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Well, it’s been over a week since my return from Ghana. I had planned on posting earlier, right when I got back actually, but that’s not how it worked out. For starters, getting out of Ghana was, well, interesting. My flight was supposed to leave around 10 pm. All of the others in my contingency left the night before as it is much easier to make it back to continental Europe than the States from West Africa. So that left me, the lone American, the last the leave just like I was the first to arrive, by myself in Africa, working my way home.

Instead of leaving at 10 pm, we left closer to 1 am. My flight was coming from Lagos, Nigeria and delayed because some “big chief” (a term many Ghanaians I met use to describe just about anyone who seems to think they are very important) thought it a wise idea to bribe an airport official and get his car on the tarmac so as to not miss his flight. Apparently he not only ended up missing his flight, but getting his car HIT BY A PLANE. Continue reading "Home" »

Winding Down

Well here it is. My last day in Ghana. I blinked and it was over and at the same time I can’t get home soon enough.

The rest of my group left yesterday, which means last night and today I’ve been on my own. It’s a nice book-end, actually, beginning and ending this trip without travel companions. Now, I would have taken a flight out last night if I could have, but still, I appreciate the symmetry of it.

I don’t know what I expected from this trip–I mean, I was here for work and not some kind of white bohemian sprit quest. But still, I’m leaving changed. It would be impossible not to.

I started the re-entry process back to American life last night and it’s funny what pops up and what falls away. The usual gnats of existence managed to converge, those people and events driven by insecurity, doubt and fear. In fact, it was kind of reassuring in a weird way to have it happen, like a nice reminder that the more things change the more they stay the same in many ways. I’ll tell you what though, this year with Olive, topped off with this trip to Africa has been a gift in terms of not letting that kind of garbage stick around.

I don’t leave until late tonight, and then I travel basically all day tomorrow. I’m still holding my breath on the exit. Last night I was having dinner with three of the other writers on the trip, all leaving for Europe that night when they got a message their flight had been bumped up and was leaving in an hour. An hour. To get checked in through customs and on a plane from our hotel. In Africa. This is the kind of stuff that has happened here–ridiculous, comical, but unnerving nonetheless. It’s been fun but I’m ready to come home.

Hope to have some time to blog some more on the return trip home, otherwise I’ll pepper the stories as we race through the holidays and into a new year. 2011 has not been dull, that is for sure.

For those of you who have sent me messages along the way, thanks. Really. It’s an odd thing feeling so far away yet totally connected, and they have helped bridge that gap immensely. I’m leaving Ghana not knowing if my time here accomplished anything for anyone but myself. I hope so, but really, how could that be measured?

One last shot before I go for a bit and until I can get the others off my camera. Enjoy!

Connections

First off, words fail to express my annoyance that the only thing I managed to forget on this trip is the cord to my camera for downloading pictures. Yesterday was spent traveling through the interior of Ghana, with a trip to Koforidua and finally Kumasi. The Ghanaian countryside is positively breathtaking, but since I cant download the best of my pictures, you’re going to have to take my word for it. I hate to even offer an example as it won’t do this country justice, but I will anyway. Here you go.

One of the challenges of this trip has been how to write about all I am seeing, and frankly I don’t know that I’ve struck the right tone in my work so far. Yes, Ghana faces some very sobering hurdles as it continues to develop, but frankly, as I’ve settled and especially as I’ve developed a comfort to the rhythms of the country, I’m finding more common ground with the challenges America and Americans face. Maybe that isn’t much of a revelation and maybe that is simply more a reflection of how biased my understanding of Africa is. I don’t think I’ll know for a while. But I can say for certain that if Ghana loses ground it will largely be the fault of the international community.

I hate to even say that because I don’t want to for a second suggest that Ghana needs the rest of the world to save it. It doesn’t. But a legacy of resource exploitation, both human and natural, also can’t be denied. So it’s complicated.

Perhaps the greatest gift I’ve had so far is the opportunity to connect with Nana and his assistant Daniel. Their ability to fill in the gaps, to offer perspective and some companionship on this trip has deepened my sense that in this crazy world we really are all more alike than not.

In the coming posts I’ll tell you about my visit to a Ghanaian village where I learned that humans everywhere will organize into essentially the same political structures to govern their communities, the amazing women leading the public health efforts on the ground, and how I might have made some Catholics a little uncomfortable with some questions concerning condom distribution programs. Each day has given me a novel’s worth of plot so, fortunately or unfortunately, you’ll be hearing me talk about Ghana for a LONG time.

I leave to come home on Saturday and hope to have a couple of more posts up in the meantime. Till then, be good to each other folks, strangers or no.