Jan 20, 2017

ARRIVED IN GHANA

The last time I was in Ghana was October 2015. This is my 10th visit since 2011.

Today when we arrived the biggest change, the airport. The very small and crowded staging areas for immigration and customs, now expansive, brightly lit with shinny clean floors. Ghana is getting ready for something, growth, more visitors, tourism, the Kotoka airport has evolved.

The area for baggage also new, large, room enough for two or three flights to be handled at the same time. The customs process today, a handshake, turn in the form and they let you roll on right by. Everything was easy, no issues. The 9 hour Delta flight was fast, no concerns of any kind; my favorite kind of flight. JFK in New York was calm, not too passengers in any of the areas we passed through.

The constant in the experience, the aircraft rolls right up to the entrance of the immigration building, the front and back door of the plane are opened and passengers use the old fashioned metal stairs to deplane. Delta lands the flight at 7:30am and turns the aircraft around with an on time 9am departure right back to New York. And Ghana officials are still taking body temperatures as each passenger enters the immigration area.

Accra was overcast when we landed at 7:30am, the temperature humid and in the low 80*s. Pastor Richard was at the airport to pick us up, he is indeed an associate pastor of a church in Achimota and has a car service. He will drive us to all the places we are visiting this week. And "we" is myself and my dear friend, Kimberly Edmunds. We are staying at a Guest Lodge, in West Legon, close to the original Mawuvio's school on the porch. We are about 37 KM from the boarding school in Ayikumah.

I know my way around the West Legon area and am familiar with landscape, major buildings, the busy intersections and where the street vendors usually sell fresh PLAINTAIN CHIPS and where they don't. We passed the corner at GIMPA University and Westlands Blvd where they sell dogs, and today there were more dogs than I'd seen on prior trips. Always makes me a bit sad to see the pups in small kennels, a gazillion cars passing by, the busy intersection must generate sales.

In Accra silence is narrow, fleeting, seldom experienced. There are people, cars, trotos, motorcycles, dogs, goats, chickens, walking street vendors, road side stand vendors everywhere. There is always music, radio programs sharing information on local politics, sports and religiion. And music, the Ghanian people love music, or maybe they don't like silence.

One of the nice things about staying at a Guest Lodge, it is like being in someone's home, the lodge has two large homes side by side in the residential neighborhood of West Legon. The lodge has a small staff that takes care of the guests, many are people visiting the University of Ghana which is about 5 miles away. It is relatively quiet here and not too much activity as the guest accommodations are limited. The onsite manager, Pat, has been running the lodge for the last three years. She was here today, she welcomes you as if you're family.

The first order of business always to exchange $$. There is a place close to the airport at the Accra Mall. The current rate, $1 US DOLLAR = 4.22 GHANA CEDIS. When I first traveled here in 2011, the exchange rate was $1 US = 1.98 GHANA CEDIS. The second order of business always, get water. We went to the SHOP-RITE store at the Mall and got our provisions for the stay.

The next stop, greeting Madam Ceci at the Kissemah compound. Ceci was very happy to see us, she normally is not comfortable with hugs and today I got a great big hug from her. We sat in one of my favorite all time Ghana spots, Ceci's outdoor kitchen, and other than the green tarp over the area, everything is the same. The coal pot was burning, she was making lunch for the school kids. Her big wooden table where preps all the food, stacked with familiar and worn pots and pans and laundry always hanging in the background.

Ceci looks wonderful, not sure what her secret is, the same Ceci I met in 2011 is the same Ceci I greeted today. And she was very happy to report that she voted in the Ghanian presidential elections in December and that the tap is running, so no fetching water and that the power has been "GOOD." So no lights off or lights out conditions.

Tomorrow we are going to the Mawvuios school in Ayikumah and will see most of the children that we've come to know and love over the years. Ceci said they've all grown, they are all much much taller. I'm excited to see them tomorrow. Pastor Richard will be here at 8am to pick us up. The forecast: sunny, warm, humid, the high for the entire time we are here is the low 90''s.