August 5, 2019

One Day Before Departure!

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; the Lord [a]lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” ’

— Numbers 6: 24-26

This is one of my favourite verses and one which I felt urged to share with you all. I am very excited to welcome you to my blog. Here I plan on sharing my day-to-day life, adventures, and experiences with you all. So if you’re ready to come to Ghana with me please subscribe. If I ever come to mind, I am happily accepting prayers. Until then, see you soon and may God bless you!

A Pool of Sweat at the Peak of West Africa

It was 5:00 in the morning. I was still waking up. Everyone was waking up for that matter, but we were leaving the Accra region for the first time, on an excursion organized by our lovely IPO (International Programs Office) staff, so there was excitement in the air. Although I too was excited, I had no idea what we were embarking on and why so early. Even though we were all ready for 5:00 am, I think the driver of our bus must have been on a different clock because he came rolling into the parking lot at 5:55. Regardless, we were all eager to get on the bus and hopefully sleep some more. The journey to our first stop, a Monkey Sanctuary, was but the beginning of a journey that I will always cherish as one of my best days. Imagine a mini coach bus, with two sections of seating split by an aisle. On one side, the chairs are in a row of two and on the other just a row of one. Due to the size of our group, we also used the seats which folded over the aisle. These seats just hovered over the aisle waiting for those who picked a short straw and entered the bus last. Anyways, I was one of those. So we mounted the bus and with a short back on the chair and not a lot of leg room, we were off. As we left the metropolitan region of Accra and into the Greater Accra region, there began to be a shift geographically and by way of life. This paradigm grew as we made our way then through the Eastern region of Ghana into its Volta region. As we crossed the border between the two regions, we passed through a fishing town by the name of Atimpoku, before crossing the Volta river by bridge. This community was absolutely beautiful! A simple community, built along the shores of the river, which appeared to be reliant on the river for business and a source of income. Imagine being in a remote area in an African country and a bus full of Obroni’s (translates to white people but the term is used more loosely to cover all foreigners) comes to a full stop. What happens next? Well, every auntie in the village seemed to swarm our vehicle with goods for sale. Although this experience was captivating both those in and out of the bus, I was captivated by the merchandise: skewers of muscles and oysters, fried shrimp and lobster, even what I will describe as a maize pancake wrapped in a coconut tree leaf. We were in a bus with all windows closed, so in some ways it was as if we were on display for the next ten minutes (at least it felt that long). Once the traffic was moving at the peak of this village’s hustle and bustle, we began to make our way over the river– wow. It was gorgous! While our bus became increasingly more touristy as my colleagues were focused on getting the best shot, I was happy to take in all in… making for myself a mental picture that I don’t think will go away. With the view from the bus being so beautiful and different, I couldn’t help but just look in awe. Our journey continued until about 10:00 am, when we finally arrived at the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary and Cultural Village. The road was bumpy (literally the highway was unpaved, and full of holes and crevasses), but the scenery was lovely and the journey so worth it. Getting out and stretching the legs was soo nice. 

When we entered the sanctuary we were met with instructions on how to hold our bananas so that the monkeys would befriend us. With our training complete, the hunt for some monkeys was underway. Just seeing these guys chilling in their trees, checking us out, and even walking along side us was pretty cool. After making our way over a stream and finding a secluded area, we were in the thick of the monkeys. With a banana firmly gripped to my right hand, I began to wait for a friend. As I waited, some of my colleagues were having successes. I was most impressed by the monkeys that landed on arms from an airborne or jump squat approach. And before I knew it, I too had a friend eating away at my banana in hand while enjoying the comfortable accommodations of my forearm. It was so sick! As Avery would say, “ugh… ferda!” These monkeys were so fun to watch and try to lour… it was like a game. Once it was obvious that the monkeys were full, we made our way back to the bus and continued our journey– next stop being Mt. Afadjato, about an hour away.

