travel to west africa

The culmination of Step 1…packing and planning…

This is the unfun aspect of travelling: packing, organizing, buying stuff, ordering new country visas and paperwork galore. For third world volunteering, this takes about a year’s effort, at least for us.

I’ve been accumulating dried food goods, and reading lights, hand wipes and Bear Paws for quite some time. Our son’s luggage has Thanksgiving dinner: Stove Top Stuffing, and packages of gravy and Yorkshire pudding. Our daughter’s suitcase has Halloween: Reeses pieces and pumpkin marshmallow candies. My husband has absolutely no clothing in his 45 pound luggage. Rather, boxes of gloves, a doctor’s medical bag, boots, masks, foley catheters, sutures and an array of pharmacia, and one soccer ball.

Where are your two shirts and pair of pants, I ask (note to reader: one month trip).

I’ve packed four shirts this time. And it’s all in my backpack. He was inspired by Peirce Brosnan in the Thomas Crown Affair.

Hannah and I, on the other hand, are inspired by those rich English dames that traveled abrrrrroad for six months. We realized we’d forgotten our flat iron at home, so we bought a cheap replacement.

The coolest items I purchased on this trip list are the LifeStraw bottle and a SteriPen. The LifeStraw bottle appears to be a regular drinking bottle, but it filters most bacteria and protozoa from the bottle of water, that come from pretty much any source. The SteriPen, even cooler, requires just a dip of the light for about forty five seconds and all the virus, protozoa, and bacteria are dead. Magic! No eight hours of filtering in the equatorial sun!

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A friend thinks I need not pack the kids’ math books, and she’d be right that the kids don’t think so either. But it maintains normality for a wee siesta in the middle of the day. Yes, they add more weight to my kids back, but isn’t that just a metaphor for math anyway?

When we were leaving the Staybridge Suites to drive to the airport, my daughter sat on the sofa, stroking it: “Farewell, civilization, farewell”. We’re heading first to the land of waffles and cheese, clogs and tulips, Van Gogh and canals, decorated with European architecture. And if you break down the word civilization, you will realize we aren’t leaving civilization at all. Familiarity, yes. Common comforts, certainly. Civilization, no.

We want to help where we can, and we’re willing to sacrifice a little mula, and comfort, but I could have been overheard to say I think we need to plan for a lap pool at our newly built home next year. I might also have had a half hour airport massage before I boarded the KLM plane (there was a ten hour travel day on Saturday to get to the airport).

I’m either far more relaxed, or far more experienced, because I only took one day, the day before our first travel day, to pack. Yes, I’ve been gathering a mountain of stuff, but not actually packing. I told the kids there’d be no studies that day. Instead, we packed AND cleaned. We wouldn’t normally add this to our repertoire, but we had an opportunity to share our home with another family that intends to head to Africa next year. A God-thing? I’d say so.

At the end of our packing day, we had six hardcover luggage pieces and six backpacks lined up at the door.

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The Culmination of Step 2, still in process…travelling to our destination…

The ten hour driving day to Calgary, directly after my husband did three night shifts in emerg, was a bit much. I’ll live his medical career vicariously, thank you very much. Naturally, I drove–enjoying the Kootenay mountains, filling up on grease at the Crowsnest Pass diner and finding ourselves in Calgary by my bedtime.

Sunday was a rest day, anticipating the next five days of travel…as good as Italy, Italian meal at my favourite chain, Famosa, and a two hour trek into “husband tortureland”, the shopping mall.  Then came the rest. I weighed us all, out of pure curiosity. Will we lose weight over just three weeks? The oldest starts at just over ninety pounds, and I at 125. Haha.

Zach is clearly preparing. He asks for a long sleeve pj top for bedtime: no anopheles mosquito bites! Zach, you’re okay, honey. This is Calgary. It’s October; they’re about to have winter;)

Ready for a flight day on Monday, we prepacked our things again and stopped to pray in the parking lot. I couldn’t resist a pic. Take a look at my disapproving daughter.

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Now, get on that plane!

Ghana Oct6 2014 036And plan for more screen time…a whopping sixteen hours in two days.

Time to brush up on my Dutch. I’m a connoisseur of romantic languages; therefore, I know NO Dutch. None. Nada. Niat. Is Niat Dutch? German? The only word I recognize in the overhead announcements is “Amsterdam”. Even that, I can’t be sure. Then, 8 hours 35 minutes, at 37,000 feet, -60 degrees Celsius. Okay, I heard that! -60? Oh right, 37,000 ft. In t-two hours, I’m about to find out how neglectful I have been in not exposing myself to the Dutch language app that goes untouched.

Instead, I’ll bide my time watching subpar Hollywood stuff, a documentary on West Africa in Dutch and try to walk around the airplane without looking like a terrorist waiting for the signal. No, a tall forty-something mixed European woman probably doesn’t get a “suicide bombing” stereotype, but there were many a stare as I ambled past legs and kids’ heads in the aisle, a half dozen times. Might have been glares. I was too tired to tell.

The mama with her babe lying on the floor was embarrassed that I noticed them there. She didn’t understand that I was envious of her two by three space. I’d been walking the aisles because I was trying to give my kids room. I’d spent the last three hours trying to make two kids sleep on a one by three space, TOGETHER. Without one of the kids being karate kicked in the backside or one of their parents losing their patience in public (so close, so close). The nine year old fell asleep twenty minutes before the flight landed. The five year old, ten minutes. What did the other two do? As far as I know, clock in television viewing hours.

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Schiphol airport has enough English to convince me we haven’t left North America. Looks like LAX with a bit of Dutch. I will survive without Dutch language training!

I was so tired wandering behind my ducklings toward the luggage terminal that I started following another family. Oops. And my family was so tired, that they didn’t notice.

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Much like our hometown, this place values health (also marijuana, but that’s another story). Slender ladies in their three inch heals on bikes have to keep up with those motorized wheely skateboard machines–a group of twenty zooming through stop signs.

Will we see the most beautiful Queen in the world…Queen Maxime of the Netherlands?Ghana Oct6 2014 046

Two days till boarding our flight to Ghana. Our final destination is not available on Google maps…

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But it does declare how far away it is from my hometown…

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