Living the Lion King Day 1

It has been almost 6 months since I went on safari in Kruger National Park in South Africa. 6 months since I discovered what travelling is supposed to be – an adventure that leaves you breathless, inspired, and complete. Going on safari was one of those experiences. After hearing a lion roar deep into the night, seeing a baby hippo yawn and cuddle with its mother, and a giraffe running alongside zebras and warthogs I feel renewed. We all get so caught up in work, life’s little dramas, and money, sitting and watching baby ostriches peck around for food reminds you that there is more to life than the everyday grind. There is a world of adventure out there. You just need to get out and see it. Don’t wait until it is too late, don’t wait to retire. Go. Live.

 


The first day of my safari was marked with intense anticipation. I couldn’t wait to get out there and spot some animals. After a long drive from Johannesburg to the lodge, we finally arrived. I threw my bags down in my plush room. I practically ran to the open safari vehicle, eager to see what sunset had in store for us. I sat in the front row behind the guide. I was joined by a family from Australia and Britain. As we left in our giant vehicle I thought I was going to cry I was so excited. Within a few minutes we came upon a small pond at first I didn’t see anything, and then a head emerged from the water. My first hippo sighting! The hippo peeked his head out of the water and then let out a giant yawn.

DSC_4334

We moved on and our guide Wes told us about the different birds we saw flying by. He pointed out things I never would have even noticed, I really appreciated that. It made the experience all the more enriching. Sitting at the front of the car was our tracker – a highly trained local with eagle eyes and a penchant for animal poop and tracks. He said something in Afrikaans to our guide and he deftly drove us over to a tree, hiding behind the tree was a giraffe, extremely close and skeptical of our intentions. We drove a few feet further and out of nowhere another giraffe emerged from the thick trees. Then another one. And another one.

DSC_4385

Giraffes like to go solo, so seeing a large group of them isn’t common. In the end it was about 12 giraffes travelling together. In the waning light, we watched as sun set over this beautiful group of animals. From the trees, we noticed a smaller giraffe lumber out with his mom and dad. We watched as a group of wry warthogs taunted the baby giraffe, scaring him so much that he leaped into the air. Our guide remarked that he had never seen a giraffe jump. Soon afterward a herd of zebras also came out of the trees accompanied by even more giraffes. A little spook from the warthogs and the giraffes and zebras went running together. All of this happened surrounding our car. I’ll never go to a zoo again.

DSC_4392DSC_4430DSC_4432DSC_4435DSC_4436DSC_4445DSC_4455DSC_4468

As the light faded we went in search of the nocturnal creatures. As we stopped to watch some funny impala, the guide and I heard a faint noise in the distance. The roar of a lion. We travelled along for a short time before the tracker pointed out something in the dirt below us. The guide and the tracker started chatting quickly in Afrikaans and pointing to the ground. We followed the prints in the dirt for sometime. Finally the guide told us they were lion tracks, fresh ones. It was dark now and we were guided by the spotlight on the car. As we turned a corner, the tracker scanned the spotlight over the horizon and right there was our lion. A lovely lioness lounging on a rock. I couldn’t get a good picture of her because of the bad lighting, but she was beautiful. At one point she stood as if to pounce on something but then decided against it and laid back down.

We watched her for about 10 minutes before moving on. We rounded another corner and were greeted by a black rhino trying to cool off. The rhino had rolled in some nasty mud earlier in the day and let it dry against his thick skin. He found a low stump of a tree and we watched as he scratched the mud off. Off his back, sides, butt, and ummm giant rhino oysters.

DSC_4484

We slowly moved on and heard big footsteps. As we turn to our right, we found the source of the early evening’s noise. A male lion. The male lion was on a private reserve, fenced off from main Kruger. The male was giant and the ladies in Kruger knew it. The lady lions could tell based on his roar that he had some mighty fine genes that they wanted to get their paws on. Every night the male lion would pace the fence hoping the ladies would somehow sneak in. It was incredibly sweet and sad at the same time. The male lion laid down for us, he looked so defeated and sad. Our guide wanted to perk up the lion, so he reved the engine – mimicking a roar. The male lion finally got upset enough that he stood up, stared at us, and bellowed out a earthshattering roar. Being that close to a male lion’s roar is phenomenal. You can feel it in your entire body. It reverberates through your bones. Soon after our friendly scratching rhino made a second appearance and we watched as the male lion got up and walked along the fence side by side with the rhino.

Two fierce animals, going about their business deep into the night in South Africa.

Advertisements

South Africa Trip–Durban

My notes from my trip to South Africa were left in one of my boxes during my move. I finally found my tiny little notebook chronically my South Africa extravaganza, so let’s finish this trip shall we?

After Port Elizabeth, I travelled to Durban. It was an extremely long bus ride, made longer by roadwork. 17 hours in a bus. Early on in the trip everyone was chatty. Since I was a single woman travelling alone, I was a point of interest for conversation. Once I told them I was a Volunteer living in the village in Ghana, I won points with the entire bus. It was pretty great. Everyone listened while I told stories from Ghana. I imagined setting up a campfire in the middle of the aisle. I finally made it to Durban and settled into my hostel. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like partying, otherwise that hostel would have been ideal.

I was put in a room with a group of German girls studying at the University in Port Elizabeth. There was one girl who was beautiful, she was German but black. Her father was Namibian and her mother German. We all chatted for a while and I found out that her friends were going to the beach for the day, but she wanted to go shopping. I was planning on shopping the next day, so we decided to go together. The next morning we headed into Durban proper to find this big Indian market. Durban has the biggest population of Indians outside of India. Gandhi got his start here in Durban. We walked around the market for a few hours taking in the mix of Indian curry spices, South African crafts, and perfumes. The area around Durban is Zulu land. The Zulu are known for their beautiful hand carved wooden spoons and bead work.

After the market, we walked around the area for a short bit. Diminga (the German girl) needed to get her hair braided, but only smallsmall. So we went to this crazy back alley creepy hair salon. Here in Ghana everything is open, wide, and in a shack. This salon was tiny and in a back alley. So naturally I was suspicious, but it turns out it was normal. It reminded me of Ghana, the women chatting while doing their hair. Afterwards, we found a shop selling saris. It was so incredibly beautiful. If I had been alone, I would have totally asked to try on a couple. The fabrics were breathtaking. It made me want to book a ticket to India.

We got a little lost but luckily a friendly Indian woman stopped us and told us exactly how to get where we needed to go. We headed to the beach area to shop along the stalls. I bought three beaded bracelets for less than 10 bucks. They are stunning. They are one of my favorite purchases from my trip. I love wearing them.

After a walk along the shops, we headed over to the beach for some ice cream. Honestly, this would have been a great date, ha! It was a school holiday that day so the beach was filled with people from every background you could imagine.