After a 2, 905 ft. climb, Mt. Afadjato allows you the privilege of seeing Ghana, even Western Togo, from the highest peak in West Africa. The climb was the most vertical I have done, and in a heat which was stifling, but the view made the journey so very worth it! All I could think of while climbing it was a song Avery would sing from time to time as we hiked the Bruce earlier this summer. It goes like this (and I am likely paraphrasing);

“It’s only a mountain, 

nothing but a big old rock.

just a couple of steps,

a few rights then a left,

then a million more who’s counting.”

It got me through the journey. I definitely think the largest contributing factor was how much I was sweating, but I have never had more people ask me if I was okay, I think too out of general concern. Like I am telling ya– for all my El Salvador peeps reading you can appreciate the situation, or at least imagine. 

Peter (from Germany) and I from the peak. My shorts were sweating haha

For me it is also moments like these that allow me to connect with our Lord in a special way. It leaves me speechless that people can see things like that view and try to argue that there is no God; as NF would say. But in all seriousness it was such a beautiful sight. In front of me was the Volta region and beyond of Ghana. To my back left was Togo and my back right I was even able to spot Wli Waterfalls (with the help of Yuki from Japan), our next stop. And so back into the bus for another hour of travel. With the sweat of the hike being fresh and people’s appetites ripe as ever, we were ready for a cold beer, dinner, and a swim. And we got just that. Our restaurant for dinner was amazing and its food delicious, although by the mildness of it I’d imagine they were informed that the group consisted of some international stomachs lol. That being said, the service was excellent and I especially was amused by the fascination of male genethliac. This was due to the fact that the restaurant had penis swings and bottle openers– maybe they cater to middle aged white woman who have recently gone through a divorce? Who knows. All I know is I didn’t care to ask.

If you look closely there is a road which leads into this community… that was our way to the Mt.

But after a nice meal paired with a “cool, crisp, and refreshing beer” (Sebastian the Austrian), we were off to the falls. I must say, the falls was more magical than I ever could have imagined. Of all the sites which have left me speechless in my days, I think I can honestly say that Wli Lower Falls takes the cake. The only thing that did not live up, was the eight-packed Ghanaian man which I promised, to the ladies, would be bathing at the base of the falls upon our arrival. They can’t be that mad though because there were no Ghanaian ladies modeling two pieces either, so it left us even. But again, WOW! Literally I joked on the way to it, as we crossed nine bridges, eight of which were over the same body of water, that I expected the falls to be something out of a Hollywood movie. And sure enough, it was. We swam, we smiled, I even touched the wall behind the waterfall. The only thing that would have made the day better, would have been to have joined the local boys having a fire at the base of the beauty. 

Wli Lower Waterfall

But the sun was setting and the bus was beckoning its call to us for the 6 hour drive ahead. With the bumps and jumps along the way, not everyone was able to sleep but we sure all had lots to dream about and were left with a feeling of peace. I took the time to chat with God and it was very nice. Easily one of the best days of my life and I think the best day up to that point in Africa. 

As Chris the Chaplain would say from HCC (Huron Church Camp); God is good all the time, and all the time God is good! That rings true every day, but it was definitely on my mind this day. 

My First Week

My first week in Ghana was both one of the longest and best weeks I have had. It was like embarking on a new adventure while starting university all over again, all at the same time. I can also say with certainty that it was a very productive week. I am far more comfortable now with using the Trotro’s (public transit system) in most (maybe only some) parts of Accra and making my way around the campus without a map in hand. I have also applied for and received my Non Identification Authority Card, and am waiting on my permanent residency card. I have enrolled in courses which meet my program requirements and am eager for the start of classes on Monday August 19th, so that I may see if they suit. Over this last week I have become more familiar with my UG Global Group colleges and know more and more of them by name, day by day, as well as the IPO (International Programs Office) Staff. This is very important as they really have become my family away from home. We look out for each other, check in with one another, and role with the everyday twists which make life here so very exciting. I can honestly say each day has been an adventure and here are some highlights.

