Sunday, April 28, 2013

Countdown to Ghana

There are just four days to go until I leave for Ghana and there is still so much to do. Yesterday, I picked up my anti-malaria meds and after an hour on the phone with the airlines, Ken finally got my ticket mix up fixed. Thank goodness he found out that there was no record of my flight segment on the Luftansa portion from Frankfurt to Ghana before I arrived there- yikes that could have been a problem.

Today we hit the jackpot at the local dollar store. We bought headphones so the kids can work on the computer games without disturbing others. I found draw string back packs that will be good for the little ones to carry their books to school. For some reason backpacks are a real treasure to these kids. I promised a little girl I would find her a pink backpack and then when I went shopping I realized that backpacks are not in season right now. This is America. I will find one by Friday.  I got such a thrill filling my cart with pencils, crayons, erasers, work books and more.

When we stopped off at Home Depot to pick up a new chain saw, Ken's birthday present, I was so excited about my trip that I walked up and down the aisles looking for Charles who is from Ghana and works in the paint department so I could practice my Twi with him. I have been listening to Alexandra's Twi language CD's while I drive in the car, work in the garden or go for my morning walk with my dog Leo. I am surprised at how quickly it is coming to me. But I must sound pretty silly walking through the woods saying......"Wo te brafo annaaaahhhhh?"  I actually find it easier than French and kind of fun. There aren't all the masculine and feminine tenses and many times the word sounds like the meaning you are trying to get across. cacra = little, peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee= a lot. I have no idea how any of this is supposed to be spelled. My apologies to any Ghanaian reading this.

Tonight we are working with a bit of a deadline. My husband Ken, the computer expert in the house, is leaving for Dubai tomorrow and I have been having a few problems installing the educational software on the computers. ...........Hooray, as I type, Ken just got the Jump Start Phonics program installed. Things should move quicker now.

This is Ken as he works on the computers even though he is exhausted from a busy day of yard work. Good thing he loves yard work, computers and me.:)

Well that is all for tonight. Tomorrow I need to Stop shopping and Start packing. I need to make sure I can get everything into 2 suitcases and stay under 50lbs each. My clothes for the trip will just have to go in my carry on. Wish me luck.

It is 3am now and finally all the software works. It brought back such fond memories when we heard the little songs we used to hear as our kids would sit at the desk in our kitchen learning and playing with the same games. I really think this will help the kids learn to read and speak English much quicker and easier.

Monday, April 22, 2013

My Oasis, The Golden Tulip

I recently received wonderful news. The Golden Tulip Hotel is going to help support my project. I am so happy and relieved that I will be staying there on my next trip, especially since this time I will be traveling and staying alone. Each trip to Ghana gets easier than the one before as I get to know the culture, develop some relationships and learn my way around. However, traveling in Ghana can be difficult even for the most experienced traveler. The Golden Tulip, it's staff and amenities made my last two trips much easier and actually pretty fun. 

It was my first, very difficult, trip to Ghana that gave me a real perspective and appreciation for my new oasis. I stayed at three other mid to high priced hotels before finding the Golden Tulip.  Hotels in Africa are not what Americans are used to;  air conditioning, functioning hot showers and comfortable beds are not a given at any price. For perspective, these are the views in front of the first three hotels where I stayed in and around Accra.

The first had air conditioning but no working shower. The second had a shower that worked but the water was cold and the door was broken so it stayed open.  The third and most expensive had a nice hot shower but the air conditioner was broken, the bed was so hard that Alex choose to sleep on the floor and a rooster crowed every 8 seconds, all night long!

So, when I found out I was going back to Ghana a second time to accompany Ken on a business trip and take another load of donations to Future Leaders, I set my expectations low. I prepared myself for a week without the luxury of hot showers, wine, coffee or a good nights sleep  But this time we stayed at one of  IBM's preferred hotels, The Golden Tulip. What a dramatic difference it was from the moment we arrived.

