Far too often picked off at first base by bureaucracy’s bad umpiring, I hit a home run with this one and made it to Ghana with 35 other Orff teachers for our Orff-Afrique Course. Well, 34. One casualty whose Visa didn’t get to her in time despite her sending her passport off in time. Sad, sad, sad. But otherwise, some 20 hours of travel, passing through Tokyo, New York and Florence, Italy in the form of two movies and a book on the plane. (Lost in Translation, Scent of a Woman and my literary vice, the new Dan Brown thriller Inferno. )
A smooth exit through customs with smiling, helpful officials, out into the warm night year and the swarm of young men so happy to help with your luggage— hoping, of course, for a generous tip. Off to Obama Hotel and it is the little touches like what happened at the front desk that I love so much. Colleagues Sofia and James and I are checking in for three rooms and the clerk writes three names on tiny pieces of paper, crumples them up and asks us to choose one— that’s how it’s decided where we’ll stay. I got Coretta, James got M.L.K. and Sofia got Democrat— each room is named and believe me, none of them are called Reagan or Bush. Another winning little touch.
Downstairs for a familiar dinner from my visit 15 years ago— rice and a chicken so free range and athletic that I wouldn’t have minded it sitting around a bit more to put on some fat. Met with some others and watched the World Cup game between Italy and England. This will definitely be a theme here, especially Monday night with the Ghana-U.S.A. game. Guess who I’m rooting for?
I’ll be curious about the changes I notice from that 15-year ago visit. First one is air conditioning instead of a ceiling fan (I prefer the latter and so does the Earth) and then next is Wireless in my room—there was one Internet Café under construction in 1999. In fact, I had just begun e-mail one month before that trip and five weeks later, logged on again to…15 messages. Today it would be 1500— or even 15,000.
Managed a night’s sleep, then off to meet the others and drive to the Volta Region to Dzodze, an area of Ghana I missed the first time around. The course officially begins its classes tomorrow and what a pleasure it will be to be in a culture that never questions the importance of music and dance, never needs to defend it or articulate why it’s important (see last blog)— but if pressed with that question, could write a Doctoral Thesis. I’ll see about interviewing kids and adults and getting some of their choice quotes. Strange how coming to a place where you are physically the minority, where your Starbucks card will stay in your wallet, where the mosquitoes will sing in their whiny little voices “You are not in San Francisco anymore, buddy,” will, I suspect, feel like coming home.