Our last day…well what was supposed to be our last day… was just as eventful as all the others, if not more.
The day started with another experience that we would all call the result of “a connection.”Many times this trip, as you may have read, things just “worked out” and we ended up doing something unplanned yet amazing! Dr.Crowley, Natalie and Janine were on the radio! Kwasi connected us with a radio host in Cape Coast, Nana, who was willing to give us a 15 minute segment to talk about our work. Nana said he was giving us someone’s time that they pay for, but he wanted to do so because he feels our message about children with disabilities needs to be told. Janine spoke about the experience of using the market cards with one of Belinda’s students and Natalie talked about teaching a child and his father to communicate with gestures for the first time. Natalie later read a poem by one of Regina’s students that really speaks to our mission about children with disabilities: “I am unique. Do you class yourself as normal? If so, are you aware that we are all different and unique? I am unique.” Nana was asking questions and giving really emphatic translations the whole time. He asked Dr. Crowley to end with her message to the people of Central Region. She said, “children with disabilities are not cursed or possessed. They are people who have challenges, like we all have challenges. Please know there is a profession that can help them.”
After this we all went to Cape Coast Castle and Elmina Castle, slave forts built in 1607 by the British and 1482 by the Portuguese, respectively. This was a very intense experience. Morgan and Nana, our guides for each castle, showed us the tunnels through which the enslaved African people passed beneath the forts, the cells where “difficult” or “rabble-rousing” individuals were left to die, the male and female dungeons where the enslaved were kept, and he even pointed out these white chalk-looking lines on the walls which were showing the level of human excrement that would accumulate in the dungeons. The floor we were standing on was a mixture of soil and excrement that became smooth and hardened over the centuries. In Elmina Castle we saw the Governor’s quarters and the trapdoor through which a female of his choice passed to enter his room. In both castles we were led through “the door of no return” which was the exit to the boats that took the enslaved away. Now they open to busy fishing villages of brightly colored boats and nets. We had the fortunate experience of meeting one of the celebrated Unit School teachers in Cape Coast, Marie Osei, while we were en route to the Castles. It was very inspiring to hear about her trip to Switzerland with some of her students and all that they did there.
From the castles we went to Kakum Forest to do the Canopy Walk. Seven wood and net foot bridges take thrill-seekers up 40 meters above the forest floor, at the highest point. The bridges are made of what looked like 2×8 beams end to end with rope netting up the sides to nearly shoulder height. Trees with platforms built around them were what separated each bridge. George had told us that each bridge was built to hold 2 elephants at once, so even our whole group standing on each one would be fine! We hiked up to the start platform, received safety instructions from one of the guides and began. Some of us were nervous at the start! It was incredible to be suspended between the trees and looking down into the forest. The view was a gradual variation on the color green, from the vibrant green of the nearest wet trees to the smoky and misty green-gray of the trees that stretched on and on.
After the Canopy Walk it was time to head east to Accra for our flight. We left with plenty of time to arrive at the airport 3 hours ahead of our flight. The scenery was beautiful on the drive east- the shore, crashing waves, hills. The sky started to grow increasingly dark. It began to rain very hard and the accompanying thunder was so loud. The most shocking, though, was the lightening. The flashes were so fierce that they lit up the inside of the bus blue and made it possible to see the leaves on the trees outside! We found ourselves in bumper to bumper traffic in the flooding road. The 3 hour ride took us nearly 7. We got to the airport at 9:00pm and were denied check in for our 10:10 flight. They do not allow you to check in if you have not done so at least 2 hours before the flight is scheduled to take off. The Delta personnel put as many of us as possible on standby for the same flight the next day and told us to come back at 4:30 in the afternoon to allow time for check in. We knew there was a reason we had missed it, another “connection” that was going to happen, but we didn’t know what it was at that moment. We had pizza for dinner that night and went back to Fort Royale Hotel. The next day we learned that some members of our group would be on the direct flight but that some people were going on a different flight that makes a stop in Amsterdam. It was random who was going where. We went to the airport for 4:00pm and waited in line to check in .At the front of the line were 2 gentlemen who had also missed the flight the night before; they had arrived at 8:30pm. One worked for USAID of the US Embassy in Ghana and the other worked for Ghana’s equivalent of Con Edison. Therein lies the “connection”. Dr. Crowley was able to make a contact at the Embassy to discuss funding opportunities for the first Speech Pathology Program in Ghana starting in 2014! Once again, things always work out!
After getting all of our checked luggage opened up, going through two additional security checks and seeing two of our group members get randomly pulled for urine sampling, all 15 of us boarded our flights and by 11:30am, everyone was in US. We’ve all been back for a little over a week now.
Has the trip impacted us? Have any particular experiences affected us? What have we learned about clinical practice? About methods? About culture? About ourselves?