April 18th, 2011 was the date that I left Ghana. The day that I left Bawjiase. I woke up twenty-five minutes before my alarm went off. It was 2:50 AM and I found myself in bed with my mind racing tossing around the pros and cons of both Ghana and the United States. Five minutes later, I put water on what we used as a stove and cleaned out our mugs for tea. The taxi was scheduled to arrive at 3:30 AM. No taxi by 4:00. TIA. Time In Africa always seemed to be vague. By now, everyone was awake and attempting to figure out where the taxi was. Eventually Fifi saved the day by riding his bicycle into town and found the taxi. Only an hour after our scheduled departure, we were off.
|Chelsea, Agogo, & Sophie|
After being dropped off at the airport, thanks Chelbel and Oh Sophie for riding with me, I checked in and waited for the terminal to open. The airport in Accra, Ghana is very small and I was flying out of the first gate of three. I had to wait for it to open. Once it did, I had to wait some more before boarding commenced. I spent this time watching everyone around me. Examining. Thinking.
|Chelsea, Agogo, & Sophie|
Things were different here than Bawjiase. There were many obrofo (the plural of obruni, which means “white person”). Many of them. In Bawjiase, it was rare for us to run across another obruni that wasn’t with our group though it did happen occasionally. Also, in the airport, the Ghanaian population dressed and presented themselves differently. Some men sat waiting with numerous gold or silver bracelets and/or big fancy watches. A few women waited with large rings and dangling, sparkling earrings. There were very few wearing traditional looking fabrics that were common in Bawjiase. Shoes were shiny black, spotless white, mostly new in appearance without any noticeably signs of wear and tear. The majority spoke their native languages, though many spoke English fairly well.
It had never crossed my mind, the fact that I had not seen a stroller in the past month until sitting at the gate waiting for my plane to board. Sitting in the airport watching a women struggle to get through the narrow rows of seats, it seems oversized, bulky and impractical. I saw another baby being carried in a strange device with straps and plastic buckles resembling a backpack worn on the parent’s chest. I have seen these in the US many times but the sight of it in the airport seemed strange. Using fabric to wrap up a child on the mothers back seemed just as effective and undoubtedly cheaper. The child usually appeared indifferent anyway. Every women and girl had hair, long, well-maintained hair. Many even wore nail polish and make-up. We boarded.
|United Hearts Staff|
Numerous TVs lined the ceilings above the isles. Lights were on and had no chance of going out due to random power outages. I sat. I observed everything. This was strange. I took more pictures. I was always taking pictures. The previous day I had handed over my beloved camera to another trusted volunteer, Sophie, who had captured my goodbyes to all the children, staff and even on stranger at the orphanage. I decided it would be something to look forward to if I waited to look at any pictures taken the previous day until I was airborne.
As I clicked through the photos, my eyes began to water. I paused, collected myself and continued. Again, they filled. I never thought it would be so hard to leave somewhere that only five weeks ago had been completely foreign. I had known no one. Now I sit trying to calculate the possibility of return. My excitement for returning to the US was foggy, mixed and all I could do is think of the past five weeks and the people that made my trip so unforgettable. Strangers had become close friends. Orphans had become children with names, personalities and hearts larger than life. For the last five weeks, Ghana was my home.
I will return…
|United Hearts Children's Center|