This post is out of order, but I felt like blogging about our trip to Ghana while it was still fresh in my mind.
Two weeks ago Joey and I boarded an Arik flight to Accra. Never mind that the flight scheduled at 5 pm, for which we departed for the airport at 2 pm, left at 7:30 pm and no one from the airline ever bothered to inform any of the passengers what time the plane would actually be leaving; I was just happy that the plane didn’t crash. Seriously.
Immediately we were astounded by the differences between Accra and Abuja. The airport had air conditioning. A sign welcomed passengers to Ghana. The immigration agent didn’t hassle us. (Never mind the very prominent sign behind immigration stating sexual deviancy of any kind would not be tolerated in Ghana…) The airport even had a currency exchange with stated rates and tour company booths.
We’d booked a hotel, Big Milly’s Backyard, about 25 km outside Accra, in a tiny fishing village called Kokrobite (pronounced “Coke-Row-Bee-Tee”). Big Milly arranged a taxi to pick us up at the airport, so we scanned the taxi drivers who were standing quietly behind the designated rope. Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore!
Upon uniting with the taxi driver holding the sign, “Melissa – Big Milly’s,” we followed him out of the airport where we saw a bar with a patio! And most of the cars driving through the parking lot weren’t honking! While our driver paid for his parking we watched everyone else wait patiently in line – it was surreal.
Even two weeks later I still cannot comprehend how two countries that are so similar can be so different. As we drove through the capital of Ghana we saw no litter and no one peeing or pooping on the side of the road. The roads were well-lit and the power never even flickered. The drivers were courteous, stayed in their lanes and actually stopped when the light turned red. The cacophony of car horns to which we are accustomed was replaced by the soft breeze from the open window. Not to mention the fact that Ghana is safe enough to ride in a taxi in the first place; in Nigeria we are never allowed to even think about using public transportation. And driving with your windows down? At night? Forget it.
We were certainly still in Africa and especially once we left Accra and entered the countryside I was struck by how much Ghana resembles Nigeria. Vendors and their wares balanced squarely on their heads weaved in and out of traffic, selling everything from sticks of meat and gum to shoe racks, Tupperware, and brightly colored accordions of pre-paid phone cards that look like scratch-off lotto tickets. Indiscriminate brown dogs and crowing roosters wandered along the small one-story buildings made from concrete blocks built one on top of another with rusty tin roofs and stains from the perpetual dust and sand in the air that line the road. The only thing missing was the piles of litter. Gone were the discarded plastic bags, used water bottles and anything else no longer wanted or needed.
I forgot to mention a very important detail. When I climbed in the back seat of the 1980ish hatch-back taxi and reached over my shoulder for the seat belt, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a large tank directly behind my seat. I fumbled with the broken seat belt for a while until Joey noticed the tank too and mumbled under his breath, “That seat belt isn’t going to do anything for you in an accident.” To clarify, he struck up a conversation with the driver.
Joey: “Does this car run on gas?”
Driver: “Gas and kerosene.”
Joey: “Did it come that way or did you fix it to run on kerosene?”
Driver (proudly): “I fixed it!”
So for the next three hours (and only 25 km), every time a car brushed by ours, traffic quickly halted or we hit a huge bump in the road, I held my breath and braced myself to become a human RPG.
By the grace of God, despite the horrendous traffic; despite the rain, in the car, since it was too hot to roll up the windows without A/C (the driver used a chamois to clear the fog from the front window), and mosquito infestation that followed; despite traveling for at least half an hour along the darkest, bumpiest and most deserted dirt road I have ever seen in my life when the driver stopped the car to chamois the front window from the outside (at which point we were convinced we were going to be sold for our organs), Joey and I arrived at our destination relatively unscathed. Some inner-thigh sweat and a few mosquito bites were a small price to pay for our safety.
The blue gates opened and we drove into a grove of coconut trees. The car parked and when we opened our doors we heard the surf crashing into the sand. Now we could finally relax.