Friday, December 11, 2009

Kenya --> Ghana

On December 5th, at 6:30am, my Riruta Satellite host father, Moses drove Kai and I to the Nairobi Airport. I had my big suitcase, full to the brim with stuff and a duffle bag which I carried on as well as my backpack. Before checking in to my Kenya Airways flight, I had to weigh my bag. I guess this is how they keep people like me whose bags are too heavy out of the way of the check in counters. The man told me that my bag was 8 kilos overweight and I needed to take that weight out and put it into my other bags. Luckily, I had my duffle bag and there was still a bit of room in it – enough to fit 8 kilos worth of stuff.

After I finished the difficult task of rearranging my stuff, I successfully checked in and proceeded to the gate. The flight was a bit longer than I expected – about 5 hours until we landed in Accra, Ghana. I was lucky enough to have a seat in the exit row but unlucky to have the dreaded middle seat. After everyone boarded the plane, we were told that we would have to wait awhile as the technicians tried to fix one of the toilets. I was so tired that I fell asleep during this time and woke up just in time for take off.

We touched down in Ghana a few hours later. The minute I exited the plane, I could feel the sticky heat on my body. It was crazy because we were further from the equator in Ghana than we were in Kenya but it was so much hotter.

I went through passport control and customs without any problem. I usually get stopped in customs and have to open my suitcase but this time, the man asked me who I was staying with in Ghana and I said…”do you want his name?” he said, “him?” and waved me off. It was kinda funny but I was glad to get out of the hot airport as soon as possible.

As I walked out of the airport, I was approached and hugged by Alex, Wisdom, and some other guys who are related to Raymond. I knew them all and was happy to see them. They took my luggage and told me that Raymond was in Wegbe waiting for us.

Four hours later, we arrived in Wegbe. I couldn’t have been happier. Alex saw the smile on my face and said “welcome home.” I said hello to Dina, Raymond’s wife and Anderson, Raymond’s son and went to say hello to some of my friends who live nearby. They spotted me before I even approached them and yelled out at the top of their lungs, “SISTER NICOLE.” They all ran towards me and hugged me and then proceeded to ask where Sister Melissa was. They were not too happy when I told them that she was home in America and that she would not be meeting us in Ghana this month.

I spent my first few nights at Raymond’s uncle’s house which is less than a five minute walk from Raymond’s house. I had decided that I was not going to stay in a hotel this time and had asked Raymond for suggestions regarding where I could stay. He told me that I could stay in one of the rooms in the compound where he lives. We had to get the room set up before I could actually sleep there so we spent the first few days buying a mattress, putting up the mosquito net, installing a ceiling fan, and putting the plastic tile looking floor in place. Since I have moved in, we have also put up a screen door and a screen for the window as well as curtains and a mirror. Godwin, my taxi driver came in to my room a few days ago and told me that it was just as nice, if not nicer than the hotel that I had stayed in all summer. I agree and realize that it is much more sustainable and less expensive than staying in a hotel. Plus, I am right here, with the local people and the kids which is nice and when I need a break, I can just go to my room.

I really like my room and the fact that I can leave it and come back to it when I return to Ghana. It’s like I have my own place now! I am very lucky that Raymond’s uncle lives so close as he has allowed me to go over to his house (which he doesn’t live in as he lives in Accra) and use the flushing, Western style toilet and the running water shower whenever I want. This is very important as the toilet at Raymond’s compound scares me and I just can’t use it. And also because it’s nice to have running water and not have to take a bucket shower.

This first week in Ghana has been so hot that I have been somewhat lazy as it is at times, too uncomfortably hot to do anything. It is especially bad when the electricity goes out and the fans stop turning for hours. Nonetheless, I have been doing a lot, from shopping for stuff for my room to taking tons of fabric to my seamstress, Beatrice for her to sew, to playing with and doing art projects with the children, to taking care of some business at the orphanage.

A few random things that don’t really fit anywhere in particular:

Our student leader, Alex who graduated from L&C in the spring decided that she wanted to acknowledge people who went beyond what was required and did something pretty special. So far, I have acquired three army men – which are what she gives out to acknowledge these actions. I believe that I have the largest collection of army men. My first army man was for coordinating and getting all the photos together from the students to send to our host families in Pemba. My second army man was for making it through a very strenuous hike even though I was having issues with the whole concept of hiking uphill and breathing at the same time. My last army man was to acknowledge the fact that I run the charging of electronics in one of the trucks every time we are on the road. It was nice to have something like this acknowledged because it’s not something that people really thank me for.

Also, Melissa, I thought I should let you know that our student leader said that she thought I was the one on the program with the best sense of fashion. On our last night together as a group, three other students were wearing my clothes. I need to thank you because you have played an integral role in inspiring my fashion sense.

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