Perspective

Wow. Today’s update is going to be short. It was a long day. A good day, but a long one.

© The Global Fund / Nana Kofi Acquah

Two hospitals and a gazillion briefings later and I’m wrestling with what to do with all I saw. The second stop was by far the hardest for me and also the most amazing. That’s where I met women like Doreen- a 38 year old mother of two who is HIV positive. Her children are the same age as mine. We’re practically the same age. We chatted about sleeplessness, teething and the individual quirks of our children. During that conversation her daughter Angela went right for my “O” pendant–just like Olive does. There we were, so much to share and so many worlds apart. Oof. Here’s the more professional take if you are so inclined.

Despite the obvious challenges facing Ghana and its public health workers in one day I’ve fallen hard for Ghana. Don’t get me wrong. I can do without the insane driving (three near misses today and countless others that were close enough to give this midwestern girl some new gray hairs) and I’m not into doing some poverty p0rn tour. But with all the obvious challenges Ghanaians simply will not be beaten. It’s an ethic I appreciate.

Today I also met the rest of my companions, and what a crew we are. That will have to wait for another post so I can do these characters justice. Even the set-up sounds like a joke: a French radio correspondent, a Russian working for the state media, an Italian, a Spaniard, an American ex-pat in Paris, and me. Throw in Nana our Ghanaian photographer and well, it’s got a Wes Anderson movie written all over it.

Also, I forgot the cord for my camera, so all the pics I took today are stuck in storage for the time being. I took a few shots with my phone from the bus, so here’s a bit of flavor.

Tomorrow I head to Kumasi, away from the city and into the villages for a peek at some bed net distribution facilities and rural health clinics. Thanks for the interest and I’ll keep you posted!

It’s The Journey, Right?

Well, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. Or at least, uneventful.

First thing’s first. I should have sprung for the upgrade to economy plus on the 10+ hour flight from D.C. to Accra. See, I hate flying. And I really hate bumpy flying. And I especially hate bumpy flying when the only thing for me to focus on is a screen in front of me that shows a little plane over the Atlantic and nothing else. Business class does not need to put up with that and by the time the airlines get you seated the prices are a joke and just out of range to make a grown woman cry in public.

Given this is what I was working with I did what any good American would do and ordered a drink or three. The booze combined with the adrenaline dump from preparing for the trip in a matter of two weeks managed to knock me out for a few hours, but that was it. The rest of the flight there was me clutching my armrest, my “O” pendant and trying to focus on the snorer crammed next to me in economy. Good times.

We landed, three hours late due to some immigration issue for some passenger in D.C., which meant that my hotel shuttle had long since left by the time I made it through customs. See- who needs smooth planning when traveling abroad alone?! Really, it’s overrated. So, I grabbed a taxi, put on my toughest “don’t eff with me” vibe and directed the driver to my hotel. Should be easy peasy.

Oh no. Note to self: DO NOT GO MIDWESTERN when traveling alone. Because instead of taking the direct route to your hotel, should you casually ask your taxi driver what some of the can’t miss sights in Accra might be as a way to make conversation, don’t be surprised when he suggests that you see them all RIGHT THIS MINUTE and then proceeds to take you to the embassy, the marketplace, a couple of schools, and then, finally, your hotel. Just a tip.

Since I took the scenic route to the hotel I didn’t manage to get here until dusk. Throw in a logistical snafu with my reservation and the sun was setting on the Atlantic just as I was getting in. So no pictures today. Tomorrow, I promise.

In fact, there will be lots from tomorrow. I’ve got two hospital visits, a briefing with the health ministry, and something else my jet-lagged brain is forgetting. So tonight I’m going to review my briefing material, crack a beer, and call it a night. The exhaustion is making the heartache of being away from Kelly and the kids somewhat bearable but I expect that to pass. Tomorrow night Accra time I’ll have an update here and at Care2. Thanks for all the well-wishes and for checking in- it helps make the distance less and the entire “holy crap” factor subside, even if for a bit. So really, thanks.

Remember That Time I Went To Africa?

I don’t know if I would call this my most surreal experience, but it is definitely up there. Here I am, in the Minneapolis airport, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, on my way to Africa. By myself. For work.

Before you ask, let me just say, I’ve got no clue. Really. Within a matter of weeks I was packed and sitting here. The background is even a little hazy. Care2.com partnered with The Global Fund and as part of that partnership I ended up on a media trip to Ghana to witness first hand the successes, and corresponding devastation, of malaria, TB, and HIV/AIDS on this slice of the developing world. Seriously, don’t ask because I don’t have any idea. I guess it’s a combo of being at the right place at the right time and with a bit of talent and hutzpah. No matter because this time tomorrow I’ll be in Accra.

I’ll be blogging here as I can during my week in Ghana. They’ve got us packed with trips to clinics, hospitals and meetings with dignitaries. It’s almost as though someone thinks I’m a real writer. But my evenings are devoted to writing and processing, much of which will be done here. So, if you’re curious, check in.

There’s so much that is outside of my comfort zone on this trip. Traveling alone, for starters, to another continent, to boot. By the looks of the email list I’m likely the only American and almost certainly the only woman. I’ve never been gone this long from my kids. And did I mention I don’t really like to fly?

That said, I’m ready to do this. I’ve flipped out, both good and bad. I’ve had the “I’m a total fraud” reaction and I’ve rallied. So let’s do this. The Obama administration just pulled back on a promise to the Global Fund that could have saved millions of lives with some mosquito netting and a few pills. Looks like someone has to tell that story. I guess it’ll be me.

I’ll be posting reactions to my trip here and of course at Care2.com. So, if you are so inclined, please check in. If the start to this trip is any indication, there will be plenty to read.