After two exhausting days of travel, including a missed connection in Frankfurt, a reroute through London and two miserably long airport layovers, the hotel van was waiting for us at the airport when we arrived in Accra. Sam, pictured above, helped us with all 8 of the large suitcases full of donations: clothes, shoes, back packs and school supplies.


What a pleasant surprise to see this view. Was I really in Accra?

After a good nights sleep, the next morning Billa came to the hotel to pick up the donations and we talked about our project over a delicious breakfast buffet with traditional Ghanaian and American food and fresh brewed coffee! I never had brewed coffee on my last trip.

I didn't expect to be lounging by a pool and didn't even bring a bathing suit. I was able to buy one in the gift shop. This is a picture of me by the pool taking photos of the beautiful traditional clothing worn by people arriving for a wedding reception. Every afternoon and evening we would relax poolside, listen to live music and I enjoyed a glass or two of South African wine. What a treat after spending the day out on the hot dusty streets.

Most nights we held court poolside or at the restaurant, inviting our Ghanaian friends and associates to join us for dinner or drinks. The picture on the left shows Ken watching his lobster being grilled and the picture on the right was taken after we had dinner with Alexandra's host family Captain and Mrs. Ansah. Captain Ansah is going to be my local liason with my charity. 
We never had to leave the hotel. This was great because finding their house or a restaurant would be very very difficult for us since there really aren't any street addresses or road names. 

Haruna, one of the drivers from the hotel, took me to the Future Leaders to see the children in the morning and drove me around town to take pictures in the afternoon. 

I took this picture from the roof of Future Leaders to demonstrate just how hard it would be for me to find it on my own. Even Haruna, who had a general knowledge of the area, had to get on the phone with Billa several times for directions. Now I know to tell the driver to turn left at the Kofi Annan Center, drive straight on the dirt road until you see a broken down Range Rover (yes it will still be there), turn left and drive until you see something that looks familiar or until you see Billa standing out front waiting for you. Bless him and his patience. 

This picture was taken as Haruna and I stopped to have a cold drink by the beach. 

He was so kind and helpful. He would slow down when he saw something I would like to photograph like these babies playing on their mothers backs, translate and explain to the locals what I was doing and point out people who really needed help and we would stop  and buy what they were selling. Next time I need to bring more cash!

As I told Ken as we relaxed by the pool one night, I will gladly travel the world to help the poor if I can come back to a hotel like this at night.

Medassi pa pa pa pa pa, Golden Tulip. 
I will see you in two weeks.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Going to Dubai, By Way of Ghana

I am going back to Ghana in two weeks.  I am so excited. My husband Ken invited me to join him during his next business trip to Dubai. So, of coarse, having Africa always on my mind,  I asked him if he could arrange a stop in Ghana along the way. Well, Ghana isn't exactly on the way to Dubai, I'll travel from Washington, DC to Frankfurt, Germany than Frankfurt to Ghana and then Ghana to Dubai. The important thing is that I am going to Ghana. I will be able to take the computers there myself and help set them up. I asked Alexandra how difficult it would be for Billa to buy the computers if he had the money. "Impossible" was her thought. If there were any to buy they would be imported from China and very expensive. It is not like there is a Best Buy on any corner. But it will be relatively easy for me to collect unused lap tops from friends, clean them off and load the educational software. It is the two days travel in coach that will be the effort. However, the first time I see one of those smiling faces saying "Madame, Madame, Hold Me, Hold Me" It will be worth it. While there I plan to interview Billa and take pictures for the children's book I am writing about his life. I have so much to do in the next few weeks to get ready. I am hoping to collect 8 laptops. I think that is all that will fit in three suitcases and stay under 50lbs each. I am also collecting toothbrushes, toothpaste, and educational materials. It is hard to imagine how little they have so I will post a few pictures.

God Bless my husband, Ken Kralick for his international position and for being willing to use his frequent flyer points to help me help the kids in Ghana.   

These are the smiles that make two 8 hour flights in coach and a 9 hour layover and Frankfurt worth every minute. Believe it or not, I have more fun playing with these kids in the poorest area of Accra than I would at the most expensive night club in South Beach. Yes, I have been there.

