Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Elephants, Warthogs, and Crocodiles, Oh My!

Wild Elephant
My two best buds: Rachel and Rusty the Elephant (I named him!)
Making Fufu--a traditional Ghanaian dish
WARTHOGS!!! (a.k.a. Razorbacks!)

For almost a month now I have been in Africa.

And I've felt it. Adjusting here has been one of the more challenging things I have had to do as of late, and things here are just so very different. People talk differently, act differently, and still more important, live differently. It's been an adventure trying to adjust to Ghanaian culture, an adventure that I feel so blessed and grateful to have.

Yet, even with all this adjustment, with new foods, new people, new everything, I still hadn't really grasped that I was in AFRICA.

Finally, it really, truly, hit me this weekend.

Maybe it was the villages we saw alongside the road as we passed by. Watching women pump water from the well, seeing young women carry bowels, buckets, and baskets on their heads, and witnessing these remote communities gathering for a communal meal. These communities were different from what I have seen before on my travels through Ghana, these communities were rural, remote, and what I imagine that most people think of when they think of Africa. There were huts, no signs of electricity, and the wide open spaces of the savannah to bring these communities together.

Maybe it was the 14 hour drive. More specifically, the parts of the drive that were spent on unpaved roads, bumps everywhere, with red dirt flowing by the window.

Maybe it was the bathrooms that we used when we needed to take a bathroom break. Whether using a public bathroom that luxuriously provided toilet paper, or bathrooms that were merely a hole in the ground, or even the side of the road that was used for a make shift bathroom, you really could expect anything.

Maybe it was our morning hike, that moment when we first saw a wild elephant, only feet away from us. I felt the excitement throughout my whole body; here I was, in the habitat of wild elephants.

Maybe it was returning from our hike in Mole, drenched in sweat and dirt, only to find a family of baboons on the doorsteps to our hotel. They were digging through the trashcans, looking for some food, relatively oblivious that they were the objects of our cameras and laughter.

Maybe it was sitting in Amanda's hammock, overlooking the pasture, the trees, and the elephants in the northern part of Ghana. Sitting in this hammock between the trees felt so free, and so perfect. You can only dream of lying in a hammock in such a beautiful place.

Maybe it was visiting the first mosque ever to be built in Ghana (built in the 15th century), greeting the chief of the village, and getting the full history of this mosque.

Maybe it was having a chance to pound the dough in efforts to make fufu, a staple dish in Ghana, and walking around with the small children to their homes in the village of Lebanga.

Maybe it was our safari, cramming in the 4 x 4 with new friends to see the terrain and go deeper into the national park. We saw a herd of elephants and a family of warthogs, and I didn't think the day could get any better after that moment. I couldn't wait to tell people back in Arkansas that yes, Razorbacks do exist.

Maybe it was coming home to Legon and having a heart to heart with Rachel and then later trying to comfort Evan as he threw up on the bus into a blue bucket that had a hole in it. More so, maybe it was taking him to a hospital over 2 hours away from Accra for him to stay overnight and get treatment for Malaria.

Whatever it was, we pulled up to our hostel and I needed some time alone. I walked to the night market to grab an egg sandwich for dinner. I had planned to go to the Superbowl party at the American Embassy, but I too got a little sick and decided to stay in. I had the room alone and tried to write down everything I was feeling, trying to process the entire weekend. It was by far, my favorite trip, and yet I couldn't shake the notion that something was different. Finally, I went out on my balcony to get some fresh air. As I stood out and looked at the stars, at the market, and at people I realized something had changed this weekend.

I am in Africa. I still have over 3 months here. I have time to travel, to learn the ropes, and to fully adjust to Ghanaian society. This is good, wonderful actually, and I feel so lucky to get this chance. It has been a month, and now I can fully say that I get it. I'm here, and I'm experiencing things that I never thought I would. I'm building a life here, and temporary it may be, it is what I have now. I am enjoying every second. I am trying to soak up every day, and to really experience Ghana.

I have been stuck in my room all day because I am still not feeling very well at all. We took Rachel to the hospital last night but she should be okay, Taylor was admitted this morning, Judith was there last night as well, and Evan has malaria. Despite not feeling well, this has allowed me some extra reflection time—much needed reflection time. As the fan from my ceiling whirls the air around my bedroom, so do my thoughts. I am really beginning to soak this all up, and I like the way that feels.

Our trip to Mole National Park solidified everything for me. I can't really pinpoint that moment; rather it may be a mixture of them all. I am grateful for this weekend. Grateful for friends and long talks with laughter, elephants, sunsets, macaroni and cheese (a nice and welcomed change from our Ghanaian diet), our tour guide on the safari, and grateful for the opportunity to venture around Ghana. Even when things are a little tough or frustrating, we are fully beginning to embrace that.

We just laugh and smile and all yell, This is Africa.

1 comment:

  1. ELEPHANTS! SO INCREDIBLY amazing! I hope you feel better. You're in my thoughts and prayers. I'm glad you had a great time this weekend and I am so excited to hear about your comming adventures. I love you so very much. (I've been on skype with Rachel for the last hour and she failed to mention the hospital, needless to say we had a lil chat.)