A campus sunset, after an evening run. We even have a running group!

I am loving my new home. Sunday one of the university IPO staff, Paa Kwesi, invited my roommate Keith and I to join him at his church called the Light House. It is a part of the African Mega Church denomination and resides in Madina, a neighbouring city to Legon (which is the city home to UOG). It is in Legon where you find the highest rooftop in Ghana, the Accra Mall, the Library Pub, and many other gems. Anyways, back to church, it was awesome! The worship was contemporary in style, woven with solid theology, and topped off with the incorporation of dance praise into the mix. It was such an opportunity to connect with Christ in a different style. Thankfully we were only twenty minutes late and certainly not the last group to arrive. This was primarily due to the fact that our commute to church was 1 hour: consisting of two Trotro rides, on two lines and a twenty minute walk. As many of you can likely imagine, I arrived in somewhat of a lather… I was sweating pretty good. Between the formal clothes, the heat/humidity and being in tight spaces with others and no breeze in sight, I am sure I appeared upon arrival to have just recently had a shower. Regardless of the impact on my appearance, the journey was an experience in of itself. 

After making it back to campus, we were introduced to a new arrival named Claire, who recently arrived from France. She needed help in finding things like a Ghanaian SIM card, a bank to exchange currency into Cedis, along with some other errands… and so Keith and I offered to quickly change and take her. We needed to help her, wanted to help, but also could use the practice of using the Trotro system. This was our first journey without a Ghanaian native and I’d say it was a success. We got to the mall after a slight detail, but that is all that matters right?! It definitely has a different feel to it when you’re leading instead of following. Thankfully I had a patient crew and we even had time for some street food, yummy delicious. 

Monday brought me to day four in Ghana… I could not believe that Tuesday would mark my first week in my new home. Wow! Anyways, the week began with a tour of our campus which is by far the largest campus I have seen. With campus being the greenest part of Accra, it makes for the campus to be full of mighty trees and signing birds. Even the Balme Library surprised me in its size and extensive collection of reading materials. Some of the books in their reserved section are the only one of their kind and written by Ghanaian authors, even during the Colonial times of the Gold Coast. The trend of familiarizing myself continued into Tuesday and Wednesday as we had student orientation. This was very helpful as they went over the basics of Ghanaian culture, food, language, and opportunities on/off campus. I took away key tips like only using my right hand to eat and greet people (as the left hand is seen as a sign of disrespect), knowing that my Ghanaian name is Yaow (because I was a Thursday born), and how to address elders, those in authority and lecturers. Fun fact, Professor is a higher title than Doctor at the University of Ghana, because almost all the lecturers are doctors but you are only a professor when you become a published academic. Anyways, just some of the many things I learned from those days of “cultural” campus and Ghanaian orientation. This left the best parts of the week to Thursday and Friday. Thursday consisted of registering for courses and applying for our NIA (Non-Identification Authority) Identification Card. For the course registration, they have a system a little different to that which I am used to. Each lecture is posted on a bulletin board outside the department facilitating that class. As students we had to walk throughout the campus to find our boards and record the classes we hoped to register for, without even knowing if we could. Then we had to confirm our program and that we paid so we could register online. This whole process took about a day of moving back and forth, back and forth. Once I finally figured it out along with most of the other students who had been there all day, we made our way to the NIA office. This turned out to be a continuum of the adventure. With only a handful of people trying to process sixteen or so students, not to mention everyone else there, we began to play cards and just relax… this was a huge step in our acclimatization to Ghanaian time. We continued to play, laugh, and talk until the office closed. So, no big deal, we would come tomorrow. We went tomorrow and after three hours of moving from line to line, and officer to officer I got my card and could mark the week that just past as a success. Oh, I forgot to mention. Earlier that week during a bargaining drill in the Medina market, I was able to find a chain that would suit my orthodox Cross quite nicely. So, I paid seven Cedis, when the seller wanted fifteen. I would describe this moment as the cherry on-top, to what was an extremely long and informative, yet very fun and rewarding all at the same time. 