We then headed over to the World Cup Soccer Stadium to meet up with her friends. We took this mini elevator up to the top of the stadium (which is shaped like a basket). You could see all of Durban up there on that platform. It was beautiful. I wish I could have seen a soccer game there. When we came down we ate at Subway, which was fantastic and so American.

I went to dinner by myself afterwards, I wasn’t going to leave Durban without stuffing my face full of Indian food. I had mutton, chicken, this amazing curry rice, a delicious yoghurt sauce, and lots of spice! It was delicious, but the best part was realizing the Indian restaurant in Accra is just as good.

The next day I left for Johannesburg with the bus again. Only I forgot to tell the bus that I changed hostels, so I almost missed the bus which would have been AWFUL. But I didn’t and that’s the great part. It was the first time I actually stressed out during my entire trip.

The trip between Durban and Johannesburg was stunning. We drove by the Drakensberg Mountains. There were gorges, canyons, mountains, lakes, and stretches of nothing. It was like a different planet.

IMG_0211

IMG_0222

IMG_0233

I finally got to Johannesburg in the evening and settled in to my ex-Mafia house hostel. It was a beautiful mansion on a hill overlooking a large section of Johannesburg. I shared my room with a group of South African girls on school holiday. I’m pretty sure they were all Zulu princesses, only problem was they kept running around naked. I see lots of boobs in Ghana, but not in South Africa. The boys on the trip kept coming into the room too. I felt like a chaperone, but it was entertaining. The staff at the hostel was incredibly nice to me and I enjoyed staying there. But I couldn’t wait for the next day – the day I left for my safari.

Well At Least the Concrete Broke My Fall

To say my life is ridiculous would be an understatement. The past few months have been crazy, what with being evacuated from site, landlord/housing debacles, and now this. I’m pretty sure the last PCV to live in this house cursed it prior to leaving. That is the only rational explanation for my spectacular first full day at my new site. No welcome home is complete without a trip to the ER, right?

Saturday started like any normal day. I woke up to the sweet sound of silence and the harmattan tinged red rays of the sun. Wait, that’s not true, I woke up because my new little kitten decided to go spastic, jumping and pouncing over every surface of my body. After a couple of time out tosses from the bed, I finally succumb to his wishes and get up. At which point, he decides he wants to go nap in the corner. Typical.

I decided to mentally map out my day: paint, shop, watch a movie, unpack, play with cat. In that order. So while it was still relatively cool outside I gathered my paint can and prepared to paint. I have only four walls and I was only planning on painting three. So I set to work painting, dancing, and trying to avoid stepping on my cat (who naturally was sitting right between my legs the entire time). In order to get the top part of the wall, I had to step on my small table. Eventually once I had made my way to the final wall, the guy that lives behind me decided to come over, grab the paint brush, and finish for me. Whatever. He stood on the table the entire time though. Just painting the hell out of my wall.

After all three walls are expertly painted and my eyes have started to burn from the fumes, I hop into the shower area. I take a well deserved bucket bath, making sure to scrub the hell out of my body. I needed to attack the paint, sweat, and cat scratches off my body. I get dressed, throw on a dress, grab my shopping list and make my way to town. My first adventure into my new town as my town. First things first, I head to a good chop bar for some delicious banku. After I stuff myself with two balls of banku, three things of chicken, and a heap of groundnut soup, I head to the batik section of the Techiman market.

It’s curtain shopping time! I find three different batik patterns that look fabulous together and happily buy them. I then head over to a tailor and have the batik made into fabulous curtains of fabulousness. I go on to buy other things, including nails, a broom, plastic buckets, copious amounts of toilet paper, all the stuff you need to move in. Afterwards, I head home laden down with goods.

I spent the afternoon looking at my stuff, thinking about watching some movies, and obsessing over my curtains. I hang up the rope for my curtains and hammer the nails in with my lock (I didn’t have a hammer…). The curtains aren’t perfect, but I let them be. I come back about 30 minutes later and I can’t stand the thought of my curtains not being perfect. So I get back on my table and I start adjusting the curtains. Suddenly I feel myself losing my balance and I hear a very audible crack underneath me. I grab for the rope, but feel it snap in my hands. The table is slowly falling backwards with my body being ejected from the table top. I land square on my tailbone with my legs on top of the side of the table. I’m still wearing a dress and my legs are spread open for the entire neighborhood to see what Obruni panties look like. Because only I would fall that ridiculously. The first thing I do is realize I can’t move. Then I realize that’s a problem. I start screaming “HELP! HELP!” until I realize no one near me speaks English. So I just start making weird noises to get someone’s attention. Finally after what seems like forever, someone comes over to pull me up. They don’t speak English, but I kept telling them “no, I can’t move.” After another bout of forever, someone comes who does speak English and he picks me up and puts me on my bed. The landlady rushes over and starts pounding on my back, attempting in a very weird fashion to violently massage the pain away. I’m crying and in serious agony. I say the one thing I know she will understand “cell phone.” She finds it and gives it to me.

I dial for the PCMO, even though I know it is a Saturday. No answer. I try again. No answer. I try again. Still nothing. So I called the next person I could think of who would be able to help – the PCV in charge of the Kumasi office. She calls in the troops and about 5 minutes later the PCMO calls me. He tells me to get to the Holy Family Hospital in Techiman.

Oh god no. I have to go to the village hospital in Ghana? Oh god, oh god. This isn’t happening. The landlady and her son? call for a taxi and about 10 minutes later they hobble me over to the car. It takes me 3 minutes just to sit down. The taxi driver decides to drive like a maniac and take the only damn road in Techiman that has speedbumps. We are in a Daewoo. The bottom of the car is approximately 2 inches off the ground. Every time we went over a speedbump I thought my life was over. I felt like someone was smashing my rear with a frying pan. It took everything not to burst into tears every few seconds.

Finally we get to the hospital and they help me out of the car. The second I get out of the car with assistance I hear an eruption of cheers. I still don’t know where they were coming from, but hiding somewhere within the courtyard of the Holy Family Hospital a crowd of Ghanaians was cheering for the lame ass white girl. They were probably laughing at me, but in my disabled state I took it as encouragement. Semantics really. They heave me over to the ER which tells me, no go get registered in the other building. So we hobble over the other way. They set me down at the window for registration. The seat was a slated wood bench which was quite possibly the least inviting seat I’ve ever seen in my life. Sitting down was like sitting on a bed of hot coals – excruciating and unpleasant. I burst into tears upon sitting down and the man at the window starts asking me questions. The PCMO was calling me every few minutes, so I was answering question after question. Finally the window man asks me for my telephone number (right after he asked me which Christian denomination I was, that was awkward!). I told it to him, but he didn’t understand me. I suddenly started to feel queasy and like I might pass out. He asked me for my phone number again and I couldn’t for the life of me remember it. I kept saying numbers out loud and hoping they were correct. A group of interested onlookers stared at me like I was an even weirder white girl who couldn’t string 10 numbers together.

