Thursday, November 17, 2011

Days 1277-1301: Grammy's Story

Guest post by my mother, Chris Levine!

Appalling was how Daniel accurately described the circumstances that kept Ed and me from a long-awaited and specially planned trip to meet Melissa and Ruth and him in at the University of Ghana in Legon and to travel to the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary in the Volta Region of Ghana. in the Volta Region of Ghana.

Our three trying attempts to reach Accra and our family are here documented.

October 13 – On our way: YEA!
12:30 PM: departed Albany for Atlanta
8PM: departed Atlanta, FOR THE FIRST TIME; flew 3 ½ hours over Atlantic; returned to Atlanta due to insufficient and non-flushing toilet facilities. Supposedly, this difficulty would be corrected at 16K feet: NOT; arrangements made by Delta for all passengers to check in at various “local” hotels. However, most hotel shuttles had been discontinued by 3AM.
Anxiety: Do not want Daniel to stay behind; he worked so long on planning the adventure to the monkey preserve for his family and friends! How to contact Daniel – considering the four-hour time difference, Daniel and Mr. Lartey repeatedly awaiting us at the airport, inability to use cell phones/laptops while in air, etc., etc?

October 14 – Still not there
3AM: arrived at Marriott; wait in queue for Delta passengers to be checked in
4AM to 8AM: attempted to sleep
11AM: departed for airport and a second security check-in
2PM: departed Atlanta, FOR THE SECOND TIME - ON THE SAME AIRCRAFT; flew 2 ½ hours over Atlantic; again returned to Atlanta due to insufficient and non-flushing toilet facilities. Supposedly, this difficulty was to have been corrected early that morning – NOT! Déjà vu?
9PM: departed for Accra FOR THE THIRD TIME – ON A DIFFERENT AIRCRAFT. NOT! We sat at the gate for two hours, due to an instrument panel concern. Finally...
11:30PM: departed for Accra
Anxiety: Do not want Daniel to stay behind; he worked so long on planning the adventure to the monkey preserve for his family and friends! How to contact Daniel – considering the four-hour time difference, Daniel and Mr. Lartey repeatedly awaiting us at the airport, inability to use cell phones/laptops while in air, etc., etc?

October 15 – Exhausted and disappointed to have missed our trip to the sanctuary; irate at Delta
1PM: arrived in Accra – finally, but sadly hours after Daniel, family and friends had left for the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary. We missed an adventure, yes; but, sadly to say, a young girl on our flight missed seeing her mother before her mother passed away.
Our experience going through customs at Accra's Kotoka International Airport was facilitated by Stephen – a Ghanaian passenger with whom we had become acquainted during our nightmarish flights. His driver sped us to the Guest Centre and requested that we get the best accommodations... we did: bright early morning sunshine and colorful late afternoon sunsets!
5PM: surprised by Theresa who had come to the Guest Centre at Daniel's request to ensure that we had surely arrived, were given cell phones with the urgency to call him, and to be invited to Sunday dinner at the Fulbright flat.
October 16 – Missing Daniel and Melissa and Ruth
This was a relaxing day – once we'd slept in and had breakfast. The Guest Centre was the perfect place for us to stay - it was just a quick walk across the field to the Fulbright flat; provided breakfast, and offered a restaurant. (Ruth especially liked their pizza; Ed appreciated Star beer!) We were eager to see the campus, so we toured around and chatted with students.
Later in the day, we dined with Theresa and Bill. The dinner was so delicious; the wine was so appreciated! Thanks, Theresa and Bill!

October 17Still missing Daniel and Melissa and Ruth
Although this was another relaxing day, we were eager to keep busy, anticipating a late afternoon arrival of Daniel, Melissa and Ruth, so we contacted Mr. Lartey to take up shopping at Game/Shop Rite.

October 18 – Bush Canteen
Each day had a plan, because we wanted to spend time with Ruth and to give Daniel and Melissa quality time in the three weeks Melissa was in Ghana on holiday. On this day, we all met to tour some of the expansive campus, be measured for and order dresses from Miss Gloria, then enjoy dinner at Daniel's flat. Fabulously colored fabrics had been chosen by Daniel, Melissa, and Ruth when they toured the Makola Market in Accra, prior to our arrival.

