Hello, World! It’s been busy these past few days, but here it goes! Welcome to my blog. :)
Thursday, January 17, 2013 – The Departure
I haven’t got much sleep because of my fear of leaving my family and traveling alone to a new country. My sister and brother weren’t able to make it to the airport with me, so we said our goodbyes early in the morning.
Saying goodbye to my sister, Kenda, was extremely difficult because I really hoped that she’d be going to entertain me and reassure me on the way to the airport before my departure. I understood well that she had work, but it hurt a lot because she’s my best friend. Staying at home and being able to walk into her room was easy for me if I was feeling upset and needed a laugh. But being apart from her for five months makes me feel uneasy about leaving, so of course I cried my eyes out when she left for work. It’s the type of crying where you want to catch your breath but can’t because you’re in total shock. Luckily, I was able to stop crying a few minutes after she left, up until my brother had to say bye.
My brother and I aren’t close, I don’t know much about him other than a few of his obvious interests. But of course saying bye to family will always be difficult because you care regardless of how well you know them. That’s something that I’ve been in denial about for a few years. This trip will definitely make me appreciate everything around me when I’m back. Thank goodness.
After gathering a few small things that weren’t already packed, it was time to leave. Mom & Dad picked me up from the house after the donut shop and we left. We made a tiny trip back to Chase for me to say bye to my sister one last time, because her 30 second goodbye earlier wasn’t enough for me. I felt bad that I had to do it while she was working, but it’s just something I had to do.
On the drive to SFO, it wasn’t too quiet of a drive but whenever I got my mom’s attention, it seemed like she was tearing slowly. I don’t see my mom cry very often, but when she does it’s like the entire world just ends. So I tried to stop asking her for tiny favors like asking her for water or a napkin to make things worse.
When we got to the airport, the check in desk wasn’t opened yet so I chatted with mumsicles and daddykins for the time being. Of course, they told me what to do and not to do, what I should buy when I arrive, make sure I do this, don’t do that, yadiyada. Then it started to get a bit quiet after I checked in my luggage. It was a sort of tensiony feeling because they knew that after my luggage was checked in, everything was becoming realer. So I had to make them go so that they can relax, and go to Chinatown in SF if they really wanted to. Saying goodbye to my mom was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do because she held onto me so tightly. My parents aren’t very affectionate, but this was the most loved I’ve ever felt in my entire life. My mom cried like she was losing me, and my dad held onto my hand in a way that made me almost cancel my flight there. But I’m so thankful that they understand my reasons for going and they accept my goals in life. They knew that I had to grow up sometime and that I’d be leaving them soon enough, especially since I’m their baby. Leaving them was so hard, and that’s when it really hit me that I was going to be gone for five months.
The Flight to Dubai
Emirates’ flights are smooth and gorgeous. I loved being on this flight other than me and my back problems, and the baby that was crying bloody murder who wasn’t being cared for regardless of everyone around the parents. While being on this flight, I realized that as difficult and stressing it was planning this trip and knowing that I’d be leaving to Ghana, it still didn’t hit me that I’d be alone. Half way through the flight while everyone was sleeping, I cried to myself thinking about the loneliness I’d feel for the next few days. I’m very proud of myself for traveling alone and having the courage to come out here for educational and personal reasons. I just didn’t like the fact that if I didn’t have internet, I’d break down and want to come back home in an instant because I wouldn’t have contact with anyone for a long time.
Layover in Dubai for 12 Hours
I had no idea that if you have a layover that’s over eight hours, you get a complimentary hotel room! I think I will purposefully look for those types of flights if I were to travel again to another country. Of course, I took advantage of that and booked a room! My room isn’t as gorgeous as the suite pictures they deceived me with when they told me which hotel I’d be staying at. If it’s free, though… who am I to complain? :)
Before my flight, I looked up tours that I could do while I was in Dubai. The “Sun Tours” was supposedly $60 USD online, so of course I didn’t considering touring at all. But after I got to the hotel, the first thing I saw after check in was a desk dedicated to touring around the city. I was very hesitant to pay $30 USD for a two hour tour, but if I was going to be there for a while, I might as well! Plus, internet for half an hour was $7 USD so I’d rather put my money to use and tour around instead of staying in my room.
