Monday, April 27, 2009

Final Part of My Trip to Ghana

Sunday, March 15th

We went to church on Sunday. It was Ward Conference. I was impressed at how well-behaved the children were at church. The older children, especially Vida helped with the younger children. I was also impressed that everyone from Luckyhill was on time. It seems I am always running late on Sunday with only 3 kids to get 4. : )

The church building is located just across the street from the Triple X restaurant, so not too far to walk from the school.

I got a bit emotional listening to all the Ghanaian voices singing together. They were singing "Ere You Left Your Room This Morning, Did You Think to Pray?"

As they were singing the words I kept thinking about how difficult life is in Ghana. I thought about the faith Ghanaians have. I remembered the signs all over Accra of various businesses with names like, "The Lord is My Shepherd Hair Salon" or "Love Thy Neighbor Furniture". Even though life is hard for many of the people of Ghana, so much so, that they choose to give their children to Children's homes and orphanages so they won't go without food and shelter, the people still seem happy. I think it may be because of their tremendous faith in Christ.

Tears came to my eyes and I had to stop singing as they sang the words, "When sore trials came upon you did you think to pray?" I don't even know about sore trials in comparison to what many of these saints have been through. Many of the members of the ward live in the Liberian Refugee Camp. I can't even imagine what life has been like for some of them.

Relief Society meeting was fun. The lesson was on strengthening marriage and family. It was interesting to hear about family life in Ghana and to know that some of the same challenges we face, they also struggle with. An example of this was a discussion they had about being honest with your husband about the income you make and planning or budgeting together how the money should be spent instead of hiding it and spending it as you see fit.

After church, I walked home with some of the children. It was a nice day. I got to speak with Steve several times during the day because he was trying to help reschedule flights for Stephanie and company.

Monday, March 16th

I had an evening flight. I stressed all day about whether I'd make it to the airport on time. Kingsley had to go to the Cape Coast area to pick something up. After experiencing transportation in Ghana, I was worried. An American woman who lives in Ghana and volunteers at Luckyhill had agreed to have me come to her place on Monday. She was going to take me shopping for souvenirs, let Lilly swim in the pool, and then take me to the airport.

Kingsley was trying to be back in order to take me to her house, but when he got back, he was having car troubles (imagine that!). He got a friend who has a tro-tro to meet us. With the extra room, Lilly's mother Ruth decided to come into Accra with us. We had to be at the embassy before 5:00 to pick up Steph's boys' visas so they all came along too.

We didn't make it too far when the stick shift completely fell off the tro-tro. The driver was literally holding it in his hand. So we pulled into a mechanic shop and they agreed to fix it for us right away. We were stopped for about an hour. Now we would be in Accra at the worst part of traffic. I was still very nervous.

We miraculously got to the embassy at about 10 minutes to five. I called Kathy (the American) again to let her know where we were. She said to still come by her place. She lives somewhere between the airport and the embassy. I had called her as we were leaving Luckyhill to let her know we were just leaving and I wouldn't have a lot of time. She had already ordered some items for me, so I told her I would still meet her to pay her and pick up the goods. She has a friend who makes dolls and nativity sets. She had this friend come to her house so I could pick out just what I wanted. Kathy was wonderful. I was so happy to have some items from Ghana to cherish over the years. I want Lilly to have little bits of Ghana in her home here.

We made it to the airport and I said an emotional good-bye to Ruth and Kingsley. I am so thankful for all that Kingsley did to make our adoption possible. He was heaven-sent. I was also very grateful to Abraham who helped me get things done to get a visa in time. Then there is Ruth. There just are not words to express the gratitude I feel for this woman. She is remarkable. She never wavered in her decision to let Lilly be adopted to an American family. She really wants what is best for her and we are honored to be able to provide a home for Lilly. Ruth is a true example of selfless love.

Well, you know the rest of the story. We made it home safe and sound and now stay tuned for some entries on bonding and adjusting!!!!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

An Orphan At Luckyhill Needs Your Help

A little boy named William was badly burned a few weeks ago. He is an orphan from Luckyhill. The same orphanage were we adopted Lilly. His sister is Patience who I have mentioned in previous blog entries.

He ran into a field that had been burned and I guess it was still smoldering. Here are some pictures of his feet.