October 19Medina Market
While Daniel instructed his class, Ed, Melissa, Ruth, and I visited Medina Market... so many patterns; so many colors! Later that evening, Melissa and Daniel went on a “date,” and Ruth bunked in with us. I awoke during the night to find that Ruth had put her big toe in my belly button! When I told her, she laughed and laughed – and, of course, tried to do the same each night she stayed with us. Well, she's a fidgety sleeper, and her big toe found unusual places to land – my ear, my head. One night I awoke to find her armpit straddling my nose. How she giggled when I recounted her nightly wanderings!

October 20 First Nigerian Dinner
Today began with a pleasant breakfast with Dr. Ani, a colleague of Daniel's in the Philosophy Department. It's pleasant to meet and chat with visiting professors, parents, etc., who stay at the Guest Centre. The day was filled with dress making, watching the students at their dance/drum classes and eating plantain chips at Bush Canteen. Dinner, our first of a number at the Nigerian restaurant, was delicious: plantains, chicken, yams, salad, rice, and Star.

October 21 – Missing Melissa
Before Melissa had to leave for home, we took Ruth to the University's pool. Although the big pool was closed for cleaning, we did refresh in the shallow baby pool. Ruth would have no part of the water, but wandered around the edge, pretending she was Belle and Ariel and Rapunzel. To distract her at Melissa's departure, we all watched “Ratatouille” (for the ga-zillionth time) and pigged out on pizza.

October 22 – Dance Class
One of the reasons we were in Ghana was to give care to Ruth - once Melissa had returned home. This gave Daniel more time, while in Legon, to spend with Ruth and less time, when she was in Baltimore, to miss her. So... on many days, including this one, Ruth and I would play dress-up or “school.”
Dressing-up was easy given the number of doilies found in our hotel. These were imagined to be veils and bridal dresses and capes and gowns. The terraces were her stages or fashion runways or castle towers. Ruth's imagination knows no bounds!
Later, we walked over to the University's botanical gardens. The flora is outstanding and the landscape quiet and serene. Ruth was hesitant to return there, so Daniel and she hung out in the maze of gardens behind the Balme Library.

October 23 – La Beach
La Beach is busy beach not too far from the University. It takes a while to get there, though, as the traffic in Accra is maddening and chaotic. So many cars and too few roads. Although I must say, I did see more roads under construction in the north and west parts of the city.
Ruth loved to jump the waves, eat plantain chips, sip any flavor of Alvero, bury my feet and her mermaid doll in the sand, watch the pick-up soccer games, run after the horses roaming the beach, and generally have unbridled fun!

October 24 – “School”and Second Nigerian Dinner
Ruth loves school and missed her freinds.
So... while we were in Legon, she (the student) and I (the teacher) played “school.“

First, we would go to the “cafeteria” (aka Guest Centre restaurant) for a healthy breakfast, then return to our flat for her “backpack” (a large, plastic, Kente cloth-like sack I had purchased at the Medina Market) and await the imaginary “bus” that took her and Addie and Catherine and Isaiah to “school.”
School” was one of the outdoor tables at the Guest Centre. Each day was a different “lesson”: reading (books by Ghanaian authors that Daniel had bought her);

 writing (drawing letters in the dirt); science (finding frogs hiding under lily pads); 

fashion design (wearing the dresses of colorful fabrics Mommy and Daddy had bought her); dance (practicing her ballet/jete); film (Ratatouille again?) and cosmetology (prepping for the Halloween party).

