Plane Trip and Half Day in Accra

Last time I left off I was leaving the JFK Airport for Accra. Before I got off of my plane into JFK I ate my last meal of the day and took my Malaria pill. It was about 12 AM Ghanaian time, 4 hours ahead of EST time. I got on the plane around 2AM Ghanaian time, ready to sleep for about 6 or 7 hours and wake up to a nice breakfast. For the first 45 minutes of the flight the lights were out in the plane and I took that as a hint that everyone was on the same page as I was. I’m not good at sleeping on planes, so it took me about that long to get relaxed. I drifted into that phase where I wasn’t awake, but I wasn’t completely asleep yet either. I was in some ether of drowsiness, but about to enter deeply into sleep. Right before I did, bright lights came on around me. At first I thought I was having a terrible nightmare about being at the dentist. In case you didn’t know, one of the side affects of my Malaria medication is “vivid dreams,” which basically means Jesus comes down on a big cloud to lecture you about your life. Anyway, I soon realized Jesus wasn’t drilling my teeth and instead Delta was waking everyone up for food. My eyes were opened, but my brain was still partly in that ether, so I turned to the flight attendant and as if I was an eight year old on a long road trip, I asked “Are we there yet?” She told me, with a sour look, we had only been in the air for an hour. That means I had been asleep for 15 minutes. Now I was awake arguing in my head as to why Delta thought it was a good idea to feed people an hour into a ten-hour flight. We were only being served one meal and that’s the time they chose to give it to us?

After I was done complaining to myself and enjoying the surprisingly good food I was now so wide awake, I could have preformed brain surgery. The lights were already bright enough for it, so why not learn a new skill. Since no one around me was willing to be my first patient, I pulled out my book and started to read. After about 10 minutes of reading they turned the lights off. Great, no matter what I try to do Delta wants to do the opposite. Mean while Murphy and his law are as fresh as they have ever been in my life. Since I’m going to need to adapt to a lot in Ghana I figured this flight was giving me plenty of early practice. So now that I was a full as a tick, with no possibility of getting good quality sleep I attempted to at least get some good time in the ether. Maybe I could trick my body if I could just sit there and think good thoughts, I’d be able to fly… Wait this isn’t Peter Pan. Okay, I think this Malaria medication is starting to kick in and that means sleep is not far behind.

I got a few hours of sleep, woken up again by the lights of the plane. They announced that they were going to be coming around with food. Uhh, I thought they would be serving one meal. Okay, now I’m an episode of the Twilight Zone. This time I had learned my lesson and I was definitely not going to say anything but thank you to the flight attendant. After I didn’t see William Shatner or anything on the wing of the plane, I calmed down and was excited to eat more, so that I could push the boundaries of my stomach and be someone else’s first patient. The rest of the flight went well and actually much faster than I imagined. And someone’s grandma must have made the meal plan because they managed to fit another meal in before we landed. Unfortunately it wasn’t home-cooked chocolate chip cookies.

We’ve now landed and are waiting for the plane to dock into the terminal. I was filling out the custom’s papers and noticed the exit terminal was actually being driven out to us. Again, look how nice the Ghanaian people are, they actually bring the airport out to you. Okay, maybe that’s not the reason. We got off the plane and there were buses loading the passengers up. I actually had a quick thought of panic, wait I’m being picked up I can’t get on this bus I don’t even know where it takes me. I could just picture myself being dumped off in the middle of a city, with no clue at where to go. Then I realized how pointless that thought was because we still needed to go through customs and get our bags. The bus actually then drove, and I would never exaggerate, no more than 100 yards before it stopped to let us off. I looked back at the continental trip we had taken and started laughing. After getting off of a 10 hour flight they should have had someone running up to us with a baton so that we could get some of the restless leg disease out, before customs. Customs went fairly well and I used some assertion to get my bag. There were probably three rows of people standing shoulder to shoulder around the carrousel acting like they were watching a horse race. I could see bags being loaded onto the belt, so I squeezed myself to the front to look for my bags. As I looked over toward the front of the belt I could see a man leaning in and placing the bags down. This was much different from what I am used to seeing with a giant belt coming from the bag fairies in the ceiling. I spotted both my bags within the next 5 minutes of waiting and still wondered what everyone was just standing around for. Hopefully I didn’t miss out on anything fun, like the last five things on the belt were topless belly dancers. Wow, that thought was wrong in so many ways. Then, I went down to the terminal to meet Joseph and Charles. The room was filled with about 70 people all looking at me like I was supposed to meet them. Good thing Joseph is 6 foot 7 because he just stood up and I could clearly see him. I met Charles and we all went out to the car to travel to Charles’ house, which was where joseph was also staying. My first impressions were different from my expectations. I really thought there would be more trees, with Ghana being so close to the equator. We also drove down a paved road with other cars that were the same model as the ones in the US. When I was in Nicaragua there were weird looking vehicles I had never seen before. Each stop we pulled up to there were at least 20 people walking down the rows of cars trying to sell things. I have never seen people with such good balance. Some of these people were holding 50 DVDs in their hands, while balancing a huge basket on their head filled mostly with drinks of some kind. Right then, a huge smile broke onto my face when I realized I’m actually in Ghana, the first time I’ve been anywhere in Africa, and clearly the furthest I’ve ever traveled away from home. After we went a few miles up the paved road, we turned off it onto a dirt path. Oh and those stops I was talking about, that we’ll just call an intersection for simplicity, didn’t have any lights to control traffic. Instead there was a traffic policeman directing the cars. This would have worked if everyone listened to the policeman. A few cars and all of the motorcycles just went across the road with the audacity that no one would dare run into them. It was interesting because when people cross traffic in the US they judge whether they can make it without getting in the other persons way. In Accra, people cross traffic with the judgment that the incoming vehicle still has time to make a last minute maneuver to avoid impact. Yes that includes pedestrians crossing the street. There are no areas designated for pedestrian crossing. At all times it looked like you were driving along the street right next to a big sporting even that just let all the people out and they were trying to get to their cars across that street. It was a madhouse, but oddly very human at the same time.  The paved road now turned onto a dirt path that wasn’t marked by any street signs. I thought that was very interesting and much like my experiences in Nicaragua. They don’t describe destinations as a street, instead they are described by commonly known locations.

