Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Blog Ends!

05 July 2011
This is the last post of my blog. It is to tell the readers (and especially the regular readers) that it has come to an end, my stay in Ghana and so is this blog. It was an year with many new eye opening experiences and friendships spanning different corners of the world. It was not an easy journey but once I crossed the Indian Ocean, I found that it was not so difficult as well. It was just crossing that mattered.
I thank all the readers who buzzed me with their questions and also showered me with their appreciation. It kept me motivated to keep on writing. I thank Google for providing the free space for my blog. I thank all of my family members and especially my wife who were a great support when I decided to go away from them for one complete year. And special thanks to VSO and the friendly people of Ghana for making this whole journey of one year a great experience.
Bye Bye Ghana Blog!
It is time to move on (may be to next blog)!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Coming Back II

19 June- 4 July 2011
My friends Rahul and Ranjit had come to see me off at the airport. After passing through the customs check and checking in my luggage, I spent some time with them. After saying them bye I had a last minute run for the search of Forex bureau at the airport since I refused to change my money with a man hanging out at a closed bureau office. I had to go back to the same man since the other office they told me to go was simply did not exist at that place. The man laughed at me but the transactions afterwards were very friendly in the Ghanaian way and important thing to remember is that I did not get cheated in the process. At immigration, the officer asked me whether I had something for him. I had to tell him that since I was a volunteer there, I have little left of my own. He just laughed and let me go.
The moment came at last when I boarded the plane and really left Ghana for good. Since we were going towards East where the sunset had already happened, we went quickly in the darkness. The Emirates flight staff pampered us well with delicious food and drinks. Since the flight was starting from Accra, the menu had typical Ghanaian cuisine for meals and snacks. I tried to do number of things with the interactive screen in front of me. It ranged from watching the scenes outside, watching the movement of flight in the map, playing games, hearing music and watching a Chinese movie with English subtitles.
I got down at the Dubai airport and then realised my mistake of booking the flight which was later in the day instead of the one which was just 2 hours after I reached. I had to spend 7 hours in the airport. In the early hours, airport was crowded. I did not have to change the terminal so I did not have to walk long distances. The free internet was not working. One long walk across the glossy airport was enough and most of the things on sale at the airport were of the sort which either I did not want to buy or could not afford to buy. I wanted to buy a digital camera; I could buy it at far lesser price than India but at a huge disappointment, as the variety which I expected to see at the Dubai airport shop was not there at all. The salesman at the counter was an Indian who seemed to want to just rush me into buying something and go away (Read: get lost).
I arrived two hours later at Mumbai to find that little had changed in India. That little change included the officer at the desk, who appreciated the fact that I had done volunteering in Africa; and my son who had grown up by a year. The things which I wish to see changed but had not, included a Gujarati senior citizen trying to break a queue at the customs and getting before me; and the vehicles on the crowded streets speedily overtaking other vehicles.
Welcome Back!” said I to myself.

Coming Back I

22 May- 19 June 2011
I have always observed that when something comes to an end, there is always a surge in the activities. Same thing happened to me when my time in Ghana was coming to an end and it was the last month. I had to be part of a week long training cum workshop, organize for two workshops, complete all of my reports and say bye to the people around properly within four weeks.
The malaria caught me again in mid-way draining my energy. I had gone to Tamale to do my last month shopping of African batik cloths when it attacked me in a serious way. I was lucky enough to get sick in Tamale and not at some odd place. It was good to have a friend like Raj at Tamale who took good care of me and also to have good medical facilities in the city. Of course it was not good to be sick near the end of my time in Ghana and it’s after effects continued for next week as well. I could complete my important tasks somehow in time, thanks to all the good people around me.
So soon?”, I was asked by the people around me, whenever I told them date of my departure. One year had passed very fast for me and also for the people around. “Oh! We’ll miss you,” was one more common remark by the people. I don’t know whether every remark was genuine or it was said in a customary way. “Won’t you come again?” said some people. I answered genuinely, “I would like to come again sometime but I’ll have to come on my own and VSO will not pay for my coming to Ghana again, so I don’t know as of now, when I’ll be able to come back.” Many people asked whether I could extend by one more year.
I had mixed feeling while leaving Bongo and Bolgatanga as I started packing and giving out my things which I could not take back home to people. I was feeling sad to leave behind so many good friends and this friendly country which had been so good to me. I was happy to be back with my family and start with my career again. Many of the neighbours came to the house and took my address and phone numbers as if they were really going to remain in touch with me afterwards. One youth came to me and took my email id because he wanted to come to India and he wanted my help in the form of invitation letter.
As the tradition in the group of VSO volunteers in the Upper East, we had a fare well party. In the typical western tradition, it was BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) type, where every person coming to the party brings his/her own drink and food. It is not heavy on pocket because of this and very affordable to a volunteer. It was really good to see all the volunteer friends before leaving Bolgatanga for good. It was good of them to come for the occasion especially when the host is not paying for the hospitality.
Finally my last day in Bongo came and my friends Joshua, Zarena and Seidu had come to say good bye to me. When VSO vehicle arrived at the house to pick me up and take me to the office along with some other stuff in the house which they wanted to shift to some other house, I was told to go to the office and meet the District super bosses in whose offices I was working. In the last week most of them had been very busy and I had not been able to meet them and say proper good bye. There was an attempt to give me a send-off on the last day. After a brief exit interview at the VSO office in Bolgatanga, I was dropped to the bus station. My friends Rogier and Miranda had come there to see me off.
The bus started. I was not going to come to this place again. In the evening, while bus had taken a stop at, Joshua, my friend from Bongo called me and told that there is full moon eclipse. I was lucky to see the reddish coloured moon though it was a rainy season. Somewhere in the morning I reached Accra, where I had three and half days to spend.
I spent these days by going to the police headquarters to complete the criminal records check, completing VSO formalities, getting paid my expense claims, working on some VSO reports, meeting friends in Accra, changing my money to US Dollars, doing going to Aburi Botanical Garden, doing some last shopping and seeing off my VSO friend, Romeo at the airport. While roaming around doing all those tasks, I first time came across a very androgynous looking man on the street. While in Mumbai, where sight of eunuchs is very common, it was not at all common to see such type of people in Ghana. Overall, my time in Accra was good but with all the eagerness to finish those days as early as possible and get on the plane.