Accra Ghana Temple

Accra Ghana Temple
Accra Ghana Temple

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Planning the Move and Making the Commitment

One of the greatest benefits of the pre-move trip was to assist us to know what to bring and what not to bring to Ghana. Our sweat reinforced that we would be bringing a lot of cotton clothing. My shopping trips helped me to notice what I could not buy here.  Having been forewarned, we actually arrived in Ghana with 2 suitcases full of food.  And what did we take?  Chocolate chips, of course, because Western style chocolate chips are like gold here.  We also brought some Fiber One bars, nuts, Crystal Light, and sugar-free jello.  One suitcase was full of tuna ($3-$5/can here). 

We decided to keep our home and our daughter and son in law plan to move in and watch it for us.  So we had to move into the basement and put some things in storage.  But all in all, we look forward to returning to our home some day.  

We had to decide what clothes, books, music, DVDs and household goods to take.  We took some things just to remind us of home and family.  Pictures and some memorabilia would help create for us a new home.  We also had to purchase the over the counter medications and prescription medications we would need.  

Gregg is very willing to go to Africa and will miss all the things I have discussed.  But he will greatly miss golf and his Saturday foursome.  This is something a woman cannot understand.  But I take it at face value and recognize that this is a big sacrifice for him.  I encouraged Gregg to take a set of golf clubs even though he may not get to use them much.

Gregg encouraged me to continue singing with the Tabernacle Choir until the day we left for Africa.  I feel so blessed to have enjoyed over 5 years with the Choir.  It has truly been 5 years of "once in a lifetime" experiences. 

Through all this, there was still the concern of leaving home.  This prompted a trip to the Bountiful Temple where we sat together in the Celestial Room.  What came to our minds at almost the same instant was -- that we had misunderstood where home is.  It became clear to us that "home" is with Heavenly Father.  Our house in Utah is a nice place, but just part of the journey "home." 

Pre-move visit to West Africa

On April 12, 2010 we boarded a Delta flight bound for our pre-move visit Accra, Ghana, Africa.  Gregg had been to Africa numerous times, but this was a first for me.  We had a vacation in Egypt in 2009, but that is not Sub-Saharan Africa.

When we landed it was hot, humid, and sweaty on the tarmac.  There was no Jetway and we hauled our carry on bags down the exterior stairs and entered a crowded hot bus.  In the terminal we stood in a long, hot line to get our passports cleared at immigration.  Gregg whispered to me, "I'm melting, I'm melting."  We headed the short distance to baggage claim (small, aging airport).  At baggage claim we witnessed our first power failure.  The entire airport went completely dark and we could hear the luggage belts come to a halt.  Everyone just stood and waited and sure enough, in about 5 minutes the lights came on and the luggage belts started up.  We retrieved our bags and walked past customs.  Apparently they were more interested in others than us because we witnessed open bags and their contents strewn across long tables.  We were happy it was not us. After clearing customs, it was so nice to be met by someone we knew. 

Upon leaving the airport we were bombarded with men very eager to carry our bags,all quite aggressive and all wanting a small fee.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn by the airport, one of the nicest hotels in Accra. 

We then saw the wonderful home we would live in.  The home is an older British style two-level home in a gated community near others we would know and work with.  The home has a gorgeous dark wood staircase ascending to the second level.  Construction here is all concrete, so getting more than one or two power outlets per room is sometimes a challenge.  The home has nice furniture, nice draperies and solid dark wood furniture.  The main level floors are mostly marble tiles. There are 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and a spacious kitchen with a Western sized refrigerator, chest freezer, Whirlpool washer and dryer.  There is a separate detached maid's quarters out back, which will remain unused.  There is a huge mango tree in the back yard, which we understand was loaded with fruit this year.  There are bushes and trees all around the home in bloom with red, pink, purple and orange flowers.  This will be a wonderful place to live.
During my stay in Accra, I got to experience local shopping with other expat ladies which I will explain in a later posting.  Suffice it to say, it was quite an education.

My stay was to last 5 days and Gregg was to continue on to Ivory Coast and Nigeria.  When the volcano erupted in Iceland, my routing through Amsterdam was doomed.  Before leaving the country, Gregg rescheduled my flight through New York (the soonest available flight was 5 days later--a little more adventure than I had signed up for).  But I made it home on a direct flight from Accra to NYC.  Sadly, the flight from Accra was late departing because a man stood in the doorway and refused to let them shut the door without his friend on board.  Eventually, we left his friend at the airport bar in Accra and most of us missed our connections in NYC.  I got to overnight in New York before getting home. 

How it all started.

On Friday, Feb. 26, 2010 the Presiding Bishop of our church asked us to relocate to West Africa for 2-4 years.  He asked Gregg to be the Director of Temporal Affairs for this area.  The Director of Temporal Affairs is like the General Manager; he oversees construction, real estate, finance, information technology, funding of humanitarian projects, human resources, etc.  The West Africa area includes:  Ghana, Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Ivory Coast, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. 

Gregg struggled with how to tell me.  So that evening, he asked me if I wanted a big adventure.  He wondered if I might be bored.  I clarified that I was not bored.  I was quite happy singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, working in the ICU/CCU of Lakeview Hospital, being a wife, mother, and grandmother and enjoying our friends and family in North Salt Lake, Utah. 

I sensed that this was a leading question and I wondered what was going on.  So, I told him to quit beating around the bush.  He then informed me of the Presiding Bishop's request and asked if I could support this change.  I said "yes" immediately but had concerns about our home, the choir, our grandchildren, and what our life would be like in Africa.  Gregg returned and confirmed our willingness with the Presiding Bishop.

The next few months are a whirlwind.  First we told our three married children.  Our two sons were very supportive and wished us well and our daughter cried.  She was due to deliver our first grandson any day and wanted her mom nearby.  But in the end, they were all on board if this was something we felt we should do.  We planned a June family reunion in Salt Lake City and that made us all feel better. 

On March 12 our daughter gave birth to a healthy baby boy and I was there to witness it.  We will miss some of his early years while we are in Africa, as well as our four granddaughters.  Fortunately, we will have Skype and can talk regularly.