Flights & Feelings I

Reading Key

Abeiku: Italic

Pearl: Non-Italic

My personal development is extremely important to me. So career wise, spiritually, physically and all the other “ally’s” l don’t take them for granted at all. So does Abei. So for things that will further our education and subjects in that vein, we share a lot of opportunities among each other. 

I mean we met at one of such and so the chance to actually do something we love, to add value to ourselves was greatly welcome. 

We have had our fair share of rejection emails, congratulations emails where the timing is just inappropriate and ones that the time is just right. The Young Creative Leaders Summit in Tanzania was one of such.

This looked very interesting. First of all because it was an opportunity to meet people and expand our network. We loved the idea of meeting people, researching and presenting projects on the SDGs and the idea of seeing another part of Africa was exciting as well. It was quite surprising that before this, we had both been outside Africa but not to any other African country. So why not apply?

I received the email first. I was elated because it was a few weeks more to round off on National Service. Going through the Summit’s Website, l saw it as a great opportunity to expand my network and asking for permission at work would be relatively easy. I broke the news to my parents. They were in full support. The trip was partly funded meaning the organizers would bear some costs and so would l (my parents,lol). I mentioned it to Abei and he stated he had not received a mail yet.

I received mine eventually but I actually wasn’t really sure I would be able to go because even though my mum was cool with it, my dad hadn’t yet come around. My 559.04ghs was not going to let me take that decision on my own because those plane tickets were not going to buy themselves 😂. (Thank God I could afford one now if I wanted to. 😂)

I was certain, I was going. I got the approval from work and parents approval. The bummer was, although Abei had received the congratulatory mail, he was unlikely to be there. I began researching on Tanzania, watching YouTube vlogs at any chance l got and learning some basic Swahili. After what seemed nothing short of a miracle, Abei’s Dad came around to the idea and even booked a ticket. It was great news. It’s not everyday you get to travel out of your country with your person. 

Well yeah it happened. I really can’t explain the joy. Got permission from work to take two weeks off and now this was really happening. I learned all my habari yakos and Nzuri sanas because I love learning new languages and it was extremely necessary to understand basic Swahili phrases.

The research on Tanzania had expanded. Abei was also sharing what he found. We didn’t want to be overwhelmed with cultural shock. One person who greatly helped us was Abei’s friend, Nancy. She had been to Tanzania for volunteerism, so she really gave us the keys. (That’s how you say it in pidgin right?).

Nancy was really helpful and so I got her sand from the beautiful shores of Zanzibar as a gift.😂 (not just that though). Pearl had me watching YouTube vlogs of people who had visited Tanzania. If you checked my YouTube history last year around this time, you would have seen it littered with searches on Tanzania, as much as you’d see sand on the seashore. 

One of the things that we discovered early on was that Tanzanians were not big on women exposing a lot of skin with regards to dressing. For example, l could wear a swimsuit at a resort but l could not prance around a market place or area close to the resort in something that exposed a lot of skin.

Tanzania is visa free for Ghanaians for a period of 90 days so there was no embassy hassle, thankfully. 

Accommodation had been greatly subsidized and the organizers were going to provide meals for us and transportation from the hotel to the conference locations. During one of the discussions, Abei mentioned after the conference that we needed to go sightseeing in Zanzibar. There’s an adventure gene in me somewhere but it’s often overshadowed by my orderliness. My mind goes straight into what if we miss our flight, and we get missing somewhere etc.

Zanzibar Island (Unguja), is off the coast of mainland Tanganyika. These together make up the United Republic of Tanzania. Our expectations were building up as the time drew closer. You know, the feeling of catching flights is mixed to me basically because as stressful as it is, there is a little fun to it, seeing new airports and cities. 

Crazy as it may sound, we are journaling our expectations for the conference individually, researching on the organizers, as well looking for places we can see in Tanzania that would fall within the stipulated time.

We were going to be in Dar es Salaam for the summit for a greater part of the time there so we looked for places we could see. Personally, I would have loved to climb up Kilimanjaro but a bus ride to the Northern part of the country, where it is located, would take over eight hours. That wasn’t the biggest setback though, it takes a period of between 5 and 9 days to ascend and descend, as well as a cost of close to $2,000 to safely do it. 

Another essential thing we looked at was the budget, we were going to be present on our parents’ ticket, so we disclosed what we each have and look up where we want to go post conference and how it would fit in our budget. (We have the same amount budgeted individually. For anything that may occur, we would take from our personal accounts.)

Ethiopian Airlines was the flight. Pearl kept texting on the morning of the flight. Departure was a few minutes after 12 but Pearl was at the airport in the morning to open the gates of Terminal 3 😂. She would definitely be the African mother who gets to the airport at 10am when she has a 7pm flight. I started packing the night before and finished that morning. I got to the airport somewhere after 10am. She looked nervous. We got our boarding pass, went through all the formality and waited at the gate. We were going to have a 3hr layover at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport. The thought of that stressed me. And oh, I never knew Ethiopia could reach temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius. 

We go through our plans almost everyday till the actual day, but no matter how prepared you are, life just has a way of shaking your core and throwing you off balance a bit. We are grateful. The actual day arrives. We leave Kotoka International Airport for Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar. We have communicated our arrival time with the individuals who are to pick us up. We arrive at the airport and we are in for a huge surprise.

We landed in Dar a little after 3am. As Pearl said, we were in for a big surprise. Looks like there was some sort of miscommunication and so they did not know that we had arrived because they thought we’d be arriving the following day. Imagine being stranded at dawn at an Airport in a city you don’t know. Well I got to changing my dollars to Tanzanian Shillings or T Shillings as they call it. I checked Uber prices with the Airport WiFi and decided we’d rather contact the organizers. I also got an Airtel Tanzania SIM card which came in handy for the duration of our stay there. (Ghanaian Telcos are really cheating us.) 

My phone decides this is the time to have an attitude, so it goes off. Here we are, in a new city, every other scenario is possibly flying through my head. The taxi drivers at the airport who only speak a few lines of English are saying they can take us to our destination. But it’s a risk l am unwilling to take because l think all airport taxi drivers charge exorbitant fees, so we could likely be ripped off of the little we have. Also, we do not know the city, we can only speak a few words of Swahili. I know it’s a wild card, but l am thinking we could possibly be kidnapped 😂.  As you may imagine, l am fretting, but Abei is calm, collected. His ability to create conversations with people really comes through for us. He speaks to a gentleman who sells recharge cards outside the airport. He offers us a seat, strikes a conversation with Abei and gives us great advice.

We finally get through to the organizers after I get my Tanzanian SIM working. (Took close to half an hour because of the registration with my passport and basically setting up.) 

The organizers apologize profusely and inform us they have sent a driver to pick us up. At this point, l may have planned our immediate return to Ghana, a number of times in my head. The taxi drivers won’t take no for an answer and are taking turns to hound us at the place where we are seated. I began to pace up and down with my huge bag. Abei swaps his bag with mine, because mine is quite heavy.  The driver who has been sent to pick us up, finally reaches out, informs us he has arrived, yet we can’t locate him.

We will sign of here and continue this adventure next week. 

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