Monday, June 20, 2011

You pay for what you get

(Cow on the beach at Beyin, June 2011)

"Where are you going?"

"Accra, Ghana."

"Oh, is that in South America?"

"No, Africa."

"Oh yeah. So that's... Is that its own country?"

"Yes, it's a country."

"Well what bags are you checking in?"

"Just this one."

"You know you can have two, right? You can have up to fifty pounds. Unless you were going to Brazil. They're the only ones that allow sixty pounds. It used to be more but now it's fifty...

I just have one...

Primed for agitation, the possibility of my bag arriving in Gabon, Guyana, Guinea, Gambia, Greece... Georgia or Akron Ohio suddenly seeming more realistic a fear, I am not surprised when she informs me that I cannot fly today.

"You need to present the credit card that was used to purchase the ticket."

"I didn't buy the ticket. Some guy in Ohio did. That's not going to happen."

"I'm sorry then you can't fly."

I am disappointed that this woman, who can't figure out which one is Ghana Visa (there was no snarkless way, I'm sorry, to inform her that it was the one that said "Ghana" on it) will be the one to prevent my travel. I want my foes to be worthy obstacles, fleets of rifle-toting militants, rabid hyenas, a boat with a hole in it in a lightning storm, not some middle-aged woman who slept through sixth grade social studies.

Somehow I'm sitting in the New Haven hotel in Asylum Down in Accra anyway, watching my laundry dry while the Beautiful Gateway Ministry next door makes a Sunday out of loud and live marathon worship. Somehow I got on that plane after all, the battle less dramatic than it could have been and driven by what I hope was a routine common sense intervention.

"No, she's all set. They showed the card already."

Frankly, Ghana, which is a country, has been nice. We've had helpful encounters at travel junctures (like local airports, which one moves through like a hot blade through fufu) and slow but effective exchanges with the genuinely simplified travel process here. Despite a reputation to the contrary, things work here at face value. While I might wish my students could be spared the solicitations of 30something police officers at checkpoints, at least this is a harmless if inappropriate gesture, and we'll be moving along without a hitch in a moment. Perhaps even a "farewell" or "enjoy!" When the lights go off, they go off, and when the coffee takes an hour, it takes an hour, but you get the coffee eventually, even if it is the chewable kind. And if you have to sip it in the dark, at least you can rest assured that someone will still find a way to heat up the water, which is a lot more TLC and problem solving than you can expect at a certain Delta kiosk at Bradley airport on a certain day.

I have, at many times I'll admit, bemoaned the lack of quality education that Education for All has brought to this region, and I'm not about to drop all concern for the masses of children who bide their time in classrooms without teachers or spend their days chanting and copying things in a language they barely comprehend.

But I won't go bragging about the purportedly superior system in the US either. After all, in my country, you can get a job sending people all over the world if you know how to click through a menu.


Post a Comment

<< Home