We all arrived early to Logan Airport with excitement, nerves, and fears. Focused on reaching Ghana, I didn’t realize how draining the trip from Boston would actually be. We flew safely from Logan to Kennedy in 50 minutes leaving a full five hour lay-over that we had scheduled for fear of being delayed from Boston as the group was last year. Boarding the plane to Accra, Ghana there was much discussion about how long our flight was considering we were to leave at 5:15 and arrive at 8:20 the next morning with a four hour time difference. We ended up in the air for eleven hours, but it felt painfully longer.
Arriving in Accra, we promptly moved through customs and on to baggage claim. The air thickened as load after load of suitcases were unloaded, ours not among them. Finally, the brightly colored LL Bean bag stuffed with crocs was sighted and we all breathed a big sigh of relief; especially me as I have lost luggage before and never got it back. Interestingly enough, we weren’t ready to leave the airport yet. We had to get in another line for the airport staff to check our baggage number on our boarding pass to that on our suitcase. I guess my new bag tag, “Oops: expression of surprise (as in: oops this is not my bag), compliments of my uncle and aunt, wasn’t needed in this airport.
Awaiting us outside was a community worker well known to those returning to Ghana. Hugs were exchanged all around as we rounded everyone up to board the bus for the five hour ride from Accra to Sekondi where we are staying. Most of those five hours were spent in traffic getting out of Accra and I’m told that it would have been much worse had today been a week day. Also slowing us at times were the swarms of people approaching the bus to sell us food, water, hand towels and a variety of other things. Women skillfully balancing huge platters of chopped fruit or freshly baked break on top of their heads smiled and waved before pursuing other potential customers. Traffic moved so very slowly that crosswalks were not needed, pedestrians simply slipped between cars to cross the street.
My initial impression was that the city was rather run-down. There seemed to be garbage everywhere in addition to the countless chickens and goats wandering the side of the road. Buildings stood one or two stories, many cement and all looking weathered and dirty. The side of the road was also packed with shanties selling everything from hub caps to couches and living room sets. The more I thought about this, the more the differences could be explained by culture. In our society, much value is placed on appearances such as well manicured lawns and painted houses with shutters that really serve no functional purpose. Here, I have not discovered the emphasis, but if I had to guess I would say that the society here is more defined by functionality, having a closely knit community and by their relationships, with little evidence on appearances of inanimate objects.
Although the city seemed dilapidated, the people more than made up for it with their vibrancy. Brightly colored traditional dress mixed with westernized clothing, but no matter whose face you looked at, they would meet your gaze and smile. This was very refreshing for me, especially coming out of JFK International Airport where most everyone averts their eyes to keep from having to slow down and interact.
Driving out of the city we entered a beautiful, lush savannah; rolling hills of shrubs, grasses and low plants accented by strikingly tall and sturdy looking trees. The view offered more than pictures or words could ever describe, it is simply an experience one must have themselves. I felt small looking at that rolling wilderness, but even smaller when we drove particularly close to one of those towering African trees. Two pit stops and four hours later, I saw the western coast of the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. Large dark waves crashed to shore leaving spray and bubbles in their wake. Long wooden boats lined the shore awaiting high tide to bring them out to sea. Tall trees that looked surprisingly like palm trees shaded the men who sat in groups on the beach. As we passed by, I couldn’t help but be scared for their lives as they prepared to set forth into those choppy waters.
Arriving in Sekondi, the road became increasingly rough or maybe it just seemed that way since so many of us had full bladders again! We pulled into the mission, greeted by several people who ushered us into the front room where all twelve of us female student participants are staying. The female instructors are in an adjoining room and I honestly don’t even know where our three men are staying.
So, we have arrived. We are safe and sound with all of our luggage and supplies. We are all very tired as sleeping on the plane was not as easy as expected. For now, it is about 5:00PM and we are trying to stay awake long enough to help our bodies regulate to the time change. We were given a walking tour of part of Sekondi and feed a delicious dinner of chicken, white rice, veggie fried rice, and several kinds of lightly flavored vegetable dishes similar to coleslaw made without mayonnaise. We will be fed again closer to 7:00 and probably fall into bed shortly thereafter.
Tomorrow is a big day or organization and preparation for the week ahead. Tonight, we will sleep very soundly and awake to the music of the church service held in the next building. I can hear the choir practicing now with beautiful strong voices in harmony accompanied by drums. I am certain the next few days will bring much to write about but for now, goodnight.