Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Safe and sound in Accra

12 hours of flying put me a world and a half away.  I’m typing this from the eLounge business center in one of the upscale business hotels in the city, the African Regent Hotel, located near the airport.  The smell of the rooms and the furniture near the pool reminds me of the Japanese-run hotel we stayed at in Palau: a mix of mothballs and humidity, now tinged with the insecticide spray that someone from the hotel sprayed in the room to prevent mosquitos.  (Given that the windows are sealed and the room is air-conditioned, I’m a bit surprised that they still need to spray.)  Checking into the hotel gave me my first opportunity to learn patience, as the official check-in time is 3 pm, an hour and a half after I arrived at the hotel.  I was lucky that they only needed to keep me waiting in the lobby for 15 minutes or so, after which they were able to get me into my room.  I realized when the porter brought my bags in that I have no small bills in US or Ghanaian money.  Getting some of my cash broken down is a key task for tomorrow.

Getting through the Accra immigration and customs process was surprisingly straightforward.  The one hiccup I encountered was because I had not filled out my address in Ghana on the immigration form.  At that point, I realized I don’t have my address written down anywhere but only in emails on both my work and personal email accounts.  Luckily I had my visa letter with Abenaa’s address on it, which I used instead.  (I’m taking the chance that Ghanaian immigration officials aren’t surfing the web to track me down.)  At the customs line, the agent that I saw waved me through the line without checking anything in my luggage.  My guess is that they’re more interested in returning Ghanaians and what they bring back, like the 32” LCD TV I saw someone carrying.  The airport itself was much smaller than I would have expected for a country of 22+ million people.  Of all the airports I’ve been through, it most reminded me of the Guam airport, only smaller.  There was the equatorial airport trait of not having a jet-bridge, since the weather never gets cold (although they can get some massive thunderstorms), along with the massive posters for all sorts of things (like Toyotas) plastered on the walls.

Caroline (NC State student who had done study  abroad in Accra—see my post on “Preview of coming attractions on 20 Sep for more background) had mentioned that it was possible to do her shopping from the seat of a tro-tro, one of the minibuses crammed full of people.  In the short trip from the airport in the hotel shuttle, I saw numerous people walking between the lanes of traffic at stoplights to hawking their wares, anything from tourist trinkets to toilet paper, to the occupants of the vehicles.  I was most impressed by the guy using a folding paper fan to fan the passengers and ask for money for his efforts.  It’s not all that different from the guys who wash windshields for cash in NYC.  I also found it fascinating to see how many people were walking along with bundles of all sorts balanced on their heads.  From what I could tell, they use a small, bundled towel as a buffer between their heads and the load they’re carrying.

While I would have liked to see some of Accra, my hotel is situated for easy access to the airport rather than downtown.  Given my long day of travel (22+ hours from home to the hotel), I wasn’t ready to navigate the various types of public transport, from taxi to tro-tro.  Instead, I spent the afternoon taking a late lunch and reading by the pool.  Once I check some email and post this, I’ll head out to the patio for a poolside dinner and probably an early bedtime.


  1. Broke out the jacket, long sleeves and t-shirt Monday morning. Summer is over @ RTP.

  2. We are definitely not seeing those temps here in Ghana. Due to the early morning clouds and cool, I considered long-sleeves my first morning in Kumasi but was glad by noon that I had decided against it.