According to the story Ruth tells...
Unfortunately, one day (imaginary) Isaiah did not listen to his (imaginary) teacher and ran across the (imaginary) street to the (imaginary) bus. He broke his leg and had to stay in the (imaginary) hospital for FIVE YEARS! Can you imagine???
School” always let out early, so that we could take “real” field trips to La Beach, the coffin makers, drumming/dance classes, and  to the University's Archeology Museum. Ruth was most impressed with the old pottery there – especially one that looked like a cupcake tin. She was also impressed with the human skeleton hanging in a glass box.  Daniel was less impressed with her "enthusiasm," hoping that she would not run into these artifacts and cause an international incident!
Later that night, Daniel joined us for a goat dinner at the Nigerian restaurant.

October 25 – In Search of License Plates
Each day, Ed would roam the campus and local communities searching for license plates. “Pay dirt” was at the junk yard behind the University's fire department! While he treasured hunted, Ruth and I would listen to the student drum classes and watch the dance classes. Today, we watched as students played xylophone made from gourds. Later we met Daniel and again visited the Archeology Museum. Ruth wanted to show him the pottery... her enthusiasm, however, made us a bit nervous.

October 26Shangri-La
AH! The Shangri-La had a wonderful, cooling pool. This day, a number of kids were assembling for swim classes. Ruth had fun chatting with the kids, sharing their toys. One little boy, Laurence, from Italy had a little boat that Ruth enjoyed. His mom bought Ruth sweet treat: chocolate gelato! She enjoyed it totally – did not want my “help” in keeping it from melting... Does this bring back rainbow sherbert and bubble gum ice cream memories, Daniel?

October 27 – Shai Hills and Cedi Bead Factory
What fun to see the baboons and the ostrich! While Daniel and Grampy and Timothy hiked off in search of the elusive antelope, Ruth and I joked that perhaps the antelope would graze by us, as we waited by the car. Unfortunately, NOT. But we did have our own fun time singing: Home, home on the range, where the deer and the antelope roam... Believe it or not: the US did, at one time, have roaming herds of bison, antelope, etc.
The Cedi Bead Factory, although a challenge to find, was fascinating. The explanation/demonstration of the process was short and clear and fascinating to Ruth. At Daniel's suggestion, she chose beads for herself and Mommy and her friends at the Y.

October 28 – Dad and Daniel Dine Out; Grammy and Ruth Dine In
Today was a “flop” day. Ruth attended “school,” then we met Daniel for a visit to the Archeology Museum and Bus Canteen. In the evening, Daniel and Ed went for a quiet dad-son dinner; Ruth and I ate pizza – well, I savored a piece or two. Ruth ate four slices! But, as Bill Cosby would rationalize... most food groups were represented: dairy, grain, fats, vegetables...

October 29 Adinkra Durbar and Third Nigerian Dinner
While Daniel did more work and research, we thought we'd take Ruth to a new market that Ed had noticed on campus. Luckily, we happened upon the Adinkra Durbar, as “annual traditional festival celebrated in the University of Ghana to display the rich Ghanaian cultural heritage and to install a new student chief known as the Chief Farmer for Akuafo Hall. The durbar showcases traditional African dances, costumes and culture. On display and sale at this special occasion are Ghanaian dishes, drinks, artifacts, dresses and cloths. Ruth was in royal heaven!
While we were at the festival, I bought jewelry from a local artisan, Ruth had her hair braided, Daniel relished Ruth's enthusiasm, and Ed made another license plate connection.
That evening, Ed and I had our third dinner with Theresa and Bill at the Nigerian restaurant. I had arranged for another meal of roasted goat. (Unfortunately, we were given the sad news that the restaurant was moving to a new on-campus site.) We later attended a dramatic production at the Efua Sutherland Theater, while Ruth and Daniel had fun at the [REDACTED - Ed.] Halloween Party.

October 30 – Coco Beach
We had a fun day at Coco Beach. Many kids eager to interact with Ruth. We later ate lunch overlooking the ocean and Ruth eagerly played on the hotel playground. This reminded me of the time we took Daniel and David to Québec City. They had such fun on a rocket-ship-shaped jungle gym, unheading of the fact that Québec City is a major cultural center of the French-speaking world! But, Ed and I had such fun watching them and munching on buttery croissants!

