May 30, 2012

Day 1

God is good.  Wow.

Yesterday we entered the airport to find dozens and dozens of people in line at the United counter.  We soon realized that the weather (across the country) was causing numerous delays and that people were scrambling to figure out what to do, how to make their connecting flights, etc. We were told that our first flight was delayed signiciantly.  Instead of leaving at 6:00, it would be leaving around 8 or 9. This would make it nearly impossible to catch our next flight to Ghana.   OUCH.  Sean told the man helping us that we had an adoption court case to be at and he began looking up every option possible.  (Turns out there's just not that many flights leaving from the US to Accra every day… who knew?) After many, MANY brainstorming techniques (including all other airlines) we were left with one option.  Fly to DC (despite the delay) and from there, we would either make our flight to Ghana or we wouldn't.  If we missed it, then we would be put on standby for another flight to Ghana 24 hours later.  That was our only option.  …. AND if standby didn’t work out… well… we wouldn’t make our court date. 

The nice gentlemen at the service desk ended the conversation with, “You never know.  Perhaps the 2 hour delay will lessen OR maybe the plane to Ghana will be delayed.  It’s possible.”  Okay… we held onto those words tightly.

We went straight to our gate, sat down, prayed, waited, called our travel agent and adoption coordinator, etc. etc. etc.  Eventually, the same man who helped us at the front of the airport, showed up to work our gate.  He told Sean that our plane was now scheduled to leave around 7:30 (better than 8 or 8:30) and that we would have a little bit of buffer to get to our next flight.  They even gave us a map of the DC airport so we’d know where to run as soon as we got off the plane.  It was tight, but possible… maybe.

Miraculously, our flight boarded earlier than they expected and as we soared towards DC, we said a prayer we would make the next flight.

When we landed in DC, we ran to our next gate.  4 minutes later they began the process to board.  Wowza.  Long story short, God is good.  We made the flight and we arrived in Ghana at 2:45pm today (8:45am Nashville time.)

I slept decently during the 11 hours. When we began our decent into Accra, the terrain was intense, more stunning than I remembered.  

As we flew lower and lower, I couldn’t believe that for the first time in almost six months, I would be standing in the same city where Abiella lives.  Finally, after 22 weeks, I wouldn't be on the other side of the world anymore. We landed, took a shuttle from the tarmac to the building, and began the process of customs and immigration. In ten minutes we were nearing the airport exit where a driver from the hotel was waiting for us.   

Walking out of the airport was hot and humid, but actually cooler than Nashville.  It felt great and I was ecstatic to smell the air and feel my feet on Ghanaian soil. Once in the taxi, Sean went straight to work.  He called our social worker to see when we could see Abiella.  If all works out we will be able to see her tomorrow!!

The drive was great and by 4:00 we were at our hotel, sitting on our deck, staring at the ocean. 

After a few minutes of relaxation, we quickly decided we wanted to go to the art center (an outdoor market-type area, selling handmade art from Ghanaian artistis).  Since we don’t know what the rest of our days are going to look like, we felt that today was the best time to go.  So we sprayed ourselves down with deet, put sunscreen on, got a few bottles of water from the hotel, and began the walk to the art center.  Red dirt on my boots, my skirt dragging through mud, children playing,  women running drink stands on the side of the road, random chickens casually walking towards us … it was the perfect way to start the week.  

When we were nearing the end of our walk and approaching the gates to the center, two gentlemen immediately approached us.  We chatted for a bit and they mentioned that they are drummers…. at this my mind started reeling...our adoption coordinator always mentions a group of drummers that she really enjoys at the art center.  I asked them a few questions and it turns out, they were the same gentlemen, and they knew our coordinator (who lives in Oklahoma… )…amazing.  They told us, “We play drums for you and then teach you how to play.”  Ummm…. OKAY!!! 

So, we followed the men into the art center, past the dozens of other vendors, through the muddy trenches, beyond the groups of men carving under shady spots, and adjacent to a dirt field where older children were playing soccer. Eventually we landed on a bench in a small covered booth where men began coming in from all different directions, each grabbing a drum.  The space was small, the air was hot, and the room was full of a hospitable joy I’ve never experienced anywhere else. Before they began playing, they told us this was their way to “welcome us.”  We were so excited. Sean quickly asked if he could video tape and they all eagerly said, “yes!”

