The First Day in Accra: Smiling is the universal language

Akwaaba!  Welcome!

I must confess that my first day in Accra is a bit of a blur.  Our flight from Halifax to JFK left a half hour late and arrived a half hour early (which caused me to wonder if there are times we just stay in the air longer than necessary for no reason?).  If you have never been to JFK, I must say that it is a nice airport, well marked, and lots of healthy, albeit expensive, food choices.  They even have the new small single serving Hagaan-Dazs which I must tell you is an absolute favorite at the perfect serving size, however, I passed and had the three color salad with balsamic dressing instead – mostly because folks told us to avoid the water based food like lettuce and if I was going for three weeks without salad, then I should fill up! 

As folks piled into the gate area with their luggage it piled up and it was clear that we were going to have a huge luggage challenge as it became apparent that few returning Ghanaians had checked their luggage.  It seems everyone had at least two carryons.  So we were a bit late leaving JFK because of the luggage stopped at the sky-check and further luggage removed from the passenger cabin when it did not fit..anywhere!  The flight was full of children as families returned to Ghana to visit family, and all the little ones did really well on the flight with little fuss or crying.  We met a mother who was taking her child home to see his grandparents for the first time and she was very excited, as you can imagine.  She pointed to her first child, sound asleep, who had been a miracle baby born at less then 2 pounds!  My seat-mate was going home to the small village of Senchi to visit his mother and do further work on improving the school in his village.  Once the school is improved he will be looking for volunteers to teach there.  Apparently, it is as difficult to attract teachers to the rural schools in Ghana as it is in areas of Canada.  I have checked the map and Senchi is such as small village that it does not appear, however if you are interested, if you ask around Ghana and venture to Senchi you can probably find your way to teaching there!

After the all-nighter from JFK, we landed in Accra in the morning, except that it was already noon hour here and 2:30 by the time we reached the hotel.    The Accra airport is easy to navigate although the luggage area was challenging with all the luggage, however everyone is so polite that even this is easy.  People help each other and everyone is friendly.  Ghana has been described by many as the friendliest country and after only three days here, it is easy to see why.  Relationships matter. Family matters.  Community matters.  People are expected to be polite and respectful. 

My new friend Stephanie saw a sign as we waited in the customs line….all visitors are welcome except pedophiles and other such criminals who are instead invited to turn around and go back from whence they came.  Now there’s a clear value statement.  Yay for Ghana!

We were greeted at the airport by Thomas and Fred from WUSC who were very nice and showed us some points of interest as we drove to the hotel.  I took video to post for you to see but it is blurry, either from the bumpy roads or perhaps my blurry eyes, not sure which and so I will try again another day.  We travelled through the University of Ghana campus which is beyond huge.  My map friends can check this out but I am quite sure the campus is larger than the whole town of Middleton.  Oh, and the termite hills are many and I dare say some are over 6 feet high.

Upon arrival at the hotel, we were welcomed by Patience from WUSC and the other volunteers who were already in training since they will be here for 8 months to 1 year.  They had just finished lunch and invited us to go rest; however Stephanie and I were too excited so ventured out for a walk.  Travelling down the road aimlessly, we were in a residential area and turned around to walk back to explore another road.  Almost to the corner, a group of school children started down the road towards us on their way home.  As we got closer, a littly boy got very excited….’Oburoni!’…which is of course twi for ‘white person’ …a greeting we can expect to here many times during our visit…no need to take offence, he is smiling and so we smile in return knowing we are welcome in Ghana.

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