On the Ground

We’ve made a terrible mistake.

The bags quietly hit the floor and we remove our shoes. She gently pulls open the curtains and we peer through the accordion bars at a yellowish-gray wall, neatly crowned with spiraling barbed wire. Light filters in, but it’s a musty, flaccid light, with little soul, or flare.

We exchange a silent glance and survey the room. The boys run up and down the endless hallway, a burst of nervous energy as shouts of “look at this room!” and “this place is so big!” reverb.

There’s an inevitable moment in every transition, a prerequisite to finding peace with the move. Sometimes it’s subtle and understated, others it’s a hammer, knocking you for a loop, taking your reason and sapping your spirit. It usually visits once you’ve grabbed a sense for shocks and cultures, once you’ve encountered the realization that your life is now here. On average, about two weeks in.

This time, it happened in two hours.

I’m not great with transitions.

To wit: I arrive home after weekly football a sweaty mess. I pull open the front door and step inside, and need a couple minutes to stand, survey the room, process what was and what now is. Gentle coaxing from my family reminds me that I’ve done this before and know what to do. With concerted effort I manage to pull off my socks and make my way into the shower.

So, now. Imagine this same guy, but instead of getting home from football it’s arriving in West Africa after ten hours onboard a restless overnight, plus two hours navigating immigration at Kotoka. A surprising and unnerving transit to our new apartment (“do all the street merchants walk right up to the car?”), and we’re not quite right. Jet lagged, overloaded, shaky.

But together.

With the ones who matter most.

And slowly, steadily. It gets better.

We sleep. We unpack, sock by sock. We meet our colleagues, destined to become our friends. We explore our new neighborhood, encountering locals with the warmest, brightest smiles. They greet, tell us “you are welcome”, and it feels true. The boys adjust, twice as quickly as we do, and their happiness fuels our own.

We lean on each other, we open our eyes to what is, we fight through the less frequent tears. And as we grow into home, we understand.

We’ve made a glorious mistake.

Published by Radutti

Teaching in Ha Noi, screwing things up daily but surviving to write about it. ...everything's perfectly all right now. We're fine. We're all fine here now, thank you. How are you?

Join the Conversation


  1. This is a beautiful reflection on such a huge transition!! I love, love, love your last line – we’ve made a glorious mistake. I look forward to reading more.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I felt the uneasiness of transition to anew place, the strength that comes from being with the loved ones, and the realisation that it’s all going to be ok, and probably even more than ok.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a lovely piece; I was drawn in from your images in the opening lines and you kept me reading (and wondering!) where you were and if you’d make it! Now I can’t wait to explore your other posts!

    Liked by 1 person

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