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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Day 1: Final Preparations for the Villages

After the longest traveling day of our lives we were beat and slept in the next day (Friday the 21st) until 3PM local time and probably could have slept longer.  I got up and met with Eric, our tremendous host and friend without whose help this effort would have not been possible, to plan our giving strategy the next two days.

We whipped up some instant oatmeal, and then left the confines of the hotel (barbed wire fence, secure gate and all) to head into town to buy food and drink for the village children the next day.

The traffic was bumper-to-bumper which afforded the hundreds of roadside entrepreneurs we passed to hawk their wares with ample time and earnestness.  We passed on buying anything as we had other, more important purchases in mind.  But it's always fun to see what you can buy on the streets of Ghana:
Dried plantains?
Elf ears?
Santa mask anyone?

Once we got to the mall we ran into some real characters.  Some familiar and some...not so much.

Ghana Claus?

Fruit Drink Salesman
Eric arranged for 250 small bowls of chicken and rice for the next day and we hunted for 250 bottles of soda for the children.  All paid for by money raised from Save-A-Thon For Africa.  Both the meal and the drink are considered a real treat for the kids, which they maybe get only once or twice a year, and only if organizations like ours provide them.

Vincent, our driver and new friend, loading up ten cases of soda we bought at a roadside shop for the kids .

Once we had purchased the food and drinks we decided we needed to get gift bags to put the smaller items we would be handing out the next day to keep some sort of order to the process.  We drove down a few streets and stopped at a little shop that we had actually stopped at the night before at 11:30PM while looking for dinner and bought a loaf of bread.  Think Hawaiian bread.  Very good and sweet and about the only thing safe for us to buy off the street. We ate half of the loaf before falling asleep the night before.

Once we had the bags in hand we headed back to the hotel for dinner and a night of preparing for the village visits.  Dinner was beef stroganoff for me (had good luck with it in March so went with that), spaghetti and french fries for the girls.

We stayed up a while making gifts bags for the kids while I organized the more than 60 sets of reversible uniforms we would also be handing out the next two days.

Santa's (er...Adam's) helpers making gift bags for the kids in our hotel room. 
Organizing the uniforms into sets of 15 for teams in the villages.

Also, did I mention that we were changing hotels the next morning?  Forgot to tell you that I had arranged to stay at the dorm-like ancillary house at the LDS Temple in Accra.  My wife and daughter had stayed there four years ago and this was a place where we could stay more cheaply than the hotel we were originally booked for and in a safe and more pleasant environment.  However, when I called this facility from Houston right before our flight to London to confirm our arrival (had already been told we could stay all 4 nights) I was told that a large group of visitors from Togo had arrived and that there was now "no room at the inn."  I was a bit upset and the girls were concerned we would be sleeping on the streets of Ghana.  But with a connection or two I had up my sleeve by the time we got to London we were able to work it out to stay at the Erata Hotel (where I had stayed on my last trip to Ghana) for two nights and then move to the housing at the temple.  This way we were able to save some money ($45/night versus $100/night) and diversify our lodging experience in Africa.

So, with a big day ahead on Saturday the girls drifted off to sleep around 11PM but I didn't fall asleep until around 1AM.  Unfortunately, though understandably, the girls woke up around 2:30AM and couldn't go back to sleep.  They were on the free wifi texting, Instagramming, Facebooking and giggling until our scheduled wake-up call at 6:30AM.  Despite my pleadings to get some sleep or at least let me sleep they stayed up the whole night while I got what fitful sleep I could.  I understood, but didn't like, why they were awake since 6:30AM in Ghana is 11:30PM the night before in Utah but I was worried about their energy and strength for the next long day with the kids in the village.  With little choice in the matter the clocked just ticked on and we eventually got up, showered, ate free breakfast, packed our bags and went to the new "hotel" to get ready for the journey to the village.

Read on for details on Day 2 in my next post.

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