Sunday, May 17, 2009

Arrival in Hohoe

After waking up at the crack of dawn – or rather, 7:00am due to my crazy jetlag, Elyse and I went into the living room. We were told to sit and watch some television even though we didn’t really want to. Raymond had already left the house and we had no clue where he went or when he would be back.

Staying at Raymond’s uncle’s house was quite the experience. This house, in Accra, the capital city of Ghana was very nice and extremely big. It was quite a juxtaposition from the way that many other Ghanaians live. It was very weird to be in a house in Ghana that had a flat screen television, an air conditioning unit, and even a pretty new Audi car. While in this part of town, we saw many new looking high end cars – Mercedes, Lexus, even a Jaguar. Raymond took Elyse and I on a walk upon his return to the house. By this time, we had eaten breakfast (or rather, Elyse had eaten breakfast and I had watched as the food contained either fish or meat – we couldn’t tell which one but it didn’t really matter since I don’t eat either).

As Elyse continued to watch Will and Grace and Party of 5, I played with Raymond’s nephew, Sammy, who was pretty loud for an hour or two before I woke up and then very shy when I first tried to play with him. But eventually, he let me play cars with him. He would push the car and I would make all the noises – honk-honk, beep-beep, vroom – vroom. He got a kick out of this game and every time I tried to take a little break and sit with Elyse, he would call me to come back. After awhile, I decided to go to the room and grab my camera. Sammy let me take his photo and then insisted that I take a photo of his car as well. He stared at the photo on my camera screen for the longest time and then I showed him how he could use the zoom buttons to zoom in and out of the photo of the car. Sammy was in heaven and occupied for the next hour. I eventually took a new photo of the car as I was getting a little tired of seeing the first one close up, far away, and at all ranges in between so many times.

Upon Raymond’s return to the house, he insisted that we eat again. It had only been about 2 hours but it was time for our 2nd meal already. We went outside and saw that the meal was all set up and waiting for us on the table. The dish was corn based and I wish I could remember the name but I have forgotten at the moment. I ate it plain as the sauce that it was to be dipped in was okra stew – more fish! Don’t worry mom, I ate it without the stew and at dinner rolled around, Raymond explained to me that there was rice and stew but the stew had chicken in it. He asked if I would eat a stew with fish instead. When I told him that I don’t eat fish either, he went and got me a stew without fish or meat. I was very gracious and now that Raymond knows this, I will hopefully have non meat and non fish meals from now on. After this meal, Elyse, Raymond, our driver, Alex, and I went for a walk. After sweating up a storm and walking for awhile, Elyse requested that we turn back and head back to the house and she wasn’t feeling too well. Raymond explained that we were almost at our destination, the American House, and after we saw this site, we would take a taxi back to the house. I was a little confused as to what ‘the American House’ referred to, so I asked – apparently it was a very funny question, which left Elyse and I even more confused. Eventually, it was explained that it was the American Ambassador House. As Raymond had told us that we were going to visit the house, I asked him if the Ambassadpr knew that we were coming – apparently another funny question. I played along with Raymond and Alex and tried to understand what was so funny. After walking passed some very nice, huge ‘mansions’ as Raymond called them, we arrived at the junction which is know as the American Junction. This is because this ‘American House’ was the first mansion built in the area. After this house was built, others nearby decided to also build big, fancy houses.

After the photo opportunity, we piled into a taxi and headed back to the house. I inquired about the plans for the rest of our day as I wanted to go to the supermarket before our trip to Hohoe. I soon realized that because it was Sunday, this goal was not going to be achieved today. Raymond told Elyse and me that we would have to stay at the house until about 12 noon as he had to do some business with a friend who was at church (and often stays at church until 2pm). We watched a few games of checkers, which had some crazy rules – or rather, no rules for kings and then got our stuff ready to leave. After saying our good byes and expressing our gratitude, we put all three of my overweight suitcases as well as my backpack and hand bag back in the tro tro.