This entry brings me up to Friday August 16th, 2019, with a promise of more to follow within the coming days. I know there are no excuses, but these weeks have been so busy that between our programing, discovering a new way of life, and getting time in for the gym I have not had much free time- even though I have so much to share. So, stay tuned! 

Journey to Accra

It was an early morning to begin with, but with the nap of a sleep I had it felt even earlier. I mustered the energy to wake-up for a shower, knowing that if I had one I would likely feel more awake and alive. Well, it worked. Had a nice shower and then called home, because although it was not Avery’s birthday yet in Canada it had been his birthday for six hours or so in Addis. It was really nice to hear the voice of Avery and Mom, the pleb turned nineteen toady. I look forward to buying him a beer in a pub once I am home. Think that will be the first order of business. After saying our goodbyes, I finished packing because my shuttle to the airport was leaving at 6:30 and I had not yet eaten breakfast. Got ready with time to spare for the buffet, and enjoyed some fresh watermelon juice with a very nice ensemble of Ethiopian breakfast dishes. It was not long before I began to load my two suitcases into the shuttle, traveling to the airport with a French and Arab man. 

Once we got to the airport, I began to realize that I was flying to what would be my home for the next four months- and that was a wild feeling I must say. Getting through customs was a different experiences because although it was very similar, the sense of time was different. But I went with the flow. There were three waves of security to get to the gate, similar to what I had experiences in the Dominican Republic and El Salvador. The sense of time continued to be apparent, as once we boarded the plane we were grounded for another hour as paperwork was completed for the flight to be authorized, or something like that. But, with Ethiopian air serving us a lovely meal and a variety of movies to watch, I couldn’t help but enjoy the enmities since I was too tired to sleep. I was sitting beside someone who appeared to be a Ghanaian. This gentlemen was definitely exemplifying man spreading, in a very emphatic way. You would think sitting beside a guy over six feet would deter such action, but apparently not. All things considered it was not a big deal because the flight would only be around six hours. After having fish and jollof for lunch, with some nice French red wine, I figured it was time for a nap. Basically fell in and out of sleep until we began out decent. Descending into Ghana came with such an exciting feeling, as I realized what had been theoretical for so long was soon becoming reality. Seeing the landscape and architecture kept my mouth wide open while my ears were popping and I was perfectly content with that. With another brief delay on the track, we were finally disembarking from the plane and were, ironically enough, greeted by a US Air Force Carrier Plane… it was huge. As soon as I landed, I discovered I had to fill out a declaration/immigration form, even though I already had a Ghanaian Visa. To make matters more interesting, when I got to the first check point and they asked for my Yellow Fever paper, I quickly realized I did not have it. Yep. That was not good. I just landed in Ghana with a nap of a sleep from the other side of the continent, without the necessary paper work I needed to stay in the country. Was I about to fly back? I didn’t know. Thankfully, I had my prescription page and receipt of immunization on me, so I was able to have a new Yellow Fever card written for the small fee of $20.00 USD. I don’t know how that was legal, but I was happy because it meant I did not need another shot and got into the country. This delay however, was around an hour, so my next concern was my bag. Many smaller airports will have the luggage for three or even four flights on ones carousel. I had never lost luggage yet, but figured this was the best opportunity yet for something like that to happen. Thankfully it only took squatting for a photo and answering some questions, for me to pick up my bags and begin my search for the “University of Ghana” sign, outside of the airport. 

