Jason: Last Days

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1/17/11

We are leaving tomorrow evening to fly back home. We are all homesick and officially drained from the work we have been doing here. The past two days were enjoyable, we visited Cape Coast to see the slave castles (including Elmina) and paid a few dollars to visit the pool of a local resort.

The slave castles were incredible. It is amazing to think of the wars Europe fought over this coast line in order to secure their position in the slave trade. Everyone should visit Elimina once in their lifetime to get just a shade of understanding for the power of evil in this world. One thing that stuck out to me was how slaves were kept for three months in a very dark dungeon with little food or water. Unable to leave their cell, they had to manage in their one small room with two hundred others. The tour guide taught us how even today, we could test the soil under our feet and find evidence of blood, vomit, feces, etc, on the ground.
 
This morning was difficult. One of the girls was unable to find her iPhone last night, and the ten of us students turned her room inside out looking for it. The room got turned over again this morning, and then it was finally reported missing to the desk. The cleaning/support staff was brought into the room and intergated by our guides and the manager. Yelling and screaming erupted as people started making accusations. The manager, and our guides, pressed the support staff to come forward and get it over with. We just wanted her phone back and to move on with our day.
 
No one came forward. The staff was starting to get angry with us and even approached one of the other girls, raising his voice. All the while people were screaming back in forth in their local languages. One of our girls happened to come across a bag that looked funny, opened it, and found a bunch of items including: my bathing suit, one of the girls People magazines (adressed to Billerica, MA), and her headlamp. All these were stolen and we never realized it. The bag belonged to the mananger, who was the same person who was accusing his staff as thieves.
 
One of our guides grabbed the manager around his beltloop and threw him on the bus. We were heading to the police station to get this guy prosecuted. I went with the bus, Val & Maura, our guides, and the girls who had things stolen from them, to the local police station. After interrogating the manager, and him admitting to it all except the phone, we could either 1.) stay and press charges 2.) have them pay us for the stolen phone and return the items.

We are leaving tomorrow night, so we drove back to the hotel with the police inspector.  The hotel director showed up and reluctanty handed us 600 Ghanian Cedis, which is less than we requested-and much less than we spent to stay there for two nights. The manager is apparently related to the director, and has been working their for eight years. I bet you he will still have a job tomorrow.

We all piled into the bus with the detective, criminal, guides, students, and teachers for the station. Val went in with the guides, the criminal, and the cop. We made it clear we did not feel fully compensated. The icing on the cake was that the detective asked for bribe when they went back inside to finalize the report. Val immediately took the student, the guides, and we left. We did not pay the official and contribute to the corruption and just left the Gold Coast.
 
We never got that bag of stuff back (bathing suit/magazine/headlamp) and who knows how far the 600 Ghanian Cedis will go towards offsetting the expensive phone, we should be thankful for getting out of there without a larger crisis. No one threw a punch, and no one had a heart attack from screaming. This event is such a shameful way to end our trip. I haven't had the chance to write about 98% of the wonderful experiences the Ghanians have shown to us. You wouldn't believe how wonderful these people are. Our guides mean more to me than ever before. They advocated hard for us, took us through the difficult situation, and seriously fought for us. The people who work through Africed are truely noble and wonderful human beings to help us in their home.
 
We are glad for this trip to come to an end. We all gave so much to come here, gave so much while we were here, and are still asked to give more. Today we stopped someplace, and while I was waiting to use a bathroom (that had running water!), a young boy came up to me and just said: "give me something." Everyone looks to us like we have bank accounts with endless money. Now at the end of our trip when we are completely empty, still their is infinite amounts of need. It is discouraging when we have to deal with issues like corruption in addition to the emotional drain of seeing the poverty here.
 
So tomorrow we check out of the hotel early, and will try and get some shopping in to buy gifts for everyone back home. We will leave Accra around 2300 for Washington DC, then we will end up at Logan Wednesday morning. I am most looking forward to being back in our culture back home.

I want to be back to our standard of living with a bunch of Bostonians-though I feel guilty for leaving Ghana when so much is needed. I plan on getting a roast beef sandwhich when we land in DC, to get one of my only real meals in for the past two and a half weeks. We start school in seven days, and will be graduating this May. This trip has been the most important experience of my time at UMass Lowell, and I hope to find more time to write later. Thank you for your readership. I hope whatever I write has helped to inform our loved ones back home information about our status and will encourage future giving to those in need.

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3 Comments

Sandra Mote said:

Jason,

What a journey you and the other students have had, while you have been gone for weeks, you have traveled years. You will return much older, much more experienced and more appreciative of health care in the US. I enjoyed reading each of your blog entries and agree that we would have to be there to feel what you feel. I look forward to hearing about your experiences and seeing your pictures so that I can know just a little what you went through and hear about the impact you had on the lives of the people you met.

Brenna said:

So sorry to hear about the aggravation that you all had to go through with the authorities. Hopefully, next year's group can stay in a different hotel, although theft occurs everywhere :(

I'm excited to see all of you next week and hear more about the trip!

Safe travels

John Zachry said:

Thank you, Jason, for your blogs, and your work. Well done.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Keough, Elaine published on January 17, 2011 1:33 PM.

Jason: Finding Compassion, Finding Our Place was the previous entry in this blog.

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