After I yelled incoherent numbers at the man for an adequate amount of time, they hauled me over to the triage unit. I honestly don’t know if that’s what it was, but that’s what I’m calling it because it sounds cool. I really should know these things, I did hospital advertising. Anyway, a man has me stand on a scale to weigh me. That didn’t go so well. The man told me to stand on the scale, then walked away to chat with his buddy about soccer or something. Here I am wobbling on a scale, barely able to stand up, and this guy is chatting it up? After a good 30 seconds of standing on the scale, my landlady and her son catch me as I fall backwards, very close to passing out. They sit me down in the chair to get my blood pressure checked.

I am not even exaggerating when I say the man took my BP no less than 10 times. He checked it first 5 times and then asked me if I was feeling dizzy. No shit Sherlock, did you watch me fall off the scale? Then he kept checking it like he was a med student on drugs who thought it would be fun to listen to my arm make cool noises. Finally he sends me on my way and I’m dragged over to the ER again. They sit me down, this time in evil metal chairs, and have me wait for what I don’t know. The PCMO is freaking out because I haven’t been seen yet and damnit, white girl needs attention! I’m not going to lie, sometimes I like getting special treatment because I’m a different color. Sometimes I get a better seat in the taxi, skip the bank line, or get my food faster. But this time, when I really wanted special treatment, they were not giving it. I sat and waited in line like everyone else. And honestly, despite the pain I was in, I appreciated the art of the queue. Lines are there for a reason, to keep things orderly and organized. I truly treasure queues, especially when they are followed. So, despite the PCMO calling in favors, hustling up the nursing staff, and calling friends who work at the hospital, I waited in line just like the rest of the incredibly ill folks.

So let me paint a picture of what a Ghanaian ER looks like for you. For starters, there was the smell. It didn’t smell like anything, which is actually rare in Ghana. Upon entering the ER, to the left there was three hospital beds sitting right next to the waiting chairs. Each bed was occupied with an ill woman. The women were hooked up to IVs and looked downright despondent. The lady closest to me just stared at me the entire time I was there. I never saw her move, which was really creepy. Heaven knows if she was really there. The chairs faced the hospital rooms which were very small and had two beds in them each. Each bed had at least 5 people on it, only one person was the patient. Everyone had family there feeding them, bathing them, or otherwise taking care of them. The nurses station was to the right and there were 3 women manning the station. I watched as they started to give an IV hookup to a woman, but she forgot something. So the nurse just left the needle in the woman’s hand, facing the traffic flow, and got up to raid the cabinent for something she needed. She took a good 2 minutes to find what she needed before heading back to attend to the woman. The lady sitting next to me was clearly very sick and was being assisted by 4 family members. One person to keep her head up. One person to give her water (despite the IV drip) and one person to bark orders at the nurses. Everyone needs an order barker, I had one (my landlady). The woman was about my age and she wasn’t responding to anything. She sat there like a vegetable unable to keep her own head from falling to the side. I wasn’t sure what was wrong with her, but I knew I didn’t want it.

Finally they call me up to the nurses station for more BP taking. I notice a nice pool of blood on the floor and on the table from the last lady. (By the way, there were no men in the ER – the only one was the doctor – no patients.) Despite my addled pain brain, I point to the blood, give the most disdainful “I don’t think so” look I can give and wait for the nurse to clean the place up before I sit down. While they look my BP another 3 times I sat there repeating the mantra “please no IV” over and over in my head. All they needed was my BP. Now, I didn’t notice this until after the nurse attended to me, but up until this point not a single person had asked me what happened or why I was there. I found that very curious.

So after another 10 minutes, the doctor finally calls me into his office. He asks me what I did and what hurts. I tell him about falling on my ass and he barely listens. He writes down in my little book in the worst scribble imaginable something about something. He tells me I need an XRay, prescribes some pain pills, and sends me on my way. I was in the office for a total of about 1 minute. Most of which was spent watching him write in my book. The XRay technician wasn’t there though, because it was a Saturday so they spent a good 20 minutes calling every number possible trying to find the guy.

The landlady and her son leave me to collect my pills. I sat in silence as I waited for the Xray technician to show up. Do you have any idea how painful it is to sit on a hard, metal chair for over an hour alone with really sick people when your ass feels like the bones have been ripped to shreds? It felt amazing…I sat there and just watched people stricken with tropical diseases be attended to by the nurses. They didn’t have enough room for this one lady so they just dragged over a curtain and put her behind it in the waiting area. I watched as old women who would barely move pissed in buckets next to their beds. A family member would promptly grab it and go wash it out. The women would then slowly roll back over covering themselves with their two yards. I felt like the entire world was moving around me, like I was stuck in a time warp watching life pass in front of me. Then the XRay technician showed up and they hobbled me down the corridor. Once I was almost there someone came over to offer me a wheelchair. Seriously? Where were you like oh, say 2 hours ago?

We get to the XRay room and I was surprised at how medical it looked. I mean it looked like a real XRay machine, a real medical room, and professional. The XRay technician had at least one drink earlier in the day, that much was obvious. He began asking me a series of questions while the landlady (who speaks NO ENGLISH) looked on.
Tech: “Do you have buttons?”
Me: “No.”
Tech: “You have zipper?”
Me: “No.”
Tech: “How did you get dress on then?”
Me: “What?”
Tech: “Underwear – it have buttons?”
Me: “Ummm, no.”
Tech: “Do you have waaast beaaads?”
Me: “Huh?”
Tech: starts patting down my sides and stomach area. “waist beads?”
Me: “Oh, no.”
The tech then looks at the landlady and then back to me in pure disbelief. He points at the machine and tells me to lay down. Great, more painful metal tables. It took me at least 2 minutes to just lay down from a sitting position. He pokes around for my belly button and then adjusts the table. He doesn’t put any lead apron on me, just casually slinks over to his bunker and pushes a button. I feel my insides cooking and growing cancer cells. After a quick XRay development he puts the image up to the light and then starts pointing at random places around my hip. Oh god, I shattered my hip! The landlady walks over lifts up my dress looks underneath and says something to the doctor.

I ask the doctor if he wants me to change into the dressing gown. He agrees so I hop off the table (hop meaning take 5 minutes to labor myself off the table) and head over the salon style doors to change into something a little more comfortable. The landlady follows me and helps me undress. Oh hey, I just met you and this is crazy, but can you help me get naked? So not only have I just met this woman today, but now she has seen exactly what my pasty white ass looks like. Surprise! It’s white. Time for round two. Another trip onto the table, more inside cooking, and image developing.

