June 25 - July 10, 2011

Days 1 & 2 - The Journey and First Impressions

Saturday, June 25

We had all woken up at the Ungodly hour of seven or so, drove to the airport, said our farewells to our parents, and set out for the greatest journey of our lives. Sasha was the first one there, her bright and smiling face preparing us for the daunting task ahead. After previously measuring out our checked tubs, the horrifying realization came upon us that a few of the riskier ones had clocked in over the limit. At fifty dollars extra per overweight tub, we simply had to improvise. As we furiously redistributed the cargo, with spirits nearly on the brink of collapse, ex-matadors Jenny Lin and Hannah Collins came to the rescue. Their can-do attitude and sheer brute strength helped us push through the trying moments, with Ben Huppe occasionally assisting as well.

We passed through security without incidence, and after the (comparatively) brief flight to Washington D.C. and an hour lay-over, length of the voyage began to sink in. There was a brief confusion about the selection of in-flight movies, but the bustle of the trip quickly settled into a timeless state of sleep, Sudoku, Mathew McConaughey, and Stephen’s perpetual salad grazing.

Sunday, June 26

After fifteen hours of plane travel, two hours between airports, and seven time zones, we landed in Ghana one day and one hour after leaving Seattle.

It was immediately apparent that we were foreigners. Living in the United States, even in Seattle, we were used to a level of diversity far from Ghana. The handshakes unleashed in the airport would have put even the most accomplished Garfield socialite to shame.

Watching the billboards go by, nearly all of them in English, three products stood out the most: Education, Religion, and wireless phone cards. One attempted to advertise for a vocational school, but a misplaced vowel left the sign hampered, hoping to attract new students to its vacational institution of higher leisure. It may have been the fact that it was a Sunday, but the shop fronts we passed by seemed extremely lackadaisical, with huge groups huddled around games of checkers at gas stations.

After arriving, unpacking the tubs, and settling in, we were introduced to Faustina, the head of the household we were staying at. We also met Youngs and Sammy, who work with Kyla, a woman that helps run VillageNet, the microfinance organization of Ofankor. They were all incredibly warm and friendly. Sammy coaches a men’s soccer team, and Youngs helped all of us learn the standard Ghanian handshake, a combination of handshakes completed with a snap of the fingers. The Frisbees were a huge hit, but when the soccer ball was revealed, all bets were off. While the boys played soccer and goofed around, the girls started furious games of patty-cake and piggy-back rides.

Out in the lawn, Paul asked the kids playing outside their favorite kind of music. With a curt reply of “hip-hop,” the pop-culture trivia began. They knew Jay-Z, Eminem, and Ludacris, but mentioning Lil Wayne’s name garnered a special level of enthusiasm. And T-Pain for sure.

Unlike in Seattle, where the sun can take quite a while to set, in Ofankor, the days last almost exactly twelve hours. Even though it’s the rainy season, we haven’t seen a drop yet. Even a downpour wouldn’t phase our team in the eighty degree weather.

Tim's Two Cents

Ghana is a beautiful country. I’m shocked at how hospitable the Ghanaians are. Their sense of community and willingness to help is like nothing I’ve ever seen. I spoke with a gentleman named Sammymkmji who told me how excited he was for the work the students are doing. In the past, Sammy said, people have promised to bring computers and they never came through. As he sat in the airport waiting for our arrival he still had his doubts that we would show up. He told me when he saw us coming with the gray bins, he was very excited. Sammy said he was excited for the thousands of children that will be able to learn to use a computer and compete with other students across the globe. So far it’s been a great trip (minus the jet lag and lack of sleep AND having to watch Beastly on the flight from Seattle to D.C). Thanks for reading my two cents. I’ll write more later this week.

Comments

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Brian Reed says:

Im glad to read you all made it safely and are getting settled in as a parent i feel confident in saying all of us parents are proud of all of you to go on this adventure of helping to a far away place that you may have never thought about before deciding to give it a go to help people that can truly appreciate the help. Thank You and i think you all will benefit greatlly.Hi Brie :-) LU

Brian Reed

Katrina Kennard says:

Well done, Will and All! Great to read that you all arrived safely, with open eyes and ears and hearts. We'll love to read more as the days and your work unfold. We know you will be wonderful ambassadors for Garfield, for Seattle, for our country. Be well! (and hug Sammy for me -- you know which one).

banna schoenknecht--gramma of the jagger beast(sam) says:

thanks will for the wonderful trip itinerary---i can feel africa through your words. ---have the best time--make friends--work hard and play well! we are so proud of you! thanks for all you do!

Susan R says:

Paul M's aunt Susan here. I enjoyed your first post, and am looking forward to hearing more. Say HI to Paul for me.

Al & Karen Carlson says:

Nice job Will - thanks for the little window into Africa - we look forward to reading more. Take Care

Chanel Robinson says:

Great to hear that everyone is settling in nicely. Savor and appreciate the sights, sound and smells of Ghana, hospitality of the people and enjoy the heat. Say hello to Anis for me :D

Karen Sheridan says:

We have been eagerly awaiting news, thanks so much, Will--a clear rendition of events unfolding. What an adventure, we are proud of you all too and look forward to continuing the journey with you.



Much love to you and the "team." Take care of yourself.

Aunt Karen and the the out-laws.

Kimber Kierstead says:

You have captured and communicated already, some of the excitement, humor and genuine spirit of goodwill that you have experienced. Thanks for the glimpse into your adventure! Hugs to you!

john beserdetsky says:

HI,JASMINE i glad you all had a safe trip .enjoy yourselves i shure you will all come away with as much as you will provide the people of OFANKOR. ill be following the blog . john

Majid and Joann Ramezanzadeh says:

Wow! Such a teamwork and spirit from the airport. We enjoyed watching your coordination working together; what a fine bunch of ambassadors from the USA! Bringing good will to the people and the culture of your world with virtual reality, social media and net surfing to your peers far away. Hi Jasmine :) :)

Colleen Walls & Collette Robinson says:

What a blessed opportunity of a lifetime! Thank you for the updates. Enjoy & Capture! Tell Anis Grandma Colleen & Aunt Collette said Hi:)

Clifton Marshall says:

Anise-



I hope you and all of your friends are having fun. You have to tell me what's Ghana like when you return. See you soon, your brother.

Jane Sheridan says:

Will: Can't wait to learn that handshake. Love to get an update about what's been happening, though I know you're really busy. Inquiring minds want to know...



Love, Mom

Emma B. says:

I'm really impressed by your vocabulary, Will!

Joann & Majid Ramezanzadeh says:

Hi (shabut shalom) Jasmine we MISS YOU . Mom posted comments last week didn't get posted, wonder why!? Everyone wishes YOU lots of fun, LOVE and sends you more LOVE & Hello. -- DAD

Kathy Barker says:

Hi, Sasha! (Hi, everyone!)

Wish I could see you all in action, but I will just have to wait for pictures. It is terrific to read the blog postings though, and be able to imagine you.

The summer seems to have arrived here- it is 75 and sunny, bit of a breeze, just a perfect day.

Perhaps soon you will be hitting the sack: I'm heading out to the sun. Sleep well!

Love,

k

pjambgc says:

I can't believe that Sasha has the tiniest two cents

Harriet Stephenson, The Village Net says:

Thanks for the informative Blog on top of everything else. Neat being able to follow your progress and observations. I can only begin to imagine how grateful the students and teachers are for the computer efforts and what it means to them to be able to get to know you. Huge thanks!