Till we meet again challenges of an expat life



Saying goodbye is part of the deal, part of leading an expat life; we experienced from both sides.

Of course when we left Belgium it was the biggest step for us as a family. We threw a ‘fare-well / till-we-meet-again-party’ for family and friends. An evening we will not easily forget. It was heartwarming and we really enjoyed a lot. The importance of making memories is something that became more and more clear to me!

For the boys we arranged an afternoon to play with all their friends and classmates, even some of the teachers attended. That was great! Some mixed feelings too, I have to admit. Seeing our children having fun playing with everyone, knowing that it would take time to see them again. Also to meet new kids, becoming friends and having playdates would not be arranged in a day….

Living abroad

First focus was to adjust to many things. The language to start with, because most of the people around us do speak English. Besides culture, traditions, food and the challenge where to get our groceries… And of course meeting with new people coming from all around the globe. Levent, my husband, had his collegues and because he was already living in Accra for half a year, he had built a social network. For me and the boys, we needed to start from scratch, which honestly can be really challenging!

Language barrier

Not being able to speak our mother tongue much is one thing. The other is speaking in a language that was either unknown or at least not spoken with confidence. I remember very well that I was reluctant to have conversations. What if I couldn’t make myself understood, what if I had to search for words because my vocabulary wasn’t sufficient? It didn’t take long before I knew some Dutch and Flemish expats, nice persons I have to say. And although I was, and still am, very happy with them, I wanted to get to know people from different nationalities as well. So…. It was up to me. Choosing the easy way, not challenging myself and stay surrounded with the Dutch-speaking only OR to ‘just’ get myself out there; vulnerable, knowing I would get stuck in conversations, but taking the chance despite ‘fear of failure’, hoping that showing interest, trying, being friendly, would be rewarded with new friendships or at least acceptance.

Feeling proud

Looking around me, it’s obvious I took the right decision. My life is richer now with all these lovely people. It’s not the quantity that counts, to me feeling brave enough to try, makes me proud of myself.

Still I’m not fluent in English, still I’m searching for the correct wording, does writing in English take more effort, but you know what? It’s definitely worth it. I’m growing bit by bit, step by step. Most people are patient and kind and in case they’re not? So what… if they don’t want to get to know me because expressing myself costs more time, it’s their loss.

Back to my boys

I can not explain the love I feel for them. I’m unable to express in words how proud I am. What I have seen in these last 19 months is beyond my expectations, my hope and what I was wishing for before we left Belgium. They struggled (just like I did), one more than the other, everyone their own process. Yes, there were tears, explosions, frustrations, emotional rollercoasters… We experienced them all! But then there was perseverance, openness, acceptance (both from others and themselves), kindness and more bonding as well.

Then we experienced the ‘till we meet again” from the other side. We stayed while other families left. Families who we got closer with, whose kids became friends with ours. More tears, sadness, disappointment… We tried our best in comforting our boys, explaining that at least they came into our lives, we were blessed to spend time together and who knows; we might meet again some day somewhere.

Priviliged or a burden?

Is it always easy? Hell no. But these are the consequences of the steps that we as parents took. Most of the times I feel very privileged; recalling these experiences, challenges, beautiful moments, places and people. Sometimes I’m touched by my boys’ emotions and it hurts.

Last week Jiro, our middle one, had his birthday. He received a video from one of his friends in Belgium as well as an audio message from his Italian friend who left Ghana this summer. It was so nice of them to remember his birthday. I myself felt overwhelmed, Jiro’s emotion on top brought me to tears. Happy tears, or maybe also some sad ones…. Jiro for sure hasn’t forgotten his friends in Belgium and he asked already several times when we can go to Italy as well to see Lorenzo again.

Yesterday I was on Facebook and this video came up. Levi’s friends celebrating their first ‘dance party’ (10 and 11 yrs old) on the occasion of a football friend celebrating her birthday. We watched together and it was obvious that they had a lot of fun. I didn’t even have to look at him, I could FEEL Levi’s emotions. I hugged him and while sitting on my lap squeezed him tight. No words were needed in that moment. He would have loved to be with them… Again my own emotions went in all directions; grateful that he still feels the bond with friends overseas, sad that he couldn’t be with them, guilty that because of OUR decision he had to go through this, proud of the way he is dealing with the situation, warm because sharing these emotions brings us even closer together….

How to deal with emotions?

Embrace every emotion as it comes. Just make sure that when the ‘negative ones’ last too long, you don’t keep it to yourself. If it makes you feel stuck, sad for a long time or even depressed do something about it. Share your feelings with someone you love, or ask for help.

If I can be of any help, please contact me. I would love to help you seeing things from a different perspective.

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