Saturday, June 30, 2012

This is very surreal.

I'm going to Ghana in 2 weeks to be the Deputy World Centre Manager of the first pilot event of the WAGGGS Africa World Centre. I'm beyond excited and I'm not quite sure how to get you all as excited as I am, but I'll try!

I fell in love with Africa during my 2 years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia. Africa was never a place I had any desire to travel to, much less live. After I asked if living in a mid hut would kill me (I am allergic to the outside) and Peace Corps said I was medically cleared for service in Zambia, I decided that the fates wanted me in Africa. Asia was pulling me more and I really had my heart set on serving as a PCV on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

But fate stepped in.

When someone tells you that once you go to Africa, you'll love it, believe them. Africa stays with you. This is mostly physically. I have malaria living in my liver. Josh has snails in his intestines. We all have numerous scars from beetles, bugs, or fire. But Africa never leaves your heart.

I had an amazing and challenging and fun and tough time. I'm still processing what I did and saw and experienced. But I can talk more easily about my experiences now than when I finished over two years ago. That is a comforting thing.

Fast forward to July 2011 when I attended the WAGGGS World Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. A motion was passed that WAGGGS would have a 2 year pilot project for an African World Centre. I was beyond excited about Africa having an opportunity that would change the lives of countless girls and young women in Africa.

Never did I believe that the following year I would be attending the first pilot event! But here I am, about to travel to Ghana.

It's a bit of a crazy story of how I got here. Jen (Sangam's World Centre Manager) sent me an update of the World Centre Manager's phone call because Marie-Paule (the Manager of the pilot) had discussed some things about the pilot. I opened it and found that she wanted someone from another World Centre to come and help. I emailed Jen to ask who was going. Since July is an extremely busy time for all the World Centres, no one could send anyone. I am lucky enough to have an amazing boss who said I could go if my travel costs would come from the pilot's budget. (I know, you are very jealous!!!) Marie-Paule agreed and here we are!!!!

Yesterday morning I went to Mumbai to get my visa. I was a bit perplexed as to why I needed a visa before hand since I has never needed one before while traveling in Africa. Usually you can just show up at the border. But I did. So I called and found out that I could go to Mumbai. I showed up this morning at the address of the Honorary Consulate of the Republic of Ghana. It took Parshram a while find it but he did find it after asking a few guys. It appeared to be someone's house, perhaps this is why it is called 'Honorary.' The security guard took me on the elevator that has a sign stating only 3 people at a time were allowed. I was a bit worried that this meant 3 Indian sized people and that me and the security guard might be pushing the limit. Luckily, I was soothed by Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On.

Yes, this elevator played music when it was being operated. But I should tell you this wasn't the actual song or even a muzak version. This was the car reversing version. I'm not sure if I have ever blogged about my love of cars in India. Some of them have My Heart Will Go On as the reverse sound on their car. This elevator also had it. Luckily the elevator ride was only 2 flights, and I survived.

The elevator stops and the security guard points to a door. There is a tiny Ghana Consulate sign. I ring the door bell and an Indian guy answers the door. He says, "Submission?" I said yes and he led me into a living room. He asked to see my papers and asked if I had the demand draft. He said I had all the correct papers and he took them into another room and closed the door. I was left sitting by myself in a very nice living room with a very large Krishna painting and several Krishna statues.

The Indian guy comes back out to ask if it was urgent. I said that I live in Pune and if I could have it today it would be great. He disappears into the Secret Room, comes back out and tells me to wait for my visa. Easy as that.

I'm still waiting alone in this room and I hear a pressure cooker in the background. Clearly-I'm sitting in someone's house. Finally another guy rings the doorbell bringing a piece of paper he must have forgotten last time. Jen calls me and while I'm talking on the phone, the Indian guy comes out and hands me my passport with my Ghana visa. I was shocked. It had only been 30 minutes and I had my visa. I even had to wait a few more minutes for him to reappear from the Secret Room because he had kept my original resident permit. The one document you don't let go of in this country!

I didn't see anyone who looked like they might be from Ghana. Maybe I don't even have a real Ghana visa, although if it is a fake, it looks very good. I have my flight and I have my visa. Now I just need to pack.

Now I need to find malaria tablets, plan my international night thing, and try and guess what I might need from Sangam while I'm there. (Cause you can't always depend on the internet!)

I'm most excited about going to Ghana and visiting and meeting the people who work for Ghana Girl Guides Association (GGGA). Even if an African World Centre doesn't happen, I am able to go and provide some assistance and share my experiences at Sangam and India to GGGA and the participants in this event. And that is pretty cool!

I'll keep blogging during my preparation and during my time in Ghana. If you have any questions or have any suggestions for the African World Centre, let me know! You can comment on this blog or email me!

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