Las Quatro Harwoods

EEEKS or Exciting, Exhausting, Experiences and the Kindness of Strangers (and friends)

So quite obviously there is a ton of stuff to cover here.  It has been a few weeks since the last post and we’ve spent time on three continents since then.  I’m going to change the format here a little and talk less about family stuff and more about the experience.  Ok.  Maybe I said something kind of like that last time too.  I know, but stick with me here.  I’ll let the pictures tell the story of the kids and such.  There’s some kind of saying about that anyway, right?

So we’ve done some traveling over the past three weeks.  I’m going to try to sum it up quick like here.  We left Accra late at night and spent a few hours in the Istanbul airport before making the jump across the pond to DC which still left us with a 5 hour drive to Elon.  It was a little exhausting to say the least.  The kids did awesome, but the jet lag thing they talk about is for real.  We traveled with Julie, once my boss, but now Robyn’s boss and definitely now as much or more a friend as a colleague.  It was fun to have an extra set of hands and eyes to keep on the kids and someone else to talk to for the drives.  The kids even started calling her Gran Gran.  Ha!  I had nothing to do with that either.  Ok.  Maybe something to do with it.  Anyway.  That’s another story really, and probably should come later on.  We spent a couple days in Elon and did the Harwood family Christmas before heading to Sig’s (Wilmington area for those of you keeping track of mileage) on Christmas Eve.  Celebrated and such there before loading up again to drive completely across the state to spend some time in the mountains with Robyn’s whole family.  We had an amazing time at Buck Mountain (between Wilkesboro and Boone) that led to a two to three year master plan for these Harwoods to find us some land and a house in some mountains.  More on that later too.  Wrapped things up there and headed back to Elon for the final week.  A good time with the Harwood elders and we hopped back in the car with Julie to drive to DC and catch a flight back to Istanbul.  (I’d rather not discuss how we ended up stuck in rush hour gridlock and circling the Lincoln Memorial several times before giving up because there was no parking at night.  Criminy).  Spent an awesome 20+ hours in Istanbul seeing the sights and planning a return to see more and then home to Accra.  Whew.  I’m still tired.

So that’s the first couple of E’s.  And now I’ll get to the eks.  We met so many people throughout our travels that were kind, generous, friendly and even phenomenal.  I just felt like I needed to talk about it a bit.  It seems like the news is constantly full of people being shady or hurting each other.  Even general conversations with people often turn to the negatives of our world.  It was good to have this dose of positive reality.  I’ll break it down by region, just for fun.

US of A
I guess it really started with the young guy who ran the Greensboro stuff shop on Elm Street.  Sorry dude.  I can’t remember the name of the shop, but those of you reading this should go in there sometime if you’re in Greensboro.  He provided us with a couple of free cookies (exactly what I needed after a delightful dinner stop at the Mellow Mushroom) and a great conversation about education, living abroad and adventure.  Then there was the random lady in Target who pointed me to Ross for a cheaper carry on bag.  Saved me a few bucks.  The nice guys at the Bottom Line Bar in DC that let Robyn use the bathroom while we creeped through ridiculous traffic downtown.  (She caught up before we made it two blocks).

The entire staff at the Sultan House hotel.  These guys were the friendliest hotel staff I have ever met.  Always smiling, quick to offer directions or tips and eager to make sure everything was ok.  At three o’clock in the morning when Josie couldn’t sleep, Robyn took her downstairs and they gave her a bowl of cereal.  We had lots of interesting little conversations with these guys as we came and went.  As we left, the day shift guy asked if he could give Josie a kiss goodbye.  Super sweet. The guys in the spice market that stood and talked football with me (soccer for my Merican friends).  They originally just wanted me to buy some stuff of course, but we had a great conversation about Bob Bradley (the guy was from Egypt) Ghanaian football, US Soccer and all kinds of other stuff.  They were also quite impressed that I was wearing a US Soccer supporter scarf.  I believe! I believe that we can win! I believe… sorry, I got excited and started chanting a bit there.  I made another friend on the square who I don’t even remember how we started talking but we ended up in a conversation that went from his knowledge of American geography based on NBA teams on Xbox to religion.  He was impressed that I knew the term “inshallah” when he said it to me and I told him I had always liked that term.  We went on to discuss Islam in the states and his perspective on the architecture of the city.  Pretty interesting.