It was no time before I found the marker and met Alberta and Rudolf. Alberta and Rudolf are both recent graduates of the University of Ghana, who are completing their mandatory service (which is any public service mandatory to complete for one years following your undergrad, as a Ghanaian). Apart from the abrupt change in heat and my desire for a shower, I was in awe of the reality I was living. It was so good to finally step on Ghanaian soil and be home, at least for the next four months. After all that I was worried that they’d all be waiting for me, but due to everyone having delays I was one of the first out. Once Suoji and Sujin from South Korea and Yuki and Yuto from Japan were ready, we all were on our way. I landed in the morning and left the airport in the early afternoon, so thankfully traffic was not too bad. This was when I first laid my eyes on the Legon Campus, and I was both intrigued and excited all at once. Right away I noticed that rules of the road were more suggestion based than law based, and the campus was huge. Thankfully upon arrival I was able to check into my new room and fill out the required paper work. Then with the promise of getting to the nearby Accra Mall by trotro, I did everything in my power to stay awake while settling in. Trotro is the term used for the public transportation in Ghana. They are fifteen seater vans, similar to the airport shuttle vehicles in Canada, with yellow license plates. The vans, apart from the front seats, have one way in and one way out. 

The highest point in Legon, Accra, Ghana. Picture taken on the UOG Campus (where I study)!

Later that day I had my first Trotro, street-food, and rush hour experience, all on that same short sleep and a fifteen minute nap. Once I got my phone set-up, money exchanged and toilet paper purchased, I began the journey with my comrades back to the International Student House 1 (ISH 1), my new home. What a day. To top it all off I got to see Chelsea and Isaac, two friends of mine from Laurier who had been working in Ghana for the summer through the Queen Elizabeth’s Scholars program. It was a blessing to see them and get a set of bedding from Chelsea, thank you Chelsea! 

I want to apologize for my lack of blogging thus far of my experience. This experience has been excellent, but also supper busy. Each day full of things preparing me for life in Ghana and at the university. Therefore, before Sunday I will post a recap of this past week, as it was mostly waiting in line and filling out paperwork, before beginning a pattern of posting once every two days, or so. Love you all and miss you. God bless!

2 Day in Addis 2.0

Well I am sorry that it has been so long since my last post, but I am here in Ghana and am feeling more and more at home everyday that I am in Accra. The university is located within the Legon district of Accra. Here you can find a variety of restaurants and bars, as well as markets and centres for trade. Being in the capital definitely has its perks in terms of its size and the many opportunities one finds themselves having.

My last post was while I was still in Addis Ababa and I promised that I would share more of that part of my trip. Although Addis now feels like it was a few weeks ago, I will now bring you up to speed form where I left off.

After an incredible sleep in into the afternoon and a refreshing workout at the hotel gym, I was ready to make the most of my second full day in Addis Ababa. The day before, while walking to Medhane Alem Cathedral, Fasil recommended that I check out the Addis Marcato- the largest street market in all of Africa and the centre of trade for the Eastern part of the continent. And so that was the primary part of today’s plan. So, after my workout I began to make arrangements to secure transportation to and from the market, from someone who was somewhat familiar with the environment. My host, PK, warned me that he would likely charge more than fair and so I would have to barter. In countries like Ethiopia, cab meters do not exist. Rather, you discuss a price with the driver beforehand, agree upon it, and make the payment after the service has been rendered in full. So my adventure started with finding a middle ground, with a price that would work for both of us. On the way to the Marcato I could not get over both the size of Addis but also the population. Addis Ababa and Ethiopia for that matter are not large, but Addis is home to 8 million people and Ethiopia just over 30. There were literally people everywhere! Then I got to the market, and felt as though I hadn’t seen anything yet. Picture 3 by 2 city blocks of tents, huts, roadside shops, and venders all trying to sell you anything you could imagine needing or wanting. This market was home to everything from furniture, construction supplies and machetes, to all the spices, incenses and linens you can imagine. Between the exotic smells and beautiful tapestry’s, and the kids looking for change on behalf of their parents, it really was an experience like none I have had. I have never seen such big bags of spices and coffee beans, nor how much a person can carry with the strength of their head alone. It was just a sight. I was able to buy something for my mom, dad, Avery, and Taylor. Even got myself an Orthodox styled cross made of silver, to wear when I am in Ghana. Now all I need to find is a chain.

