"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Monday, June 07, 2004 I'm sitting at Busy Internet ... a (go figure) busy internet cafe in Accra. The good news is that it has hi-speed access. The one in Malam, where I am living, is REALLY slow. One of the students here said she was there for an hour and a half yesterday just checking her email.
I don't think I'll be able to post as often as I wanted to ... mostly because doing just about everything here takes a lot more effort than I am used to.
I arrived in Accra last night, got through immigration and customs very easilly, walked under a giant Coca-Cola sign (you can't get away from it) and out to the airport. The people James sent to get me were about a half an hour late picking me up, so a man named Peter "befriended" me, appointed himself my bodyguard while I waited and kept trying to get me to take a taxi from his friend (despite my insistences both that James was coming and that I would have no idea where to tell a taxi to take me!).
When I got back to James' place -- a 30-40 minute drive through this amazingly lively community ... everyone is out in the streets (and I mean IN the streets) at night -- he, his wife, his sons, and Immanuel, the priest at his church, welcomed me in the traditional Ghanian way -- by giving me life, symbolized by a glass of water (fortunately, it wasn't tap water, so I could drink it!).
I am staying in a room in this compound owned by James' family. There are three students here -- two MSW students from South Carolina and one from St. Louis University -- with many more coming (including Mackinnon on Tuesday!). There is no hot water, which is just fine because very few things have ever felt better than the cold shower I took last night before bed!
The people here are amazingly friendly. James walked me around the neighborhood today (which would not fit any description of a neighborhood that most Americans would recognize ... James' house is in a walled compound and -- though there is no phone or hot water, it has electricity and running water and good living space ... much of the surrounding houses are much more hovelish, lots of roofs made of scrap metal, etc.) and everyone greeted me warmly. I can't remember the last time I had so many strangers give me wonderful warm smiles.
This morning, we had a meeting with some social work students from the University of Ghana who will be doing practicums with CENCOSAD ... it served as my orientation, too. The meeting was supposed to start at 8 am and it began at 9:30 -- my first introduction to what Lisa (one of the USC MSW students) calls GMT ... Ghana Maybe Time. Everything here is late. Nothing starts on time. You pretty much just have to go with it.
What else can I share with you. They sell EVERYTHING in the streets here. And I mean EVERYTHING! When you stop your car, they will come up to you with big boxes of toilet paper or corn or FanYogurt (a fabulous frozen yogurt - yum!) or just about everything. Crossing the street you take your life in your hands. I feel like I do when I'm riding in the truck (I am the only one who wears a seatbelt, so I guess I'm some Ghanadriving nerd!), but I haven't seen any accidents . I think it's like BOston or what I hear about Rome and that is when everyone drives like they're insane, chaos theory kicks in and everyone ends up OK!
Overall, I'm feeling VERY overwhelmed. This is my first experience in the third world and it is like another planet to what I am used to. Just sitting here at a computer writing on the internet is familiar enough that it's a real stress reliever. There is just so much that is new ... not just what I am seeing but the smells and sounds (I fell asleep to frogs croaking and woke up to roosters crowing ... and I'm in the city!) and what to eat and drink (and what not to). Add to that my jet lag and really missing Robin and the kids and having half my heart in Columbia at Jim's funeral today and it's been a day of difficult adjustment. That will get better.
It's also been a great day. I've made great new friends. Met wonderful people. I've been treated with gracious hospitality. We visited St. Luke's church and the rector -- a man in his 70s who looks like he's in his 40s -- took us all into the church and led us in prayers of thanksgiving for my safe arrival.
Wednesday, James is taking me for a meeting with the bishop, whom he said is sure to quiz "the priest from the gay church." Huzzah! (or so Rory, Ryan and Beth would say). I'll be sure and let you know how that goes :^).
Well, my internet time is almost up. I love you all. Keep me in your prayers as you are in mine. Prayers are sustaining.
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"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."