This is the final entry of a series of diary entries from one of the nurses on our October 2016 nursing mission, told from her perspective as a volunteer. I hope you've been enjoying these glimpses into what it's like to be on a humanitarian mission - the challenges, the learning, AND the fun! Groups are now forming for medical missions in April and October/November 2017. Contact us for details! (Credit to Lisa Bowers, RN for sharing her writing)
We were all packed and ready to leave by 9am. We said goodbye to our dear friend and colleague Philimon and to the kind ladies who took care of us on the compound. We collected a nice tip for the four ladies which we know was greatly appreciated. We left some clothes and leftover snacks and Dale gave Philimon the last of the "dirty water" he brought. He brought along a lot of water additives like green tea, raspberry lemonade and such. Our fellow Ghana cohorts had never seen such a thing and loved it! When Philimon first saw it he asked Dale if he was drinking dirty water. The term stuck and every place we went someone was asking for dirty water. Dale also gave Godfried's 8 yr old son a jump rope before we left. He had never seen one and it was fun seeing how quickly he learned to use it (and Jalil showing him how!).
The 4hr drive back to Accra was miserable but as long as the van was moving and we felt air in the back seat it was tolerable. But when we got into traffic and had to stop frequently it was almost unbearable between the heat and diesel fumes. Plus Jo and Jalil weren't feeling so great. We stopped once for a bathroom break--along the side of the road of course. This break was a bit different from our first such experience a week earlier when Wendy declared she had never peed outside before and sought a bush far off the road. She was following me and when I quickly got entangled in some briars and was getting chewed up. She exclaimed, "That's it!! I'm dropping my drawers right here! If anyone driving by sees my big white ass they can just blow their horn and look! I don't care anymore!!" I about lost it! So of course we had to take pictures of this magical moment--staged of course!!
We arrived back at the Sampson House around 1:30 and couldn't wait to get the air conditioners turned on in our rooms. I couldn't wait to take a shower with clear water and made a beeline for it in our room. Only a slow trickle of water came out of the shower head but I was going to make it work. Then I made a crucial mistake. I flushed the toilet and the trickle stopped completely. I'm not going to lie. I just about had a total meltdown right there but Dale talked me out of it. I went to Wendy's room and thought I stepped into paradise! Her air conditioner was blasting cold air plus she had an oscillating fan blowing it! Needless to say that was our hang out place! Plus her shower worked well! Godfried treated us to supper out--the Chicken Shack they called it. It was delicious!! We stopped to see Godfried's brother and family before going back to the Sampson House where Janeas played a game of kickball with the local children. I tried to convince Godfried's sisterinlaw to let me take her precious baby home with me but they of course adored him and said no! We also had a little time to connect to family and friends via Wifi.
Godfried fixed breakfast for us the next morning! Eggs, bread and he also went and bought us Nutella!! He and Sara both are genuinely thoughtful people and we'd all grown to love and respect them deeply. Our flight wasn't scheduled to leave until 10 pm so Godfried took us out touring. He wanted to take us to a place that makes caskets and some of us were thinking, "really?" He had explained to us earlier in the week about their funerals when cannons started blasting before dawn one morning and someone came riding by the compound shouting through a bullhorn. The cannons signaled that someone had died. The announcer was telling who it was and when the funeral would be. This culture has great respect for their elders and funerals are a big deal--really big deal! The mourning is done when the person dies but the day of the funeral is a day of celebration. Dancing, singing, eating and drinking can last hours to all day. The whole village comes and if you moved away from your village you are expected to return for the funeral. We heard cannons several times.
So we ended up stopping at a museum that had several caskets displayed. Wow! We we're amazed! Some people people are buried in beautiful caskets that represent their life. We first had no idea that we were looking at caskets. Fish, a shoe, tiger and taxi--all were caskets and told what the person buried in them did for a living (fisherman, runner, hunter and taxi driver). Interesting though the caskets are beaten and destroyed when they are buried so that no one else will dig them up and reuse them. The museum was also filled with lots of interesting artifacts that told of African life and Godfried was our personal tour guide explaining it all.
We left there and drove to the old city of Accra. Sadly Ghana was the leading exporter of slaves during that dark period in history. The slave traders would arrive on the coast and build big houses for themselves and dungeons for the captured slaves. The traders hired local men to go inland and capture men, women and children sometimes wiping out entire villages. We toured a decaying home of a slave trader and saw where the slaves were held and the "tunnel of no return " where they were herded to the boats. Very moving and sad especially being told by a native who has roots in this country.
Then we went to a craft market to souvenir shop! Beautiful things from clothes and purses to carvings, paintings, jewelry and more. There are no prices displayed on anything. You have to bargain with the seller, that is after choosing one of many people/booths selling the same thing! What chaos! And guess who was the master bargainer?? Wendy Burns! Yep. I stuck with her once I figured that out. She was awesome! We all came away with lovely purchases and a bit of a headache!
We went to a beautiful restaurant for a late lunch and enjoyed our last meal together. We had a little time to clean up and finish packing before going to the airport and to enjoy Wendy's cool room!
The ride to the airport felt long and suffocating even though the sun had already set. All the people crowding the roads and rushing to the vehicle during traffic stops never ceased to amaze us. From monopoly boards to toilet paper or snacks. You could buy it all from the convenience of your vehicle. Saying goodbye to Sara and Godfried was as hard as we expected. We had already told Shanna goodbye as she met some friends and was staying a few more days. And Jo was staying longer for a few days of touring and relaxation. But I have to say that I was ready and excited to be heading home.
Thank you for the opportunity to share this journey with you.