After being able to experience the chaos of the Addis Marcato, and see sights like the headquarters for the African Union, the parliament buildings of the Ethiopian government and the Prime Minister’s quarters, I was ready to make my way back to the hotel. Lucky for me, it was during prime traffic time in Ethiopia. I am slowly getting this impression that the traffic in the GTA is not as bad as we think. Anyways, once I got back to the hotel I grabbed a beer and continued to hangout with my new Ethiopian friends who worked for the hotel. I then, as per the suggestion of my high school friend Michael Ganotaki (who’s family is Ethiopian), went to the Chicken Hut for dinner. I would categorize it as an African version of Burger King in many ways, although the menu was primarily chicken as the name suggests. Then I made my way back to the hotel, where I wrote the last segment of this entry. As I was finishing up the last entry, I got a message from PK asking me to join him and his friend that evening at a club in town. Although I was planning on going to bed, I figured I would not be in Addis Ababa again anytime soon so I gladly accepted his offer. He gave me 15 minutes to get ready and came to pick me up. Once we got to the club he introduced me to his 4 friends; a Canadian, American, and two Ethiopians… sounds like the start to a bad joke I know, but I promise it is not. We then spent the night dancing, drinking and having some hookah, as is their custom. It was such a great time! It was also quite the fancy establishment. The bouncers all wore two piece suits, while the patrons wore collard shirts or dresses. They generally played modern Ethiopian music, while people socialized and enjoyed the finer things in life. We ended the night by having the best street food I have actually ever had- it was so delicious. The hospitality and welcome which I received throughout my time in Ethiopia was heartwarming, and I look forward to showing the same courtesy when my new friends pay me a visit.

With that, I took a RIDE (Ethiopian uber) back to the hotel and went to bed… knowing my alarm went off in an hour and forty-five minutes. Having a short sleep before a long day was so worth it for the memories I made! Until next time take care and God bless.

Day 2 in Addis

What a beautiful country, I have already decided I must come back. This is a country so rich in culture, food and drink, with quiet the history. Not to mention Ethiopians are some of the nicest people I have ever met! The generous hospitality I have experienced in this country is such that I will always cherish and never forget. Yesterday after I finished writing the blog, I journeyed (i.e. walked down the road) to Medhane Alem Cathedral. On my way to the Church a man began to walk with me and introduced me to himself, his name Fasil. He generously walked with me to the Cathedral and told me a bit about the history of the early church in Ethiopia. Once we were at Medhane Alem Cathedral, we parted ways. I began to walk around the church in awe… it felt so familiar because it was a house of worship but also like seeing a new car for the first time- my jaw dropped in fascination and wonder. I quickly noticed there were worshipers around the church praying and so I sat down to do the same. As I was praying, a hearse approached with a procession following it. Everyone in the viscidity of the church stood up and refrained from talking to one another, I am assuming as a sign of respect. I followed suit and began to watch the procession. It began with the priest greeting the pallbearers and them kissing the cross he held in his hand. The procession then continued on foot into the church, with a pause outside the sanctuary steps for everyone to take off their shoes, excluding the deceased for some reason… I am kidding of course. It was just a privilege to witness a very similar procession with some rather unique components. I eventually made my way back to the hotel and took the opportunity of having wifi to call my parents and Taylor over FaceTime Audio. Apparently the current government likes keeping people guessing and as such the wifi will periodical not work at all, throughout the country I am told. As such I have adopted the principle of taking the opportunity to use it when it’s there. I even had a beer because they are usually between 35 and 45 Birr, which translates to 1.15 – 1.50 USD approximately. What a savings, especially compared to our publicly funding bubbly wheat drinks back home.