I redress and head back outside XRay in hand. Honestly it was pretty quick. Much faster than all my XRays in America have gone. And by that I mean the one I had when I was like 14. We go back to the waiting area for I don’t know what. I notice that the landlady has a vial in her hand with my name on it. Oh no. Oh god. WHAT IS THAT? She hands it to the nurse and the nurse takes a saber to the top of the vial. Slices it right off. She pulls out a needle, turns to me and gives me a fantastic show of exactly how you put meds into a needle. She squeezes it for fun and I watch as out spurts liquid horror. I put out my arm and turn my head to the side. Oh no, she says, come with me. I follow her a few feet to a door.

She opens the door and I notice it is basically a cupboard. Inside are two broken chairs, a few deserted sandals, a dirty towel, and various other odds and ends. She tells me, I’m going to put the medicine directly into your butt to make the pain go away. I protest saying that needle your holding is pain itself. What makes you think this won’t hurt more. She says – oh it will. Then she says the one thing I will always remember, “now don’t scream like a small girl.” She lifts up my skirt, pulls down my panties, and I brace for impact. Of course I let out a small gasp/scream. She just jabbed a needle in my butt cheek. How do you not react to that?

And that was it, all finished. I was free to go. I was confused though, doesn’t the doctor have to look at the XRay – shouldn’t someone evaluate it? Nope, not necessary, he will look at it Monday. WHAT? They lead me outside to get a taxi and I call the PCMO. Apparently the XRay technician has already spoken to the PCMO and told him that I don’t have any broken bones. Oh, well then. When was someone going to tell me that? I demand fufu from my neighbors and they pick up the necessary goods to make it along the way home.

I get home and look at the time, I was only there for about 2 and a half hours. Not bad for a trip to the ER. I chug down the pain meds, eat my fufu in peace, and get another call from the PCMO. They want me down in Accra for further evaluation. So someone will come and pick me up, since I can’t ride in a tro, and I will be flown down to Accra.

Word of my demise spread fast, especially since Becky (Kumasi office PCVL) and the PCMO called every single Volunteer nearby to come to my aid. My best friend wasn’t able to come help me, but honestly I was okay. I had two Ghanaians babying me and I just really needed food and to lay down. Food would be easy enough to mooch, plus I had crackers and Chocodelight. If I were a doctor I would prescribe that for all patients, except those with diabetes, because that would be negligent. I kinda forgot about breakfast though and didn’t realize pain meds would make me ravenous. So when PC came to pick me up Sunday I was close to eating my arm. Luckily, since I had just moved in I still had a packed bag with freshly washed clothes. Ridiculously convenient. I gave instructions to the neighbors for feeding my cat and was whisked away to my awaiting plane, two hours away. First stop, rice and chicken. Jollof and fried chicken never tasted better.

I rambled in my half delusional for the entirety of the trip to the airport. Becky and Tess waited with me at the airport until I could check into my flight. Then I waited for another 45 minutes to board. Finally I went through security which was a joke, although they did have me take out my laptop. Finally, it was time to board my flight. To say I was excited would be a bit of an understatement. Despite being in incredible pain, I had always wondered how magical it would be to fly within Ghana. To avoid all those potholes. To just skip over the two hours of hellish road that leads to Accra. To spend less than an hour travelling when normally it takes 5-8 hours. But then I had to walk to the plane. The plane was parked a fair distance away on the tarmac. I hobbled over to the plane like a geriatric hip replacement patient. I was carrying my backpack (couldn’t even get it on my back), my XRay, and my handbag. I finally made it to the plane and then had to ascend the steep stairs into the plane. The flight attendant looked at me like I was insane, why on earth would a fresh, young person be walking like that? I make it to my seat, sit down and assess my surroundings. I’M ON A PLANE! HOLY SHIT. There was even first class. First class for a flight that I soon found out would take 35 minutes. I still shake my head in disbelief at the people who pay for first class on an inner country flight for a country the size of Oregon.

We take off and down come the TVs – in flight entertainment. Then come the drinks. Is this the real life? I’m flabbergasted. We arrive in Accra a few minutes later and I suddenly realize I’m not in Kansas anymore. And by Kansas I mean Kumasi. And by Kumasi I mean under the effects of the Harmattan. Accra was about 90 degrees with 90% humidity. It felt like walking into a swamp with a parka on. I walk over to the exit and right there is a beautiful white mega SUV with the Peace Corps logo on it, waiting to take me to the office. I felt like I was on a different planet. I felt like one of those expats who come to Africa with 30 suitcases full of fine clothes and powerbars. Once I realized how high up the seat was and how difficult it was going to be actually getting in the car, the dream like state washed away and I remembered exactly why I was there.

The driver tore through the streets of Accra with poise and very little bumps, thank god. The PCMO was there waiting for me at the office (on a Sunday evening! I love the PCMO!). The first thing I said to the PCMO was “so we meet again…” So, we have two newish PCMOs, one female from Turkmenistan and one male from Ghana. I’ve spent more time with the male one and I was glad he was on duty. I like his sense of humor, he probably thinks all PCVs are all walking time bombs. I just so happen to blow up fairly frequently. And he gives me some medicine and I’m reassembled. See I have this thing for disdain, I love disdain. I’ve been told I have three modes – disdainful, extremely disdainful, and bitchy. The male PCMO has a very subtle current of disdain as well and because I’m attuned to disdain wavelengths, I can pick up on it very easily. That’s why we get along. I know that when he sees me, hears from me, or reads my text messages he is probably rolling his eyes wondering “what now…” And that’s not a bad thing, because honestly I think that myself too. WHAT NOW BODY? what now. So rolling up in the Peace Corps vehicle, hobbling out, and saying “so we meet again” was probably the most James Bond villain I’ll ever get in my life. Another thing I can check off my bucket list.

He took my vitals, let me ramble on about how evil tables are, and told me I needed an MRI. WHATTTT? I thought MRIs were just for brain scans and cancer. Turns out they are just super magical tools for looking inside your body without having to grab a scalpel. That evening I went over to a PC staff’s house and had dinner with a few other volunteers. Do you have any idea how wonderful real burritos with mango salsa, homemade guacamole, beef, and cheese taste when your body is trying to tell you your ass isn’t welcome here anymore? They taste wonderful. Oh and Cherry Coke. Sometimes I forget how fantastic it is to be an American, with access to food, glorious food. I’m just kidding I think about food all the time, who am I kidding. Ground beef really does a lot for your spirit though, let me tell you. So after a hardy meal, I was happy to pass out and await my MLK day MRI.