This is the front of the center. The shipping container and room on the front are vocational centers where parents have learned a trade. The left is a sewing center and the right is a hair salon. I am also collecting sewing machines. They are using the type of old sewing machines our grand parents used to use right now.

A photo op showing that I really am giving the supplies directly to Billa.

In this picture Alexandra is tutoring a girl in math. As you will see the supplies are very, very basic and out dated. I hope to bring better teaching tools. 

This is the nursery class as they are singing Happy Birthday to my daughter's boyfriend Matt Schaff, on his 21st birthday. They really sit in those positions, being that crowded as they learn.

Friday, April 5, 2013

I see Ghana everywhere!

It seems like I see Ghana wherever I go? Perhaps I am looking for it or perhaps it is following me around reminding me that I have something important to do. Ghana is saying; "Don't forget about us, Adrienne. We are still here, Adrienne. We need you, Madam Adrienne".  "Madam, Madam", I can still hear the kids of Future Leaders calling me now and I smile. It is a true smile that comes from the inside out.

Ghana was there when I checked out at Office Depot in the smiling face of Kofi who had moved here 9 years ago and when Ken and I checked the car in at the Toyota dealership with Sam who has lived in the area for 20 years and last night when I sat down at a dinner at Maggianos next to George from Ghana who graduated from GW in 1979. Last night was just supposed to be all about my son Stephen and his decision of which university to attend. But yet again, there was Ghana!

Both of our families were there to attend a dinner for students accepted to the engineering school at George Washington University. How appropriate because George Washington University was where this all started when my daughter Alexandra chose Ghana as her study abroad destination. I had a feeling that George and his family may be from Africa so I threw out the fact that my daughter loved studying at GW and had an amazing semester abroad in Ghana last year. Yup, George said, "I'm from Ghana".  In which I replied "Ete seen. Me din de Adoawa", my one, well pronounced phrase "How are you, my name is Adoawa". (Adoawa is my Ghanain name because I was born on a Monday). I love the surprise and smile it creates on the face of unsuspecting Africans. It is not quite as dramatic as watching snow white Alexandra rattle off sentences to locals in Twi when we walked down the streets of Accra but fun for this average white American.

I had to bite my tongue most of the night to keep the topic on our sons learning about engineering at GW and not pummeling George with questions about Ghana and my project. "Have you ever shipped items to Ghana?" "Do you know the best way to send my computers?" etc. etc. George has started two schools in Ghana and said he would be able to advise. Yeah! I exchanged contact information with George and his wife Karen, who was also very interesting and had written a children's book about her home country of Liberia. Amazing, I am writing a children's book about the school under the mango tree. It was a connection that was meant to be and I know we will be in touch again soon. So in honor of my new Ghanain, American friends, today I am posting pictures of paintings inspired by the area of Accra know as "American House" because George owns a home in that area, how appropriate.

The beautiful colors I saw as I walked from our hotel to "American house". American House, named after just that an American who had a house there, was a large area where dirt roads connect in a dusty sienna field where people wait packed in lines for taxis and trotroes and others sell and buy and visit and live. 
The original painting is sold but prints are available for $50

This is one little segment of the people selling and buying and chatting at American House. These is where I first ventured out on my own to buy sachet water. I was intimidated, confused and quite overwhelmed . 
Original Oil on canvas panel with high glass varnish 8 x 10 $150. Proceeds go to Future Leaders UCC.

One of my favorite memories of my first trip to Ghana. I was hot(Alexandra preferred the A/C off since she was African now) and jet lagged when the sound of distant drumming woke me before sunrise. I sat on the hotel balcony and watched the city wake before my eyes. The sky turned from purple to lavender to blue. It was a  treat for my eyes and ears as the drumming and chanting ebbed and flowed until it appeared as a local jogging group passing by on the street in front me. Original 8 x 10 on linen panel $150 Proceeds go to Future Leaders UCC.