Unidentified Airspace
Things got a little hairy up there on the way back to Accra.  It seems that I made some sort of deposit into my system that was rejected and required immediate return to sender reactions.  I spent approximately the last two hours of the plane ride in the bathroom talking to uncle hurl, cousin chachi, and saying whatsupchuck, if you get my meaning.  It sucked.  I don’t mind telling you.  Through it all there were several people on the plane that really stepped up and went above and beyond.  The two guys sitting behind Robyn did everything they could to help out.  Ike was constantly coming to check on me and reporting back to Robyn.  I honestly thought he might have been a doctor at first, until he asked if I wanted the stewards to ask if there was one on the plane.  That was kind of a give away.  There was another guy too, I didn’t catch his name, that came back to check several times.  And it was genuine concern.  Not just the ‘hey man you ok?  Cause you’re hogging the bathroom’ kind of concern.  It was impressive.  Then there was the guy who sat next to Josie.  I’m going to cut and paste a bit here as Robyn posted this part of the story on Facebook earlier, and I don’t think I can say it any better.

Of all the wonderful and touching things that have happened over the past few weeks of travel, this is the one I feel I must share. This man was Josie and my seat mate on the flight from Istanbul to Accra. Josie slept almost the whole 6 hours, although she sat up to vomit in the barf bag at about hour three. While she slept she wiggled around, put her feet in his lap, and eventually laid her head on his leg. Each time I tried to move her away and apologize he would stop me with a “no, no, she is fine” gesture and expression. I don’t know what language he spoke, but I know we didn’t speak the same one. At one point, after she wiggled around, he gingerly brushed her hair off her face when she settled. As I was stressed with a husband puking in the airplane bathroom for two hours straight and two kids to look after, he helped me and we communicated (somehow) throughout it all. He watched as eagerly as I did when she awoke and finally started sipping juice, nodding and sighing with delight. Ryan Harwood and I were very grateful for his kindness. People are good.

Yeh.  Pretty cool.  That was the one that really stuck with me.  It seems like according to every possible media source that we should have been scared of this man.  Why?  It is frustrating sometimes to think about how our thoughts and experiences can be shaped by another’s perspectives, and how little is actually shaped by our own individual experiences.  Of course we learn from others, but do we learn to filter that information we constantly recieve?  I think we do, but only through experience and interactions.  I feel even stronger after this experience that my job is to encourage the development of that filter in myself and my students.  My eyes continue to grow wider with everyday that passes.

Finally, we made it to the tarmac.  I had managed to return to my seat and only use two of those nice little bags they provide that you always look and and think it would suck if you, or the person next to you, actually had to use them.  That’s where our friends kicked in.  Julie, Geoff and Rhona (two out of three are technically our bosses here in Accra) were all on the plane with us and they made sure that we got off the plane safe, they got our carry on luggage out of the overhead compartments (after the fasten seatbelt sign was turned off of course), entertained the kids some while we waited in that awesome immigration line and even dragged all of our luggage off the belt as I literaly sat on the floor pinned to the wall trying to keep it together.  We were sharing a ride home thanks to David, the Lincoln driver and the van he brought, and these awesome people even dragged our bags into the house for us as I stumbled inside and crashed on the bed.  Vacation over.

So I started this post last night and I’m finishing it up now, about twenty-four hours later.  I just proofread a bit and edited and sat and thought some too.  I’m not really sure why I felt like I needed to write this one instead of the usual story of our kids, and visits.  I think it all just really made an impact on me.  Maybe I’m just emotional from the lack of sleep and the juxtaposition of my time in the States and my life here in Accra.  I don’t know.  But I just felt the need to share.

Oh, so I lied.  I have to share one Josie story.  About 2:37am in Istanbul she and Maddox were trading “Shushes” as neither could sleep and both wanted to talk but wanted the other to stop talking because they wanted to sleep.  Then Josie says, no sings, to Maddox, and I quote, “You can’t always get what you want.”  Even in my elevated state of sleep deprivtional madnitude I had to laugh.  I have to believe we are doing something right when my daughter is singing Rolling Stones in Istanbul to trump her brother.

Anyway.  I think the visit home, the time with family, the experiences with these people just helped to kind of put things in perspective.  Life shouldn’t be easy.  That wouldn’t be any fun.  But when it is tough, there are always good people around.  Sometimes you just have to be willing to see them.

One love.  One heart.

And a pile of pictures in no particular order.

Making Christmas Cookies

Drinking from the birthday chalice

Me and my girl

just playing around

a pile of cousins


art time with Grandmama

these looms have seen some action!

A boy and his ball in Istanbul

Maddox discusses barganing strategies with Julie

The Spice market.  Josie was snoozing and everybody loved her carrier!

At least one person in this picture was getting tired.

The Harwood’s 

Cupcakes baby!

Pool party!

So she’s not a big fan of the singing thing.
Buds coming up with some kind of plan

Christmas loot

A New Year’s Eve family selfie!

A different pile of cousins.

Oh, come on.  Can you really be that cute?

A personal training session with mom and the treadmill

My sweet one with my Grandma

This entry was published on January 13, 2014 at 9:41 pm and is filed under family, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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