The PCMO went with me to arrange the MRI, they told us to come back in 45 minutes so I begged them to let me find something to eat. We drove around looking for food on the street, but unlike all the other towns in Ghana, Accra is hoity toity and it is harder to find street food. Finally we get to a place with egg sandwiches and I happily eat the most delicious breakfast ever. Back to the MRI place and they have me change into a dressing gown. I go inside and I’m very happy that it is an open MRI. I have to use stairs to get on the table, which again takes me a ludicrous amount of time to get on. They position me so that my arms are above my head, a pillow is under my knees, and a plastic contraption is encasing my hips. They were very kind and put a thick blanket over my legs – so thoughtful, it was cold in there! I can’t move for thirty minutes so I drift into a state of day dreaming. I couldn’t actually fall asleep because the sound of the MRI was far too interesting and loud to allow for sleep. I had a brain MRI once and that was loud as hell, this one was much more soothing. In fact it reminded me of Close Encounters of the Third Kind which is one of my favorite movies. I spent the thirty minutes thinking of things I wanted to do but now couldn’t because I was a gimp. Damnit. It only took 10 minutes though for the pain in my hips and ass to become insanely painful. All the pressure in my legs was being forced into the parts that hurt. Somehow I mentally pushed through the pain (didn’t take a painkiller that morning) and accepted my fate. The mind really is rather powerful. After thirty minutes the MRI was finished and we went on our merry way. The results didn’t come back until Tuesday late afternoon and they were in doctor lingo. The PCMO needed time to translate them, so I came back Wednesday. Luckily, it was nothing serious or sinister as the PCMO pointed out. It did say though that I had bulging discs in my tailbone. Two of them.

About 15 minutes prior to getting the results of my MRI I got an amazing care package from my dear colleagues at my old job. Inside were all the things a girl needs to feel better – trivia, ugly doctor photos, peanut M&Ms, hand sanitizer that smells good, a stress ball in the shape of a skull, cards, cheese whiz, and the greatest gift of all time. A coozie that says “That’s what she said.” So when I got the results of my MRI I giggled and thought about my lovely coozie and how much I would like a nice cold beer out of that coozie while I repeated the words – bulging discs.

My prescribed course of action? Take pain pills, take it easy, and no more standing on tables. Well there goes my career as a table dancer, damnit. So they kicked me out of the med unit and put me in a Peace Corps car going back north. It was me, another PCV, and two staff members squished into a stuffed car laden down with mail. We took the crappy road. It took 5.5 hours to get to Kumasi. My knuckles were white from clutching on to the hand thingy near the window. What are those things called anyway? Handle? No. I don’t know, anyway. Each speedbump, acceleration, brake, and swerve to avoid potholes was like a hot poker on my ass. My knee also got a bit of damage from my fall so sitting for that long was doing wonders for my knee too. I was so ready to just scream “LET ME OUT!” when I saw that we were only 15 minutes away from salvation. Then it started to rain. Seriously? Ghana, stop it.

I had taken a pain pill halfway through the ride and it kicked in at about that 15 minute mark. So by the time we got to the office I was white knuckled, white faced, starving (hadn’t eaten anything that day), and feeling the effects of the painkillers. There were a lot of people at the office for a meeting the next day and when I walked in it was like they all saw a ghost. I probably did look like shit, let’s be honest. I wasn’t really coherent either, luckily someone got me some food and I cuddled with my bestie. The pain was so great I couldn’t leave the next day. When I thought of sitting on a tro for another 2-3 hours over a speedbump infested road, I imagined sitting on top of a rodeo bull with spikes on his back.

And that’s basically what I got when I left Friday. The tro I got into filled pretty fast and I picked the back row next to the window, just in case I needed to puke. Who knows? So two ladies sit next to me and for once they were tiny. For the first time in history I didn’t touch the person sitting next to me on the tro. There was literally inches of space between us. It was spectacular. Well, until we started moving. Turns out the back seat hadn’t been bolted back in when they last took it out. So we were sitting on a seat that wasn’t exactly stable to say the least. Every time the driver accelerated, slowed down, went over a speedbump, or passed another car my entire row went sailing forward into the seats in front of us. The entire seat would lift off the ground and go forward. It wasn’t that bad on my rear though considering it wasn’t touching the seat half the time, since half the ride I was airborne. I was queasy with a pounding headache though the entire ride and my ass was still in serious pain. Normally I suffer through tros pretty easily. I’ve developed a hefty amount of patience in this country and I can occupy my time quite well. Well, my head hurt so I couldn’t listen to music. I didn’t even want to think because that would hurt my head more. The pain was radiating throughout my entire body, which clouded my mind even further. So I sat there and suffered in agony for two hours. And for probably only the second time in country, kept repeating in my mind “are we there yet?!” I’ve never been so happy to see the Techiman station. I promptly got a drop taxi and hustled my broke ass home.

My new goal was to stay in my new house for at least 48 hours without injury, a need to call the PCMO, or being run out of town by an evil arch-nemesis. Well it is now Thursday and I’m happy to say I made it so far through the week with only minor injury to myself. I tripped and almost fell into the most terrifying gutter in Ghana and that screwed up my back again, but luckily I rested and it felt better. My back/butt/hips still hurt like no one’s business but I’m able to carry on. I try to walk a decent distance everyday so as to keep my body from withering away, but I can’t otherwise exercise. So much for my resolution to do daily squats. My ass is doomed for all eternity to be big, broken, and legendary.

Hard to believe it has only been about 16 months in country. I’ve already experience enough for a lifetime. With every tumble I take, I continue to believe that Peace Corps has been the best decision I ever made. I can handle a lot more than I thought I was ever capable of withstanding. Except tables, apparently they can’t handle me.

But my curtains look great!

Bastards.

Port Elizabeth

So I arrived in Port Elizabeth exhausted and late at night. I had quite an eventful night that night. I got to my backpacker and was instantly greeted by a creepy, fat, old Afrikaaner. This old man started hitting on me and grabbed me into the most awkward side hug that had me scrambling to get the hell out of this guy’s way. I settled into my bed, threw my earplugs in, and settled in for a nice long sleep.

Well that didn’t exactly work out for me. Around 1am the creepy old man comes into my dorm room and stumbles into the top bunk next to mine. He proceeds to take his pants off, and his underwear. My earplugs were surprisingly good but not near good enough to block out what proceeded. My bag was smushed near the door to the bathroom. My mind instantly kicks into gear and I start fearing that this piss drunk old man is going to stumble to the bathroom in the middle of the night, puke or piss on my stuff. I try to just roll over and sleep through this old man’s loud drunk ranting, but then something happened that was just disgusting. He whips out his tiny little…and starts to masturbate, loudly. A few minutes later he gets up to go the bathroom and I quickly escape from the room. Luckily someone was still at reception, so I told them what was going on and how I didn’t sleep the night before because of some rude Germans having loud sex. They gave me the key to an empty single room and I went there to crash. Thank god.

The next day I woke up, gave back the key and got ready for my day trip to Addo Elephant Park. My brain works in mysterious ways because when I walked back into my dorm room I saw a puddle of piss on the floor. W.T.F. This man was over 50 years old and a train wreck. I changed dorm rooms.