I’m very glad that I went on the tour because I met a very cute middle-Eastern family that I offered to take pictures for, and in exchange they took pictures of me. They made me feel better because being alone isn’t great, so making a few new friends made traveling so much easier! It’s good to travel open minded, or else you’ll always offend someone unintentionally. Luckily, I am open minded so it made it easier for me to talk to them casually.
While touring, the person driving us around had a very heavy accent and I couldn’t understand the names of the buildings that we visited. I wish I knew the names of the buildings that we visited or took notes, but I didn’t! That’s the only down side to visiting Dubai, I don’t know any of the names of the buildings other than seeing the tallest building in the world. Still, I have no idea the name of that but I know it’ll be easy to google! What I do love was obviously the night lights. Every single building in Dubai is lit up somehow, and it’s much more technology savvy than us Americans. I can’t compare the city to NYC because I’ve never been there, but I can compare it to downtown Sacramento! Imagine all of those buildings in Sacramento x 4. It’s so crazy how many businesses are here, and how many American companies are here! Canon, 3M, Microsoft, and SUBWAY?! It was ridiculous! Their freeways are so much nicer than California’s freeways. The poles that hold the exit signs are GORGEOUS. Who pays attention to that? Apparently, I do! Have you ever been to Disney’s California Adventures theme park and saw the water show the World of Color? Dubai has the BIGGEST water show on earth, and what sucks the most is that I didn’t even get to see it! But I saw a mini show in front of a hotel :) We made a trip to a hotel (which I will google the name for and update later) that is found only in Dubai and Jamaica, and it was absolutely gorgeous. They had such beautiful delicate glass tiles on the ceilings and a large aquarium with baby white sharks! It was a well spent $30 USD.
At the end of my tour, I ate dinner alone at the hotel and had their curry, which was alright to me. If it’s free food, I won’t complain unless I really have to. I went back to my room after that and chatted with my family on Skype, which was awesome! After my 30 minutes of internet was up, I organized my backpack for easy access of money or required documents and fell asleep watching Hey Arnold! the Movie.
Flight to Ghana
So if you look at a map, I traveled farther than needed. I actually flew from SFO and above, not through, Ghana and to Dubai. Since I took Emirates, which is based in Dubai, we had to stop there to pick up more people who wanted to go to Ghana. I thought that the flight pretty bad because of my lower back pains… but I was able to get through it because I lost more than half of my sleep with the constant traveling. The flight was longer than expected which was disappointing. I told Francis (my boyfriend) that my flight would take five hours, which actually took about seven and he waited up for me. :(
Saturday, January 19, 2013 – Arriving to Ghana
Oh.. man. A lot of people know that I’m a winter person and always will be. I love jackets and the cold weather because you can always keep yourself warm no matter if you’re outside or inside. The heat is something different. You have to rely on some electricity to keep you cool or find shade, or all this other hoo haw just to keep yourself cool! So, Ghana is kind of really on the equator. What’s awesome about Ghana’s location is that it’s next to the beach! So that means there’s really hot, humid temperatures with some wind or chill coming through. It’s sometimes cool at night which is very nice as well. But anyways, back to my arrival…
It took forever for me to get through customs and there was no free wifi at the airport. So that made me mad because I couldn’t let my family know that I got to Ghana safely. Another complaint was that it was very hot and I was in the building with people breathing my air! Don’t breathe my air.
After getting through customs and scanning fingerprints, I finally head off to get my luggage. Of course I would have to stress over looking for my luggage because what student wouldn’t?! The people working at the airport were redirecting me to so many sorts of places, when all I should’ve done was stay at the baggage claim to claim my bags. Of course, I’d be the one stressing out about it.
When trying to leave baggage claim and look for my program directors who were picking me up, men in uniforms were waiting right at the door for people to pass through and into the main entrance of the airport. I thought it was just a protocol in case someone steal’s other people’s luggage, but nope. They were “officers” who needed “donations.” I asked, “Why?” They responded, “Um, money.” I said, “I don’t have any cash on me, I’m sorry.” They responded back, “Yen is ok, too.” OF COURSE I’m not going to give you money with that kind of attitude! They weren’t actually workers there. They were standing there looking like security to get some money for no good reason. I thought that was one of the biggest scams I’ve ever seen. I was very disappointed in my arrival there because of the series of events that just happened to make me madder throughout the day.