Kingsley has done what he can for him. He has gone to the hospital and has been treated by a doctor, but this is costly and they are not keeping his feet bandaged the way they should. A pediatric nurse from the States who happens to be adopting a child from Luckyhill is going over to take care of him and to train the staff of Luckyhill how to care for his burn until it is fully healed. She is trying to gather needed supplies or money to cover some of the medical costs for William.

If you are able, please send monetary donations payable to Luckyhill to Lois Martino. A little bit goes a long ways in Ghana.

3220 East Horse Thief Dr.
Heber City, UT84032.

If you would rather donate supplies, please visit Becky's blog to see what is still needed. You can leave me a comment or email me and I will send you her address.

Thanks for your help. This little boy needs all the love he can get!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Part 2 (Finally) My Trip to Ghana

OK. I am getting a lot of pressure to continue my blog. I've just been so busy with the transition to life as a family of 6. But I have a few minutes, so here we go.

Thursday, March 12th

Another trip into Accra. This time I had the medical reports and an appointment for 1:00. We didn't make it there until 2:00, but they let us in anyway. They took my medical reports and gave me a blue slip to come back in tomorrow for the Visa!!!

We had the craziest taxi ride from Accra to the "Triple X" restaurant. I had just commented earlier that with all the taxis we had used, we had always had good drivers. Not the case this time. The traffic was horrible in Accra. We got stuck in a big traffic jam. There are always people selling their goods to people in cars. They walk right in the roads and weave in and out of the traffic. They carry things on their heads and I was always amazed at this. It is very convenient to buy things this way especially when stuck in traffic. This was usually how I ate breakfast and lunch. I would buy a frozen yogurt...very yummy!!! Anyway, back to the taxi driver. As traffic started moving again, the street vendors were trying to weave out of the way. Our driver hit a girl and didn't even think twice about it. It was just a bump on her hip, but I could tell it hurt her, but she continued to walk out of the way and he didn't apologize or anything. I was in the front seat and I couldn't even watch for most of the trip. He was always on the bumper in front of us.

When we got back to Luckyhill, we sat outside and visited for awhile. I was hoping for a shower, so I excused myself. There was no water, so I decided to wait until morning and went back outside to continue visiting. Celina saw that I had returned and must have figured there was no water. She filled a large bucket and carried it into the house, then came and got me and told me my shower was ready. She is so amazing. She is such a hard worker and very thoughtful. So, I had my bucket shower and it felt good to be clean again.

Friday, the 13th (my lucky number)

Kingsley works so hard. I can't believe the hours this man puts in. He rarely goes to bed until after 11 or 12 and he is up at 4 or 5 going again. He has done so much running around trying to make sure everything works out so that we (myself, Stephanie and Friderick) can all get our children home next week. He has left a lot of the running into Accra for us to do, so he could go the opposite direction to collect other needed documents. He also is trying to coordinate the volunteer work and construction at Luckyhill. I am equally impressed with his wife Gloria. She has 4 children plus another 20 or so that she is caring for in her home. She also works nonstop cooking, cleaning and doing laundry. They are amazing.

We went to the embassy again today. I got Lilly's Visa!!! I was so happy. The other good news was that Stephanie's boys would have their visas by Monday or Tuesday. HOORAY!!!

We got back to Luckyhill early. Kingsley really wanted to play soccer with us. We got the chance. Fridays at the school is more of a recreational day. So all the children were outside playing volleyball, soccer, and other games. I didn't really want to play soccer at first, but Kingsley talked me into it. I'm glad he did. It was fun, but way too hot and humid to be running around!!! I think I drank a gallon of water afterwards. Here's a video clip of me playing....not so well. Steve likes the part where I try to kick the ball and miss! : )

Stephanie, Friderick and I were hoping to make it to Cape Coast. Kingsley was going to drive us there, but something else came up that he had to attend to, so he arranged a taxi for us. We stayed in a nice resort called Moree Beach House. It was right on the beach and had a restaurant and nice rooms. We did get ripped off by the taxi driver who told us that Kingsley had arranged for us to pay 80 Ghana cedis for the trip...(about $57). We couldn't get through to Kingsley to verify this, so asked the resort manager how much it should cost. He said it is 80 cedis from Cape Coast to Accra. Luckyhill is right in between. We were only able to get the price down to 70 cedis.

