Sunday, June 13, 2010

Where In The World?

We are still in Accra. This is not a joke. Last night we watched most of the US v. England game (go USA) and then headed to the airport almost 3 hours early. That wasn’t nearly early enough because our flight left over 3 hours early and without us. When we arrived at Accra international airport it was an absolute zoo and I noticed that our plane was already boarding. Katherine and I had previously talked about getting to the airport early because we were actually catching a plane that originated it’s flight in Lagos, Nigeria and was going to Dakar with only a quick stop in Accra. While this original plan was a good one, what we didn’t know was that flights in Africa change times quiet frequently and can even leave hours early. I’m fairly sure that random airline flights are the only things that ever leave on-time let alone early on this continent. As Katherine runs in front of me at the airport, I already have sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach.

At Virgin Nigeria’s check-in desk they inform us that the gate closed over an hour before we actually arrived and that the flight was already in the air. After several minutes of condescending and belittling comments, a man took us to Virgin Nigeria’s ticketing desk where they tell us that the flight often changes to a time 4 hours earlier than it was supposed to take off. The best part of this whole interaction was the fact that the man and the woman at the ticketing desk fully expected us to know that the plane was going to take off hours early – just because it normally does. In case any of you were wondering, with my extreme fear of flying I like to fly around Africa in my free time and therefore know when flights generally take off hours early.

My first question was why if the flight generally takes off early do they print a much later time on the ticket. This question was obviously unanswerable. We also asked how many people generally miss the flight, the ticket agents responded that it happens all the time. Really? People miss flights when the time printed on the ticket is 4 hours after the time that the plane actually takes off. Obviously we’re in panic mode as the Accra airport is jam packed with people, we have no hotel room, and everyone thinks we are going to be back in Senegal today. After learning visiting every ticketing office that is open at the airport it appears as though we have two options; this is after I laugh out loud at the third option. The Virgin Nigeria people wanted us to fly to South Africa in order to stand by on a flight to Dakar. They wanted me to travel to the country that is hosting the World Cup and then hope that I could get a stand by ticket. At that point I thought I was walking back to Dakar.

The other two options were only slightly less laughable. Option one was to buy a completely new ticket from British airways that flew to JFK in New York City and then fly all the way back to Dakar. While this flight was incredibly tempting, there was absolutely no way that I was going to step foot on US soil and then return to Africa. The second option was to return to the airport early in the morning and attempt to get on a Air Ivoire flight to the Ivory Coast, which then fly on to Dakar. All I want at this point is to be back in Dakar (obviously this was a dire situation since Dakar and I are not the best of friends), but it was not to be since once we checked back into a hotel I learned that US citizens need a transit visit even to fly through Ivory Coast. We needed this visa before a 9 am flight which is impossible and you can’t buy a visa in the airport in Abidjan, so we are still in Accra. This is probably the vacation from hell.

Last night we were able to check back into the same hotel that we had been staying at, but they kicked us out this morning after we saw the two other returned PCVs who now work for NGOs at Ghana who laughed at us for still being in Ghana after we attempted to leave. The best part about the entire ordeal was that there was a Nigerian man in the lobby of the hotel when we got back and he told us that he misses flights all the time because they leave early. He apologized for his country, but all I wanted was a stiff drink. Finding another hotel was surprisingly difficult. We had the Peace Corps Ghana guide and the vast majority of hotels listed in the guide only had rooms for one night and we’re not getting out of here until Tuesday night. AHHH!!! Finally, we called the hotel connected to Champs, the American sports bar chain that we’ve already visited on several occasions, and they could put us up for the rest of our stay in Ghana.

While I’m sick to my stomach that we’re still here and all I want to do is go back to Senegal, I did get to experience my second World Cup play in abroad and the World Cup in Africa is pretty awesome. It’s amazing to see the continent’s solidarity and the importance of the game. We really don’t have anything like it in the United States. The super bowl pits two American teams against each other, just like the Stanley Cup and the World Series and the NBA finals. Even the Olympics, when watched in the US, don’t hold the same, universal, rabid excitement that the World Cup holds abroad and especially in Africa as it’s hosting the games for the first time.

Champs is obviously an ex-pat hangout, but the excitement and desire to win and the general importance of the game was palpable in the bar. The noise was deafening, the music blaring, the stupid horns sounding off directly in my ears, and it was just a really cool experience. Everyone wants Africa to win. The Ghanaians really want Ghana to go far in the tournament, but the Nigeria, South Africa, and Cameroon games are watched with almost the same fervor. When Ghana scored the game winning and only goal of the game, the bar absolutely erupted. Everyone was hugging each other, dancing around, free drinks were flowing, and you felt like you were a part of something greater even if you are not.

Another interesting note about the World Cup are the songs and advertisements that are being shown in Africa. I’m not sure if they are the same ones as in the US. While Shakira’s Waka Waka song is the official anthem of the games, people here aren’t too happy that a Columbia was given the honor for the first games played in Africa. Plus the song is just plain weird. What has stepped up to be the unofficial anthem of the 2010 World Cup? The song from the Coca-Cola commercial. It is played more often than Akon in Senegal, which is playing a lot; although, I do have to say that it’s pretty catchy. You should check it out on youtube if the same commercial isn’t playing in the States.


  1. Alyssa, I guess I'll end your blog for you; the song is:

    ...I agree pretty catchy. Good luck getting out of Ghana and please don't try to go back to the monkey park with your extra time!

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  3. You are our portal to World Cup excitement! There was some coverage in the mainstream press about the US v England tie but most of the coverage discusses the lack of American enthusiasm. Keep up the great discriptions!