After leaving those dreadful “officers,” I found my USAC buddies waiting for me at the door with smiling faces. That cheered me up a little because they had been waiting for me for about an hour, and their spirits just lifted me up just enough for me to enjoy myself. I met Presla, another Presla, Saanti and Peter. The 3 P’s are all students from the University of Ghana, working for USAC. Saanti is studying abroad through USAC and is gonna be my classmate! I was very happy to have found someone to talk to on the way to the hostels, and someone to hang out with for the rest of the semester.
Being able to talk to someone kept me busy, but not sane as I thought I would be. I couldn’t control my behavior because I was so anxious to text my family to let them know that I arrived. I rely so heavily on the internet and my iPhone because it’s so easy to use to contact others. And the fact that I had no WiFi made me really sad and made me want to go back home considering that I just arrived. You can only imagine that an American like me who has Apple products will forever and ever need internet access. It makes me feel sad because I’m so dependent of the internet for me to do nearly anything, i.e. emailing, texting through iMessage, Facebook, Skyping/FaceTime. I hate that I’m dependent of it, but for the first week I definitely need it for my family’s support through this tough transition. Once I got the drugs, I FaceTimed with my family. Shortly after they hung up, I cried myself a river again because I am not used to this environment and I didn’t have anyone that I could trust at the moment. I didn’t know what my purpose for being here is if my family’s all the way over in the Americas. I wanted to go back home. My sister had to remind me my reasons for being here. 1) Family – I have to support them because they’ve given me all of the support and love that I needed to become what I am today. 2) Passion – My love for animals is unconditional and to get my career started, I have to gain the experience that I need here in Ghana while I can. For situations like this is when I appreciate the internet that I really really need.
After settling in, Saanti, Presla, Presla and I all walked around the campus. We walked for a good 45 minutes and did not even hit the majority of the campus! We saw on campus the local market/street vendors, convenience store, salon, restaurants and other stores that foreign students need. It’s a gorgeous campus, and for it to be my home for the next four months is overwhelming and exciting to me.
When we finished our short tour, we went back to our hostels to relax. I couldn’t relax because I really felt that I was alone. Although I met a few people, it didn’t seem like enough. I had another tear session for a few minutes but I’ve already accepted the fact that hey, I’ve spent all that money to get here, I’m not gonna turn back around now. I won’t give up!
After a few hours of relaxing in my room and contacting the family, Saanti came into my room and introduced me to Emily who came later in the day. We hung out and got to get to know one another a little better, and I feel that that was seriously just the beginning of a new chapter in my life. I’ve always been the kind of girl who wasn’t trusting because of past friendships, and I let it scar me. But meeting these girls and the rest of my USAC sisters later just became a reality that I need people in my life. It’s only day one in Ghana and I have changed so much. I can’t wait for the school semester to begin.
Sunday, January 20, 2013 - Roomies
Adjusting to the time difference from California to Dubai and backtracking to Ghana wasn’t difficult. A week before departure, I was purposely staying up later at night to try to adjust later on. I slept comfortably around 10 P.M. Saturday, and got a good night’s rest until 2 A.M. Sunday when my roommate came in. Her name is Aja (Asia) and she’s absolutely wonderful. We are both independent women who want to travel a lot and do volunteer work! The only difference between the two of us so far that I’ve seen is that she’s got quite the traveling resume. She’s been to so many countries and is so comfortable moving from one place to another, whereas I was uncomfortable the moment I got here! But I think that this was a great match because we both get each other and are very accepting of each other’s backgrounds. I needed that! Not like I have a criminal history nor do I have a family in hiding. I just love someone who doesn’t jump to conclusions and judges so quickly. Anyways, the moment she got situated, we both went to sleep.
A few hours later, we were up at 6 A.M. to get ready for our fun filled day of orientations, meeting other students from other programs, and most importantly, meeting our USAC sisters. Meeting everyone was such a breeze because obviously, students who choose to put the time and money into studying abroad are serious, committed and dedicated students whose goals are to make differences in people’s lives, and those people are only awesome, cool and caring people!
Orientation was just full of information about classes, where not to walk, always have a partner out at night, and the craziest I’ve heard was “don’t get raped” from the lecturers. I’m not exaggerating, they said it.
Honestly, blogging on a daily basis will be a tough commitment because every day is a new adventure. I will try to keep up with it, all I can do now just tell you the general things when I can. I love and miss you all. :(