Off to Africa

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Where do I begin?

Five days have passed but it feels like two years. I mean this in the best way possible. I’ve procrastinated writing until now because I’m afraid I won’t be able to do this experience justice. I’ll try to break down the details in different posts, otherwise this blog will be a scattered mess.

My culture shock begins on the plane ride from London to Accra. People stand in aisles talking and laughing; ignoring flight attendants to lift their seats and put away tray tables. A small child kicks my seat for five hours before I tearfully ask the flight attendant to move me to another seat. Luckily for me, my new seat is in first class. A blissful hour of painless flying before I land into the great unknown.

I stroll through customs without presenting my required yellow fever vaccination or checking in with anyone. I probably should have but I’m so intent on not getting lost I zoom past everybody, my gaze down and focused.  I step out of the airport and the humidity embraces me in a wet hug. Not entirely unpleasant but strange since it’s been so long since I’ve been in weather even remotely similar. As hoards of people flock to help me leave the airport, a man pops up in front of my face with an upside down IVHQ Ghana sign and before I can even say “wait, what?” my things are carried to the outside seating area. I meet fellow volunteers hovering around 20-23 years old, bubbly and excited as I am. I’m introduced to four other Turquoise group girls, Alison, Jess, Nallie (from England) and Berta (from Spain). We instantly hit it off, giggling nervously and making mindless jokes about bug spray and mosquito nets. It’s a huge relief to meet like-minded girls and I’m ecstatic they’re going to be working in the same orphanage as me.

Our group is shoved in a rickity van and off we go through scenery that looks like a mixture of Mexico, Peru and Cambodia. I use these countries to try to give a visual, but in fact, Ghana is nothing like anything I’ve seen before. Ramshackle buildings covered in garbage line the streets. Goats wander aimlessly and small pants-less children buzz around their mothers who are in colorful dresses doing the wash or sweeping their walkway.

We arrive at the main volunteer house after a long and bumpy drive. Very few roads are paved here and there are more potholes than roads. (As I begin to describe the living conditions, please make note these are in no way complaints. I’m just stating the facts as they are so as to give a proper visual.) The house itself is sparse and dirty, photos randomly hanging on different sections of an otherwise blank wall. There are about 30 volunteers all together in this small space, running around using the one bathroom and cold shower as well as trying to buy new phones and SIM cards. Eight volunteers cram into a room with squeaking bunk beds and lumpy pillows.  I lie on the hard mattress with nervous energy staring at the ceiling.

“What have I done?”

My mind wanders as my exhaustion wins the battle and I fall into a deep sleep, too tired to imagine what tomorrow will bring.

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