Growth and life lessons during the COVID-19 pandemic

I wrote a blog in 2018 where I said that I was really looking forward to 2020 because I had a feeling it would be an epic year! Ha! A pandemic is not what I had in mind and here we are still in a roller coaster ride of pain, anxiety, peace and introspection. It’s a mixed bag for sure. I have friends and family who lost loved ones to COVID – this was the hardest part. Personally, I had covid scares, times of intense fear and helplessness; I also had a major surgery for an unrelated condition. But during the 10 months I spent in Ghana, in 2020, social distancing, I felt a stronger connection to and respect for mother earth. I had moments of reflection and a new perspective on what really matters in life. I was truly fortunate that my job allowed me to work from my home country, where I felt safer, during this time. As you may know from a previous blog, my home in Ghana is off the beaten tracks in a sparsely populated area in the Eastern region of Ghana. It was the perfect hideaway where my family could still enjoy the outdoors, breathe fresh air and not be consumed by fear and restrictions. In this blog, I want to share my pandemic experience in Aburi, Ghana and how those 10 months changed my life.

At the height of the pandemic, there was one clear consensus which was that vitamin D is crucial in mitigating this disease. I made it a point to be out in the sun everyday by going for a nature walk every morning. I would sign up for the Nike Run 50km monthly challenges which was a fun way of keeping the walks going. It was a great time to be having a free trial of Apple Music, going for leisure walks sometimes with my son and just enjoying the sun, also knowing that some people in other parts of the world were confined to their homes and couldn’t get much outdoor time. I felt lucky.

I got to know my neighbours better and loved the feeling of community. Once I met a young farmer in my neighbourhood during one of my walks. She had just harvested her Okra and was on her way to the market to sell them. I redirected her to my house and bought her Okra and from then on, would only buy from her. I started thinking a lot more about what it really means to eat local and support local business. I stopped buying most grocery items from supermarkets. I would source them as locally as possible within my community. I only went to the major supermarkets once every 6-8 weeks for luxuries like coffee, cheese, almond milk, etc.

I started composting and growing vegetables in our own garden. We had okra, tomatoes, spring onions, corn, pepper, and others. To be honest, I don’t have green fingers… my job is just to provide the inputs and to be the plant whisperer. Lol. The best part was going into the garden, pulling out some vegetables and preparing them for lunch or dinner. From the garden to the plate. What is more rewarding than that?

Sunsets in my neck of the woods in Aburi, were the highlight of the day. My son also got into it. At 5:30pm everyday, we would have our cameras ready to photograph the sunset. On some days, there was an intense golden yellow bursting out of the skies; on other days, it would be a rustic deep red colour and on the rare days, a romantic blue-ish purple sky. It was glorious. I posted one such photo on my social media and captioned it “This is God showing off”. 

The time I spent in Ghana also allowed me to deepen my passion for making chocolate from the bean. When a close friend sent me 15kgs of cocoa beans from his wife’s cocoa farm in the central region, I was overjoyed. It is most meaningful to make chocolate knowing where the beans came from and knowing a bit about the farmer, her husband and their three children. I knew they had never had chocolate made from their own beans so I planned to make and send them some chocolate bars. However, my chocolatiering failed me (as happens from time to time) so I made a plan B which was to convert the freshly ground chocolate to brownies. I sent the brownies to the family which was really a highlight of my chocolate making journey. Building a connection from the soil to the bar will be an important element in my chocolate-making journey.

Home-schooling during the pandemic was a whole other thing. My son kept reminding me that I am not his teacher. It was confusing for him. Eventually, we found our rhythm and particularly bonded over art projects. I tell people that if it hadn’t been for the home-schooling period, I may have never known how brilliant my son is particularly with numbers. He was in Pre-K but was capable of third grade maths! This was a shocking discovery for me. Learning to read was nightmarish for him. He couldn’t differentiate Bs and Ds, for example. I didn’t know that it’s actually a thing with a lot of kids… But when he eventually returned to school and they tested his reading level, he was reading above his grade level to the amazement of his teacher. What is most interesting is that the home-schooling with Teacher mummy was never more than 2 hours a day (cumulatively). He spent most of his day playing, swimming and yes, on the screen… I have to admit that I was a bit liberal on this provided he spent time outdoors and also did his daily chores which was to water the garden. But I now understand why some parents homeschool their kids. It’s such a great gift to be so involved in your kids learning and understanding how their minds work.

I went back to my duty post in Abidjan, in February the following year (which is this year) forever changed by the last 10 months. In Abidjan, I live in an apartment and so I am unable to continue composting and other things I was doing in Aburi. I also don’t enjoy walking in my suburb (excuses maybe) but at the same time, I am enjoying life. I still get out in the sun daily and I only get the absolute necessities from supermarkets.

For the most part, Africa has been spared the worst of this pandemic… we feared it was coming and if it did, we would be finished. So, we pray it stays this way, improves quickly and that we all emerge from this changed as human beings who have found new respect for the environment and for healthy and sustainable life choices.

If you have any newfound perspective during this pandemic, please do share. 

Peace and love

Photo credits: all photos are my own.