Friday, May 10, 2013

Boy, 4:00 comes early. Especially here, when it’s midnight EDT. We all spring from our beds in the guest house—well, except for one of the girls, who needs some, um, reminding, but we won’t mention any names—and we have all our luggage, and our persons, on the bus and headed north by 4:23. It’s a nice big tour bus, air conditioned, with wide reclining seats and lots of room for the luggage underneath.

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With only 12 of us (counting Timothy) filling seats, we have plenty of room. We have a Ghanaian driver and a helper, and by the end of the trip I’ve decided that he’s very good. He moves this monstrous bus through heavy city traffic, around potholes, and through herds of cows crossing the road in the rural areas, with a deft hand and just enough aggressiveness to get the job done without endangering either us or the people that our bus could easily demolish. He speaks little English, so his conversation is restricted to his helper and Timothy. (As in most African countries, there are several tribal languages in common use in Ghana. In Accra they speak Ga, and in Wa they speak Waale. Twi’s also big. I ask Timothy how many of the Ghanaian languages he speaks, and he says 3.)

As you can imagine, the team—and I—sleep for much of the trip. We make a bathroom and diesel stop in Kumasi, about 4 hours in, and the girls get their first experience with the standard African “squatty potty.” It’s shaped pretty much like a commode, but it’s buried, so the rim is at ground level. This toilet structure is pretty standard in Africa, and I’ve seen lots of them in China as well. I guess we’re most comfortable with what we’re used to. OK. Enough on that subject.

We have enough of last night’s chicken and rice left over to make it our brunch meal today, on the bus. That chicken has nutmeg or mace, I think, and it’s really good. We have enough to feed the drivers too.

The scenery ranges from urban in Accra and Kumasi, to mud-brick villages (thatched or metal roofs) every few miles, to open countryside, which is green and surprisingly lush. Lots of palms—I recognize banana especially. At most of the villages, there are kiosks (little vendor huts, what the Kenyans call tuck shops) out of which ambulatory vendors approach the vehicles and display their wares. Timothy gets a call from his wife asking him to pick up some tomatoes on the way home—life in Africa isn’t really all that different, now, is it?—and he tells the driver to stop at the next village with a good-sized collection of kiosks. When they see a big bus—and white people!!!—they all come running. (All white people are rich, you know.) They talk us into a couple of bunches of bananas, probably 25 or 30 in all. As we leave, I ask Timothy how much they cost. 5 cedis. $2.50. Almost makes the plane fare worth it.

We arrive at Wa and pull up to the compound right at 4 p.m., less than 12 hours. Timothy’s wife, Janet, is there to greet us, as well as Pastor Abraham, one of the students at the college, and the dog, Brita. (Yes, like the water filter.) And others, too, whose names, regretfully, I have forgotten. We unload quickly and move into what will be our homes for the three (Tanzania crew) or four (Cameroon crew) weeks.

The main house is large, with 6 bedrooms. The girls will stay here. There’s a large kitchen and dining area where we’ll do our cooking and eating, a living room, and 2 bathrooms. Lights, some AC—but we don’t intend to overdo it—and, believe it or not, both Ghanaian outlets (220V) and American outlets (110V). This is easy.

The boys are in another house 30 or 50 yards away, with 2 bedrooms, a slightly smaller kitchen, a living room, and 1 bathroom. And wireless Internet access. All the facilities are clean, bright, well decorated. The team will be fine.

A word to the parents about security. The compound is surrounded by a concrete wall, roughly 8 feet high, with, umm, security features at the top. The gate is locked and attended at all times. They’ve never had the wall breached. At night there are 2 security guards on the property. All the external doors at the residences have locks, and all the windows have steel grates over them. Your kids are safe.

And there are mango trees everywhere. When the fruit is ripe, it just falls to the ground. New ones every day. Heaven, I’m in heaven . . .

Janet fixed us grilled sandwiches for supper—look a bit like samosas, but grilled rather than fried. Plenty for everybody, and leftovers for breakfast. They have Coke here, too, of course. I give the case 2 days.

Brief meeting after supper; got most of our immediate questions answered, and ourselves encouraged. It gets dark before 7 p.m. here, so things get quiet pretty early. Right now the team is at the girls’ house, playing games, and I’m at the guys’ house, using the Internet. But I guess you already figured that out.

To get the Internet password, I stopped by Timothy’s house, and one of my former students at Central Africa Baptist College at Kitwe, Zambia, where I taught when the last team was there in 2010, was right there. Matthew Yaaneh is teaching Bible and Greek here now. Boy, does that do a body good.

We’ll spend a couple of days getting our feet under us, but we won’t be just sitting around. Graduation is tomorrow, as well as grocery shopping; we’ll be in several churches on Sunday, and we’ll hold a 2-day VBS at a nearby church Monday and Tuesday.

And away we go.

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Dan Olinger

Chair, Division of Bible in the BJU School of Religion.

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