So, things improved rapidly once I left the hostel. I grabbed breakfast at McDonalds, which honestly was amazing. I hate McDonalds in America, but I hate to admit hashbrowns and a McMuffin…sure does a lot for one’s spirit! About an hour later I was picked up for my day safari. I was joined by two super friendly Israeli guys and a Belgian older man. Our guide was amazing and drove us quickly to the gate of Addo.

Within two minutes of being in the park we spotted two of the big five! I’m not sure if I have mentioned this before, but the big five are:
Leopard, lion, elephant, water buffalo, and rhinoceros. Why are they called the big five? Despite the fact that they are mostly hard to find while on safari, they are also deadly to hunters. Those five animals require a backup if you were to hunt them. Just in case you miss the first shot, you will need someone to shoot a kill shot otherwise you will be dead, eaten alive by a lovely lioness. When you go on safari, it is sort of a bucket list to see the big five. It is like unlocking achievements – you can say you’ve been on safari, but you can’t reach the next level of awesome until you have seen the big five.

So right upon entering the park we saw an elephant and water buffalo grazing next to each other. We moved on to a watering hole and before we could see anything our guide says: “oh you guys are in for a treat!” Which instantly a smile lit up my face because I knew I was going to be a happy girl. We spotted a herd of elephants running towards the watering hole. We watched for at least 30 minutes as they merrily and quietly drank as much water as they wanted. And thanks to my dear friend Wayne, I caught it all on camera.

DSC_4009DSC_4021DSC_4028DSC_4037DSC_4044DSC_4057

We watched as the elephants merrily lapped up as much water as they could. It seemed like an elephant tussle was about to happen too, because as you can see in the bottom photo there was an elephant stand off. And in the very last picture you can see a baby elephant drinking milk from Mom. Cute? Yes. Amazing? Absolutely!

After about 30 minutes at the watering hole we kept on searching for more animals. Our driver spotted another family of elephants and drove towards them. The family quickly came by our car and surrounded us. They were so close you could reach out and touch them. I could see all the eyelashes and the color of their eyes (a beautiful amber orange). You could feel the power radiating off them.

DSC_4113

DSC_4115

We continued searching for animals, but didn’t seem to have much luck, so we headed to lunch. We stopped at a little farm stall for lunch. I chose salad, because that’s a luxury item, and I scarfed it down. After lunch we headed to a private game reserve for the rest of the day. We changed vehicles from a van to an actual open safari 4×4. As we approached the gates to the reserve, I realized it was a lot like entering Jurassic Park. Who knows what might find us behind the electric fences and 20ft tall razorwire. The guide asked if anyone wanted to sit up top. I was the only single person along for the ride, so of course I jumped on the chance. I hoped out of the vehicle and headed to the hood of the car. On the hood of the car, right above the left light, there was a padded seat with two baby handles. My feet reached down into the bush and the driver sped off.

I can’t begin to tell you what an incredible experience it was to ride open through the bush on safari. Anytime I recall the experience, I feel like I am walking into a chocolate factory and given the keys. I can feel the wind in my hair, on my face; I can smell the earthy scent of South Africa; I can remember the sensation of spotting the animals. There is truly nothing else in the world comparable to that feeling, the complete rush of being exposed on safari. And there is no rush that compares to sitting on top of a safari vehicle when you approach a rhino.

 

DSC_4146

As we came upon this white rhino, the guide instructed me “if the rhino looks angry or moves towards us, as quickly and quietly as possible scramble up to the hood of the car.” We sat and watched this white rhino and her mate snuggle in the grass for a small while. They looked so content and happy. And I watched them with my feet dangling in the grass, a mere 15ft from them.

We continued on in the search for giraffes and we spotted these guys in the distance. These were the first giraffes I saw in South Africa and I was looking forward to seeing giraffes the most. Given my ridiculously long neck, awkward knees, and gangly body, I’ve always loved giraffes. The guide could tell how excited I was and asked if we wanted to get down and walk with them.

UM. YES. So we got off the vehicle, dodged the various piles of poo in the grass, and walked alongside these giants. They stared at us like we were crazy, but didn’t really give us the time of day. They just kept on chomping down on the tall leaves. They were beautiful and magical animals.

DSC_4219

Afterwards we stopped for tea and biscuits, it was starting to get cold. But we continued on for a sunset drive. The sun setting over the grasslands in Africa should be on everyone’s bucket list. We came upon this lovely zebra, and the light was spectacular. But we really wanted to find lions.

DSC_4240

And that’s what we found. The whole pride of them. 8 in all, but the male dad was off doing something (we found him later). These little guys were all 11 months old and cute as can be. They watched us intently as we snapped happy pictures of the king of the jungle. Lions look incredibly cute, but they truly are deadly predators. And they are quite vicious in their killings, some animals will put their prey out of their misery, but apparently lions like to torture their prey – not on purpose. Sometimes they will suffocate the guys slowly or rip their genitals off. Want to cuddle one now? Lions can’t sweat, so they are relieved from the heat through their paws, which is why during the day you will see them rolled over or paws up. If you look at their eyes they have white near their eyeballs, apparently it helps with their vision (which is ridiculously good at night). Their ears are sensitive too and any little movement will perk them straight up.

DSC_4256DSC_4259DSC_4292DSC_4303

 

After the lions we headed to dinner, which was a traditional heavy bush meal. It was very cold outside, so I grabbed a glass of red wine and sat by the bonfire. We burned thorny bushes, which burn extremely fast and generate a lot of heat. The sparks from the fire raced into the inky blue sky and faded into the stars above. The sky was only visible through a tiny patch through the trees, but it was spectacular. As we sat around the fire, I heard something in the distance. Then I heard it again. We all fell silent as we listened to the male lion roaring. The noise fills your entire being with awe, wonderment, and thrill. It reverberates through your chest and takes the air from your lungs. The sound rattles your ribs and fills your ears.

As we leave the park, we find the male lion roaming alone through the savannah. I stare up into the starry sky and close my eyes and take a deep breath. I want to soak it all in. I want to remember this moment, because this moment is heavenly. 

You can just call me Queen

Yesterday I was finally given my Ghanaian name. So, I’ve had a few different names since I’ve been here. White girl, obruni, Jackie, Maame Amaokua, Akosua, and my personally favorite Sister. There are only a handful of Ghanaians that know my real name and sometimes I even forget it when I see my fellow Americans. I’ve never been truly given a Ghanaian name though. It is a big honor to be given a name and I had been waiting patiently for too long.

Okay, so that’s a bit of a lie. Maame Amaokua was a given name, but it was because she couldn’t say my real name. So she gave me something I couldn’t say.

