Monday, July 18, 2011

One of those days...

Today was one of those days. You know, the type of day that you just wish that things were done differently here in Ghana, that there was actually some order to the systems here, and that people actually did their jobs well (or even just showed up to their jobs!).
I traveled to Ho on Saturday to visit my adopted family there once again before leaving Ghana and to tell them that I would be leaving. Their reactions were heartbreaking and it made me think once again if I am making the right choice. They decided that before I left we needed to visit the waterfall in their village, so off we went. The waterfall is beautiful and since the last time I visited, two years ago, the surrounding area has been cleared and is more suitable for visitors. My family told me that the village is working on turning the waterfall into a tourist attraction. There are three levels of the waterfall and we walked up to the highest one and enjoyed the relaxing sounds of the water before the rain began. On the walk home, it started pouring. My family had brought along my old March of the Living raincoat that I had given them a few years ago for me to use but I just used it to protect my camera while enjoying the cool rainwater running down my face.
I traveled back to Hohoe on Saturday afternoon with the expectation that I would not be back to Ho until the next time I visited Ghana. But, that all changed today. I decided to ask Godwin, my taxi driver friend here in Hohoe about renewing my visa in Accra and he told me that it would be better to renew it in Ho as they are usually quicker at returning it and are not as busy in Ho. I really did not want to return to Ho, did not want to spend the day traveling, and did not want to leave my kids for a day to do this but I didn’t have much of a choice as my visa expires 2 days before my departure flight. So, I called Godwin to come pick me up from the school and take me to the tro tro station so I could take care of this business. Godwin took his dear old time getting to the school and I became so frustrated that after waiting for a half hour, I decided to leave and start walking.  The walk from the new site of the school to the main road takes about half an hour but I wanted to get to Ho as soon as possible so I could return to Hohoe as soon as possible so I was in no mood to deal with Ghana time today. The headmaster of the school and one of the teachers decided to “see me off” and didn’t seem too confident in the fact that I told them I could walk all the way to the main road. There were no taxis on the road near the school but there were some motorcycles and the headmaster stopped one of them and instructed me to get on. I stared at him and he asked me if I was scared. Uh…yes.  I am scared of motorcycles in America where the roads are paved so yes, I was most definitely scared to get on a motorcycle here. I hung on to the motorcycle driver for my life and was so grateful when after about ¾ of a mile, I saw Godwin’s taxi approaching.
I boarded a tro tro and was met in Ho by John, the father in my family. When I told him that I had to return to Ho today to renew my visa he told me that he would accompany me, something I was grateful for as I had no clue how to get to the Immigration Office. When we got to the office, the first thing the immigration officer told us was that it was break time and we would have to come back at 2pm. Now this did not make me happy. It was 1pm and I was not about to wait an hour to talk to them. So, John and I inquired about renewing my visa and we were told that I would need an introduction letter from my sponsor here in the country. I informed the officer that I had such a letter and had sent it to the Ghana Consulate in the US in order to receive my visa in the first place. He rudely replied that it did not matter and he needed another letter. I pleaded with him and informed him that I only needed the visa extension for 2 days. Finally, I remembered that I had a copy of the letter in my email inbox and we asked if I could go print it and bring it to them. It is at that time that we were told by the rude officer that the head immigration officer that needed to sign and approve the visa extension had traveled for the day. Now I don’t remember the day when I renewed my visa two years ago too clearly but for some reason, I remember that the head immigration officer had traveled that day too. Now, what good is this head immigration officer if he is not in his office? I was beyond frustrated and had had it with the immigration officer. He had attitude and was not a very pleasant man. He happily informed me that there were nice hotels in Ho though and told me that I should spend the night and come back tomorrow. I kindly replied that I had other plans and did not have time to spend the night in Ho. He then suggested that I leave my passport with him and have someone I trusted come and pick it up for me. I informed John that there was no way that I would leave my visa with this man.
John pleaded with the officer to process the visa right away but we were told there was nothing he could do. We finally left and I returned to the Ho station to travel the 2 hours back to Hohoe. I was not happy that I had to travel 4 hours today and that I did not even get my visa extended. Sometimes the systems here are beyond annoying and I don’t understand how anything gets done in this country. I did however learn that if I return to the airport to depart without renewing my visa, I will be charged double the price to renew it (80 cedis (about $60) instead of 40 cedis) so now I am not so worried about renewing it however I will give it a try when I am back in Accra.
Luckily when I returned to Wegbe, I was greeted by some of my kids and their bright smiles and adorable laughs made me feel better. They made me realize why I love this country and made me forget about the negative experiences that I had earlier in the day.
I have decided that since I was gone for most of today, I cannot leave tomorrow and rather will stay in Wegbe all day tomorrow and depart for Accra early Wednesday morning. I need to be able to spend some final time with my kids before leaving. They are already sad that I am leaving and I know that spending tomorrow with them will mean as much to me as it will to them.

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