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.