Now for a little story about one of my bags of luggage:
Anthony, the man I befriended on the flight to Ghana told me that he would meet me at the baggage claim after we went through passport control. Because he had dual citizenship, he got to stand in a shorter line than those of us who did not have Ghanaian citizenship. The man at passport control was surprised to see that a white American girl was going to be staying in Ghana for three months and explained to me that he could only approve my stay for two months and that I would need to go to an office in Ho, about an hour and a half from Hohoe in a little less than two months to get it extended. Thanks to all of my mother’s hard work, I already knew that this would happen and was prepared for it. By the time that I made it to the baggage claim, Anthony already had all of his bags. I searched the luggage carousel for my bags and watched them make a few rounds before I was able to sneak in and grab them. Anthony insisted on helping me and lifted each my three 70 pound bags onto the cart for me. While lifting the third one, the handle ripped out, leaving Anthony only holding the handle, and my suitcase on the ground. He felt so bad but I explained to him that it was an old suitcase; I was not going to take that suitcase home and had planned on leaving it here in Ghana anyways. As we walked out, through security, both of us got stopped and had to open our bags for the inspectors. Of course! It was not a huge deal and pretty quickly, we were on our way down the ramp and out of the airport. Anthony stayed with me and made sure that there were people there to pick me up. It took me awhile to spot the people who were there for me as there were was a mob of people surrounding the security barrier outside the airport. I saw a face and a white hand waving towards me and felt good knowing that Elyse and Raymond were there to pick me up. After saying good bye to Anthony, we started walking to the tro tro – it was a bit of a scary experience as Raymond and a bunch of other guys insisted on pushing the cart and the bags almost all fell forward. But luckily, we made it to the tro tro in one piece and then headed to Raymond’s uncle’s house. Elyse and I caught up and she updated me on the kids and other stuff at the orphanage. I was so anxious to see the kids (but as of tonight, Sunday night, I still have not seen them yet)! But that will all change tomorrow morning.

Now back to our trip to Hohoe…
Raymond had told Elyse and I that we would leave his uncle’s house by 12:30. So far so good. On schedule and everything. This is pretty impressive for Ghanaians. We had to make a few stops before leaving Accra and by the time all of Raymond’s errands were done and his brother was picked up, it was 2:30. We spent the next few hours in the tro tro. If the extreme heat, electricity outage, and stares from all the locals wasn’t enough of a welcome back to Ghana, the awful tro tro ride was. I had forgotten just how bad the roads could really be.

After going through three security checkpoints, swerving around hundreds of potholes, and coming extremely close to hitting some animals, we arrived at the Greater Grace Hotel – the place that Elyse explained was home. As there was an unexpected guest last night, my room was taken for the night and I was given a room just down the hall which I have heard is much smaller than my room. The long tro tro ride had drained us of any energy so we went out to the bar to get some Fantas. I then took a shower – finally and started to search through my bags for some clean clothes to wear. I didn’t have too much of a problem finding some clothes but I had to open and rummage through all three bags before I could find one of the six bottles of bug spray I had packed.

I was trying so hard not to make a mess of my stuff as I will be changing rooms tomorrow but after a few minutes of searching for the spray, I just started tearing my bags apart. I soaked myself in bug spray and then went outside to get some fresh air. I was greeted by some of the staff here at the hotel who were extremely friendly. We sat in front of the hotel and chatted. They explained that they liked my country and then proceeded to ask me which country I was from. I laughed as they had already decided that they liked my country before they knew which one I was from! Of course, when I told them that I was from America, they liked my country even more. One of the young men told me that he would like to go to America one day. After telling them that my sister will be coming to Ghana in two months, he asked if I would give him permission to marry my sister so that she could take him to America. I explained that that’s not really the reason why people get married and not to count on getting to America by marrying my sister as I would not give him permission to do such a thing. I spent the rest of the evening talking with various workers at the hotel, as well as Patrick, one of the former teachers from Christ Orphanage who now works at a different school but frequently visits Christ Orphanage. I’m now off to sleep at this place that Raymond refers to as my new ‘home for the rest of my life’ as I will be staying here for so long.

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