What a week. My mind is still spinning at speeds I thought only capable of a flux capacitor. So much happened in such a short time and it was all good. Some times things just fall in to place like a Michael Jordan jumper at the buzzer. That’s the kind of weekend it was. The week was alright too, but the good stuff started Friday.
Friday morning I was supposed to have a 7:30 am meeting (we won’t count that in the tally) so I wasn’t going to get to walk Maddox down to his class. My boss Geoff, whom I love working for, was standing around and offered to walk him down for us. Just a few days earlier he had bought Maddox an ice cream after school and he used that as leverage to get Maddox to walk with him. From what I understood they both had a great time and Maddox showed him around before taking off to play soccer with his friends. Kind of sums up the atmosphere of Lincoln.
At 8:15 Robyn and I loaded onto the Lincoln buses with a class of fourth graders and headed over to Community Eleven School Complex for the day. I can’t tell you how cool it was to return to that campus. We got off the buses and Eric Korma, one of the PTA leaders, was there waiting to greet us and gave me the biggest hug and the warmest welcome I could ever ask for. He said,”I’ve been missing you my friend.” Wow. From there it just got better. The kids from both schools had a great time. They participated in a Ga lesson, some dancing lessons, read to each other, danced together and played a game of soccer before wrapping up for the day. Unfortunately, I had to leave early to get back and teach my afternoon classes, but I got to soak in the goodness for quite a while. We also worked out a plan for getting their internet installed and discussed a little more about the wall they are hoping to build. It seems as if there is progress being made, and that makes me happy.
I got a taxi for the ride back to Lincoln. That was an experience in itself. The Lincoln bus driver and Eric both helped me get a taxi, negotiate a price and make sure he knew where we were going. All of which took place in a language I can’t even begin to comprehend. They argued a bit then all smiled and I got in. The driver turned out to be a nice guy who spoke some English. He told me how happy Ghanians are that people like us come to their country and how glad he was that I liked it. Pretty cool. We talked football too. Like most people around here, he was a Man U fan. We also talked a bit about the upcoming Ghana vs Egypt match. He was quite certain it would not be a problem for the Black Stars.
I got back to Lincoln and went straight to our IT department to ask some questions about the quote Community Eleven had for their internet installation. Moses, the IT director, was more than happy to help me out. The short version is, he told me all about things that were way over my head, then said he would call and talk to the company and in the end asked when I was planning to go back so that he could go with me. How awesome is that. All I had asked him was if he thought the quote looked reasonable and next thing I knew he was a part of the project. Awesome.
And that was just Friday. We had a long weekend to go.
Saturday morning we got up and had some pancakes, as we must every Saturday morning, and loaded the car to head to the beach with our new Canadian friends. The trip started at the ATM, as most trips do in this cash based economy, behind a Ghanaian police officer with his automatic weapon slung over his shoulder who apparently needed a little weekend cash too. I think that made me feel safe… From there we headed off on a long drive that shouldn’t have been quite so long and maybe wouldn’t have been if we had left much earlier as many people suggested. However, I say it was almost worth the traffic to not be up crazy early wrestling kids. The drive was fascinating and we only got lost once. Funny enough that was before we even left Accra! We went through countless little villages beautiful fields and rolling hills that could almost have counted as mountains and several small towns. Every town became a traffic jam and things slowed to a crawl. I think about 40% of the ride was in first gear. At one point I was pinned between a huge dump truck and a tro tro in the middle of an intersection and actually began to feel claustrophobic. As frustrating as it was to have a Google Maps estimated trip of an hour and a half last almost three and a half hours, it was also fascinating. There is never a lack of ocular stimulation in this country.
The ride into the resort was a rather rough, tracked out mud road that wound its way through a little village with thatched roof buildings and a few mud walled homes. It was a weird feeling to cruise through in our cars packed with stuff headed to the beach. Sometimes it’s all just a little confusing. Eventually we crested a hill and could look out over the palm trees to the ocean. It was beautiful. The resort was nice. It had a very local feel. Nothing super fancy, but it had everything we needed, good food and a beautiful beach.
The kids had a blast. We went with Maddox’s best buddy Ettiene and his family Andrea, Bastien and Kiyo. There were also several families from Lincoln there with kids that were all about Maddox’s age and they kept themselves entertained and wore each other out. Perfect. The grounds were big enough that the kids had tons of room to play but small enough that we could just let them run. They played soccer all day and into the night. The boys played on the beach, boogie boarded and just goofed around. Josie didn’t care much for the water, but loved playing in the sand and the dirt and following Kiyo around every chance she got.
