Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A few pictures to break up the monotony...

US Embassy

I get up bright and early on Wednesday April 30th. Romana is off to Bible study and I am headed to the airport to pick up K & M! They are arriving by plane from Tamale this am with Bernard. We manage to find them pretty quickly and Emmanuel takes us to the guesthouse where K & M are staying. They stayed at SIM guesthouse in East Legon. It was very nice and K said the staff had been very accomodating. They arranged for George to pick me up and get me to the Embassy by 2pm. I had an appointment on Monday at 2, I changed to Tuesday at 2, and will now finally be arriving Wednesday at 2!

K & M are headed to TK Beads with Evans and I am off to the Embassy. George gets me there promptly at 2. The guards outside reluctantly let me in. Then the guard on the inside says "you had an appointment yesterday, call and make another appointment." I calmly explain to him that I wasn't in the country yesterday and I have no phone to call and make an appointment. A nice Ghanaian man in the waiting area extends his phone to me. I thank him and start to call the lady in DHS and ask her to convince the guard to let me in. I guess you aren't allowed on the phone inside cause the guard them asked me to step outside.

I get the DHS dept. on the phone and explain the entire situation to her. She tells me to hang up and she will call me Arrgh! I don't know the number of the phone I'm calling from, how does she know it? The outside guards are looking at me like I am mad! I just close my eyes and stand still and will the phone to ring. I am clenching my teeth and tensing my entire body trying to make the phone ring. Finally, it rings! "Hello, this is Tanya Lively", I say. The man on the other end says "Martin, I'm looking for Martin." Ethical dilemma...this is not my phone, but I am waiting for a most important call. I make a quick decision to say "Sorry, wrong Number" and hang up. Probably not the right thing, but it's what I did. :/ Now I'm back to clenching. It worked before, it was just the wrong person calling. 3 minutes go by, then 4. Finally the phone rings again. The woman tells me to show my passport to the guards an tell them I have an appointment with DHS.

I am let back inside and return the phone to the nice man. Thanks Martin. Sorry about your missed call. The guards x-ray my bag and explain to me where to go.

I go into the DHS room and sit and wait to be helped. The woman comes in, greets me, accepts my documents and scans them against the originals. She tells me the DHS officer will be in touch with me when my case has been reviewed and is approved. I thanked her and left. 22 minutes to get inside. No more than 7 minutes inside. Done. Now the waiting begins...

Accra At Last!

At about 1900 local time on Tuesday we landed! I was so happy to finally be in Ghana. I would be seeing Philip in less that an hour. K & M had arranged for Evans to pick me up from the airport because they were still in the North. I knew the procedure. Get off the plane quickly so you will be on the first bus to the terminal and walk quickly so you will not have to wait long at Immigration. I'm just blowing through like a local! First one to Immigration, get my luggage cart and claim a prime spot by the luggage belt. And Wait. And wait. I'm seeing bags go by 2 times, 3 times. Finally after about 45 minutes the siren goes off. This tells me there are no more bags coming.

Actually, I half expected this. How could they have managed to get my bags here with me? It would have been impossible. They were already on the flight headed to New York. I convince myself they will be in on the Thursday flight and walk over to the lost bag counter to get a claim number. By the time I get outside, poor Evans has been waiting nearly 2 hours. Sorry Evans! Thanks for waiting.

He immediatly brought me to Beacon House. Romana met me outside and brought me in to where the kids were watching a movie. Mom Shelter and Vivian saw me first and got up to hug me. Philip then turned around and saw me. He jumped up and flew up on to me arms and legs wrapped around me! Finally! This is why I have travelled for 4 days!

We settle in and I meet some new kiddos that weren't here last year. Romana and I went through a few things, paperwork issues and such. We chatted until pretty late. I opened my hand luggage to see what I had. My night clothes, an extra t-shirt and my toiletries. That should get me. I have a shower, put on my night clothes and go to bed. Finally in Ghana.

Verwelkom naar Nederland!

Ahhh! At least I am finally on another continent! Not the one I am headed to, but forward progress all the same.

The flight was pretty uneventful. I slept much of the way. It was about 8 hours. Now I have a 6 hour layover in Amsterdam. To tell you the truth, I didn't really get the whole Holland/Netherlands thing. I'm still not 100%, but I think they refer to Holland and it's language as The Nederlands. Anyway, I realized I was in Holland when I was walking through the airport and saw wooden shoes and tulips for sale in every store. Hmmm... so this is what my neighbor was trying to explain to me on the plane. I couldn't understand him, but apparently you can see tulip fields from the airplane as you land. Rows of blue, red, orange, white. Cool. Too bad it was cloudy, gray and raining and I didn't see anything.

I sat at my gate for about 5 hours before we boarded. As we were boarding I asked the attendant to check on my bags. He typed away in the computer and Yup! my bags were on the flight. Wow! I was impressed, and pleased with myself for making the right decision. I would be in Africa in 6 hours! Yahoo!

I've Left you hanging long enough...

Okay, so the three of you who are actually reading this, thanks! And welcome back! I am sorry to leave you in such suspense, long story. I'll get there.

