Tuesday, April 29, 2008
My Perspective, Part 1
Anna has let everyone know about our experience in pretty great detail in the two weeks that we have been back. Admittedly, I have been fairly absent in the retelling of the story. Over the next week, or maybe few weeks, you will read my observations of what surely was an experience that has changed the way we see the world.
The idea of going to Africa, at least in my mind, is romanticized quite a lot. I belong to a group of friends that read lots of books about people who go far off and do great things. Maybe they just do mundane things. It's the fact that they are done in exotic places make them seem great. So for me, there was always this struggle between going to Ghana for the right reasons, and going to Ghana for the adventurous travel writer reasons.
While preparing for the trip there was this "Is this really happening" kind of vibe. We had spent so much time in prayer for what we were about to see. The second we sat down on the plane though, the reality started to sink in.
I don't know if it was the cramped airplane, or the massive amount of time in the air, or the anxiety of landing in an unfamiliar place that kept me awake. Probably a combination of all three. When we finally landed in the capital city of Accra, I was like Secretariat behind the gate at Churchill Downs. Absolutely wired. Ready to go and do whatever it was we were about to do.
After passing through customs, we set out in a new city of 2 million people. At night. It would be a while before we actually started the "ministry" portion of our trip. That night was just to get our bearings a little bit.
Went to bed at a missionary guest house in the middle of the city. Ate turkey sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies, drank cokes, and talked to white Americans. Except for the surroundings and the jet lag, nothing seemed new. Something was different though. I wasn't going to be able to share a bedroom with my wife. Instead I shared it with Robbyn, who is a great guy. However, Robbyn makes loud noises in his sleep. With some earplugs from his always thinking ahead wife, I was able to drown out his disturbing moans and snores.
The next day we wake up early to get on the road to Bole. Bole is in the Northern Region of Ghana, which is about a 10 hour bus ride from Accra. So the next day we spent riding in a van. A 15 passenger van in Ghana is a little bit more cramped, and much more fun than one here. We meet Bishop Otto Brown; who oversees the churches in the Northern Region, and Simpson, our incredible driver. Simpson once told us that he only knew of two others with his namesake, both American. There was that guy who killed his wife. Then there was the cartoon character. Simpson is a much bigger fan of the latter rather than the former. Me too.
Simpson makes Jeff Gordon look like my 97 year old grandmother. The guy barely misses motorcycles and goats, all while driving 120 km/hr. It's only about 75, but seems much worse than that. There are a few things I notice on the drive up.
-Obruni is what they call us. It's the term for white people. I can't tell if it's derogatory or a term of endearment. When we stop at a crossroads, everyone is trying to sell to the obrunis. I even see one guy holding up a rat and a dog by the tail. Presumably for eating? I hear Obruni a lot at first, then it's as if the term disappears from their vocabulary. Once they get to know your names, there aren't any generic terms for you anymore.
-I can drive from Tupelo to Memphis and go 45 minutes without seeing someone. You can't top a hill or turn a corner without seeing someone on the side of the road in Ghana. It's smaller than the size of Texas but has about 30 million people in it.
-The last 2 hours of the journey are on a dirt road in the middle of the dark. Bishop and Simpson are both a little anxious because they have said that people could try and rob us if we break down. The threat of a tire blowing out is a very real possibility. It feels like we are driving on top of a xylophone.
We finally make it to what will be our home for the next 8 days, the Cocoa Research Institute. After about 30 travel hours, we are here. It's hot, it's dry, and we can't hardly contain our excitement. Now, we have to sleep. Tomorrow, the journey just begins.