October 31 – Grampy and Grammy's Accra Adventure
This day, Daniel wanted to spend quality/quantity time with Ruth at the Medina Market. So, Ed and I tried to take a tro-tro to downtown Accra. However, despite Daniel's very thorough explanation of how to do this, after nearly an hour, we opted for a taxi. We devised our own walking tour from the lighthouse, into the heart of the city and Makola Market to the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum to Independence Square to the Cultural Centre to Osu for a Chinese dinner. The day-long tour was entertaining and exhausting, but it was well worth our time and energy!

November 1 – More of the Campus
While Daniel taught, we took Ruth on an extended tour of the campus. She imagined the white-washed buildings to be castles. She was the Princess Ariel, and Grampy was Prince Eric.
At one dorm, high on a hill overlooking distant Accra, we found a box designated for clothing/book donations to a local orphanage. We later brought some of Ruth's summer clothes and oft-read books here.

November 2 – Teaching and Swimming and Dancing
While Daniel taught, we took Ruth to the University's pool. This time, the kiddy pool was closed, but we made our own kiddy pool by adding water to a foot-washing basin. Ruth had a ball! She bathed her two dolls, both named Kelly Piskelly, and squirted me with the hose. We brought a picnic lunch and danced to religious music blaring from a TV on the pool terrace. A hot walk home was cooled by a drippy/delicious ice cream from the Night Market!

November 3 – Flop Day
Daniel had to conduct interviews at Burma Camp, as we went to the Bush Canteen for a lunch of authentic Ghanian foods. Authentic food for Ruth was Alvaro – a rich blend between malt-beer and fruit. NOT to worry! It's non alcoholic, is golden in color, and comes in fruit a number of flavors-Ruth preferred passion fruit. While we ate lunch at the open-air canteen, we were amazed at the difficult/lengthy process of making banku.

November 4 – The Coffin Makers
This was the day that we had set aside to see the coffin makers, since none were open/found on Sunday when we were at Coco Beach. However, Daniel was unable to join us, as he was requested to conduct additional interviews at Burma Camp. We drove to Teshie-Nungua with Mr. Lartey and were fascinated by the making, all by hand, of the curious coffins. As the day was getting hotter, and we were getting droopy, we decided to skip another visit to La Beach and just stop for lunch at the Next Door Restaurant. Surprisingly, Daniel called. He had finished his interviews and would join us! What fun – to relax by the ocean and wade in the surf!

November 5 to Monday November 7 – Our Trip to Elmina, Ghana
Ed and I took a three-day excursion to Elmina, Ghana. Because Ghana is developing its infrastructure, we experienced a long, Saturday morning delay in traffic, due to road construction. The three-hour trip took five! However, one past the outskirts of west Accra, our bus sped along beaches and small villages and by-way vendors to Elmina. There we visited the slave castle El Mina, the fish markets, the posubans, Kakum National Park (canopy walk, tree platform, etc.) and Hans Cottage Botel (lunch and a crocodile scare!). On the return trip, we took a tro-tro, must to Daniel's disdain/surprise. It was a speedy trip – only 2 ½ hours! Along the way, to the delight (I think they were delighted, not derided) of the Ghanaian riders, we sampled various foods offered by the by-way vendors: corn cakes, plantain chips, bo froot, etc. YUMMY!

November 8 to 9– Back to the USA
Although Daniel taught this last day of our visit, we did meet him at his office and observed his class. What was touching is that as he lectured, Ruth would occasionally raise her hand, as if to say: Might you expand on that point? or I'd like to add to that comment. It was so cute! Had Daniel noticed, he said he would have called on her! I wonder what she would have said.
Daniel hung out with Ruth, napping with and reading to her, before we left for the airport. AT the airport, our nightmare of our arrival was documented: a Delta rep upgraded us to business class ad invited us to the classy Sky Lounge. Ruth loved the glitz and glamor and FOOD!
Thankfully, our return flight was uneventful. Ruth was THE BEST of travelers and stated to Melissa that, because she was such a “good listener” on this long flight, she could now go to China with Grampy. Yes!

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