It is now January 31 and we have been home for 11 days. I had hoped to finish writing about the last few days in Ghana a day or two after we arrived home but alas here I am and February is here tomorrow. In summary, our last few days in Ghana were less work and more sightseeing. We had the opportunity to go to Cape Coast and visit the Elmina and Cape Coast Castles which were famous for the site of slave trading between the Africans and Europeans and eventually the Americans. This is always a very powerful experience for me but I have learned to understand that this is a sad chapter in the history of Ghana but the guilt is shared by many nations including Ghana itself . Slavery was not invented in Africa. It has existed for well over 2000 years dating back to the origins of our human history. Americans did play a role in the barbaric practice of slavery but also many other European countries were equally if not more of an importer of human beings for slavery. I am always saddened to walk through the slave dungeons but I am reminded that we must never forget this and strive for peace and good will to ALL humans no matter what their skin color, their politics, their religion, their economic or social status or other defining characteristic. We were treated to a evening discussion by one of the most well known curators of Elmina castle and it was a lively discussion of our perceptions of the slavery trade and our general impressions of the castles. These are the type of experiences that a class room can never duplicate. It is not nursing but it about the understanding of our mutual human connections.
The students were also treated to an elevated canopy walk at Kakum National Park. This is an exhilarating experience where there are ropes and plank and netted walkways high about the forest floor. I am sure that Amanda was looking for giraffes or other animals but any animals that were below were likely scared off by the delighted screams of the students.
Our departure from Cape Coast was marred by the theft of some UML student personal items at the Arafyn Hotel. The short version of this story is that the hotel manager ( who happens to be the brother of the owner of the hotel) was caught red-handed with some of the items except for the $500 Iphone. After much yelling and involvement by the local police the hotel owner agreed to pay $400 toward the phone. We left the issue of dealing with her brother, the thief, up to her. It is unfortunate to have this happen to us on the last few days of a wonderful trip to Ghana. What made this whole incident rot in my gut was the police detective asking me for a kickback for helping us solve the case. I was shocked and appalled and then I got steaming mad! I yelled at this detective in front of his staff at the police station telling him that that action is corruption and he was no better than the thief himself. In the USA our policemen do a good job because they are honorable and not thieves hiding behind a badge. I think the Ghanaian police officers are still talking about the ‘crazy American ‘ woman who went on a yelling rampage.
At this point my tolerance for being asked for money by many of the people I meet has gotten me quite discouraged. While I am fully and painfully aware of the poverty in this country, I cannot also be the solution to their pervasive social and economic problems. I am here to deliver nursing care and some supplies and I am not here to bribe policemen or politicians, or to put roofs on schools or dig drainage ditches. I try very hard to focus on the good that we have done and on the wonderful people we have met. If I concentrate on that and recognize all the good that we have done then I am happy but at the end of 16 long days it becomes harder to see the net result.
We spend one last day in Accra to do some last minute souvenir shopping. Everyone is down to their last few cedes( money). We have a last lunch at Frankies whish is the closest thing to a burger joint we have found. Our last treat is a tour of the renowned Korlebu Hospital. It is one of the largest hospitals in West Africa and much more advanced than the hospitals that we have visited in the rural regions but still much more primitive than our American hospitals. We are stunned that we are able to walk freely into the hospital units where new mothers are with their newborn babies or post surgical patients are sleeping in 36 bed wards that resemble a pre-1940 American hospital ward. We are grateful for this opportunity but realize that we would never allow a group of ‘sightseers’ to go through our American hospitals. I feel somewhat guilty but also am thankful of this opportunity.
We are then surprised with an impromptu party at a local bar where we are joined by 15 or more of our new friends who volunteer with AFRICED. These are the men and women who volunteer their time to work on projects that help the social, economic and health welfare of the people of Ghana, particularly the vulnerable women and children. The efforts of UML is brief but these are the people who care deeply about making their country a better place for all. We enjoy some beverages and some music. Speeches are made, photos are taken and friendships are cemented. This is such a brief party but one of my favorite parts of the trip. These people are so giving and genuine. I wish I had more to give to them but they are now my friends. Although I look forward to going home I am sad to leave these wonderful people.
Our next stop is the airport. We have re-packed some of bags by the side of the road and given our last goodbyes to our wonderful bus driver Ernest who kept us all safe and sound on the treacherous roads of Ghana and also to Mawuli, who does not come into the airport with us. We are assisted through customs by one of our friends, Nicholas. He has been such a wonderful help to us due to his position with the Ministry of Education. The students make it through security and Maura and I spend a few last minutes with Kwadwo. We have come to the point in our journey where we leave some of our funds to help promote AFRICED activities. The students have elected to give about $400 of their club money to help pay for health insurance for ALL the orphans at Peki in addition to purchasing some school supplies. I leave some of my own money as well and Maura does the same. We trust Kwadwo to use these funds for efforts related to the orphanage at Peki. That village is near and dear to our hearts and we are hopeful that these funds will help AFICED to provide services to 38 orphans.
We board our plane home. Maura and I have snagged our great seats just behind business class. There is a bit more legroom and we are anxious to get some sleep on the long leg of our journey home (12 hours until Washington DC). We are tired and still quite dirty but all in all it has been a productive journey. The students are equally exhausted but satisfied. They have done and seen things that many nursing students never get a chance to even imagine. This experience changes all of us for the better. We have survived the challenges, we have learned about another culture but also about ourselves.
Thank you to all the family, friends and colleagues who have supported NSWB during this journey. We could not have done this without you.