Traveler Story: How Living In Ghana Gives My Life Its Meaning
By DeAnna Taylor
Jewel Thompson spent most of her childhood in the United States with her Ghanaian parents. They often traveled to Ghana during Jewel’s younger years, however, her parents eventually separated.
When Jewel was 16, her mother felt it was important for her to revisit Ghana to connect with her roots.
“This visit, in particular, was life-changing because I was old enough to take more things in and recognized the complexities and history of my lineage,” Jewel told Travel Noire. “I grappled with identity for a long time.”
You see, Jewel is not her given name. It’s Nana. Her mother allowed her to change her name at the age of eight, a rarity for most African mothers. Some time later, she also learned that Thompson was not her family’s original last name but a name her mother took on during her journey to the U.S. in the 80s.
“Over the course of my life I’ve been introduced to family members, learning who was family by blood and family by circumstance. Needless to say I was curious and open to learn more about the stories of people who shaped parts of me bit by bit. My mother would feed my curiosity and give me the stories I needed to piece things together.”
One thing that Jewel was able to connect, was her trait of selflessness after struggling with the thought that she was too kind. After learning how her great grandmother took care of dozens of children throughout her life, a story that her mother told her of her giving a child the clothes off her back at age 4, made sense.
That visit to Ghana inspired her to launch her non-profit, Ghana Youth United. This led her to also compete for and win the title of Miss Ghana Georgia. In that role, she made the decision to focus on African programming for the diaspora in the states and subsequently create a conference called Young African Leaders Conference, all by the age of 22.
Although she was back in the States and happy with life in Atlanta, something in her kept calling her to get back to Ghana.
“It was almost as if it were a God-ordained set up because the timing and flow of it all worked so well,” Jewel said. “I kept plans to move a secret until everything aligned, only sharing with my mother during a trip back to Ghana for my birthday that I had set up an interview with a university to become a lecturer. I asked God if this is for me let it work. A hiring process that usually takes 6 months took two for me. It was a job that paid in dollars and was reputable enough to help me move quickly within the complicated Ghanaian professional network. That was August 25, 2018.”
In just a little over year of living in Accra, she has been promoted from adjunct instructor to full-time lecturer, she is co-leading a project that is designing an incubator for businesses in Ghana, and she became the department head for an innovation lab. That’s only the tip of the ice burg.
It’s as though life has officially come full circle for her.
“Moving back has provided the missing pieces of my identity. I knew my culture but I always felt like I experienced it secondhand which widened the gap most, like myself, may feel especially when you’re not African or American enough (whatever that may mean). I’m connecting more to the places, the foods, the people and the perspective that drives the culture and allows someone like me to take more ownership of the narrative.”
There’s no timeframe on how long Jewel will remain in Ghana. All she knows is that it’s where she is supposed to be at this moment and she’ll remain there until she fulfills her purpose.
To connect with Jewel and to follow her journey, you can find her on Instagram: @hi_jewel or on Twitter with @thenisfornana.
DeAnna Taylor is a criminal defense Attorney turned travel blogger, author, and writer. While Charlotte, NC (her hometown) is her base, she's always somewhere on a plane. Catch her on IG: @brokeandabroadlife.