So yesterday after over a year of waiting, I was finally given my name. My Ghanaian mother deliberated while eating her fufu and then just randomly blurted it out.

Nana Akosua Adjeiwaa the Second, Queen Mother of Bui.

Woah! I was just expecting one name, I got three, a title, and some digits. My Ghanaian father came out afterwards and congratulated me on becoming his new Queen Mother. He then informed me that we will have to plan a ceremony to enstool me. That’s right, it isn’t just a name, it is a duty. So Bui is a pretty tiny village 2 hours North of me. But, it just so happens to be getting a giant dam there. So, it may be small, but it is powerful – just like the tiny river that will soon power all the Northern regions of Ghana.

So I’m not sure if you know this yet, but I’m kind of a big deal. I became a Queen overnight. I always wanted to be a princess, this is much better. So earlier yesterday I was just known as Akosua Jackie, now I’ve been officially upgraded. I just joined the royal family.

 

So what do Queen Mothers do? Well, the Queen Mother advises the Chief on all matters. The Queen Mother represents the women in the traditional council. The Queen Mother is also responsible for choosing the next Chief. So even though Ghana is a male dominated society, it is actually matriarchal.

And I just became that matriarch. 

Cape Town

Upon arriving in Cape Town, I instantly realized that driving on the left is FREAKING SCARY. I wasn’t actually driving, but just sitting in the car. To me it looked like everyone was going to drive straight into us. I was basically bracing for impact the entire time I was in a car.

From the airport, I went straight to the Backpacker – my hostel. It was gorgeous, clear perfect views of all of Table Mountain. I put my stuff down in the room and instantly noticed something I hadn’t seen in well over a year and a half: a down comforter. A big, fluffy, down comforter. All I wanted to do was curl up in it and be fluffy and warm inside my little dorm bed, but no. I had other plans. Which most definitely included Table Mountain.

Taking a cab, I quickly made it to the cable car station for Table Mountain. It was fascinating talking to the cab driver because he was from the DRC (Congo). We talked about fufu and life in “real Africa.” He invited me to his house for fufu, which I declined.

DSC_2720

And away I went.

DSC_2815

The view was spectacular. You could see everything, all of Cape Town proper, the harbour, Robben Island (where Mandela was imprisoned), the beaches, all from up in the clouds. It was incredibly cold, my nose was running nonstop. And by incredibly cold I mean somewhere in the 50s. While up on top of the end of the world, I grabbed a smallsmall snack. A CHEESE PLATTER. Enough said. I drank it down with some sparkling apple juice. I was back in business.

I made my way back to my hostel and changed for dinner. AKA sexy dress time! Before dinner I was meeting my new friend that I made at the Joburg airport for a tour of his hometown. He is Xhosa and from Cape Town so he took me on a sunset drive of the area. If it had been a bona fide date, it would have been pretty damn romantic. He dropped me off at my restaurant and I invited him to join me. He had a really fascinating job – working with GPS/GIS stuff all around Africa. (We have a big GPS push in PC Ghana, so it was cool talking to him.)

Food porn time. The restaurant I went to was called Azure. It was in a 5 star hotel and the restaurant overlooked the setting sun on the Atlantic Ocean. I ordered two starters: a nice squid dish and duck bresola. The squid was so fresh, you could almost smell the salty ocean coming from the plate. It was served with some squid ink, which reminded me of a fabulous vacation I took with my aunt many moons ago. The duck bresola was to die for, so tender and flavorful, not at all gamey. After the starters (which even though my new friend was joining me for dinner, we did not share. Sorry buddy.), they brought out an interesting looking dish that I didn’t order. It was Asian styled spoons with little baby sherberts sitting on top. The waiter then poured some liquid over it and POOF. It was like a genie coming out of a lamp, the entire table was filled with smoke and fog pouring over the sides onto the floor. They win big points for theatrics. Then came my main dish. Oh lord. Oh lord. Porkbelly, with pumpkin and deliciousness. It tasted like walking into a warm, cozy living room with a roaring fire during fall. It tasted like crunchy, falling orange leaves and pumpkin pie in the oven. It was heavenly. For desert, I had the sampler. Bread pudding, fresh fruit, mocha thing, and something else delicious. It was DIVINE. After dinner my friend drove me back to the hostel and I passed out in my fluffy warm bed.

The next day I woke up and took an incredibly hot, long shower. Because I could. Around 8:30 Rob from Cape Convoy Tours picked me up for my full day tour of the area. I booked this tour ages in advance. I read all sorts of raving reviews online and was determined to do this tour. It wasn’t looking promising until a few days before we some other people booked. THANK GOD. I got to ride shotgun, which is basically like being a princess. Obviously. We drove for a while along the most scenic route I have ever witnessed. Winding roads hugging mountains, waving hello to the ocean below.

DSC_2829

The early morning light was hypnotic, the sun looks so different when you are at the end of the world. We came to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point, literally the tip of Africa. I walked up the mountainside and was amazed by the views. The water was clear and shades of blue I didn’t know existed. There is such history surrounding this piece of rock too. The discovery of Cape Point changed the world. Trade routes, British colonialism, the East India Trading company.

 DSC_2877

Hard to believe finding this piece of land forever changed the world. The area of the Cape of Good Hope is completely unspoiled. It looks the same as it probably did in 1496. Complete with ostriches roaming the beach.

DSC_2913-001

For lunch, I had a seafood pizza complete with mussels and crab for less than 6 bucks. After lunch we moved on to Boulder’s Beach, home of the African penquins!! There is nothing more exciting than seeing wild animals in the wild, in their natural habitat, doing their own thing. I’ll never be able to go to a zoo again.

DSC_2961

We continued on to a couple different sites afterwards, but the weather had changed to rainy, cold, and windy so my mind was focused on just staying warm.

After the tour, I got all dressed up and ready for my big night out. I made restaurant reservations for The Test Kitchen back in June. I read up everything on this place. The restaurant was everything I ever wanted in a meal and more. It was by far the best meal of my life and is going to be very hard to top.

