented corn dough). Eric’s favorite: Banku (fermented corn and cassava dough) and whole fish. Aurelia’s favorite: Ground Nut soup and fufu (dough made from boiled cassava and plantain). 

    Music and dance: Music has the power to transform us, move us and bring us to a different world. In my house, music is almost as needed as food. Right now I am loving a French Cafe playlist on Spotify- it brings me to Paris as I sip my morning coffee. In the evening, it’s a choice between African Hip Life and Latin dance music as we cook. Ever tried stirring some boiling soup while shaking your hips to Shakira? If ever looking for an afternoon activity, put on some loud music from another land and DANCE! Our favorites: Nico and Vinz, Sarkodie, P-Square, Ladysmith Black Mombazo, Moana Soundtrack. 


    Language:  We speak a mixture of English and Fante (language of the Central Region in Ghana.) It’s incredibly important to us as parents that Aurelia embraces her Ghanaian culture and language. She is quickly picking it up and I am slowly introducing Spanish as well. I am not fluent, but I can hold a conversation and am teaching her word by word. Right now she can answer, “How are you?” in 3 languages, say hello in 5 and is on her way to being trilingual. Our tips: If you live in a bilingual home try and have one parents speak English and the other speak the other language. If you remain consistent than your child should pick up both languages. If you do not have a bilingual household, I welcome your advice and thoughts on this. Right now I am teaching Aurelia one word each day and repeating words that I know in English and following with the other languages. Example: Typically I ask her to say, Thank you. Gracias and Medase (Fante).

    @ammarheaphoto

     

    Travel is the most essential part of keeping our lives rich in culture. Check out the article on how we manage to travel on a small salary. When I travel, I love to dive into the culture and local scene. There is nothing quite like dancing in the streets of Riomaggiore or getting lost in the sea of trinkets at a market in the hills of Thailand. So, I have decided that while home,  one night a week, we will travel around the world and learn a new culture using food, music and language. Where should we visit first?

     

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