Friday, December 14, 2007

To Ghana With Love...(sob!)

Okay, move complete, boy withdrawn from school, cars and appliances disposed of, dog shipped off to the U.S. and all that remains is to stuff ourselves and our six pieces of luggage onto the plane tonight.

As an epilogue, I'll tell you what's next for our three favorite Ghanaians.

Stephen has the option of taking over the day guard job at Ted's company house, if he wants to. But we have spoken with InterCon Security and our glowing reports of him, while not the first, are apparently what they needed to offer him a better position with their company and if that happens, he will be getting a promotion which is no less than he deserves. Cross your fingers.

Mark has decided he would like to go back to school and we have helped set him up in his own place so he can do that and not have to break in the new owners of our house. He will continue to sell phone units and mow lawns to earn money and finish his education.

Duke, of course, is going to continue driving for the company, except in a better car with a more important guy. ;-)

We will miss them, and so many other people we have to leave behind, like crazy.

For all the kind people who have commented that they will miss my blog, thank you so much for hanging out with me all this time- it's been a hoot.

If you love Ghana, you can head over to Obroni Observations (there is a hot link on the right hand column at the top) and read Barb's pithy posts if you haven't already discovered her. She is one of the people I will miss the most.

And as I head to a country that does not have free range goats and chickens (in this case free range means suburban neighborhoods) I think I might miss even them more than I realized.

One of the only goats we have ever seen tied up in Ghana lives just a block from our house and we have watched him twang at the end of his rope or just wrap it tightly around the trees for so long we had almost stopped noticing him.

But we took this picture yesterday, to remind us always... and he was obligingly wrapped around three trees.

My parting shot of Ghana and a big thank you to the people here who made it such a great ride...

Bye Bye!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

International Moving, Ghana Style

As our friends and families (and their poor, abused address books) are well aware, moving is a hobby with us (this current shift will be to our 14th home since 1978) but this particular move is a new experience for us...

After our books and kitchenware were packed up in boxes, almost everything else ended up being wrapped like packages in the red and white paper you can see everywhere...

The guys doing our packing were very typically Ghanaian- polite, careful-ish, and not only willing to take direction from us, but desperately in need of it.

This was a real departure for us- our many house packers in the U.S., and even the ones in Australia, were brisk and efficient and although they always comply with our suggestions/requests, they mostly wish we would dry up and blow away.

Not so here.

We were sought out frequently to give our opinions or instructions for a million different things, which took some getting used to after years of being trained by our U.S. movers to shut up and get out of their way. ;-)

As the day progressed, the house began to look more and more like this, everywhere you looked...

We kept them from packing the things we needed this week by putting that stuff in the "Off Limits" room, which was controlled chaos...

...and Duke spent the day looking for things to do and ways to help.

Because he is Duke.

Here he is, sweeping the dog hair off our bedroom floor in his "Boss and Mom Are Moving" clothes.

The big surprise was Elliot.

We brought him on the porch to meet the movers when they first showed up and he smelled their shoes and hands (remember, strange dogs are not generally a favorite of Ghanaians, so our movers were very brave and patient to deal with this), and then let them do their work without freaking out and barking at them.

As a matter of fact, quite often as we moved through the house, we would see Elliot getting a passing pat on the head from one of his new best friends as they went about their business.

Here he is, exhausted, taking a little breather next to one of his new pals...

Finally, all our stuff was boxed and bagged, wrapped and taped, and the container showed up.

Things were loaded into this container and will be taken to the port where they will be crated in plywood boxes and put into a Maersk sea container for shipment back to America.

Unless it falls overboard.

Which apparently happens with alarming frequency. Cross your fingers...

Here's the truck backing the container into our driveway (that's Stephen on the left and Mark on the right)...

and just a few minutes later, completely onto the property...

This was a sharp contrast to the container truck that delivered the same stuff to us in the spring of 2005.

On that day, the truck maneuvered for a good thirty minutes OUTSIDE our gate, gathering a knot of interested kibbitzers as it did.

Then it made roughly twenty attempts to back through the gate as each spectator gave advice and instructions (usually conflicting) to the accompaniment of a chorus of "Brah, brah, brah!" which is Twi for "come".

We thought, at the time, that they were saying "Blah, blah, blah." which was a great way to start our life in Ghana with a laugh.

So life in our little house in East Legon has come to an end, and we are living in a hotel this week, waiting for Cooper to finish his final exams.

It's the same hotel we lived in for six weeks waiting for the sea container to arrive from America, but in the time we have lived here it has changed ownership. With the new owners came a list of rules for the swimming pool, carefully painted on one of the signs we have come to love in this country for their clear, open instruction on so many aspects of life.

No pussyfooting language about "Intoxication"- just don't swim DRUNK, and by the way, don't spit OR BLOW YOUR NOSE into the pool.

I offer my sincere thanks for that particular instruction.

And instead of nattering about safety and liability, they point out right up front they won't be responsible for Death while using the pool. So there.

I'll post again before we make what are sure to be our tearful farewells to a swell country, and the people therein... the meanwhile, be very very glad you don't have to move, and if you don't think it's so bad, please come to our house in the U.S. and help unpack. :-)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Say It Isn't So!

Well, this is the entry I have dreaded for a long time- the one I was hoping I wouldn't have to write for quite a while.