When we first arrived I must admit I let out a bit of a groan when we saw all those Lincoln families rolling in to share our get away. But it turned out to be really cool. Not just because of the kids having an opportunity to play, but also because we got to hear about their experiences. Most of them had lived in several different countries and they shared their perspectives on different places and just the nomadic, for lack of a better term, lifestyle. They had all kind of jobs too. One worked for the British version of USAID and another for the World Bank. Those are just the ones that I remember off the top of my head. A couple of weeks ago, a guy from Turkey who works for Nestle said to us that people who take these kinds of jobs and move around so much have to be a little bit crazy, but that’s what makes them interesting. And it is true. Everyone has their own quirks but they all have the shared adventurous spirit, and seemingly, an interest in learning and sharing. It makes for a fun community.
The beach was beautiful, mostly. There was some trash, but they did a good job keeping the area in front of the resort clean. When you went past the boundaries the trash piled up a little more. It’s sad and frustrating. But its a deep seeded problem and not as simple as getting a group of kids together for a cleanup. We had several conversations about this over the weekend. You know you’ve planned to fix the world over a couple of drinks too.
So my two favorite things from the weekend, playing with my kids and being with my wife not included, were the excursions that led to interactions with the locals. I went to run with Robyn and Andrea, both of whom are in much better shape than me by the way, and we headed back out the entrance road through the village. As soon as we hit the edge of the village, kids came running with huge grins on their faces. Several of them ran for at least two miles with us. All of them were barefoot, some of them in Sunday dresses. I tried to talk with them, but their English was very limited. A few of them asked for cash, but most of them just jogged along with big grins that were incredibly contagious even as I was gasping for breath and drowning in my own sweat.
The second, and my actual favorite, came from a walk on the beach. I had spotted something bouncing around a good ways down the beach and I hadn’t really been exploring yet anyway, so I talked Bastien into a little walk. On the way back we stopped and said hello to some boys who were playing soccer on the beach in front of their village. I asked if we could kick a bit and one of them launched the ball in my direction without hesitation. The beautiful game. We passed the ball around a bit between the five of us, introduced ourselves and enjoyed a bit of small talk, then launched into a game. After playing for about ten minutes barefoot, in the deep sand, dodging trash and aiming for the cement block that served as a goal, we took a team picture and headed our separate ways. But not before Michael, the oldest of the boys, asked how long we were staying. When I told him we were leaving in the morning he looked genuinely disappointed. He told me they were there pretty much all the time as we walked away. Obviously and unabashedly an open invitation to play again.
It’s hard to imagine a similar situation in the states. Two strange, middle aged guys, with different colored skin, walking up to some kids playing a game on the beach or in a park and asking to play. Most likely, it it wouldn’t happen. And that’s a shame. I know there are a million different arguments and views on this kind of subject, but I think of all that we are missing out on and it makes me a little sad. I know it isn’t a utopia here and someday I could run into trouble, but as I’ve met people in these sorts of situations so far, they’ve made me love this place even more.
We wrapped up our excellent weekend this morning after one more cup of coffee on the beach and a few more dips for Maddox. We left around ten with hopes of beating the holiday traffic back into town. The drive back was easy, but it rained most of the way home. Not a big deal until we got pretty close to home. We passed through the toll booth in Kasoa and traffic all but stopped. We moved slow as the rain continued to hammer down and then we saw why. Water was at least two feet deep in the road where it was washing off a hillside. It was something to see, and a little sketchy to drive through. The motorcycle in front of us was holding on to the car next to him so he wouldn’t fall over.
A fitting end to an amazing weekend. Back to the reality of where we are. It rained pretty much all afternoon once we got home and we just hung out and relaxed for the most part. It was hard to come back after such a good time in a beautiful place, but it was also kind of cool to walk into our apartment here and say, “It’s good to be home.”
|Robyn reading with the kids at Community Eleven|
|This little one loves the sand.|
|One of many fierce matches in the sand|
|The view of the resort from the beach|
|One of the many locals passing by on the beach.|
|Good times with good friends.|
|Josie and her “best friend” Kiyo|
|One of the structures in the village we passed through.|
|More of the village|
|Yeh, we were jammin|
|My new friends|
|That look says it all.|
|An unforgettable run|
|Late night movies|
|The flooded highway on our drive home.|