Today, or rather tonight, at 11:15pm we head to DC. Thus far our plane is scheduled on time, and we’re waiting out our time at the mall.
Last night, we moved hotels and wound up at a Methodist Church Guesthouse. It was simple, and clean with TV and AC. We ate dinner locally, for a grand total of $4.25 for two people and were reminded how absurdly marked-up tourist hotel food is. We’ve noticed that hotels in Ghana have a strange way of determining price. Basic places charge around $20/night. They may be clean, or not, but won’t have any amenities. After that the price jumps according to them having potential amenities. I say potential, because in our experience, they don’t usually work (TV, AC, hot water), but it usually isn’t any more clean, or comfortable than the lower end variety. Then a gigantic price jump up lands you in luxury/upmarket, where of course, everything is ideal-and food costs about 500-600% more (and isn’t a whole lot better). Like transportation, there isn’t much in terms of middle ground. Either, traveling through Ghana is an inexpensive (albeit dirty, and often rough) or absurdly expensive. Having experienced both sides of the tourist spectrum, neither of us can decide which is the way to go. Obviously, luxury is pleasant. But we both noted a particular disconnect; there is very limited interaction with anyone who isn’t there expressly to serve you. And after sitting side by side with locals on commutes, seeing part of their daily lives, and feeling at least, in part, immersed the other option certainly feels artificial. Perhaps a mixture is best. Then again, my favorite place was Green Turtle Lodge, the cheapest place we stayed. Though LouMoon was easily nicest, it felt a bit too stark in atmosphere. Our budget may have caused a few transportation issues, but over all it forced us to get to know the country better, and brought us to places we would have never gone otherwise, for that, I’m certainly glad.
Strangely (or perhaps not) what I’m most “proud of” in terms of what I’ve learned of accomplished on this trip is a slight mastering of the public transit system. I pride myself on the ability to jump into a city, explore, and know it quickly. Peru, for example, within hours of arriving we were out navigating the city and learning (granted, the hard way) how to get around. After a short month, we knew the city. Though learning by trial and error is certain to bring about frustration, it’s easily yields the best results. Here, learning the transportation system was less about saving money (though, it certainly did, by a few hundred dollars), but about breaking the tinted window barrier that would have otherwise forced us to observe our surroundings from an artificial plastic bubble. It was tough, mostly, in Accra where yelling, speeding cars, seemingly random hand signaling and a complete lack of regulation creates a steep learning curve and a fair amount of frustration. But, once we learned it, the city seemed to open up to us, it became so easy to navigate, and appeared in a sense smaller. No need to bargain with taxi drivers who are undoubtedly ripping you off, or wander around lost and confused. The seemingly random system becomes more clear; order in chaos, and what before felt impossible is now second nature. Plus, this sort of knowledge will translate in the future to other travels. Eventually, an accumulation of experiences that allows an easy skilled navigation of any foreign city, something I’ve observed and seems reserved to only the most seasoned, adventurous travelers. That, is my eventual goal, language and any other barrier aside.
Though slightly sad to leave, in the sense that another adventure is coming to an end, I’m ready to go home. And there is much ahead, and so much will change in the next year, few months, weeks that I have no concerns regarding life returning to the ever fearful “normal.” Of course, I can’t wait until the next opportunity to go abroad, and I’m sure my insatiable wanderlust will kick in almost immediately, but for once, going home is not a depressing thought. Finally, I don’t feel as if being in the US is inhibiting my ability to explore this vast world, but rather as a fortunate starting place that gives me an excellent vantage point to choose the next adventure.