1 August, 10:00am GMT +2 - Amsterdam

My flight landed at the Amsterdam Schiphol airport a few hours ago. I spent the flight trying to sleep, which a melatonin pill and a window seat made possible, but 6:00pm-1:40am EST is not my normal sleep cycle and was interrupted by meals at 8:00pm and 12:00am EST. Over dinner, my seat mate struck up a conversation with me because we both ordered the vegetarian option (which means you get your food first AND it's really good) and it's rare that either of us sits next to another vegetarian. She was a cheery South African woman in her late forties who had moved to Falls Church, married an American man, and was now flying to the Netherlands to watch her nephew perform in an opera.

When my flight arrived, I searched to no avail to find an arrivals gate listing, which was neither online nor on the computer screens. I was supposed to meet Lianna, another volunteer, at her gate when her flight from Portland, OR arrived at 8:30am, so I wandered around the airport a bit and settled at a lounge where I could email her. Wifi is free for two 30-minute sessions in AMS airport, which was just enough for me to find her but not enough for me to post my blog entry. I had planned to take the train into town to take a canal tour and walk around the area enjoying the sights (the red light district, the Anne Frank house, the Van Gogh museum...) and local food, but my exhaustion from the red-eye and the fact that boarding for KLM flights from Amsterdam takes 1.5 hours lead me to bide my time in the airport. I will definitely come back here to see the city, but I'll spend the night instead.

This is by far the best airport I've been in for a long layover (and this 7.5 hour layover is the longest I've ever had). At the moment, I'm watching Micheal Phelps win silver in the men's 200m butterfly (live coverage, finally) with a giant cappuccino  There is a wide selection of fast and slow food, a museum, a library, a playground, a hotel where you can rent a room by the hour or pay for just a shower, perhaps a dozen spas, and cozy lounges for charging your laptop or taking a nap. We met one gentleman who had missed his flight back to Minneapolis because a diplomat had passed through security and they had shut down the security lines for an hour, so he spent the night here, and, honestly, I'm jealous. I could LIVE here. I spent an hour walking up and down terminals exploring and didn't cover 1/3rd of the airport. Also, they were selling dozens of elephant figurines at the museum shop. This place gets me.


I will be posting this blog a bit differently than normal blogs. When I arrived in Ghana, I realized that there would never be constant internet, so posting daily or even weekly was not an option. You'll notice I've switched to past tense, as I'm writing this after I returned from Ghana. I wrote most of this narrative in Ghana, but, as I wrote, I realized that I wanted to include small lessons about Ghanaian culture in each post. I wanted to include as complete a picture of each aspect as I could each day, rather than recording the small tidbit I learned each day. So, I will be henceforth telling a story in present tense, but in each entry I will elaborate on a piece of Ghanaian culture from my story, including all the information I learned about it over the course of the trip. I will be writing it as if I had already learned and experienced every example I include, but sometimes these examples will not have happened yet. I will also be including pictures from each day, but when touching on a cultural aspect, I may include pictures of that piece from across the entire trip. The writing and most of the pictures are my own, but I have used about 150 photos from other volunteers (credit goes to Lianna, Ricarda, Roxane, and Shreya) when they captured something I missed. I've posted these in chronological order so you could read the entries like a book, rather than in the reverse order which blogspot insists upon. The pictures will often tell additional stories to the ones I tell in writing, so check them out if you want to see everything. I've titled each entry with the time I originally wrote the narrative and where I spent most of the day, which I narrow down to the village and region name for outreaches or the suburb and major city name for other days. On driving days, I put our destination city.

So here it is: dozens of pages of notes, two thousand photos, and 21 days of memories boiled down to about 15,000 words and 450 photos. I don't pretend to have learned everything about Ghana in the three weeks I lived and worked there, but through this, I hope to show you Ghana as I experienced it. This is Ghana as I know it.

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