Thursday, August 9, 2007

Finally really reporting from Ghana

I’ve finally stolen away for a bit of alone time. I’m on our hotel’s wonderful large covered rooftop deck/porch/bar that’s empty of people right now. The view of the city from here is amazing. And it’s quiet except for the ambient sounds of life in the streets below. Different sounds from those on the streets of Nashville or DC or other cities where cars and sirens drown out many of the other sounds of life. Little kids are playing outside at the Supernanny Daycare across from the hotel. People are working on scooping rocks from the street across from the hotel on the other side. Things aren’t laid out in a clear grid though, so saying “across from the hotel” probably suggests fewer angles than is accurate. There are sounds of people talking, of music (the radio perhaps?) coming from someone’s house, of an airplane overhead somewhere, now and then sounds of some sort of construction. Pleasant sounds all. And perfect for this brief bit of time alone.

As usual when you’re traveling with a group of people and sharing a room with someone, alone time has been hard to come by. I’ve been eager to begin processing these first couple weeks in Africa before the first impressions fade and have found that I need to write things out in order to do that processing. That’s been difficult to do because the electric converter I brought isn’t the right one for my computer (one of the details there was just no time to confirm in the mad dash to finish everything before I left). But, one of my kind teammates here has loaned me her converter a couple times and is planning to leave it with me when she returns to the States on Sunday. God provides, huh?

The time here has been a good introduction to life in Africa. I’m eager and interested to discover which parts of my experience here are African and which are specifically Ghanaian. The Joseph Alliance team has been a reasonably easy group to slide into, which has been nice since I arrived here so tired. Tired from 48 hours of travel and tired from massive pre-trip to do lists.

We’re roughing it here less than I did on my few other trips abroad (and still I never really roughed it J ) and less than I expected, but many of the people who were part of this team would likely not have even come at all if conditions were very severe. And it has been good for me to work at letting go of my frustration at the way they have entered into the experience here and instead be glad for an organization like the Joseph Alliance that is working to introduce to missions even those who aren’t wired for roughing it, to be glad that the Joseph Alliance can provide a trip that these people are willing to come on.

In the contrast between my approach to this experience and that of some of my teammates, I have also discovered further confirmation that there is something in this type of cross cultural experience that I am distinctly wired for, something not everyone is wired for. Even in these two short weeks in Ghana, I ache to slip into real life here, to live as I would if I lived here all the time, to understand the people who live here and the ways they live, to avoid holding myself as separate from them.

Additionally, staying in a nice Ghanaian hotel (not a Western chain hotel, though I’ve actually seen very few of those anyway) has provided the opportunity to experience the excellent service here. The hotel staff has been really great. Everything is kept so clean. And I’ve seen WAY fewer bugs (none) than I had at my house in Nashville (an infestation—literally—of spiders, probably brown recluses along with other critters). As I type, a man is in the front arrival courtyard below on his hands and knees scrubbing the tiles with a scrub brush. It’s now almost 10 am and he’s been working there since at least 6 am. He’s not a young man.

One of the nice things about staying here for so long is that we’ve begun to get to know the staff here. It feels a bit like they’ve become part of our family. Wisdom is one of our favorite servers at the small hotel restaurant, but we also really like Samuel and Frances. Cromo (sp?) and Patricia always greet us with smiles at the front desk. Samuel (a different, older one) seems to run the hotel well and usually looks serious but has a great smile when you smile at him first. Seth and Beta (sp?) always leave our rooms sparkling clean and great us warmly when we see them in the hallways. Evelyn has helped me get online here in the hotel office.

There are only four of us here for this last week of the Joseph Alliance trip. About 17 or so people were here for the first week (the week Erin and I weren’t here yet), and there were about 15 last week. I’ve found it unexpectedly challenging to be at the mercy of the group schedule for so long. Partly because we’re in Africa and partly because of the nature of the trip, we’ve often had very little warning regarding our schedule. It’s been hard for me to have to turn my schedule completely over to other people and to be unable to plan anything. This week has been slower because there are fewer of us. That’s been nice. I’m ever so slowly getting more sleep. Still, though, there’s been no rhythm to the days here, which has brought tiredness to work against the sleep I’ve gained. And as much as I love people, I am also drained when that people-time isn’t balanced by alone time. So this hour of morning time alone is a gift.

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