We ate dinner then went to our rooms. We had a beach house that had 2 bedrooms and shared a bathroom. It cost 60 cedis for the night ($43). It was so nice to have a shower. It was so nice that I took 2 showers : ) I had to make up for all the missed ones.

Lilly is standing outside our rooms. Ours was the first beach house. This was the ocean view from our front door.

Saturday March 14th

The resort manager arranged for a taxi to meet us at 8:00 AM to take us to some of the Cape Coast sites. First we went to Kakum National Forest. It is a rain forest and was beautiful. We went on the canopy walk. You walk on 7 suspension bridges over the trees. I think we were about 200 feet above the ground in some places. Lilly was a bit scared at first and went really slowly, but she got braver and began walking faster.

After the canopy walk, we went to Cape Coast Castle. It was built in the 1500's and is still in great condition. I really enjoyed our tour of the castle. It is a sad part of history as this is where the captured Africans were held until they boarded ships for Europe, America, or the Caribbean during the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade. I am glad they have preserved this as a part of Ghanaian history.

In Everlasting Memory
Of the anguish of our ancestors.
May those who died rest in peace.
May those who return find their roots.
May humanity never again perpetrate
such injustice against humanity.
We, the living, vow to uphold this.

When we finished our tour, the taxi took us back to the resort. We paid him $10 cedis/hour for the time he spent taking us around places. He said he would take us back to Luckyhill for 40 cedis if we needed a ride. (Yep, the first guy was charging us double!)
We ate lunch and then played at the beach. Lilly loved the beach. She had fun letting the waves hit her ankles and collecting sea shells.

After a long, but fun day, we were anxious to get back to Luckyhill. Kingsley was planning on coming for us, but that didn't work out, so we had our driver come back. He was such a nice man. On the ride back to Luckyhill, we were talking about adoption and he asked if I would adopt one of his children. It is sad that people have such a hard life there. This country is beautiful and could be a wonderful tourist attraction. Ghana has gold, oil and diamonds and should be a rich country, but I guess the wealth hasn't been well-managed. People who work hard still live in poverty.

On the way back to Luckyhill, the taxi broke down. Our driver tried to fix it, but a belt broke and it couldn't be fixed. He flagged down another taxi who agreed to tow him back a few miles to a service station. This new taxi driver offered to take us the rest of the way to Luckyhill, but he was charging too much and wouldn't agree to split the 40 cedis with our first driver. We called Kingsley and he came to get us.

When Kingsley arrived, he had brought a German man with him. So there were 5 adults and 2 children squished into his little Hyundai. About 5 miles into the ride, he blew a tire. The spare tire was flat. We flagged down a tro tro. Kingsley put the spare tire in and had them drop him off at a service station and we stayed on the tro tro to Luckyhill. I was so tired and just wanted to get back. When we got to our stop the tro tro driver was trying to charge us 4 times the price it should have been. I had ridden on tro tros enough to know the price. I was not giving in this time and he knew he was asking too much. I stood there and argued with him for a while until the other riders finally told him to give in and accept the price I offered. One victory for the Abrunis (white people).

When we got back to Luckyhill, I went straight to my room, thinking the children were probably all in bed. The next thing I knew Kobi was standing in my room wanting me to pick him up. He was in such a good mood and was so cuddly with me, it cheered me right up. The other thing that cheered me up was running water!!! I got a shower, which was great after spending time on the beach.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

My Trip to Ghana Part 1

Saturday/Sunday, March 7th/8th

I left for Ghana. I flew from SLC to Chicago. My brother lives in the Chicago area, so his family picked me up at the airport and we went out to lunch. It was nice seeing them for a while. I flew from Chicago to Frankfurt, Germany. Then from Germany to Nigeria, then on to Accra, Ghana.
I have never experienced such bad turbulence in all the time I have flown. There was a thunderstorm in Accra. We had to circle Accra for over an hour in the turbulence. It felt like we were free-falling. People on the airplane were screaming. We started to land, but just before touching down, the pilot pulled up back to 5000 feet. He got on the PA and said that there was too strong a tail wind and we had to turn around and land the opposite direction with a head wind. So, more turbulence. Everyone on the plane applauded as we finally landed.

I met up with Kingsley. By the time we made it to the school, all the children were sleeping. I would have to wait until morning to meet Lilly.