Although this was around 6:00 PM, the day was only starting. It was later that evening that I met my new friend Paa Kwesi, or PK for short. Now you may be wondering, how on earth do I know someone in Addis. Well, I’ll tell ya. Through my job this summer at JFJ Hope Centre, who by the way is having a golf tournament in September so sign up!, I met Sabrina who was doing my job earlier that year for school. One day while I was anxiously taking care of babies with her, it came up that I was going to the University of Ghana in Accra and would be stopping for two days in Addis Ababa on my way. Much to my surprise she excitedly began to share of her experiences in Ghana, having gone to high school in Accra, and a particular friend of hers through that experience who now lived in Addis. She connected him to me and after he helped me find a hotel and told me all there is to know about Addis, we were eager to meet one another. I met PK that night and it was by far the most generous encounter I have had with an acquaintance. I have not known PK for long, but I already have the impression we will be life long friends.

Anyways, back to the story. PK met me after a full day of work at my hotel, the Monarch. We got to know each other over some beers and then we headed out to Yod Abyssinia Traditional Restaurant. An authentic Ethiopian experience, recommended to me by one of the stewards on my flight. I have to say, I have had some pretty cool experiences in my life, in some very cool places, and this is now one of them! To paint you a picture, we sat on low chairs around a circular table big enough for a tray, ate the best Ethiopian food I’ve had paired with some really nice local beer, while being a witness to some of the most culturally diverse music and dancing I have ever seen live. We laughed, we ate, we drank; truly a night on the town I never imagined having. Part of these cultural dances at these restaurants, is inviting those in the crowd to join on the stage. And after being invited, and wanting to respect this generous offer, I embarrassed myself in front of a crowd predominantly made up of Ethiopian natives. I have the video, but seeing that will cost you… haha, just kidding. When I have the opportunity I will be sure to post it somewhere. I only wish I remember what we ate, because if I am ever back in Ethiopia I am definitely coming back for seconds. PK the whole time, even though he had only been in Addis for six months, was primarily concerned with my experience and making sure I had a night to remember- for that I am forever grateful and hope to return the favour when he ventures to Canada in the future.

As I write this, I am being entertained at the hotel by live performers singing international hits like Despacito, Buffalo Soldier, Danza Kuduro, songs from The Lion King and many more, while having a mojito which I must say is delicious. Right now it is 10:52 PM local time and I fly out at 8:40 AM, but I still have so much to share. That being said, I will share my adventures from today in my next post. As always may God continue to bless you all and I am eternally grateful for all the prayers during this adventure of mine.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Where do I being? Well good afternoon from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Yesterday (Tuesday) I boarded Ethiopian Flight 503 at 11:00 AM and arrived in Addis at 7:15 AM local time today (Wednesday). That was a flight like none I have experienced. Apart form it being an approximately 13 hour flight as advertised, I could have never guessed beforehand how it would unfold. To start, when I checked in online I chose a seat 5 rows down from the one assigned to me, as it was an isle seat which had an empty seat beside it and I hoped it would stay that way. But, as I made myself at home for the long journey I met the two people I shared that section of the row with; a woman born in Rwanda but raised in Toronto and a man from Cameroon who was raised in Canada, studied at the University of Frankfurt, and now is an officer within the Canadian Armed Forces. I now believe that it was God putting us three beside each other. I enjoyed a fine fish dinner, equipped with Ethiopian style and authentic cuisine specialities, and accompanied by a few very nice bottles of French dry-red wine. The flight began to take form very similar to the many flights I have been on, until an announcement was made by the flight crew that there was a medical emergency on the plane and any passengers with medical experience were asked to come forward. Although I don’t have medical experience, I am CPR certified and have had to respond to crisis events over the course of the last four years. Almost simultaneously, the Canadian Officer beside me and myself stood up and approached the flight crew member nearest to us. We were brought to a passenger who at first glance seemed unresponsive. She was a French speaker from Cameroon, traveling alone, who’s circumstances we only knew based on some brief conversations she had with other passengers prior to being unresponsive. After laying her down at the back of the plane, doing the ABCs (Airway, Breathing, and Circulation), and being told by another passenger that she was a diabetic with high blood pressure and heart problems, we then calculated her heart rate. With it being slightly lower than normal, we concluded that she was at least okay for the time being while we tried to solve the mystery. After a pharmacist (who appeared to be from an Arab country) and a physician (who appeared to be form the Northern US) joined the cause, we were able to conclude that she was in a state of Diabetic shock due to the lack of food and drinks she had since boarding. With this conclusion, the physician was then able to connect her to an IV and provide the appropriate ratio of fluids to bring her vitals back to a more stable condition. We then brought her to first class, where she was coherent and able to rest until we landed in Addis. Thank God she was okay and there were people on the flight to help.

