Take a chance on "yes."
In the summer of 2009 I found out that my wonderful friend, Lindsey, was moving to The Gambia as a Peace Corps volunteer. The Gambia is a tiny country enveloped by Senegal in Western Africa. Around that same time I was hired at UBC, a university enveloped by Vancouver, in Western Canada.
For two years I had promised Lindsey that I would visit her.
How? I'll figure it out.
Well two years went by fast - 'someday' had not shown its face and I still had not 'figured it out.' I said YES - that was the easy part. Following through - now that is the challenge for me. I am a big fan of having my cake and eating it too. Ma and Pa Haas taught me nothing is impossible, so why not go all out?! It was time to take action.
Through a series of email conversations with Lindsey we figured out the only time I could take enough time to make a 10 hour flight and 8 hours of jet-lag worthwhile was during the winter holidays. Also, I wanted to see Ma and Pa for Christmas, of course. So, I put it my perfect trip out to the Universe: One week in Vermont. Two weeks with Lindsey in West Africa. A few phone calls and optimized use of frequent flyer miles, and It worked! By fall 2011 I had my ideal trip planned.
We realized in our scheming that by the time I would arrive in Africa Lindsey would have moved out of her village, Kerr Jarga Jobe, and will have said goodbye to her host family and friends. She did not want to go back and have do it all over again. So we decided to meet in Ghana where her parents volunteered in the Peace Corps from 1982-1984 - 30 years prior to our arrival! Our mission, should we choose to accept it, was find the Green Compound in Bolgatanga, 800+km north of Accra, the capital city where we planned to meet up...
I spent Christmas in the always beautiful Vermont and then hopped on a flight just in time to celebrate the New Year in West Africa! There was only one small hiccup…Lindsey, Kevin and Julia's Air Nigeria flight left two hours too early and without them. I suddenly found myself alone in a city of 2 million people with three full days to do ... something. This trip was my first to Africa and I merely knew a few historical facts and my geographical location. I was supremely unprepared... and I loved it!
In Accra my mornings and evenings were spent wandering aimlessly through the city streets, and when the sun was highest in the sky, I took sheltered naps on my bunk. The heat absolutely floored me. On New Year’s Eve I literally had nothing to do and the only two other guests in my hostel ordered pop with dinner... SERIOUSLY!? It’s New Year’s Eve! Where is the Champagne!? I was feeling a bit down and extremely anxious to find anything to do.
During that morning’s exploration I found that Accra Sport Stadium was hosting something called "Crossover," a massive New Year’s Eve sermon, from what I could figure. After finishing my beer I jumped in a cab and made my way to the World Cup stadium to see what it was all about.
I walked under the mammoth gates and through throngs of opportunistic vendors selling every food and trinket under the sun. I zigged and zagged up the stairwell and joined my 30,000 new gospel-singing friends. For 4 hours it seemed every single person in this stadium jumped up, danced, sang, and rang in 2012 praising Jesus! Most. Unique. NYE. EVER!
|Accra Sport Stadium|
This was the most bizarre and haphazard start to my trip. I laid my head down on my pillow that night awestruck, a little perplexed and very present to the fact that I was in Africa. I had said yes to this trip, taken action and flown across the world, but until that moment laying in my bunk I felt like I was drifting through a dream. My African reality hit and it was going to stick around for the next two weeks.