Back in March 2011, when I was offered the fellowship position as Strategic Sustainability Social Consultant for Shea project, everything seemed so surreal. First, getting the dream job, which I was told that it had the highest applicant rate in the previous year- How lucky am I? Second, having a chance to move to Germany for 6 month, which was the secretive dream of my life! Who knew that dream comes true? Finally, visiting rural areas in Africa, which could be a once-in-a-life-time experience! What a fantastic career I have! I couldn’t really picture what would be ahead, even though I was sensing I was about to experience something completely different from my comfort zones – saying bye to my husband and two kids, living alone, which I was most nervous about, and visiting rural Africa, as a stilettos city girl who has never even camped once and jumped at the sight of a ladybug. Now, as I write this blog, I have vivid images, as if printed in my brain with all sorts of beautiful colors and textures covering this planet, which I will never lose.
My mandates for the Ghana trip were to ramp-up our research software that was pre-installed on the hardware, train the users during the go-live, and brief the journalists during a press trip to visit SAP’s Shea project and Cashew project sites in Ghana. Two months of activities in preparation for the trip; from the software development, the legal contract to release it, and all the trip logistics, lead up to my departure date of September 18th. 15 days in Ghana! I got the checklist for the trip preparation and checked off the items one by one from booking, visa, vaccination, and all project material preparation well in advance. So, I was ready and set to go to Ghana, more than a month before the planned departure date. Feeling confident and to be even more fully recharged for my life time adventure and for the project, I even took a week vacation in the beginning of September in Turkey. But, who knew my recharging vacation would turn into the biggest headache and a pre-exercise for my Ghana adventures. My passport was gone missing on the day before return to Germany. I never found it. It could have been stolen or I dropped it somewhere…either way, I did not have my passport that contained two very important visas – work permit for Germany and entry visa for Ghana. I felt the sky falling down on me thinking that the summit of the whole fellowship and the Shea project being crumbled down together with it. Thankfully, after almost two weeks of the team efforts from my relocation agent, team assistant, and SAP shipping team, despite of all the bureaucratic hurdles, I miraculously got the passport and visa back all just-in-time on the last day afternoon before the departure date. Just like the Turkish hotel bellman kept repeating to me with his broken English “You no sorry, everything will ok!” carrying me to my room after I literally fainted due to heat and stress in Turkey. Of course, he meant don’t worry, everything will be ok. With this passport episode, I filled the prelude to Ghana adventure with lots of colors and shapes that would connect to the main stories later. I was so curious on what was waiting for me 6500km to the south.
Finally, when I landed in Ghana, the sun had already set. The colorful yellow and red banners and sings, filling every space of the airport along with the hot humid air, were the first things I could notice. The red signs were Vodafone and the yellows ones were MTN – the two main mobile carriers in Ghana. I pulled two full suitcases containing 7 Motorola smart phones loaded with our first version of mobile front end Rural Sourcing Management (RSM) and a brand new laptop installed with the backend office application for RSM. Even though I got all the custom documents prepared by SAP Export Control team, the Ghanaian custom did not seem to care much on the items I was bringing in. They were quite welcoming and relaxed. I took a taxi and paid 3 times more than what my colleague told me to pay since I didn’t feel like negotiating with this local taxi drivers lined up in front of airport in the dark. During 15 minute drive to my hotel, passing by lots of shacks, I felt a bit weary but the taxi finally stopped at a decent looking big building with the sign of my hotel name. ‘Hmm, the hotel looks a bit fancy’, I thought. “I can do it!”, I whispered under my breath walking into the lobby. As I pick up a magazine on a table next to the chair in my room, I saw a small black bug quickly disappearing. I swear it was a cockroach! I told myself “I am ok. It is all part of it.” I looked away from the details in the room and the bathroom and went to bed hoping for a good night to catch the early airplane to Tamale and no bugs would go into my suitcases. Lying on the bed with a bit of anxiousness, I mumbled to myself “Here comes the stilettos city girl to crack Ghanaian shea nuts!” and it put a big grin on my face!
To be continued….
Related blog posts: (Navigate to the next or previous posts by clicking the arrow buttons next to the title on top)
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