22 June 2006

Other preparatory fun

First things first
I've gotten a couple other questions since my last entry on some of the more thrilling aspects of preparing for travel to a place like Buduburam. Yes, I did have to have a number of shots. After getting lost in the DC suburb of Silver Spring, I finally located the doctor's office, which was halfway to Baltimore. This doctor didn't talk much, but he got the job done. He lined up band-aids on my arms, in a little column, and then shot me up, assembly line style. Finding a flight was equally traumatic. Because of my stopover in London on my way back home, I've booked two separate tickets. I realized that it's really hard for an American to book a ticket with London as the originating city, at least when you're flying to Ghana. I finally found a cheap KLM flight, but couldn't book it online, so I had to call Northwest Airlines here to set it up. Finally there was the small matter of getting a visa. You have to apply for a visa with the Embassy of Ghana. I went there in person because that's more reliable than mail, and they're only a 10 minute bus ride away. I had to hand in a fat wad of paperwork, and in return was given a raffle ticket with which I could claim my visa in a week. That's right, a raffle ticket - one from Office Depot, to be precise. This system made me a little nervous, especially since the person who took my application seemed slightly more interested in watching the Price is Right. Anyway, I went back a week later at the designated time, and got my visa. For having submitted probably 12 pages of information, including 4 copies of the application form and 4 photos, all I got was a lowsy sticker in my passport. Just in case, I'm keeping the raffle ticket.

Get your kit on
I think I've got all the clothing and things I need for the trip. I still have to acquire a mosquito net to go over my bed, as well as the obligatory conspicously Western traveller backpack in which I can shove all my waterproof pants and moisture-wicking shirts. Finding a reasonably priced waterproof shoe is also on the list. Other than that, there shouldn't be any major purchases to make. I think I've got most toiletries and things. Frenetic packing starts this weekend.

Don't you have a bunny?
Yes, I do have a bunny. A Guilford student who is interning in DC will occupy my apartment while I'm gone, with primary responsibility for feeding my bunny. I guess he'll probably take care of himself too. After the bunny, of course.

Mental preparation
The most recent method I've found for dealing with my impending journey is to completely ignore its existence. Now that I'm getting back in the groove though (only a week left!), I'm starting to feel better about the trip. Nervous, but better. Honestly, it's a lot like every other major travel experience I've had: completely different from what I know. A few weeks back, I was lucky enough to meet an anthropology student at AU who focuses her doctoral research on Liberian refugees. Last summer, she spent ten weeks at Buduburam, and has been an excellent resource and comfort. We're getting together at least one more time before I leave for some good, deep discussion of the place and how to get around it.

Special mission
My friend came to know quite a few people at the camp, including one woman who gave birth to a baby just after my friend returned back to the States. I am being dispatched with a gift for that baby, and will embark on a quest to find his mother shortly after I arrive and get settled.

There is no formal training program that I am required to go through before I depart. I'll get information about working for PCO once I arrive. However, this week I'm taking a course through AU's Peacebuilding and Development Institute called Positive Approaches to Peacebuilding. The class has about 13 people from various parts of the world, and we're learning from two instructors. Topics covered include appreciative inquiry, getting to forgiveness, and engaging in sustainable and appropriate reconciliation efforts. I think this will make me well prepared for my work with PCO, especially if I get to work with the Peace Cells project. But it also does some work on dealing with children, so if I do end up working more with the kids, I can do that too. Still though, I'd rather work with the adults.

I'm unsure if my visa allows me to come and go from Ghana, and I may not have time for that anyway. However, I do hope to make it to Accra a couple times to meet some other peacebuilding/peacekeeping professionals that I've heard of and have some connection to through people I've interned with or studied under. Two organizations I especially want to check out are the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre and the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding. If anyone else has any other recommendations, please send them my way.

My new name
Finally, I should briefly mention my terms of reference while I'm away. You know, the informal ones. My friend above tells me that I will mostly like be called either "white man" or "obroni" while I'm gone. It's pretty obvious that I'm gonna stick out a lot, so I guess that just makes it more fun, right?

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