Saturday, May 19, 2018

Up at 5, in the dark. Rouse Cam, who comes alive immediately. Quick wash, over to the girls’ house by 5.25. They’re up and (mostly) ready, too. Coffee for those who want it.

We’re going to Mole.

It’s a national park specializing in elephants. Don’t know what we’ll see, but it’ll definitely be a change of pace.

Into the van around 6, then pick up 8 or so young people at Faith so they can see their own national treasure. 18 people in a 15-passenger van. It’s … cozy. And hot. And sweaty. And after a while, stinky. We’re good, good friends.

It’s supposedly a 2-hour drive. Turns out to be more like 3, with all the speed bumps. We stop a couple towns short of Mole for a breakfast snack—a lump of fried dough, sort of a spherical doughnut, for the nasala, and porridge for the Ghanaians.

Seems like a long wait at the entrance, especially since we’re the only vehicle there, but eventually clearance is given and we drive to the visitors’ center to pick up our guide. There are toilets there, so we all pay a visit.

We can drive our own vehicle, but we have to have an armed guide with us. He’s carrying an elderly bolt-action rifle, maybe a .30-06, with no magazine. So he’s got 1 round in the chamber, and maybe a few more in his pocket. Hope he’s a good shot.

We’re not 5 minutes from the visitors’ center when he sees an elephant off to the right. We stop the van, and he says we can get out. Cool. The big bull feeds casually, slowly making his way across the road just behind us, maybe 20 feet away. I’m using the van for cover; the kids don’t seem to feel the need. Phones out, capturing photos or video.

Well, that was a nice start. We go into the park further, passing several antelope and water bucks, until he has John park the van by the side of the road. We’ll walk for a bit.

We can see the lodge, which is near the visitors’ center, up on an overlook. We follow the guide through the bush; I can see that he’s taking us from watering hole to watering hole, playing the odds that the game will be there. Truthfully, though, it’s a bit late in the morning for the best game viewing time. I don’t have the heart to say it out loud.

We come to a stream where an elephant died last year. His skull and mandible are lying beside the stream, and a couple of femurs are up the rise a ways. A pair of warthogs scrambles into the brush as we approach. The kids go over and examine the skull. As you might expect, it’s big.

We work our way back around to the road and our van and drive back to the visitors’ center. It’s a 1-hour tour. Time for lunch. We’ve brought food—rice, stew, and chicken—from home—Ivy prepared it—which we eat in the parking lot, in the shade. There’s a little display of game relics—several skulls, and some elephant feet—in the visitors’ center, and on the other side there’s a gift shop, where everybody buys a memento or two.

Then into the van for the 3-hour ride back. It’s hot, but we have the windows down so as to enjoy the breeze. About halfway we pass a police checkpoint, and just down the road another one, where the policeman tells John he has to go back to the previous checkpoint. There the officer scolds him for not stopping when he was flagged down. He didn’t see it, and neither did I, but the officer gives a lecture about obeying the police anyway. It was apparently a check on safety equipment—John has the requisite fire extinguisher and little reflective triangle—but the officer keeps his license for ignoring a police order. John will have to recover it in Wa on Monday. Apparently the receipt lets him drive home without his license on him.

So we’ve had a run-in with the cops. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that previous teams—well, actually, the leader of previous teams—actually has a bit of a record with the constabulary at the other end of the continent. But that’s a story for another day.

Back at Wa, hot, tired, and cranky. We stop at a bank machine so the girls will have enough cedis to pay for their dresses, which are supposed to be ready today, and at Melkom, where we go nuts on cold drinks and ice cream. Then to the house.

I’m thinking a cold shower, but there’s not running water in the guys’ house. Guess the well’s low again. Oh, well. I can just lie around with a frozen water bottle on my face. And work on the blog.

While I’m doing that, the dresses arrive for the girls—and Cam’s shirt, of course. Because I’m not there, I don’t get to see them, but they’re going to wear them to church in the morning, so I’ll be sure to take a photo. And post it.

Cam decides he likes Simon’s watch and wants one like it. Simon takes him into town, where he acquires a genuine Galvin Klein (that is not a misprint) for 10 cedis. $2.25.

At suppertime Timothy comes by with 2 Waala pizzas. They have tomato sauce and cheese, but they have a firmer consistency and a different taste, though a good one. We think one has beef on it, and the other has fish. Laurel. Yanny. Whatever.

We spend the evening socializing, building the team relationship, recalling the day, trying to get the puppy to stop biting, eating ice cream with fresh mango, you know, the usual stuff.

The team has blended well. The personalities are varied, despite the fact that the age range is the narrowest I’ve ever had on a team. I think we all understand one another, and we seem to genuinely like one another. The skill sets mesh nicely, and there don’t seem to be any personality conflicts.

Of course, it’s been only a week on site. 🙂

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Dan Olinger

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

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