I couldn’t believe it. After a sleepless, restless nine-hour flight, I had landed in the beautiful country of Ghana. My travel dreams were becoming a reality! “Akwaaba,” read a sign above the airport. That means “welcome” in Twi, a language spoken by nearly seven million people in Ghana.
Everything was magical in my eyes. It was Africa! A new experience! I couldn’t wait to get started! However, my true first impression of Ghana made me nervous that this was not going to be a friendly place. Going through immigration and customs was intimidating, to say the least.
First, we had to show proof of our yellow fever vaccines to a stern-looking man who waved us on through to the next phase, which was where my anxiety kicked into high gear. The woman in the booth asking me questions and stamping my passport had a thick accent that I had trouble understanding, and she was not very patient with me. She repeated herself several times until I realized she was asking me to place my hand on a machine that would record my fingerprints. Then I had to do my thumbprint, and the process repeated itself. I started off my time in Ghana feeling like the dumb white girl who didn’t belong.
That quickly changed.
We stayed at Coconut Grove Regency Hotel in Accra, and we were greeted with…coconuts! I sipped the coconut water through a straw and did not like it…so I tried again. Nope. I would try coconut water again the next day and find that I still did not like it no matter how badly I wanted to.
After freshening up in our hotel rooms (and connecting to the hotel’s wifi to tell my family I was safe, happy, and excited), we hit the ground running with activities. Our first stop was the W.E.B. DuBois Memorial Centre in Accra. Truthfully, I only had a vague idea of who DuBois was before the trip, but it turns out, he had an extraordinary life. He was known as the father of Pan-Africanism in addition to being an important civil rights activist. I feel honored that I got to see his home, his personal library (including a book given to him by Albert Einstein), and his mausoleum.
Our tour ended with dinner outside and some traditional African music and dancing which we later joined in on.
Despite going who-knows-how-many hours without sleeping, enduring a long plane ride, sweating in the equatorial heat, and desperately needing a shower, I was elated to jump up and dance with my fellow travelers and the Ghanaian citizens who welcomed us. The giddy feeling of being in Ghana, dancing carelessly, and being united with these people I hardly even knew was incredible. I was already having the time of my life.
More later… 🙂