And then it began. One gentleman started a beat and all the other men chimed in.  There was chanting and screaming and laughter. It was beautiful, and powerful, and awesome.  People started gathering near the entrance of the room to watch (and perhaps look at the two obrunis (white people) loving every second of it.) After an amazing performance (and a lot of cheers) they gave each of us a drum to play.  They taught us how to hold it in a tilt with our knees, how to use different parts of our hands to make different sounds, and how to follow a few specific rhythms.  They taught us a few different beats and then we all sat there and played together.  It. Was.  Amazing.  We laughed and cheered. They said we were very “quick learners.”  As we played, one man yelled out, “Ghana! America! Ghana! America!”  

All in all, it was basically one of the best hours of my life…. 

I of course fell in love with one particular drum they had for sale.  I whispered to Sean, “Do you think that one could fit in our luggage?”  We decided it could, and the gentleman who made the drum told me I could choose 2 adinkra symbols to have carved onto my drum for a small fee.  “How long will it take?” I asked. “Ten minutes.  No time at all.”  He handed us a paper full of different symbols and their meanings. I picked one and Sean picked one.  Then he said, “We’ll be right out here carving it.  You should video tape your drum being carved!” We eagerly agreed, and a group of men outside the room sat in a circle under a tree, while one gentleman carved very quickly and  accurately...

In the meantime, one of the men who had been playing drums with us wanted to show me his artwork.  It was AMAZING.  Beautiful handpainted abstracts and portraits on canvas.  Women with babies on their backs and pots on their heads, landscapes of the shore, housing from different regions in Africa… it was stunning.  He then told me that he teaches children how to paint at an orphanage in Northern Ghana and that some of the pieces were done by his students.  The experience was unique and the work was beautiful.
While I looked through all of the paintings, Sean talked with another drummer about the wooden masks he carves.   The craftsmanship and meaning behind each piece was truly incredible.  Long story longer, we got a few additional pieces and they are just beautiful! I can’t wait to show them to you, along with pics of my STUNNING new personalized drum!  (Sidenote: we accidentally counted the cedis too quickly and overpaid.  The gentlemen showed us our error and gave us the extra back… all the while chuckling and saying “You treat your friends honestly.” He then laughed and told us that one gentleman gave him $400 instead of $200 recently and that he looked at the man, handed the extra $200 back, and said, “Are you testing me?”

Before we knew it, it was dusk and we needed to begin our walk back.  People were getting very eager to show us their beautiful work, but the man who made my drum knew we were ready to leave. So he escorted us out of the market and onto the street.  He pointed us to a nearby taxi but when we told him we were walking he began the walk with us.  We had a very interesting conversation throughout our walk, about where he’s from, Ghanaian traditions, and God… about ¾ of the way back he stopped and said, “Okay, I’ll turn around now. May you be blessed with wisdom and prosperity and when you go home to America may you remember the love you see here and take it back with you.”  Wow.  Was he an angel?

Sean and I walked the rest of the way back to the hotel in serious amazement.  What happened today was one of the best experiences of our lives and we’ve got video to prove it.

Now I must sleep. It’s only 7:00 at home, but it’s midnight here. And tomorrow is a big day. We see Abi tomorrow!!  

Please say prayers (Thank you to all who have been praying for us.  We can feel it.)

God Bless and Good Night.

May 29, 2012

Camping, Packing, and Getting Ready for Africa

This weekend we went camping with friends, spent time with family, and continued preparing for our trip to Africa.  As I'm typing this I'm surrounded by half-packed backpacks, (say that three times fast), bug spray, electric converters, toilet paper, paperwork, baby bottles... you know... all the things you need for a quick trip around the globe.  We leave tomorrow!!!! (Tues.)

Our agenda is slightly unknown... but we hope it involves a lot of time with Abiella, and of course, court on Friday.  AHHHH!!!!!

I'll try to update this blog as often as I can...

Until then, I leave you with a few photos from our awesome weekend:

... and one of a very special girl we'll get to hold in a few days!

If you think about it, please consider saying a few prayers for our family this week.

God Bless & Much Love,
Mary Susan