Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Packing for Ghana!
Demonstrators sent in TONS of craft supplies which we used to teach crafting projects and left with some of the local teachers for use in the schools.
Some of the gang --- Holly was off getting something to eat and Trav and Terri had already left on the red eye to New York.
New York here we come!
Accra, Ghana Africa .... we have arrived!

Wendy Oakes, one of our school teachers and me at the Accra airport.

Looking Forward To This Day!

I know ... I know ... guilt trip ... It's been months since I've posted anything on my blog. I promise nothing is wrong. In fact everything is terrific. Yesterday was a day that I've been waiting and longing for, for years! I officially joined the ranks of receiving social security and I've semi-retired from my job. I'm taking my Social Security early because I'm afraid if I don't there won't be any left when I reach full retirement age. And ... gosh darn ... I've worked hard and I'm getting older and I deserve a little break from work! So yesterday was glorious. I woke early and sat in bed crocheting, then did a little reading, ate a little breakfast, played with the dog, took a little nap, ran some errands, cleaned a little bit, networked three of our computers to a printer, cleaned a carpet, and rearranged Lynn's office. I think he's afraid I'm taking over his personal space. I am!

And I only have to work 3 more hours this month at my day job. And ... I'm flying out to Portland, Oregon to stay with my daughter for a week while she brings her first baby boy into the world, tomorrow! Isn't this fun?

As promised, a few months ago, I told you that I would recap my glorious trip to Africa. So I'll post just a few comments today and continue to do so for the next while. I tried posting to my blog while in Africa but the internet connection was next to 'nil', so I was lucky to get an e-mail or two posted while there, to the family.

My Executive Director, Regina, and I planned a site visit to Ghana, Africa where World Joy has adopted 13 villages in the eastern region of Ghana. Up until working for World Joy I knew nothing about Africa, other than I thought South Africa was a location in Africa, not realizing that there are over 70 countries in Africa. Ghana is located in the western part of Africa and is a tropical country. There are no lions, tigers, hippos, water buffalos, and etc. that you typically think of when you hear the word, Africa. But there are man eating ants, large snakes, grass cutters and all sorts of strange looking creepy, crawly things. And of course the biggest danger, mosquitoes, which carry malaria.

When word got out among our friends and family that we were going to Africa, everyone wanted to come along too. Because we were going on a site visit to see the projects that World Joy had completed and assess what still needs to be done, we weren't sure how we could use volunteers on this trip. But soon there were 10 of us making plans to travel to Ghana together for 10 days. There were 3 mothers with 3 teenagers, 2 school teachers, 1 teenager, and one ole granny. I was responsible for the lone teenager. What a blessing these teens were. Talk about entertainment and such good, hard workers. And ... they were cheerful and so helpful the entire trip. Our trip wouldn't have been nearly as successful without their help.

We determined that we would each take 2 suitcases, one with personal items and the 2nd with school supplies, newborn kits, food, and craft items for our villagers. Our volunteers had raised money for paint for one of the schools that we were planning on re-painting and we put together a vocabulary packet for teaching English in the classrooms. This took weeks of planning and preparation.

Prior to leaving on our trip we were required to have a Yellow Fever shot to enter into the country. But many of us took extra precautions and had Typhoid shots and whatever else they recommended prior to take off. We also needed to secure passports and Visas, and an official entrance letter from World Joy. We also had to start taking our Doxycyclene pills prior to leaving on our trip and continuing taking them for 3 weeks upon our return. This was to prevent Malaria. We also pre-treated all of our clothing with Permethrine prior to our trip.

I planned the menu and shopped for food items that I knew would be hard to find in Ghana, like peanut butter and tuna fish and canned chili. And each traveler was asked to provide the ingredients for one dessert. So we all had brownie, cake, and cookie mixes in our luggage. We knew that it would be a hard adjustment for the next 10 days and if we had something sweet, and something from home, we could make it through anything!

So, on the morning of June 22nd, 8 of us took off from the Salt Lake airport heading for New York for a layover. Terri and Travis were flying stand-by and took a red eye the night before to New York and met up with us there. We were soooo excited. This trip brought 10 strangers together for an unforgettable and marvelous experience. I couldn't have asked for better friends to share this experience with. I still marvel that 10 people who had never met prior to this trip could have been matched more perfectly to live, eat, and sleep together for 10 days, without ever having an unkind or harsh word between us.

We arrived eager and anxious in New York and could hardly wait for the next leg of our trip. Our flight didn't leave until after 11:00 p.m. As we approached our gate for departure I noticed that we were in the minority for skin color on this flight. There were many blacks dressed in American clothing and a few in traditional African attire. I was mesmerized by the fabric and head dresses that the women wore and had great plans of acquiring a traditional dress while there. This was also the flight I was kind of dreading. I don't normally sleep well on a plane and have a hard time getting comfortable with my long legs. But one very nice thing ... my body is a lot smaller and the seats are much more comfortable these days!

Ghana is only 6 hours ahead of Utah time, so after flying all night we arrived at 2:30 p.m. the next day, which was only 7:30 a.m. Utah time. The sky was a little overcast and as I stepped off the plane I noticed the humidity, which was nice, but I was expecting more heat and surprisingly there was a gentle breeze. The airport was small and extremely crowded. Going through customs was a breeze. But going to exchange our currency into Cidis was very hectic. Although the money changer spoke English I had a very hard time understanding her and had to keep asking her to repeat what she just said. I had to exchange over a thousand dollars into Cidis and asked for small bills. And what I received in exchange was a wad of bills that would have choked a horse! Here I was trying to stuff the 'wad o' cash' into my money belt which was readily exposed for all to see. I was sure I was going to be robbed the minute I stepped out of the airport. Since I was the one in charge of the money I told the others that I would go meet the driver and wait for them. Picking up my luggage was a nightmare. There were at least 50 people, with luggage, trying to shove their way through a check-point. The officials were going through everyone's luggage. I decided to act like I knew what I was doing, so pushed and shoved my way through the check-point line and was able to get through without having my luggage searched.

As I exited 'check point Charley' I searched for our driver, Yaw, who said he would be holding a sign with my name on it. I've spoken many times to Yaw on the phone but we had never met. Sure enough, there was a good looking black man, holding a sign with my name. I ran with open arms, screaming, "Yaw!" He looked a little surprised, but hugged me back and grinned. A few minutes later another black man came over to us and I noticed he had a World Joy shirt on. It was then that I found out I had hugged the wrong man. This man was holding Yaw's sign while he used the restroom. We had a good laugh!

More to continue tomorrow! The next post will take you to the streets of Accra and thru the jungle to Abomosu our little village where we lived for 10 glorious days!

Hugs to you all! Make it a great day. I certainly am!