So Atlanta turns into a disaster! JFK is not accepting flights in due to air traffic. My 1320 departure moves to 1400, then 1430, then 1500. My flight to Ghana leaves JFK at 1705 and the Atlanta to JFK flight is over 2 hours. Can this really be happening? I phone Delta reservations while I am sitting in the terminal and they tell me they have already moved me to the Wednesday flight out of JFK to Ghana. "Oh thanks so much, you have been sooo helpful." "By the way, will you be accomodating my stay whilst in New York?" "Oh no maam, we have no control over air traffic, this is not Delta's fault." So I have already footed my own bill in a Houston hotel for 2 nights with all my bags, have a gimp back and NO SENSE OF HUMOR! Wednesday? WEDNESDAY? I left home on Saturday at 4am. It's now 1400 on Monday and I've only made it to Atlanta! A Wednesday departure from JFK puts me in Ghana on Thursday. In what civilized world does it take 6 days to fly across the Atlantic Ocean?

I suppose she senses I'm just about to go a little nuts in the terminal. She quickly finds me an alternate route out of Atlanta to Amsterdam. During this conversation, we begin to board my now dreadfully late flight to JFK. I begin to accept my fate of two nights in New York and decide I will figure it out when I get there. I tell the reservationist I am now boarding and she says "I have booked you on the KLM flight to Amsterdam, you will arrive in Accra, Ghana on Tuesday evening." I ask her about my bags because I know they are on the plane I have just boarded. She tells me they will be checked through New York and to get off the plane.

So I do.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Monday! Finally, I'm off....or am I?

Monday Morning! Bright and early. I am soo ready to be on my way. I awaken and get ready to go for a 0630 check-in. I have all of my bags neatly stacked on my cart from the airport that has been captive in my hotel room for the past 2 days. Here I to Africa! Whoa, not so fast. The bags on the cart are too wide for the doorway! Are you kidding me? So I start my Monday out struggling too? I manage to unload each of my bags into the hallway, push the cart through and begin to load them up again. Two on, two to go. Picking up the third one I pinched a nerve or something in my back. My kneeds buckled. Hmmm. I try again. No way! I cannot by any means possible get this bag off the ground.

Determined to make it somehow, I buckle the remaining bags together. I push the cart and pull the grounded bags! Again breaking the rules of the airtram to the Delta terminal. Out of the elevator and I am within 50 yard of ridding myself of these bags. At this point, I don't care if I ever see these bags again (note to self: be careful what you wish for). The same nice lady who tried to help me Saturday morning was back at work on Monday. I secretly resented her for being able to spend the weekend with her family whilst I lived like Tom Hanks for the past 48 hours. Anyway, I give her my bags. Each of them at about 52#. I think she thought best not ask me to remove any items. I was prepared to use the excuse that they had "settled" during my time in Houston.

Yee-Haw! Finally I am on an airplane. Did I forget to mention that the flight from Corpus Christi to Houston was so turbulant that I barfed the whole way? Little detail I sometimes leave out, depending on the audience. :) Filled the bag! My first time barfing on a plane. Big Fun. As if I hadn't suffered enough.

I arrived in Atlanta uneventfully. I make my way to my next terminal to wait the 2 hours for the flight to New York.

Again no pictures. I have no sence of humor at this point and pictures were the farthest thing from my mind.

The first leg...

Well the trip started with a bang. Trey and I had decided that we needed to leave the house at 4am to be at the airport for my 0525 flight. He startled me awake at 0401! I was ready in less than 16 minutes and we were out the door! This, however, was a premonition of how my next 4 days were to unravel.

The storm was in the distance on the drive to the airport, but once I got checked in and to the terminal it was right over Corpus Christi. We were grounded due to the lightening for an hour and a half. My layover in Houston was only 2 hours. Sheesh! Now I have missed the only flight into JFK New York that will get me in before 4pm. The International flight to Ghana only flies every other day. The poor lady at the Delta desk in Houston had a very frazzled traveler on her hands. She worked very hard for me but there was no way around the fact I would spend the next 48 hours in a Houston hotel with all of my luggage...

I got the courage to go to the Marriott within the Houston airport. I was nervous because I just knew it would cost a fortune and I would be forced to get a taxi with my four 50# bags. I put all of my bags on an airport cart and went to the lower level where I could catch the airtram to the hotel. Naturally, the airtram didn't allow these carts on board. I waited for an empty car and pushed my cart on board as if the rules only applied to "satisfied travellers". I, of course, was definately NOT satisfied at this point. I'm pretty sure the look on my face kept anyone from questioning me or my actions.

At the Marriott counter I explained to the lady that I unexpectedly needed a room. She asked what airline had delayed me, she checked a list and gave me a rate that was so reasonable I nearly cried. I would not have to take my bags out into the world, I would not have to be fearful in a Houston motel, I would be safe and clean and secure right in the airport! Yahoo! The silver lining in my otherwise rain soaked day.

I felt a bit like Tom Hanks in the movie "The Terminal". I wandered around the airport. Saw people from all over the world, heard every language you can think of. I realized though that you cannot shop or eat at all those places you see in airports cause I was not permitted through security without a boarding pass. My boarding pass was for Monday. It was only Saturday. My hotel room had a coffee pot so I ran hot water through it and managed to eat the instant oatmeal and ramen noodles I had packed. I did eat in the hotel restauraunt once each day. It wasn't completely unreasonable. I paid around $12 for each meal. Probably better thnt the prices within the airport. I watched plenty of TV. Got caught up on some old movies. Jennifer Lopez really kicked some butt in "Enough".

Anyway, I should have taken some photos of the Hotel or the airport or something to mark my time in Marriott IAH. But I didn't. Sorry. More to come...