Trip back to Ghana

Monday, April 27, 2015
Fort Smith, Arkansas, United States
I said goodbye to my wife and youngest son at the Fort Smith, AR airport Monday evening headed back to Ghana. It is a very nice little regional airport, and if I haven’t mentioned it before, it won an award for the nicest restroom facilities of all airports in the US three or four years back.Don’t ask me who decided it was a good idea to do a comparison of airport restrooms…but it may be some of our tax dollars at work.

I had three flights connecting through two airports before arriving in Accra, Ghana. My connection in Atlanta was especially tight, with only about 45 minutes between scheduled landing and take-off to Amsterdam. We were nearly 20 minutes late getting off the ground, but the pilot made up most of that in the air. Good thing the airway patrol wasn’t running radar between Fort Smith and Atlanta! Also, we landed in the “C” terminal and I had to get out
to the international departures in “E” terminal. There was no time to wait for the shuttle train, so I hoofed it through the tunnels most of the way as fast as I could get through, arriving at the gate just before the closed the doors. I was the last person to get on the plane! But, sweat dripping from my brow, I made it aboard. Just hoping my suitcase could make the same trip as quickly…

In Amsterdam I had over 3 hours, so connection was not a problem. They have free wi-fi at the Schipol Airport, so I was able to catch up on emails, and continue working on the lessons I need to present to the Ghanaian pastors. 

Six and a half hours after taking off we descended into Accra. It struck me as we landed that I am only a few days off from being exactly 9 years after my very first trip over here – that’s hard to believe! They have made steady improvements to the Katoka airport arrivals area, and now it is painted, air conditioned, and more efficient than in the past. Some areas are still under construction, so I’m guessing they have more improvements under way.

We were not the only other aircraft to arrive at this time, but we were apparently the last, we we got to join the long “que”. The lines for foreign nationals was quite long, winding back and forth in a serpentine manner. But they seemed to have improved efficiency, because I was through the immigration procedures in about 45 minutes. 

Looking around the crowd is a study in people. Some of the guys, like the burly guy with an auto parts ball camp and an “Oklahoma” t-shirt are most likely oil field workers. They are constantly rotating in and out, so they are now a regular part of the flights. Others are obviously religious/missionary types (some with collars on backwards…), while some are
likely aid workers and NGO employees. The handful of young westerners are probably volunteers for one of dozens if not hundreds of projects being conducting in Ghana, or some could be family of oilfield workers or other expats coming in for a visit.

There were a surprising number of Ghanaians (you can tell by the accent) who had to join the foreign national’s line. They have apparently been able to secure either US or UK citizenship, and are now returning home to visit family. Between them and the Ghana residents, they make up the majority of the people on our flight. 

Once clear of customs you walk down a short hallway into the baggage claim area. Unfortunately the improvements to the airport do not extend to here. It is NOT air conditioned, and although they do have two luggage belts, everyone from both (or all three) flights were having bags sent to the same carrousel. They have never seemed overly efficient getting bags out, since it seems to take an inordinate amount of time. Even after the 45 minute wait
through Customs I was in baggage claim another half hour or more before my bag made an appearance. Having said that, I shouldn’t complain too loudly. In 9 years and approaching 30 trips here, I have not yet had a bag lost on the way in to Accra. I can’t say the same about several other airports…

The driver for my hotel, the Airport West Hotel, was in the parking lot waiting. Wires had gotten a little crossed, and he was ready to go back when I called the hotel asking about him. They apparently got ahold of him by mobile phone, and within a few minutes he appeared and we went to the waiting van – pleasantly air conditioned as well! 

With only three or four hours sleep total since Sunday night, I’m very tired and ready for a solid night’s sleep in a bed! I wasn’t terribly hungry, but went down to the hotel restaurant to get something light.I ordered spring rolls, but they were out, so the waiter suggested we
substitute a native dish which he said was very close. And it was – sort of. With the exception of copious amounts of what appeared to be red cayenne pepper, and being filled with potatoes rather than cabbage and other veggies, it was almost the same. But it was so spicy hot I simply could not finish. Even now, back up in my room, my mouth and throat are still stinging a bit. Oh well, I could probably use to lose a few pounds, so no harm done…

Tomorrow plans call for me to make my way up to Kumasi and we’ll begin the trip in earnest.


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Bill & Aurora

Glad that you had good connections to Ghana and that your luggage arrived with you! Too bad about the Spring Rolls, maybe they'll replenish their stock by tomorrow. May the rest of your trip be fruitful! Bill & Aurora