Monday, July 7, 2014

Akwaaba! Welcome to Ghana.

Akwaaba, the Tri word for welcome is the first thing you see as you walk through the halls of the Kotoka Airport. I felt that sense of welcome from my time on the crowded Lufthansa jet leaving Frankfurt on  route to Accra. Positioned in one of the middle-aisle seats on this tri-sectioned plane, I was amid a group of missionaries (Ghanaian men ranging from early twenties to mid fifties) on their way back home. Being the tomato speck in a flying sardine can full of Ghanaians, my withdrawal inside a nutshell of music and in-flight movies would have been naturally acceptable, and it was for a while, but it soon became a mundane existence. That's when I broke out my new camera and started fiddling around with it, since I have never actually owned a camera that didn't require film. Seeing my childlike amusement, aided by a few glasses of wine (I hate flying- the whole heights thing), the guy next to me offered to capture a shot of me, indicating he enjoyed photography himself. Normally, I would have put it off, but hey, I was heading to Ghana. A few minutes later and a couple pics taken and the whole row of us were chatting about the U.S, Ghana, religion, politics, education and a host of other topics. This conversation led to an offer to drop me off at my Ghanaian residence- an offer that I was glad to accept since I had no clue if my ride would be waiting for me at arrivals, but one that was left unused since my ride did in fact show up (with a sign to boot). Since they were so approachable, we exchanged information and I plan on attending church or at least hanging out with them at some point.

That warm welcome speaks volumes of the culture representative of the Ghanaian people. Since I have been here, it is this facet that has allowed me to immerse myself in this experience. As a New Yorker, I am a natural skeptic, not wholly trusting strangers- much less in a strange land. However, it is because of the strangers that I encounter on a daily basis why I can sit here and write this blog entry with a sense of satisfaction, knowing that I will probably encounter a stranger today who will have a profound impact on my journey here. This does not entirely remove the protective exterior forged by many years of Bronx living, as Ghana is a country that boasts and embraces their substantial market economy bolstered by bargaining power. I have been at liberty to exercise what cut-throat elements I have acquired over my twenty-something years of life through spectacular bouts of negotiations that would make any Chinatown shop owner cringe and subsequently beam with pride.

I have a lot to discuss in my upcoming reflections on Ghanaian life and all the various interactions I have had, but I will leave this post with these thousand words:

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