Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Gone to Ghana

Today I came across the adage "May the best of your yesterdays be the worst of your tomorrows."

This was certainly true for us today. While today wasn't great, the worst part of today was probably on par with the best part of yesterday. As long as we're improving, right?

Andrew made it to Ghana—I may as well spill the beans since he chose to sleep instead of blog—and is all in one piece. I pray it stays that way because he went on a tour of Accra today with his cohorts and the tour bus company said they could leave their personal items on the bus, assured them that the bus driver would stay with the bus with the doors locked, etc., and so forth. So they stopped for lunch and everyone disembarked, many people leaving their belongings behind.

Well, they got back to the bus and, much to their dismay, found it completely empty.

Passports, money, cameras, computers, everything...gone.

Today Rachel asked, "Mommy, why is Daddy in Ghana if it's not gone?"

"Because he's gone-a Ghana!" I said.

"But it's not gone if he's there," she pointed out.

Anyway, Andrew was telling me this story over IM and I was getting a little nervous because...remember Rome and The Great Financial Crisis of 2010?

I do.

So by this point in the story I was finished with the suspense and told him to just tell me the bad news and get it over with already.

The bad news was that five people had left their belongings on the bus but Andrew was not one of the five. Don't get me wrong—I feel, deeply, for those five who lost their things, but I'm relieved that we were not among the five.

I told Andrew to keep his valuables with him at all times—constant vigilance! And I've been praying for his physical, emotional, and material well-being since before he left for the airport. You can pray for him, too.

It's funny, the reaction we get from people when we tell him Andrew's in Ghana. Usually it's along the lines of, "Oh, neat-o. He'll have a great experience, I'm sure." And on the first day—BAM!—theft.

But, whenever we tell people about our time in the Middle East they usually say, "I'm so glad you got out of there alive! You're seriously so blessed that you're not dead in a ditch somewhere." And nothing like this ever happened to us there.

Right now the whole group feels a little violated, as one tends to do after they find themselves a victim of a crime...and stuck in a foreign country without money or passport...and Andrew told me he found it very underdeveloped and dangerous. I hope that he can overcome his initial impression of the country and grow to love it.

The crime rate in Ghana is actually relatively low, which means that, in theory, they are a relatively safe country to visit. The report I read about them was glowing compared to Egypt's report by the same source and we rarely felt threatened in Egypt at all.

Unfortunately, tour busses/groups are obvious targets for criminals. We felt much more comfortable traveling around Egypt alone than when we were traveling through Egypt with the BYU group in 2006. People in Africa stare at white people like Americans stare at black people, and that's normal because being different is interesting. However, when you have a whole herd of "different" traveling together it draws much more attention to your presence, your ignorance, your fear, your vulnerability. Staring, verbal harassment, and, apparently, theft seem much more likely to occur in a large group than a small group, as counterintuitive as that sounds.

At any rate, having known several people who love Ghana dearly, I'm sure the country and its people will redeem themselves before Andrew comes home.

Now maybe I'll write about my day instead of his for a while since he'd probably be much more interested in reading about what we're doing at home instead of reading me reiterating what he already told me today.


  1. "Leave your valuables on the bus?" I feel bad for those people as well but seriously what type of tour guide nonsense was that????? That's the kind of stress that would ruin a whole trip :( I'm sure Andrew will have fun...meanwhile I'm keeping you in my prayers :)

  2. "the bus was empty" made me cringe and gasp all at once. While thinking - "not again!" Go Andrew!!! Stay safe!!!

  3. This made me think of the time that Michael T. was on his way to Jerusalem study abroad via SLC, UT, and they parked the family suburban in a church parking lot for an hour while they went to sacrament meeting, with the vehicle locked, and came out to find pretty much everything gone. They had to buy everything for Michael so he could fly off to opportunists are in all countries!

  4. I agree with Myrna. This can happen anywhere, anytime and everywhere.
    I fought against carjackers in Brussels... Actually I managed to drive away from them by running a red light. Very, very dangerous move, I know but they scared me so bad! This happened a few weeks after we'd moved there. Now I'd let them have the car, I think.
    In calm and quiet Brittany, it's much better if you don't leave your purse in your car even for a few minutes. And Paris, well Paris is Paris! I know that I always feel better when someone is around when I'm taking pictures!
    A friend of mine was mugged in New York! On Fifth Avenue.
    Opportunists are everywhere...
    I hope that the people who were robbed won't leave Ghana with a bad feeling towards Africa. :)

  5. "like Americans stare at black people" -- I think that definitely depends where in the country you live.

  6. @ Anon — Naturally. That's the danger of a generalization.

    However, I live in Utah and from my observations Americans do stare at black people, just as, from my observations, white people get stared at in Africa.

    I don't think it's true that white people get stared at everywhere in Africa, either, since in South Africa they make up approx. 10% of the population (22% in 1911, 16% in 1980). Blacks or African Americans make up approximately 13% of the population of the United States...minorities are bound to get stared at somewhere—due, in my opinion, to curiosity more than anything else.

    Granted, we're comparing countries to continents here, so that's apples to oranges already.

    I suppose I could have said something like "how majorities stare at minorities when they are unaccustomed to being in the company of any person other than a member of the majority." And while that would be more politically correct it just doesn't have the same literary ring to it, though.

    But you are right: there are places in America that Americans do not stare at black people.