15.07.2004 Feature Article

Culture shock greets Ghana visit

Culture shock greets Ghana visit
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Sweltering heat, squalid living bring mission into focus By Sarah Elizabeth Baker, Special to East Memphis Appeal (East Memphian Sarah Elizabeth Baker kept a diary of her trip to Ghana and the work she did there. Her first days are published here and her daily logs will run every Thursday for the next three weeks.) Ghana. A land represented by the flag of gold, for its gold, green for its vegetation, red for its forefathers, and the black star for the black star of Africa. A land where there is no word for poverty, no such thing as industry. A land where time is not of the essence. A land of deep black faces and bright white smiles. Ghana. Where I was "in my element." May 11 Arrival in Ghana: As we got off the plane our faces were greeted with the muggy African air and our sweat glands began producing, not to stop for two weeks. We were so fortunate in that only one of our 16 army canvas bags was not given to us at the baggage claim at the Ghanaian International Airport in Accra. Two trips in rusty buses delivered us to the Centra Hotel, near the British High Commission, where we stayed for the night before our trip to Sekondi the next day. Much to our surprise the hotel was equipped with air-conditioning. The unit in my room didn't seem to work, but the next morning I heard others complaining of how cold they had been the night before, unable to figure out how to shut the AC off! I took note that this was the last decent shower I would have for I didn't know how long. May 12 Arrival in Sekondi: Left Accra this morning, after a breakfast of toast, orange marmalade and coffee. Yet the 41/2-hour bus ride went quickly, probably because the scenery was most intriguing. Unending lines of colorful stucco, cardboard and wooden sticks piled into shack buildings, roads dotted with beautiful faces staring out of poverty and dirtiness. Signs adorned most of the shops, advertising "The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want Barber Shop," or "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me Fashions." Vendors (mostly 12- to 15-year-old girls) approached the bus every time it even slowed a bit, baskets and bowls on top of their heads filled with the plantain chips, mini-lobsters, mangos, and other items they were selling. The school children walk everywhere in their little uniforms - peach blouses and brown pinafores and shorts. So many details, all summed up by saying its sewage-filled crowded streets in a colorful world of poverty. There are stands everywhere with goods. Everyone has things to sell but no means of buying. Pulled into Sekondi with a loud greeting from the voices of the children I would grow to love, mostly saying all they know how to say in English: "Bruni! Bruni! Say bye-bye! Say bye-bye." A sweet chorus in my ears. Set up clinic for the week. I think every stitch of my shirt was absolutely drenched in sweat! Rice was for dinner, with a sort of vegetable medley and a tomato-based salsa sauce. I actually went back for seconds. The compound we are staying in is gated, with the L-shaped church on one side, a courtyard in the middle, and our building with two large rooms (each holding eight people) and the eating room and kitchen between them. After dinner there was a prayer meeting at the church, so I stood outside and looked in through the back window, harmonized with "How Great Thou Art," and got some smiles from the children sitting inside.

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