Getting back to the states
The night bus back to Accra isn’t nearly as bad as the first one. It has its own indignities, but the joy of my visit in Kabile stays with me like fuel. I get an Uber at the bus station and arrive back at Hopeful Way House at 4am.
Late morning, I join Dan, Adwoa, and Father Nick for a meeting where they go over current and future projects. We discuss a brochure I reworked for them and note revisions. Dan asks if I could do a quick SWOT analysis based on my stay, and I am happy to find a way to be useful. We discuss my COVID experience, and Dan reiterates an offer to me to extend my stay, saying they will cover all expenses related to changing my travel. Despite this generosity, I am ready to go home. I have commitments that I don’t want to put off, and though I feel fine, I’m ready to feel a little more secure in my health.
We also discuss a school program the next day, and I make plans to meet Father Nick and Adwoa in Accra for it. I’ll need to say goodbye to Dan for now.
When planning my trip, Dan invited me to bring my bubble gear if I like. Since my time is coming to an end, I get it out and we play with it in the courtyard. The nursing students are continuing their workshop and they and staff are eager to make bubbles, so I hand it over to them. The juice doesn’t perform very well (I’m not sure why), and I’m not able to get really big bubbles, but we have fun anyway.
While we are doing bubbles, however, Dan remarks that he thought I was leaving tomorrow—the 29th. No, I tell him…I fly out on Thursday the 29th.
He gently points out that the 29th is Wednesday—tomorrow—and suddenly I realize that I will be leaving Ghana in just a day. I won’t be able to go to another school program after all. I can’t believe I almost got the day wrong.
In the morning I pack, work on the SWOT analysis, and finish revisions on the brochure. Eventually, it’s time to call a car and go to the airport.
Joe, who has taken such good care of me during my stay, waits with me for the car. We watch it on the app, and it goes the wrong direction, then starts back, then stops. Joe calls and talks to him a couple of times, but it’s pointless. I cancel it and call another, which starts my way immediately. The first driver arrives, and I piece together that he’s trying to use someone else’s account to drive, and tell him I’ve canceled.
The second driver, Raheem, arrives and pulls into the courtyard. Leaping out of the car, he yells, “Come on! Let’s go! You are tired of Ghana!” and laughs at our astonishment. I plead that I am not, and he says, “Really?”
“Well, maybe just a little,” I admit, which makes him laugh. We get loaded and I say goodbye to Joe; as we wheel away, Joe calls out, “Share your location with me!” and I do, the driver laughing “You will be fine!”
We have a lively conversation about Ghana and America, and I try to soak in as much of the rich pageant of life we pass by, weaving through traffic toward Kotoka Airport.
At the airport entrance, there’s a soldier verifying that the cars entering actually need to be going there. As we approach, Raheem yells something out the window. The guard rolls his eyes and waves us through without stopping. Raheem turns to me with glee and exclaims, “I tell him you are tired of Ghana!”
Raheem gets a grand tip as I start unloading any remaining cedis I have left. I stop at the gift shop in the ticketing area to get rid of the rest. At baggage check, the clerk manages to get my suitcase checked all the way through to O’Hare, which alleviates a lot of my worry about making connections. I pass through security with plenty of time to spare. Shopping at Kotoka Airport is now excellent once you’re past security, by the way—whether you have cedis or plastic.
I resign myself to the 30+ hours of travel ahead. I booked my own flights, combining round trips to get lower fares, and worry that it was a mistake. That I could get luggage checked through despite different bookings was a big break.
We’re delayed a couple of hours in Accra due to thunderstorms. Arriving late in Brussels, everyone is stressed, but with a planned 4-hour connection, I get through passport control and walk up to the gate for my flight to Zurich just as it is boarding. We get to Zurich on time, but there is more passport control and the connection is tight—I make it to the boarding area with a few minutes to spare, but am not able to fill the rest of the room in my carry-on with chocolate and other Swiss goodies to take home to family as I’d hoped. If my luggage hadn’t been checked through to O’Hare, I wouldn’t have made it onto this plane at all.
O’Hare arrival is pure chaos. I walk and walk and walk past snaking lines of other passengers ahead of me, who must be waiting hours to get through passport control. Finally I see signs for Global Entry, and nearly miss the kiosks standing to the side. I stand in front of the kiosk, take off my mask and glasses, let it scan my face. I expect to have to put my passport on a scanner and then go get into a line, but instead a receipt with my name and ID info immediately spits out of the machine. I turn to figure out where to go next, and a guard sees me with the paper. “This way ma’am,” she says, lifting the barricade up and directing me through. Suddenly, I’m in baggage claim.
That $100 for Global Entry and the time for the appointment was worth it. I can’t believe how much easier it is. Yes, it’s off-putting that my facial scan is so effortless for them, and it seems more like security theater than anything else. But…wow am I glad I didn’t have to stand there in line for hours.
My suitcase arrives, and I get it checked in for the last flight to Fort Wayne. Miraculously, even this flight comes off without a hitch. My uncle picks me up at the airport and soon I am comfortable in his home, still not quite sure it isn’t a dream.
After a pleasant morning of coffee and breakfast, he drives me back to my sister’s place in Ohio. The reunion with family makes me happy—especially with the littlest one, who seems as glad to have her emotional support animal back as I am to see her.