After about 5 minutes driving on the dirt road we arrived at a gate outside of what appeared to be Charles’ house. A skinny and young looking man opened the door for us, I thought this must be some of the Janney family coming out to meet us. I looked at the man and smiled, but he didn’t seem very responsive. After we got in the gate the man seemed to disappear, that’s fine I would probably meet him later. We pulled into the drive way and the house was beautiful. There was grass and flowers out front and everything looked very new. I found out later that Charles actually built this house himself. We got inside and they showed me the room I was staying in. I’m not sure where the young man went who opened the door, but he didn’t seem to be on our priority list for me to meet. They showed me the dog in the back yard, which looked like a pit bull and couldn’t have been much under 100 pounds. Now I see who is watching over the house, especially at nighttime. We sat down on the couches in the living room and cracked open some beers. I could definitely get used to living here. Some more family came over and I got to meet some of the Cousins. Then Charles’ son walked in and I stood up to meet him. He is much bigger than I am and looked like he just finished football practice, maybe he left his shoulder pads in. This Family does produce some big men. Then Jennifer, Charles’ wife came home and I met her as we were loading school supplies for Allen, Charles’ son, into the car. I asked Joseph, “Oh, so Allen is going off to some kind of University, or the filter school for the Patriots recruits?”. Joseph said no he is going into 6th level of school where most boys his age at 15 or 16 go. I nearly choked, “wait, Allen is 16 years old?” This young man is going to be a monster when he gets to be my age.

Then we got in the car to drive to Tema, where Allen was going to be dropped off at school. Again we drove on the paved road for a while back in the direction of the airport. I was too distracted looking at the sights around the car to really keep track of where we were going. We changed roads a couple of times. On the last time we were going around some car and I saw two guys on a motorcycle heading in the opposite direction, directly at us. I started laughing. We think Evil Kenevil was crazy for making a few jumps, when most of these motorcycle drivers were the craziest people I’d ever seen. After some traffic and a few roundabouts, we dropped Allen off and looked around the school for a bit, before we headed back in the car to get back home. Once we got back we met Irene, Brandon, and Shane who were all Josephs wife and two boys. It was great to be in a room full of family because it was helping me relax into this new lifestyle. The only thing was that the more they got excited, the harder it was for me to understand them. I was mostly just sitting there smiling trying to pick up a few words and keep up. The Ghanaian people like to switch between Enlgish, Twi, and Ga like some crazy evil twin of Spanglish. The only problem was that I couldn’t understand a lot of the English. I have a lot of work to do. This is exactly why it is so beneficial that I live with the Janney family for a week before I move to Kumasi and really begin to work. After some catching up food was served in a big party dish in the middle of the room. After eating so much before I couldn’t image eating more. I said no thank you and that I wasn’t very hungry. Joe came out and told me the first rule was to never refuse an offer of food. He said you must at least try food if it is offered to you. That was enough of a reason for me. There was chicken and this amazing fried potato like food. There was green and dark red sauce. Joe warned me that Ghanaian food is spicy and I might just want to stick to the red sauce. I’ll admit I’m not the most resistant person to spicy food, but my family rule is to try everything at least once. I tried the red sauce and it was really amazing. Then I tried the green sauce and enjoyed that too. That lasted until about my second bite with the green sauce and then my mouth started to go numb. I could barely compose myself and continued to eat, sticking with the red sauce. After some liquid and time the burning went away. I was an interesting spicy sensation that burned intensely when you were eating it, but didn’t linger very long. Apparently that was only considered a low amount of spice. Well it rolled around to 10 PM and out of pure exhaustion I went into my room and went to sleep. I love those nights when you are so tired that you don’t have to put any effort into falling asleep. I was already entering that ether again, before I had even gotten into bed. I was out before my head hit the pillow. A great introductory day to Accra and now it’s time to rest before my first full day in Accra.

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One thought on “Plane Trip and Half Day in Accra

  1. What an amazingly well written story! I felt like I was right there with you. And now you’ve made me hungry for chocolate chip cookies! It sounds like you’re having a great time so far, and that makes me very happy.

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