I must say, of all the airlines I have traveled with and stewardess staff I have had, I really think Ethiopian airlines topped them all off. Between the fine cuisine and wine, the exceptional service, quick response to the emergency, and being able to provide updates to the Captain and Co-Piolit, it was a 10/10 experience. I am thankful to God that she was okay, because believe it or not medical response is somewhat limited when you’re in a tin sleeve, cruising at an altitude of 40,000 over the Atlantic.

Although I didn’t sleep much on the plane, I was able to watch shows like Thor, Die Hard, and Aquaman. Towards the end of the flight, my attention was shifted towards the window because we were beginning our decent into Africa through Egypt. The view of Ethiopia from he plane was excellent! I haven’t felt such excitement in a long-time. One thing I did notice while getting off the plane and onto the tarmac, was that the majority of first class was white with few in economy. Was not expecting such an obvious separation like I saw. Literally First class was almost all white wile economy was almost all black. Anyways, once we landed, my journey through the airport and to the Monarch Hotel was smooth. I was given a complimentary check-in upon arrival, even though that was 4 hours before the usual time, and had an amazing Ethiopian styled buffet breakfast with a delicious Omelet made for me. I then had I think the nicest nap of my life after an extremely refreshing shower. My room is very nice and has a view of the hotel. But I must say the highlight of my stay so far has been the staff. I have already made a friend. He is studying geography and political science at the University of Addis Ababa, but works here to support his sick mother and poor family. Great guy! He started me off with a fine Ethiopian strong beer, followed by a traditional medium-sweet red, which is what I am enjoying while writing this. I am sitting at the bar, with a fine glass of wine and, it would appear at least, am the only white guy at the hotel it seems – great find mom! After this I plan to journey down the road to Medhane Alem Cathedral, which is apparently the largest Church in all of Africa. I have been warned that the kids in Addis are excellent pick-pockets who work in pacts, so I will use extra caution. Then I am meeting up with a friend who I can finally put a face to- PK.

Well, that’s Day 1 so far. Want to thank you all for the ongoing prayers and overwhelming support. In the words of a good friend of mine, Rabiah, peace and love.

What Am I Doing?

As you all likely know, my name is Spencer Gilmore. I am going into my fourth year of Social Work at Wilfrid Laurier University and am doing my fall term of study at the University of Legon in Accra, Ghana. I chose Ghana because it is unlike anywhere I have ever traveled and allows me to further my social work studies form an entirely different perspective. I fly out from Pearson International Airport the morning of August 6, 2019, and will arrive in Accra, Ghana the morning of August 9. This is because I am flying through Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and have decided to spend two days there in the district of Bole. I look forward to experiencing as much as I can in the brief amount of time I will be in Ethiopia, before arriving in my temporary home of Ghana. I encourage you to find Ghana on a map if you are interested, but it is located on the North-Western coast of Africa and borders Burkina Faso, the Ivory Coast, Togo, and is near Nigeria. Formerly known as the Gold Coast, Ghana is a beautiful country on the Atlantic ocean. Lucky for me, Accra happens to be a coastal city with long beaches and so much to discover. I look forward to sharing my adventures with you all. Thank you for all the support and continued prayers!

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