Aug 11, 2015

Getting Ready

I travel to Ghana on September 10th, arriving at Kotoka Airport in Accra the following morning on September 11th.  

This is my 8th visit to Ghana since I first traveled there in December 2011. 

And that first trip seems like yesterday. I remember planning for that first visit, researching the heck out of Ghana, interviewing people from Ghana, people who had traveled to Ghana. I read blogs, I studied internet updates from the State Department, from the US Ghana Embassy, from the CDC, anything and everything you can imagine.  

West Africa 

Renee Farwell had 3 years of experience being there as a student at the University of Ghana in West Legon and certainly she provided all the information necessary to best prepare me and Lizzie and Tracy who I had the pleasure to travel with in 2011. We were there for 18 days. 

Now my preparation is almost routine. I know the countdown, I know what I need to plan for and pack for, there are no surprises. I know it will be hot and humid, I am visiting during the rainy season. 

I know what I'll be eating most everyday. I know that for everyday I am there, I can expect to lose 1/2 a pound. I know what prescriptions I need to get, malaria medication and a small supply of antibiotics.  I have a list of school items I am confirming with Renee, uniforms and some school supplies, and I always try to take new movies, the children love love love to watch movies.  I pack files for the school office, file folders are not readily available in Ghana.  

I have a tiny section in my closet with my Ghana clothes, two sundresses that Annette made for me and the types of short sleeve shirts that dry in 5 minutes when you wash them. I have one nice Ghanian outfit that I take on every trip for church on Sundays. I have a travel bag that is perfect for my camera and writing notebook and travel documents. And I always take a backpack which is great for my iPad and the keyboard. 

For this trip I had to renew my Ghana entry visa. My original 5 year multiple entry visa expired. The exchange rate in 2011, one US DOLLAR = 1.8 Ghana Cedi's.  Today one US DOLLAR = 3.91 Ghana Cedi's. 

Because I know what to expect, I don't get anxious about being in Ghana. I do get anxious about being on a aircraft for 10 hours, nothing I can do about the travel distance. The flight from JFK to Accra is now at 4:30pm in the afternoon, vs. the 8:30pm departure time in years past. I rely on Tylenol PM to get me to sleep, I've averaged 6 to 7 hours of sleep on the 10 hour flight. 

When I get to Accra I am mentally ready for the sensory overload. It's a way of life in the capital city. You have to be ready for the traffic, the car horns, the heat, people everywhere and a foreign language being spoken around you all the time. 

This is why the school in Ayikumah is such a delight, it's setting is a rural area, about 35 kilometers from Accra, the surroundings are quiet and slow paced. I will spend time in Kissemah Village, where the original school on the porch still operates with kindergarten and first graders, usually 10 to 12 students. This is where Ceci lives. 

Most of my time I will be in Ayikumah, where the new school is located. MOP has 50+ students, from 1st to 6th grade. 

School in December 2011, Kwame and Renee 

I still have the original email I got from Renee on 6/4/2011 answering my questions about who and what all things Mawuvio's. The email was a follow up from my recycled glass bead bracelet purchase on the Mawuvio's ETSY site.  A random Google search for bracelets in 2011, opening the door for an experience in my life I'd never considered, my love for 60 children in West Africa.  

It's been interesting, compelling, at times frustrating and mostly joyous. 

I've had good cries in Ghana and also tsunami's of joy in my heart. 

I've learned so much about the human spirit, about the constitution of happiness, about the simplicity of day to day living, about abundance of life and not the abundance of things. 

I've learned about courage and support. 

I've learned about the capacity of gratitude in my heart for all of the people who've supported and encouraged me and made financial contributions to Mawuvio's to keep the lights on, to pay the teachers salaries, to buy books and school supplies, to feed the children and to pay for medical care. The gratitude is from the heart of every child, every teacher, from Kwame and Renee, all certainly from me. 

I look forward to seeing children in thirty days. 

MOP School in Aiykumah 2015