One of the two numbers that I learned, very early on, were the answers to questions of ‘time’ in Sunday School. Most likely in response to an annoyingly persistent line of questioning (I like to think of it as assertive), I remember a Sunday School teacher finally answering that ’40 just means a LONG time, okay?’ And from that day on I flippantly answered ‘40’ to biblical questions without giving it much thought. How many days did the rains pour down around Noah and his family: 40. For how many years did the Israelites wander in the wilderness: 40. How many days was Jesus in the wilderness, tempted by Satan: 40. How many days did Jonah spend in the belly of the whale: ? Okay, 40 isn’t always the answer (eh, Annie?). Sometimes the answer is ‘3’.
But after the last 40 hours the number ‘40’ has truly come to remind me of ‘a long time’:
Hour 1 (and 2…whoops!), 3am-4:20am, 3 March 2009: After less than 3 hours of sleep I wake up to my alarm. No part of me wants to get out of bed, but I do anyways—I’m flying to Ghana in less than 4 hours! As I never quite plan for things to take as long as they do, I’m rushing around my apartment, throwing out my trash, packing the battery charger I almost forgot, and forgetting the hand-sanitizer.
Hour 3, 5am, 3 March 2009: Well, I was late enough that I had to catch my first cab ever in Oslo, which I found out, has a minimum of 135 NOK ($20 USD on a good day), but caught the first train at 4:39am and arrived at Gardermoen airport to check in for my flight. And I meet my first surprise: Susan and her family—including the tiny baby that was baptized into our community on Sunday—are on my flight to Frankfurt! So lovely! After security we meet up and wake up over a cup of coffee.
Hours 6-9, 8-10:50am, 3 March 2009: I realize, once again, just how poor my spoken German has become as I wander and wait in the Frankfurt airport for the 4th or 5th time in the past year. I resist the electronics, and, instead, pull out “Theology is for Proclamation” and hunker down to enjoy this time of enforced stillness.
Hours 10-21, 11am GMT+1 -9pm GMT, 3 March 2009: After 3 short delays, I embark on the second leg of my journey, seated in row 33K. I read for a while, sleep a bit, and watch both ‘Australia’ and ‘The Secret Life of Bees’. Thanks I’m pretty sure to Aaron Hryciw, I find myself singing ‘Ed-ward El-gar…’ at the end of Australia, and it takes me a minute to realize that it ends on one of the movements of Elgar’s ‘Enigma Variations’—anyone happen to know which movement? I forget. Somewhere in the midst of all this I realize for the first time that, when I step off this plane, I’m going to be in Africa!!! We arrive in Accra, Ghana: 2 hours late.
Hour 22, 10pm, 3 March 2009: I cue up with the rest of the plane’s disembarking visitors and wait to show my passport, complete with Ghana visa already pasted in! I pick up my luggage, but can’t find a trolley, and remember how not-strong I am as I carry my two 40-pound bags through customs and out the doors—funny, for me, apparently 40 also stands for ‘heavy’. I spot the second most-friendly face of the day holding a up a sign that reads ‘ALC Intern’ and thankfully relinquish my bags as Eugene’s friends offer chivalrously to carry them to the waiting car.
Hours 23-26, 11pm-2:59:59, 3 March 2009: We arrive at Jim & Mabel’s house (members of my congregation in Norway) and I crash.
Hour 27, 3am, 4 March 2009: I hate my alarm even more-so this morning than I did the previous morning. But, there is a shower! As I wander out onto the porch I forget for a moment that I’m in Ghana and imagine that I’m in Guyana—the hot, humid air, palm trees, barking dogs, and crowing roosters… Then I’m back, and it’s Africa, not South America, and the taxi driver is knocking on the gate and it’s time to go.
Hours 28-31, 4am-7:15am, 4 March 2009: Thank you Eugene! I hadn’t been able to purchase my second-leg plane ticket from Norway, and Eugene had very kindly bought it for me. It’s a small propeller-driven plane, but still big enough for 4 seats across. I’m seated in 7D and sleep until the flight attendant wakes me with the offer of mango juice, mmm… I wake to find myself seated next to an American woman who is a pharmacist at the Baptist Medical Center in Northern Ghana. Having lived in Ghana for 17 years, she’s a wealth of knowledge.
Hour 31 continued, Hour 32, & Hour 33, 7:15am-8 something am, 4 March 2009: We land in Tamale and I’m almost there!!!!! I’m so excited as I load my bags on the trolley I am so pleased to have found and confidently stroll out to meet the first face I have actually met before: Pastor Abraham! I blithely turn down the taxi drivers eager to drive me the 20km into Tamale, then realized Pastor Abraham’s not quite there yet. That’s what a good book’s for—it’s day 2 and I’ve already done more reading on this trip than I have in the last 3 months altogether. After about half an hour of waiting the still-waiting taxi drivers suggest that I move to a bench in the shade, as I’m beginning to turn a hint of ‘cooked-lobster’. I call Eugene just to make sure he’s been able to talk to Pastor Abraham about my arrival and within two minutes I receive an only slightly frantic text message all the way from Norway: YOU’RE STILL AT THE AIRPORT? ARE YOU OKAY? I’m not worried about being picked up, I know Pastor Abraham is on his way, I’m just hoping that I recognize him, but figure the blond hair will give me away.
Hour 34!!!, 9am, 4 March 2009: Yay!!!!! Pastor Abraham arrives along with Ester—a ‘sister’ of the Redemption Children’s Home—and they tell the tale of their morning of car troubles. We head into Tamale to await the imminent fixing of said-car.
Hours 35-43, 10am-6 something pm, 4 March 2009: Oh my goodness, are you serious? I didn’t think it had been quite that long… We sit at a local canteen and chat, waiting for the call that the car is coming. Over the course of the day Esther, “Z” (American pronounciation), and Joanne all stop by to visit—so much fun! But by this point in time I’m exhausted. I try my best to stay awake, but end up succumbing to the exhaustion and laying my head down on the table to sleep. I’m still not sure how many times I woke from and fell back to sleep, but I do know that Pastor Abraham went out to visit a friend, came back, went out to do an errand, came back, went out to go to the bank, came back… The answer on the phone was always ‘just 30 more minutes’, but there was serious talk of us finding a place to stay the night. I spend a lot of time transfixed by the lizards running about the place and the tree above my head that is filled with sleeping bats. Oh, and it’s hot.
Hours 44-46, 7pm-9 something pm? 4 March 2009: Pastor Abraham’s brother Matt drives up in the truck and I am so thankful! We’re finally on the road to Damongo—about a 3-hour drive away, just 20km from Mole National Park (you might get better results googling that). The further we drive, the more packed the truck becomes. There were easily 10 people, along with many bags, in the bed of the truck before the end. I try to watch where we are going, but the combination of our speed, the darkness, and the goats in the middle of the road soon put a stop to that. Instead, I sleep a lovely, if bumpy, sleep.
Hour 47, 10pm, 4 March 2009: Damongo!!!!!! I can’t quite believe that we have finally arrived, but we have! Dusty and tired, I tuck in my mosquito netting and crawl into bed. I don’t care if it was only 40 hours and not 40 days or 40 years—40 is a long number.
Safe and Sound, but not Shoeless,
The Shoeless Seminarian
10 years ago