It was December 24, 2014. We had just arrived at Kotoka International Airport in Accra for our Christmas holidays, to see the fabled Gold Coast of beautiful Ghana and soak in the warmth of her balmy weather. Although the Harmattan had arrived, carrying a dusty veil from the Sahara desert into the southern countries of Nigeria, Benin, Togo, and Ghana, it could not cover the spirit of Ghana. Christmas was there in every lane, in decorated shops and houses, malls and parks, and other important venues. And it indeed looked “merry” with the many big sales in the malls and shops, as well as amongst people spending time with their family and friends. There was a spirit of bonhomie in the Ghanaian air.
Yet I had trepidations in my heart, about the safety of the country, having flown in from neighboring Nigeria, where it's not uncommon to fall prey to armed robberies and kidnapping. It’s a part of everyday life. But tourists in Ghana walked about the streets in gay abandon. One time, hundreds of kilometers behind Accra, towards the forests near the town of Akosombo, we saw tourists walking towards Wli, the beautiful waterfall, situated deep in the forest, after mid-afternoon. This is unthinkable for tourists and expats in Nigeria. So it took us a while to realize that it was very safe to be a tourist in Ghana.
The pristine Ghanaian tropical forests with its myriad of large and small trees, including the fascinating cocoa tree with ripe cocoa fruits hanging down from it, were a delightful sight. The forests looked like a canopy of dark green where even the sun dithered before peering into the mysteries that lay in its dense foliage. On the other hand, Ghana's sea coasts, fringed with unending rows of palm trees swayed gaily as though beckoning the tourists to dance with them. The most commonly visited beaches aren't affected by shark attack incidents or dangerous Atlantic currents. At least, we found the sea and the beaches we visited very inviting.
Our 5 days of Christmas holidays sped by in the Ghanaian warmth before we realized it. There was local cuisine and sea food, cooked deliciously. We could choose from our favorite imported wine and drinks or local beverages and soups. Local fruit became our favorites, especially the ubiquitous mangoes and oranges, juicy and fleshy. We couldn't get enough of them. It's not easy to pin down how everything we did or saw was becoming a part of a beautiful memory. For instance, the hour-long boat ride towards the Akosombo dam on the Volta River was made doubly memorable by our boatman who sang beautifully, a few local songs that enhanced the ambience of the vivacious Volta River. Occasionally, he would break into a jig, upping the entertainment. Ghanaians are so deft with their song and dance skills. It was a pleasure for us.
The time had come for us to leave Ghana. We arrived at Kotoka International Airport, almost with a desire to trace back all the merriment we had experienced. Suddenly my husband realized that his iPhone charger had stayed back at the hotel. It was a new phone and hence a new charger. More than the loss of value, it would entail a lot of difficulties because his battery would eventually die and there was the driver to be contacted on arrival in Lagos, as well as other pertinent calls to make. This was a substantial setback after such an amazing holiday.
Our Ghanaian driver heard of this woe that had befallen us. Then suddenly, he asked us how long it was for our flight to take off. We had reached the airport about 4 hours before departure to find out if there was something around the airport that we could see. The driver unloaded our luggage in a jiffy and told us that he was "coming". Even before we could bid him a warm good bye, he had zipped off. We were a little puzzled by his rather abrupt departure but we already had such a good opinion of how patient and helpful he had been that we decided not to make anything of it.
Inside the airport, everything looked as though nobody was willing to end their stay in Ghana and go back. We were also told that our plane was about 3 hours late, a wait of almost 7 hours for us. At first, hearing this did irk us. But there was still a lot of bonhomie around the airport, from the freshly returned vacation goers, their friends and kin, so we didn't feel smothered by the long delay. It would have been a little over half time, with 3 hours left waiting for our flight, when we settled down to sip a coffee and reminisce about our Ghana trip.
Suddenly my husband's phone rang. It was a short, loud missed call and then another and another. As though somebody was insisting that we call before we leave Ghana. It was our driver. He had gone back to our hotel, insisted on being taken to the room we had vacated a few hours ago on the ground that we had left valuables, searched our room and found the iPhone charger. Then he drove all the way back to the airport (our hotel was about 2 hours away).
We didn’t have enough words to express our gratitude when we went to meet him and got back our much-needed charger. Ghana had become one of the most memorable journeys that we had ever taken. Not only the journeys thru the lush green forests or down the warm, inviting sea coasts, but the sweetest were the human journeys, with people so helpful and friendly. Our hearts were filled with the gems of Ghana.
Amrita Chakraborty is an Indian lady, presently living in Lagos. She worked as a banker for the State Bank of India for almost 14 years and taught MBA for 2 years in India. Amrita has never been an expat before although she has travelled to many countries. She writes about her expat life under her pen name Linda Bose.
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