In the middle of December, we will be moving away from Ghana. :-(

I'll pause here for you to take a moment to become as bummed as I am.

We made Duke cry, and he made Jane cry, and they lied and told the girls that they had just put medicine in their eyes and everything was fine.

The good news is that they are mostly over it.

The seven of us (Duke, Jane, Christa, Erica, Us and Coop) spent the day together last weekend and Duke went swimming!

Kind of.

And while they are sad, they accept it and Duke is even a little excited because when he doesn't have us anymore he will be driving for the Project Director whom he likes very much.

The Project Director's wife is a nice woman (with a big dog, just for Duke!), but she won't let him come into stores with her and the rolling frat house that Duke and I had will be shut down for good.

No more teasing the street vendors, no more bat harrassing, no more honking and waving and hooting and "shortcuts" to Siberia. But he'll have a nicer car to drive, and that's something.

Anyway, the project isn't finished (far from it), but we had told Cooper when we came that it would be for two years. We never expected it to be really only two years, since we have never had a project finish on time, ever, but we forgot to mention that to Coop.

The time overrun coupled with the full onset of adolescence gave him a little angst about missing "real life" and just doing things "regular".

The poor kid just wants to go to the mall with friends and see a movie in a theater and load a YouTube video in less than 10 minutes. He wants to make a phone call and not have to redial four times in the middle of the conversation because the phone disconnected, and he wants to eat fast food.

I don't blame him. I wouldn't be a teenager again for all the folding money in Las Vegas, but I wouldn't have missed the first time around either, so we are taking him back to let him be a "Real American Teenager" for the last 2.5 years of high school.

He's earned it.

We have expanded his horizons so many times in so many ways, often against his will, in the last two and a half years, and he has been a trooper ever since we dragged him out of California all those years and three moves ago, coming along without complaint- it just feels right to honor this request from him to take advantage of this last period of what could be the easy life before he has to assume the responsibilities of an adult.

So the whole family will repatriate December 15 and Ted will return to finish the project on a rotating basis- time with us, time at work- living here with other company employees in a house they will share. Not the perfect solution, but one that will work.

Next week is packing/moving week.


This move is particularly complicated because we have things that will go with Ted to his new digs, things to ship by sea, things to ship by air, things to carry with us, things to sell, and things to give away.

Usually we just have a giant garage sale and move the rest to the new house.

I will try to see the humor in the coming week's events so I can tell you about the moving experience from here without going 'round the bend.

Meanwhile, I want to leave you today with some recommendations if you are ever lucky enough to come to Ghana.

If you are an Obroni, and want Obroni stuff, you will have no trouble finding it without me.

What I am going to share are the places we love that are a little out of the way or where we are often the only Obronis but that have become some of our favorite places to spend time.

Start with Chez Afrique. It's in East Legon, near the French School, off Lagos Ave. a few streets. If you want it, you will find it. Good food, cold beer, music on weekends, lower prices on weekdays. We only eat "inside" if it rains (inside means a roof and some six foot walls...)- 99% of the time we eat on the patio out front. Grilled chicken, chicken kabobs, Okra stew, kelewele, RedRed and cole slaw. We've never paid more than 20 bucks for both of us, stuffed to the gills and well lubricated.

Papa's Peace Bar. A very strange and wonderful place also in East Legon. Head for Accra on Lagos and take the first left. After about a block, Papa's will be on your right.

Osekan Resort. Easy on the resort part, but you can't beat the location, right down by the beach in a place where the waves break wildly over the rocks. You can get sea food and have your hair curled (or straightened, depending on your DNA) all at the same time. Inexpensive, good service, and a unique experience.

The basket lady on 5th Circular, near Home Touch. This woman has really nice baskets in all the good "Bolgatanga" styles and she will reward you for being a faithful customer. Even your first time she will give you a "small price", and you won't need your aggressive negotiating skills.

China Palace- the one in East Legon is better than the one in Dzorwulu, but they are both reasonably priced and cheerfully staffed, just don't get the satay. The one in East Legon is near the Living Room and American House. Follow the billboards.

Big Milly's Backyard, Kokrobite. You will find a lot of Obronis (young, backpacking, free spirits) here, but it's 100% African in atmosphere and experience. Eat lunch outdoors in the shade with sand for a floor, a picnic table to sit at, and chickens wandering through the restaurant... after lunch you can stroll the fairly clean beach and watch the fishing boats and fishermen who work from the beach here.

Aylos Bay Resort on the Volta River (on the way to or from the Cedi Bead Factory). You can sit in the shade at a large table and watch the Volta slide by (along with fishermen) and eat very good food at terrific prices served by happy, kind people. Spend the night if they have room. And be sure to check out the sculptures outside the restrooms.

And finally, even though a banana is a banana is a banana, if you are in East Legon on Lagos Ave. please stop under the big shade tree about a mile past the Ange Hill Hotel. The woman there sells only bananas, so you will be able to spot her next to a plywood clothes store. She will need your business to make up for losing mine.

And if you buy apples from your car, try to do it sometimes from the guys on the Motorway at the light in front of the Fiesta Royale hotel- 1GHC for three apples. And you can point to the exact three you want.

And try to go to Accra Central. You will make as many friends as you can handle and the experience is one of a kind. :-)