For lack of any other format to write in, here is a big bulk of writing that will describe the series of events that resulted in my untimely return to the country.
I arrived at the airport at approximately 5 pm for a flight that was to depart at 9:30. The Accra airport requires check-in to be a minimum of 2 hours prior to departure, and by requires I mean requires. I have heard stories about people being unable to get on their flight due to arriving with less time than this. I walked back and forth in the small check-in area, wondering where I would check in for my flight, and after finally asking someone what I was supposed to do they pointed me in the direction of some official looking people sitting at a table. Apparently, they were the first customs checkpoint, and after telling them that "just a lot of clothing" was the contents of my bag, they scribbled some letters on the suitcase with chalk.
I then was instructed to get in line behind a vast number of people, all of who were going to Lagos and were waiting to check in at the desk that, surprisingly enough, said Lagos. Luckily, a monitor quickly turned on with my Atlanta flight, and after wrestling with a number of Ghanaians to have my bag weighed, removing 2 kg from my overweight suitcase (which I could only do once I converted 2 kg into pounds with the handy converter on my phone), and cutting in front of the line to weigh it again, I finally was on the path to check-in.
The second customs official I spoke to, this time while waiting in line, asked me a series of "very important questions to be answered fully and honestly," including, but not limited to, how long I had been in Ghana, if anyone else helped pack my bag, if I had left my bag unattended since packing it, where I travelled when I was in Ghana, how I liked the country, when I was coming back, and instructed me to contact him upon my return so he could show me around the country.
After answering his questions fully, honestly, agreeing to let him show me around Ghana upon my return, and being laughed at when I told him I had "kity kity" containers of liquid in my carry-on (meaning small), I made my way forward. I then watched as a woman rubbed a white cloth type device over my suitcase, inserted the cloth into a machine, and then told me she had to search my bag. My entire suitcase of still sweaty clothing and possibly some Ghanaian alcohol (for a keepsake souvenir, of course) was searched. Despite having my 3 months' life belongings unpacked in front of everyone in the airport, it was a surprisingly pleasant experience for both of us, especially when she repacked my suitcase better than it was originally packed by yours truly and when I let her keep my fancy four sided nail buffer.
Finally, after all this excitement, I reached the check-in counter, got my ticket, and said goodbye to my drug and explosive-free checked baggage. I proceeded upstairs, through immigration, and into the lovely terminal. After some time spent eating, staring at the international chocolates for sale in the store, and attempting to read, I decided I felt ready to go to my gate. After discovering that the scribble on my ticket said to go to gate 4 at 7:00, I proceeded to learn that there is no gate 4 at Kotoka International Airport.
No, seriously. After asking about 10 airport staff, ranging from airline staff, janitorial staff, food staff, sales people, and even an immigration official when I wandered the wrong way through his area, I heard these responses:
"If you go back downstairs to the Delta counter, they will be able to tell you how to go to gate 4."
"Gate 4 is downstairs, you have to go back down there."
"Gate 4 is a temporary gate, I'm not sure how to get there."
"Go back to immigration, the door is on the opposite side."
"Wait here and someone will come and get you."
And, of course, my personal favorite:
"There is no gate 4."
Luckily, me and the 200 other people on my flight ran into each other in the three-gate airport terminal, and decided to listen to the people telling us to sit and wait for someone to come and get us. Due to the fact that I am now in this country, you can guess what happened.
Now, to give credit to some of the people I asked for help, gate 4 is a temporary gate and the door is actually through immigration, which meant we were paraded through the line of people trying to get their exit stamp out of the country. We followed this man (an oburoni, no less!) down a sketchy, poorly lit stairway, waited in line sweating due to lack of air-conditioning and limited fans, were patted down and had carry-on baggage swiped with the weird cloth things (mine passed this time!), and then sat in what I seriously feel like needs to be described as the bowels of the airport. It was an old waiting area, with old vending machines and check-in counters, looking out onto the tarmac. Finally, we went through a metal detector, waited for the bus to come, and drove off to the airplane.
It took forever to load the plane, and I luckily had the good fortune of sitting at a window overlooking the bus stop, watching it come and go and the people trickling off of it. Anyway, the plane took off and 13 hours later I was in Atlanta. So, alas, that is my journey home.
Despite the boredom you must have felt while reading this due to my lack of ability to actually write anymore, I do plan on continuing to blog for awhile, mostly to share some pictures but to add all the things I just didn't have time to write.
And time for medical: I met with a neurosurgeon today, who I really liked and who has a very good reputation and is quite well known. I had heard that he is conservative in terms of treatment even though he is a surgeon, which he also told me himself. However, he feels that surgery is my best, and possibly only, option for any improvement with my current condition. I will be needing to make a decision asap so that things don't continue to deteriorate, but will first be getting a second (third, fourth, etc.) opinion. So, that's that.