Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ghana Day 1, 8/3/14

I’m posting this after the fact (even though I’m writing it on time!) because I currently do not have internet access/wifi. I woke up this morning and took my time checking out and getting to Heathrow airport, but everything went very smoothly. It was bittersweet, because as much as I had a great time in London, I was ready to move on. I’d seen much of what I wanted to see already, and Ghana was where I’d actually get to do public/global health service.

I realized when I got to the gate that I was suddenly in a very different environment than I have ever been (as in, where most people are black). Since I have always lived in the US and/or traveled to Taiwan or China, not seeing mostly white or Asian people around me was something that needed time to get used to. Even at the gate, this obviously makes a lot of sense seeing as the flight was a bunch of people traveling to Ghana, but I hadn’t even thought about it until I arrived there. I was just reminded of how important travel is, because it’s one of the only ways that you are constantly in a state of discomfort, where you have your ideas challenged over and over. For someone who thrives on living low-key and on a routine (me), it’s exhausting to have to adjust my mindset constantly, but when I do, it’s something valuable.

On the flight, I decided to watch Spiderman 2. I liked it while I was watching (as I do with most movies), but I realized that there are many plot holes and ideas that introduced but not explained. In a word: eh. I prefer movies and such with better character and story development.

When I landed in Accra, I saw that apparently arrivals in this airport don’t work the way I’m used to, where the plane pulls up to the gate and you walk through the tunnel. Instead, they park in a large space and you take stairs to the ground, and then are bused over to the airport. Customs seemed to be pretty lax overall, which I guess I expected, and they even had a desk where you could get a visa upon arrival into the country. Interesting.

One major thing that I noticed at the airport (in Accra mostly, but also in London) is that most of the ads are for mobile phone plans. I didn’t realize how important and useful it was to have a phone with data until I went four days without one.

Afterwards, I went to pick up 2 pieces of luggage that I had checked in. The first one I found very quickly, but I swear that I was waiting for another 30 minutes or so for the second. I kept looking around and worrying that it had gotten lost or taken by someone else or something until finally, I saw it come around. It’s really a terrifying feeling to think that your luggage might be missing when you’re alone in a foreign country.

Once I finally collected my bags, someone dressed in a uniform started to escort me through the declaration lines. I thought it was strange that he kept saying, “Don’t let them open your bags,” but I didn’t think anything of it until we were past them and he wanted $40 from me. Luckily, when I told him I didn’t have that much he accepted $5. I feel a little bit stupid for falling for that, but at least I’ve learned not to just trust people especially when I’m traveling alone.

Either way, the other interns that I have met seem to be pretty nice. There are two other Longhorns (though they are both business majors and men, so working with the sustainable development and not global health team) on the trip, and there are a couple of people who seem to like sarcasm, which is good.

Right before we went to sleep, they gave us some food. The fruit that they had with it (white pineapple, mango, watermelon) were incredibly sweet and juicy, and if that’s the kind of fruit we’re going to have for the next three weeks, I am in for a treat!

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