Arriving in Ghana, by Suzanne

I know the best travelers are flexible, but really, the best travelers to Africa are FLEXIBLE. So many people freaked out when our plane was delayed in DC, or when their luggage didn’t arrive in Ghana, I am much more calm and laid back about such things now. It’s also nice being a seasoned traveler, I must say. Like when debarking from the plane, knowing to walk quickly by the first-timers who are unsure of what to do and where to go, and are taking in the scenery, since all 200 of us have to go through the same 4 immigration officers, and the sooner you arrive at the queues, the fewer people you have in front of you in line and the more you have behind you. And I like knowing the telling signs when the baggage handlers have just found out that no more luggage will be coming out so that I can bee-line it over to the lost luggage line, again, to have more people behind me than in front of me. And I really like being in the know about African queueing anyway, knowing just how to position my body to ensure I’m next in line as someone else is trying to do the same thing on my right and left.

So, yes, one of my pieces of luggage didn’t arrive, but thankfully not the one with the frozen brisket (still frozen on arrival, by the way), and also I’ve had this happen often enough that I packed a little of everything in both luggages and my carryon, so the only thing I had to buy was toothpaste. The routine for lost luggage is this: if it didn’t arrive on this flight, it will likely arrive on the next one, which is the same time the next day (usually, sometimes there are only certain days they fly). Only once did I have to go back for 3 days, although when it wasn’t on the second flight I was sure the bag was lost for good, but I decided to go back the 3rd day and there it was! At that point it arrived as shipped baggage and there was some talk of customs import duties, but I was thankful I had packed my feminine hygiene products at the top of the crate (you know, for cushioning) and the officer just took a quick look and said it was fine, I could go. Another thing that’s nice to know! This time my bag was likely lost in Frankfurt, since I had a short layover there – only 30 minutes due to mechanical delay on one end and weather delays on the other. I am pretty impressed that the one made it (love that German efficiency!), since I pretty much ran the whole time from one terminal to the next to make the connection myself.

It’s the raining season here and it did rain just before my arrival today, so it was cool when we landed – 100% humidity, but cool. People always ask me the temperature but no one really has thermometers here. Ghana is just off the equator, so when we talk about the weather instead of quantitative info we use the more descriptive terms: it’s cool (probably low to mid 80’s), warm (high 80’s to low 90’s?), hot (mid to upper 90’s) or really hot (100’s) – but everyone knows not to go out in the sun mid-day anyway, so to us it’s mostly just hot.

My old house, now the faculty house for Ashesi (which housed 5 people in the 5 bedrooms last year) needs to undergo repairs so I won’t be staying there after all, at least for now. I’m in a hotel for 2 nights which is a nice treat – air conditioning and television and even wi-fi although it’s down. My friend Carol and I went to a late dinner my first night, Wednesday, which was nice! Great to catch up with her and Ashesi news. She looks fantastic, and is happy. I had a yummy chicken schwarma wrap – big Lebonese influence here.

Thursday and Friday I hit the ground running for my class. Got the syllabus completed and Xeroxed, located the books we ordered for the class, and made up slides for the first day, Friday morning. I also got to eat in the Ashesi canteen for lunch both days, yea! It seems that if you eat it every day it’s not too exciting, but friends humored me and came with me for lunch both days. Thursday I had Jollof rice with chicken and that great spicy red sauce, Friday I had groundnut soup which, seriously, was almost identical to Steve’s except more oily and more spicy – but the flavor was just the same. It’s amazing how he can remember flavors exactly, and then is able to replicate them! Friday’s class only had 4 students in it, although apparently 3 more will come from another class that ran late and was finishing on Friday, and then 2 more maybe will also come Monday. As someone pointed out, people may be waiting to see if the course will really happen before actually coming – so we’ll see Monday and make a decision about whether or not the class will make. (But no worries, Ashesi has a long list of other admin-type stuff I can work on if the class doesn’t make). I also had significant computer troubles Friday – can’t get the Cryptool setup executable copied onto my desk computer, although it will let me copy other files, and I also couldn’t run Cryptool in the lab I installed it in – I could copy the setup and install it, but nothing happens when I try and run at. My friend and colleague Aelaf helped for quite some time trying to get it going, but no luck yet. I looks like one of the DLL it uses conflicts with the same DLL that the virus protection software uses on those machines. Although we un-installed the virus protection and it still didn’t work. Hmmm. So Monday’s class will be all lecture again, it seems.

Friday mid-day I moved my things into the Ashesi Hostel at Danquah Circle. It will be nice to be able to make my own tea and have a fridge, although I am forgoing air conditioning and television. Oh well, an acceptable tradeoff – I brought some DVDs with me and the pirated ones are readily available outside Koala for very cheap (it’s actually used to be just about impossible to buy “real” CDs and DVDs here, although that may have changed). It will be especially nice to have the extra space when Steve and Anna arrive in 3 ½ weeks.

We have the same apartment we had when we first came to Ghana 4 years ago, before our faculty house was ready. And Suala is again our landlord, so I am in very good hands!

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