The day started extra early for Christina. Due to some unforeseen difficulties at the visa offices in Ottawa and Washington DC, Ingrid’s passport had not arrived on the 20th as promised. She had already liaised with several of FedEx’s representatives and the first text she sent was to Ingrid, a picture of the passport finally in her hands. We all gave a collective sigh of relief.
Full of excitement and trepidation, we assembled at the check-in stand with huge bags of supplies in tow. We managed to wrangle everyone together and were about to check in when we were suddenly struck by nerves that all our belongings would go missing on the way to Ghana. A quick trip to buy luggage locks and we all felt much better.
We decided it would be funny to take pictures before and after all of our three flights and layovers to watch how we became more and more disheveled over the course of our 24 hour journey. We really really did.
We arrived in Ghana and made it through customs painlessly (thanks to Marj arranging for us to go through the business line), and to our delight, they had separated out our baggage so we didn’t have to wait with everyone else. There was one wrinkle, however, as it seemed a Reverend so-and-so had taken our bag (which looked exactly like one of our most important ones filled with educational materials and a printer) and left hers full of clothes and personal items. A guardian angel -airport employee made a call on his cell and soon we were able to make a trade.
Marj greeted us outside the gate with squeals of excitement, and we were quickly ushered into a large van. The driver had a few chuckles about the sheer number of bags, as we hastily informed him that we were not crazy high-maintenance people with tons of outfits packed but did in fact have mostly supplies in the huge duffles. We barely fit everything in the van (including ourselves) and headed to the B&B, owned by the Hesse’s who informed us that we are their very first guests. We were proud to be the first to sign their guestbook. After an amazing dinner of homemade pizzas and a quick chat about what is to come, we headed for some well-deserved sleep.
[Side note: if you have occasion to travel to Accra, we highly recommend this gorgeous B&B. The staff and owners are amazing and they have designed much of the beautiful wood detailing and furniture, made from local hardwood].
After a nice sleep-in in our own bedrooms and private bathrooms (we felt so spoiled!) and a hearty breakfast, we decided to stroll around the neighbourhood. It was a Sunday morning, and we were serenaded at every turn by songs, sermons, and live bands from churches of every denomination (it is 6 p.m. as I type this now and we can still hear a clear voice calling to a nearby mosque). Every person that we passed gave us a smile or a wave or called to us in words we did not understand but sounded like hello.
We were taken to a local arts market by our lovely driver Ebenezer, and were given fair warning by Marj on the procedures for bargaining. It was both a hilarious and exhausting experience, and we all left it loaded with treasures and funny stories. We were some of the only shoppers there and so we were sought after somewhat enthusiastically. The vendors could see that Andres was not in a shopping mood and so provided him with a chair and a chat while he laughed at the girls. At every turn, we were followed by a parade of vendors, each with a different style of sales pitch. Taryn and Natasha, attempting to purchase a cloth shoulder bag, first valued at $150 US (Coach bags aren’t that expensive!), managed to walk away three times, until “best price” was $10US. This was determined by a male-female team, who proceeded to argue and slap each other, until they took Natasha’s $10 and pinched her when she wouldn’t give them $2 more. But the highlight of the market visit was just at the end, when a gentleman ran through the alley up to Marj asking, “Do you remember me?” He had been her patient on a prior mission and wanted to thank her (and then of course showed us his wares). Another man approached (not a vendor), and took Taryn’s hand with a “vanilla baby” and Natasha’s hand with a “chocolate baby” and a big smile.
On the way home, we were taken on a driving tour of the government buildings, the Korle-Bu teaching hospital and grounds, Jamestown, and the beach. Our camera trigger fingers were very busy. Once home, Marj and Christina immediately dove into work trying to organize hotels for us in Monrovia. Anders, Natasha, Taryn and Ingrid took a stroll up the street and sat with a cold drink on the sidewalk with some locals, listening to reggae music blaring from a large speaker set up right on the road. We were happy to sit and be part of the evening scene, with a favorite being watching the local children dance.
We are now waiting for a feast of Ghanaian dishes prepared by the staff of our B&B and a crash-course program designed to teach empathy in the medical field. We are to get up around 5 a.m. and pack up the car tomorrow. We have been invited to attend a joint board meeting with Mount Olives Hospital foundation at the Canadian High Commission, a memorandum of understanding will be signed at that event. From there, we fly to Monrovia, Liberia, and we’ll pick back up with you then.