My table was at the counter basically in the kitchen. I chatted with the chefs as they prepared my delicious meals. I watched them pull out all sorts of tricks that I didn’t know you could do with food. I ordered the tasting menu with wine pairings. 11 courses. 11 glasses of wine. They brought a small plate of goodies before my meal that had me salivating. My waiter was incredibly sweet and gave me extra attention because I was eating alone. Everyone was super fascinated by my story of being a single American female living in the bush in Ghana on vacation. There were only a few tables in the place and one table came super late, so I got to hear all the gossip in the kitchen about that group. Loved it. The first dish made me a radish fan. The second dish converted me to turnips. The third dish I almost bought the place. The wine paired with the food was perfect, it complemented each meal and didn’t detract from the food. My favorite was the 3rd and the 5th dish. The 3rd was a rare slice of beef with blue cheese, pears, and all sorts of goodies. The 5th one came in a glass jar filled with smoke, which was released for me and wafted in front of my face. There was a palate cleanser that included a small vial of liquid, the maître d spritzing orange essence over me while I ate, and a frozen holed out clementine. There were two deserts and I ate everything. If it was on the plate, it was in my belly. It was everything I ever wanted. If I could I would eat there every day for the rest of my life. It was spectacular.  If you are ever in Cape Town, you need to eat at the Test Kitchen. You need to experience food that way. It wasn’t just a meal it was art. If you think I’m drinking the Koolaid, then you haven’t tried their Koolaid yet. 2012-09-20_20-39-47_491[1]

2012-09-20_19-51-59_945[1]

I went home happily satiated and a little tipsy. Over the taxi radio while driving back to the hostel I heard the taxi drivers discussing where to find a classy brothel for a passenger.

The next day was rainy and cold, so I slept in and went to a museum – the Gold of Africa museum. Much smaller than I thought it would be, but interesting nonetheless. Probably because almost all the gold is from Ghana. It is all chieftancy gold regalia. It was really fascinating to see all the Ghanaian artifacts. After that, the skies cleared up and I walked over to the Victoria and Albert waterfront, where I spent the rest of the day. I just walked around the mall there and enjoyed the sunlight. It was like being back in America. Going to a real mall. I enjoyed every second of it. Before dinner, I took a harbor cruise, which gave me great views of Table Mountain. It is so fascinating to see a city from such different elevations. For dinner, I made my way to the One and Only Hotel for dinner at Nobu – a sushi restaurant. The place was pretty deserted, so I had my own private chef basically. An Italian sushi chef. I had chatted with him prior to ordering, so we were working on a good relationship by the time I ordered “chef’s choice” a 5 course meal that was a big “let’s surprise you!” I had told the chef I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana (which by the way wins you major points with anyone. I’m willingly poor and live in the bush, is a great way to get brownie points.). So what does he do? Gives me all the SUPER EXPENSIVE stuff, because he can. You pay a set price and not based on what you order, so he gave me all the cool fish I have never tried. I had a really great salad there too. Turns out you can fry spinach leaves. Do you have any idea how good raw fried spinach leaves are? No. Go google it and find out. I tried angel fish and raw sardines. The whole meal was super classy, delicious, and a true treat.

After dinner, I went back to the hostel and I was invited to dinner and out to a party with all the hostel staff. Sure why not. I went to dinner and didn’t really eat, but just joined them for the conversation. At the hostel bar beforehand, I befriended an incredibly gorgeous local guy, who I then spent the entire night flirting with. Also, suckering him out of a few drinks. Obviously, girl code. A group of the staff,  other guests, and myself made our way to Long Street. Party central. I danced like I always “I JUST WANT TO DANCE” exclaim. I danced the entire night, I didn’t make it back to the hostel until after sunrise. I was pretty damn proud of myself thank you very much.

Two and a half days in Cape Town was not enough. I’m definitely going back at some point in my life, hopefully soon. The people are beautiful, the scenery is amazing, and the food is to die for. What else could you want in Africa?

Start of an Adventure

For some people vacation starts the second they step foot in country. For me vacation started the second I left my village. The bus rides were infinitesimally better knowing I was on vacation.

I hauled my backpack outside to hail a taxi to whisk me away to the airport. It was late at night and that meant party time in the taxi. The taxi driver and I had a mini dance party while sitting in vast amounts of traffic. The traffic was so bad that the taxi driver drove in the dirt near the street and made his own lane.

I quickly checked in and made my way to immigration. I filled out my form and waited patiently in line to see an immigration officer, so I could bat my eyelashes at him, speak in Twi, and get out of the country. While waiting in line, something so Ghanaian happened, I couldn’t help but click my tongue.

A man looking surly walks briskly up to the line, cuts a bunch of people and just squeezes himself in. So the guy he cut gently taps him on the shoulder and asks him what’s up. Guy doing the tapping was an African-American. Line cutter guy (let’s call him Leeroy) FLIPS OUT. Almost punches the guy, gets in his face and waggles his finger, and starts saying the greatest thing I have ever heard: “DO NOT TOUCH ME. You do NOT know who I am. You don’t even know who I am.” Uh oh. Big man syndrome. He continues on being a total pompous ass for the entire queue. He keeps confronting the guy about tapping him on the shoulder. Leeroy was like a bunch of fireworks at Fourth of July just waiting to explode on a bridge in one big glory burn. I was making every subtle Ghanaian noise possible to show my distaste.
Eventually I make it through immigration to go sit and wait at my gate for eons.

Lucky me, the Champions League was on and everyone in the building was watching soccer. Including the security and gate guys. While sitting watching everyone else watch soccer, I people watched the hell out of that gate.

Interesting side note, while sitting down, I noticed the window next to me was open. Could you image having an open window at an airport in America? Haha. Makes me laugh just thinking about it. Anyway, I was sitting there watching Turkish Airlines taxi when suddenly I was almost knocked back by a sudden gush of wind. I was 3 football fields away from that airplane, inside, upstairs, just sitting next to a window and I felt the jet engines. No tro feels like that.

Something very interesting I observered was the lack of females on my flight. There were probably 15-20 of us on a flight of 200+ people. So strange. I slept almost the entire flight, which was fantastic, especially since it was a red eye. Woke up in time to watch the sunrise over the skies of South Africa. Simply stunning.

When we landed I noticed something in the grass near the tarmac. I’m pretty positive it was a jackalope, obviously. Either way, I knew that it was a good omen.

At the airport, I indulged in some good ole fashion BREAKFAST. Bacon, cheese, wheat bread, all the good things you never forget about and pine for all the time. The waiter asked me if I wanted honey with my tea and ice with my water. I just stared at him confused. Wait, ice? That exists? That’s a real thing people put in their water? HOLY SHIT. I walked around the airport incredulous at all the trappings of western civilization. Bakeries, oyster bars, shops, bookstores – all inside an airport? What is this place? This isn’t Africa.

On the mini bus to the actual airplane that connected me to Cape Town, a guy introduced himself to me after seeing my American passport. “Oh, so you’re an American!” No matter where you go, everyone loves Americans. Well, except some hostile states, but whatever. We start chatting and it was great. I told him about Peace Corps in Ghana and life in Ghana. (Mind you this was a long bus ride – relatively speaking). Even the captain, who wasn’t on the plane yet?!, was listening in and staring at me like “BUSHLADY.” Don’t worry I was milking it for all it was worth. I had a captive audience of rich white South Africans. I was telling them stories about real life in West Africa, from a white person. Tell me that won’t make you eavesdrop on a bus?!

Boarded the plane, BULKHEAD SEAT. Holla. And off we went to Cape Town.