What started with a decision back in May is almost here! In two weeks, I’m boarding a flight to Accra, Ghana for four weeks of living, learning and sharing with Ghanaian business owners. During my trip, I will be checking email periodically at best, so don’t expect prompt responses if you decide to write. I was told to expect frequent power and water outages, some of which could last days! My Ghana adventure will be a total departure from everything I know, but I’m positive that it will be in a really good way.
Over the past several months, in preparation for my trip, I have had every immunization I could think of — well, everything the Travel Clinic doctor recommended — yellow fever, which is required for entry; Tdap; polio; an adult booster of MMR; hepatitis A and B; and typhoid. I decided against rabies, which costs about $2,000 by itself and requires additional shots if you’re scratched or bitten, because I plan to abide by Dr. Fujimoto’s kind advice against playing with foreign animals. Definitely good to know, though, because there was a minor incident many years ago at the Roman Forum involving an old boyfriend and a one-eyed cat… But, that’s neither here nor there. We’re both still alive (the ex and I, that is, I don’t know about the cat).
Dr. Fujimoto also taught me that you should avoid freshwater rivers, lakes and streams while traveling. Failure to do so risks exposure to schistosomiasis, a nasty parasitic disease. Good thing my home base, Cape Coast, is on the ocean, and swimming is allowed there an in chlorinated pools. Although Ghanaians apparently don’t think of the beach as a place to swim, hopefully they’ll take pity on this “obruni” (literally white person but used by Ghanains to describe any foreigner) and allow me an occasional dip to cool off. I’ve also heard that showers in Ghana are always cold, so there’s another way to stay cool.
I’d like to pretend I’ve started packing, but so far that entails making small piles of necessary items around my house and a list of to-dos. I have a supply of antimalarials, Deet-filled mosquito repellent and iodine tablets for water purification. Still on my to-buy list are sunscreen, hand sanitizers, Kleenex pocket packs (never know what the public “facilities” will be like), and some bubbles. Yes, bubbles. A cool Ghana blog (see photo below) suggested that bubbles would be a fun treat for kids and adults alike — who doesn’t love bubbles? — so I added them to the list.
Truthfully, I’m feeling very calm about my upcoming adventure. Although I’m a natural planner, I’ve been taking my trip to Ghana in stride, not obsessively researching or planning my itinerary to the day. I haven’t even purchased a guidebook. I really have no idea what I’ll see or do while I’m there, other than work on my volunteer assignments and personal photo project, but I’m ok with that. My goal is to absorb each moment and experience fully, not race from one sightseeing opportunity to the next.
From reading my volunteer packet I’ve learned that Ghanaians are a proud and well-dressed populace. In fact, Jimmy Carter’s son once went there to present a grant check but he was sent packing for wearing shorts! Naturally, I needed to give some thought to apparel and knowing someone like Corinne Phipps of Urban Darling came in handy. I told Corinne a few basic facts: Ghana is hot and humid. Daily temperatures are expected to range from the mid-70s at night to 90s during the day, but it will likely feel hotter. I needed light, comfortable clothing that was modest (skirts to the knee at least). When I arrived at Macy’s to meet Corinne, she already had a dressing room full of dresses, tops and skirts for me to try. We made quick work of those and then hit the floor to pick up a few more items. In two hours, I was completely set and didn’t even scratch the bank. Corinne really is amazing and a godsend for those of us who hate shopping. Thanks, Corinne!
Stay tuned for more on my travels,
Kate Watson, Photographer