You say, “Goodbye.”
And I say, “Hello.”
I’m writing from the Schiphol International Airport in Amsterdam. I arrived here at 5:20AM and am stuck here until 13:25. Eight hour layover! I’m sitting by a big window staring out at a beautiful blue sky that reminds me of a Dutch landscape. If Holland always looked like this, if its cloudy, gray, and rainy days were few and far between instead of dominating the year’s weather, I would move here in two seconds; I love Dutch people. However, I’m aware that they don’t always have such nice weather, so I feel very blessed to have such a beautiful view while I’m here. I’m relaxing in a seat in one of the international lounges, surrounded by people of all colors who speak all different languages. I’m once again inconspicuous; No one stares or points or calls me, “Obruni!” The airport is clean and big and full of shops with expensive imported items: Italian perfume, Irish liquor, Belgian chocolate, American cigarettes, French cheese. I smiled as I ran my fingers over European treats I used to love when I lived in Austria and in France (Milka, KinderSurprise, Bounty bars, Liege waffles, etc.) I also passed by some golden arches that I haven’t seen in 10 months (and quite frankly, haven’t missed at all). They have coffee here, real coffee, not that Nescafé instant crap that is the only type available in Ghana. I haven’t bought anything because I don’t have any euros with me and I know they’ll serve me on the plane. When I visited the restroom, I was amazed by how clean it was, and how people could brush their teeth with the water that flowed from the tap. Anyway, only about three more hours until we board, another hour and a half until we take off, and then eleven hours after that, I’ll be in Los Angeles!
So, I made it this far! I survived the craziness and busyness of the last week or so in Ghana trying to finish everything, pack, say goodbye, wrap everything up, etc, etc. Somehow I managed to finish everything I needed to do and get to the airport in Accra on time. It’s a relief just to be able to relax at the airport without having to worry about anything for the next three hours.
Saying goodbye was very hard. The last two hours or so before closing, in between supervising Elsie and Henry recording the classes’ grades (and I definitely did not have time to double check, so I hope they did it well!), I went to each student one by one and told each one his or her “secret.” I rested my elbows on their tables and whispered into their ears what I thought about them. I started each “secret” with something like, “Zubbaida, your secret is that I think you are such a wonderful girl. You’re so beautiful, kind, smart, lovely, great, and I’m going to miss you very much...” The script was a little different for the boys (which boy wants to hear he’s beautiful or lovely?), but I said something unique to each of them, what I like about them, how they can be anything they want to be when they grow up. The looks on their faces surprised me. These kids, some of whom can’t sit still for more than five seconds during a class, became as silent as a stone, and had trouble looking me in the eyes. I could tell they were concentrating hard on what I was saying, and I was amazed by how many watery eyes my “secrets” created.
But then, last but most definitely not least, I came to my favorite person in all of Ghana: Ohemaa. She already knew that she’s my favorite, but I told her again anyway, for what I knew would be the last time. As I was telling her how special she is to me and how much I love her and will miss her, the tears came from my eyes and dripped onto her desk.
My last day was kind of a blur, but especially the last hour... handing out candy not only to my class but also to the other kids who invaded the classroom, giving and receiving countless hugs, trying to make sure the grades were recorded and everything in the classroom was in order, taking pictures and videos, saying goodbye. At about 4:15, I finally said that I really had to go. By then, most of the students had already left, but the ten or so who remained followed me to the gate where Fred was waiting in his car to take me to the airport. I hugged them all one last time, and again I saved Ohemaa for last. I had a really hard time letting go of her, and the tears came again as I sadly watched her walk back to the car park with her friends. I ran to my room, took my luggage downstairs, said goodbye to the nuns, and jumped in the car with Fred, Sister Juliana, and Sister Dorothy, who came along to see me off. It was really weird driving away from the school, down the road to Accra, and realizing that this would be the last time I saw that kenkey boutique or that lady selling roasted plantains on the side of the road. I don’t know when I’ll go back to Ghana or if I ever will. Sad sad.
Once I said goodbye to those in the car with me, however, and made my way to the airport customs and security, I became very excited about going home and seeing everyone! I slept most of the flight to Amsterdam, but I’m still feeling very tired. I just traveled two hours’ time zones ahead, and now I’m about to travel nine hours’ time zones behind. It’s still yesterday in America!
Mmm... looking around the airport, I’m reminded of how beautiful Dutch people are. You have to look really hard to find an ugly Dutch person! There are a lot of Dutch volunteers in Ghana whom I’ve met, all of whom were exceedingly open-minded and personable, and I’m happy to here in their country.
Anyway, there is WiFi here, but it’s like 3 Euros for 15 minutes, and for that kind of money you could go online for 10 hours in some internet cafés in Ghana. I’ll wait until I get home to post this. I can’t believe I’ll be home in less than 15 hours! I can’t wait!