“Oh, you’re going to Ghana?”
“When are you going to be gone to Ghana?”
“You’re gonna go to Ghana?”
My family and friends have tended to find themselves funny by saying one or more of the above, which is usually accompanied by a “why would you want to do that?” from relatives and a “cool!” from buddies. After a minute of thinking about whether it’s something they should already know, most add a “where is that?” “Be careful”s come from across the board.
My friends answered my family: I want to do this because it’s a pretty cool adventure. This is 19 days in Ghana with my time split between setting up computer labs and exploring the first place I’ve traveled for which there is no “Let’s Go” travel guide. I’m accompanied by 5 fellow Penn people, all of whom are significantly smarter than me, with 2 other Quakers flying over after breezing through their summer session finals and a Ghanaian named Kwame joining us in London to escort us into the country. 3 have been to Ghana before, and one’s taking this trip to the Third World as his first travel outside of the country!
Starting the summer with a month in Europe wasn’t exactly friendly to my wallet (especially when I put the wrong type of gas in the rental car…), so how am I affording this exotic trip? Same way I did Costa Rica: someone else is paying. No, my parents aren’t stuck with the bill again: Hewlett-Packard’s slightly deeper pockets are doing the trick. This is clutch, considering that a round-trip ticket’s north of 3 grand and quite a bit more than I made doing construction work this summer. Almost makes me feel like I wasn’t largely a waste of space, and definitely makes me hope we accomplish something useful...
Speaking of what we’ll do, you know about as much as me. The itinerary’s definitely changed as recently as yesterday and will probably change again. Not that I would notice: the explanation of where we’ll be that I received consisted of definitive statements like “and then we go to some city in the north. I think it starts with an n… we’ll call it New York.” We’ve got a bunch of computers meeting us there, some seriously cool toys (2-mile wireless bridge and innovative autoimaging process, for anybody who knows what that means and cares), and enough bright-eyed, bushy-tailed ambition to deal with most problems short of a military coup:)
Speaking of uprisings, Ghana should be very safe. Symbolically, First Worlders can’t even enter the Third World without some high tech protection: I need proof of vaccination for yellow fever to enter Ghana and have had hundreds of dollars’ worth of shots pumped into my American self. My greatest concern is malaria-carrying mosquitoes, but I’m on an antimalarial drug called Lariam that’s starting to deliver the promised side-effect of vivid dreams, wearing clothes treated with Permethrin, and using pure DEET on exposed skin. With that cocktail, I’m probably more likely to get cancer than malaria!
Another –ia not worth worrying about but bugging my parents anyways is Liberia. With the Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire) between them, Ghana’s about 400 miles away. Charles Taylor is now expected to turn over power on Monday and has been offered asylum in Nigeria; if he accepts and takes the most direct route, he’ll fly over Ghana while I’m there. Taylor definitely instigated warfare in the Ivory Coast, so I’m hoping to see celebrations in Ghana’s streets when (and if) he leaves.
The day ends with us en route to London for a layover. I’ve got $246.90 in my pocket, under $100 in my bank account, and, as corny as it sounds, a priceless adventure ahead.