Prologue Pt IX

After 2 weeks of “leaving dos”, final goodbyes and dinners out I have said goodbye to Ghana.

Before I left, I was asked by a friend to list why I like Ghana so much,… through my answers (which provoked a fair bit of debate) it became obvious that although Ghana was the location, the majority of the reasons why I have enjoyed my time there are more transient,  some linked to the “ex-patty” lifestyle, some to the opportunities there, but through a bit of soul searching (and more than a few drinks) I discovered that it basically boils down to; the friends I have made, the places I have visited and the personal experiences I have had (some good, some not so).  Essentially though, it is the people that make the place and I have been very lucky in the people I have met!!

Overall, I loved my time in Ghana, I am going to miss my friends, the weather (at least in the first few wintery months of the voyage) and am going to be very interested to see how it will have evolved over the next 16 months when I come back to visit in 2011.  I hope that at least some of my friends will still be there! 

Although keeping in contact is going to be difficult, the world is no longer as large as it used to be, Facebook, email and cheap flights mean it is much easier to keep in touch than even a few years ago… I hope we all do!

I don’t like goodbyes, I generally prefer to just disappear otherwise I get a bit emotional (sniff!) but I think I did very well, especially as a group of my closest friends came to see me off at a final drink at Obama’s favourite Ghanaian hotel at the airport. 

On flying into Spain I was incredulous to see Cataluña covered in a blanket of snow. In almost 10 years there, I had never seen anything like it and was reliably informed that snow hadn’t settled in Barcelona for at least 40 years,.. quite a contrast, from 38º and 90% humidity to 3º and blizzard conditions in under 9 hours! - Holy crap was I cold!

Back in Spain the culture shock was pretty sharp, apart from the obvious weather issues, the temptation to “tsssss” waiters to get their attention (which would have inevitably resulted in my food having more than a sprinkling of bodily fluids) and the need to suppress my negotiation skills when talking to taxi drivers were the least of the cultural issues I had to work around. 
My Spanish had obviously suffered after speaking a mixture of Ghanaian pidgin English (including phrases such as “small small”, the acknowledgement grunt “Eh,.. heeeggghh”, injecting “my friend” into every sentence and beginning every conversation with “how are you, I am fine; How are you, I am fine”) and basic French for the last 16 months and was often laughed at as I made basic gender errors and spoke (as I was told condescendingly by a friend) as if I was just learning Spanish again.  Strangely enough, my Catalan hadn’t suffered as badly as it was pretty pathetic to start with, and the French appeared to have actually helped!

In social environments my female Spanish friends were confused by my addition of an extra kiss to the traditional 2 cheek kisses, and my male friends were particularly perplexed by my replacement of the traditional handshake and “man-hug” by the Ghanaian handshake that includes at least 2 different types of clasp and a finger click on separation!

After a couple of days, a few drinks and a traditional “Calçotada” with friends, I began to fall back into my European ways and despite little things surprising me from time to time (such as the recognition that there was decent public transport, water and electricity were the norm etc.), the transition back into first world living was pretty uneventful, I even decided to banish my internal Ghanaian hitchhikers with a pretty heavy dose of Giardia and Bilharzia-killing antibiotics and soon everything was back to normal (bowel movements included!).

It was a busy 10 days, finally shut down my business, sold my car, fixed a few bits and pieces in the flat, saw friends, met new additions to the world (is it my imagination or is everybody in Europe pregnant at the moment?), popped over to Lisbon to see Deb and P and basically put my Spanish life on hold for 16 months.. I hope it’s still there when I get back!

Flying into the UK was pretty uneventful, on arriving I noticed everyone was up in arms about the BA strike and worrying about the Rail strike over Easter.  The train turned up late, the notice board showed the wrong train, the circle and Victoria underground lines were both closed and it was cold and drizzling,.. some things never change!!!
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