Monday, March 9th

There was no water when I got in Sunday night and still no water Monday morning. Because of the rain the day before, no one had filled buckets either, so there was no chance of cleaning myself up. I did the best I could with wet wipes.
We had to leave at about 5 AM to get into Accra before the traffic. They woke Lilly up to come with us, since we had to get her medical exam and labs done for her Visa. She was very quiet in the car. She fell asleep about half way to Accra. Kingsley dropped us off at the Acai House Clinic, then took Stephanie to the airport to pick up her husband. Lilly warmed up to me at the clinic. All went well with the exam. We finished and then went for a walk and bought a soda to drink as we waited for Kingsley to come back for us. We also had to go to another clinic for her labs. It was a long day in Accra. We ate dinner at the "Triple X" restaurant near the school (not the type of restaurant you are thinking based on the!)

We didn't get back to the school until after dark, but the children that live there were still up. It was fun meeting them. They are so friendly and love meeting new people. It was quite the warm welcome! The water and power were working, so I finally got a shower!

Tuesday, March 10th
We went to the embassy first thing in the morning. Stephanie and Friderick had an appointment. I did not, but was hopeful that they would see me anyway. Steve emailed for an appointment the day before, but hadn't received a reply.
The guards at the embassy know Kingsley, so they allowed me entrance. They told Kingsley to have me wait until 8:30, then go to the window and see if they would see me. I went to the window at 8:30 and they pulled my file, had me pay my $400 Visa fee, then had me wait to be called to see the Consular.
When I was called by the Consular, he looked over my paperwork, took my originals, then asked me for my medical results. Since the tests were performed the day before, they weren't ready yet. He gave me a return appointment to bring in the test results.

We returned earlier from Accra because Kingsley had to meet with the Attorney and Social Welfare to fix some wording in our adoption decrees. The decrees did not say the children could leave Ghana even though it states the children may reside in the jurisdiction of the adoptive parents. My Consular didn't say anything about it, but Stephanie's did.
It was nice spending time with the school children. I really enjoyed all of them. It is fun watching them play games and sing. They are such happy children.

I especially like Patience and hope she is adopted soon. She is 11 and adorable, if anyone out there is interested.

I spent some time with Kobi. I just love this little guy. He followed me around, calling me "mother" in Fante. He took a liking to me and cried when I tried to give him to Patience so I could shower. (There was no running water, so I had to shower from a bucket.)

I also spent time with Lilly's mother Ruth, grandmother Celina and Celina's sister Doris. I also met Celina's daughter Doris.

(First picture below: Lilly with her Aunt Doris. Second picture below: Left to Right: Ruth, Celina, Doris-Celina's sister. Front: Lilly)

I tried to do my laundry, but Gloria just laughed at me and said white people don't know how to do laundry in Africa. I worked along side her, but anytime I washed something and put it in the rinse bucket, she rewashed it for me the "right way." She is very funny and a nice woman.

Wednesday, March 11th

Today was our 14th wedding anniversary. I never would have dreamed we would spend it on 2 different continents. Steve set his alarm for 1:00 AM so he could wish me a happy anniversary before I left for the day. What a great anniversary present! It was so nice to hear his voice. I didn't think we would get the chance to talk since Kingsley was not going with us to Accra, so I wouldn't have access to his cell phone.

We spent the whole day collecting things for the embassy. I only needed Lilly's medical report, but Stephanie needed some other documents as well, so we went on the "paper chase". We were so grateful to have her friend Abraham's help. He arranged transportation for us and made sure we got everything we needed.

This was the first day I experienced public transportation in Ghana. We rode a tro tro (van for about 20 people) to Accra. The first tro tro broke down not far from the school. The second tro tro decided he was not getting enough riders to continue his original route. The third tro tro took us to a busy open market in Accra. Abraham's brother is a taxi driver so he met us and took us around Accra to collect the documents we needed.

We couldn't get into the embassy to turn in our medical reports because it was Wednesday and our appointment letter said it was an open appointment for Tuesday, Thursday or Friday.

We rode a bus back to Luckyhill, ate at the "Triple X" and then walked back to the school.

Here is Steve's favorite Luckyhill child, Vida age 11. She is so fun and a hard worker. If you are interested in adopting her, Steve is requiring that you live within an hour drive of Tooele ;) I saw her carrying the laundry on her head and then Kobi wanted her to pick him up, so she reached down with one hand, scooped him up on her hip and kept walking. By the time I got my camera to take a picture, she had put him back down.