Thursday, July 28, 2011

What was Available To-o-o Us on Our Way Home

Celeste Pottier

July 24-25, 2011

We woke up in the Crystal Palm Hotel in Accra for our final day in Ghana. Many of us were pleasantly surprised at the fancy coffee machine in the hotel restaurant, which featured Cappuccinos and “Mokaccinos”. We checked out of the hotel around 11:30 in the morning. Damba and Kwame loaded our tremendously-stuffed luggage onto the roof of the Sun Seekers Bus and we headed into the city for a final afternoon of shopping. But, before that we had lunch at a sort-of food court called The Pizza Inn in the Osu district. Most of us chose pizza, but some opted for chicken sandwiches. At the order counter we were told there was no Cheese Pizza (even though the menu board listed it) but there was a Marguarita Pizza with cheese and tomatoes. A few ordered it but Amanda, with the wisdom of a Harvard degree, ordered hers without tomatoes and thereby got herself a "cheese" pizza after all. As a dessert treat, several also had the chocolate-dipped vanilla ice cream cones (thanks for the idea, Katie). It was somewhat of a gateway back to the American way of eating and we embraced it with open mouths.

Next, we walked down the main street of Osu to a trendy little boutique called Global Mamas (or as Damba pronounced it, “global mummuss.” It's an organization that trains young women to make traditional and contemporary clothing items and charges a Fair Trade price for them. Many of us bought batik dresses, Ghana fabric quilts, T-shirts and African Christmas ornaments.

Finally, we stopped at Accra’s Ghana Cultural Arts Center to spend any remaining cedis left in our pockets. Some of us spent many, many cedis in a very short period of time; most bought things that were tiny since our luggage was already packed; but there were one or two drums or dresses that we snatched up at the very, very last, last minute.

Then we drove to the Kotoka International Airport where we stood in line to go through baggage check and ticketing, said our goodbyes to our tour guide Damba and driver Kwame, and waited around talking or playing cards until 9pm when we boarded our plane for home. On our eleven-hour flight to Atlanta, some (the lucky ones) were able to sleep. Others of us watched movies, read, and tried, with little success, to keep warm by tying blankets, burkha-style, around our heads.

We rejoiced as our plane touched down in Atlanta! Miraculously, we then made it through customs and security without a hitch, even with Prof’s Black Volta River canoe paddle and several drums in hand. The only "hiccup" was when an emergency alarm sounded as we were going through the customs line and we were all told “Don’t move!” We froze with shoes and backpacks still on the conveyer belts. A couple of the group members worried that it might be the Groundnut Cake or the dried Waakye leaves they were toting; but it wasn’t (huge sighs of relief). We found out it was just a routine a security “test.”

We said "Good bye" to Amanda who was flying back to NYC for a week before moving back to Charleston. Then most of us headed straight to Chick Fil-A, Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, or Cinnabon for a morning snack and the taste of real Coffee (no more Nescafe Instant). Then we settled down and waited to board our flight to Charleston.

On our arrival we were so happy to be greeted by friends and loved ones and so thankful for the wonderful opportunities we had had in Ghana and in the presence of one another.

Thank You, God, for all of our going outs and our coming ins over the past 5 1/2 weeks.

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