Friday, January 12, 2007

Sad Story

I am not surprised by this story. When we left Accra a couple of weeks ago, we made sure we kept rolling on our way to the runway for takeoff so nobody could jump in our wheel well (luckily there were not any other airplanes leaving at that time). That part of the airplane is not heated or pressurized.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Out of Africa

I got home the other day from an exhausting trip to Africa. I went to Accra, Ghana for 2 days and saw many interesting things. I was hoping for amazing pictures of our arrival but the visibility was terrible. There was a lot of haze due to the Sahara sand blowing from the north. Here is a picture of the airport terminal: The colorful word means "welcome" in one of the many dialects spoken here.

Our hotel was pretty nice. I took this picture from my window to show the sandy skies, the hotel pool, and the large empty lot where a new 5-star hotel is going to be built.

I exchanged some dollars for local currency, Cedi, and got quite a pile of bills that looked to be as thick as a George Costanza wallet. The exchange rate was one US dollar = 9,200 Cedis.

The other pilots and I went to a restaurant recommended to us. I had a Senegalese chicken dish and some fried plantains (my favorite!). It was delicious. I took this picture of the men's room door because I thought it was funny:

The next day, we hired a man named Richard to drive us to the rain forest. It was a long 3 hours to get there but there was so much to see along the way. In this picture you can see a man carrying several pieces of cloth on his head. Everybody carries things on their head here. I even saw a woman with a sewing machine this way!
There are a couple of other things to see in this picture as well. Note the construction. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how they built things. I think they didn't have any prefab concrete beams and had to pour the fresh concrete into forms propped up by 2 x 4's.

The other thing in this picture is the name of the store on the awning - "God With Us Carpentry Shop". I saw very few stores that did not have a religious catchphrase. Another example would be "Christ is the Answer Block Shop" or "He is Risen Tile Store".

The rain forest was pretty cool. We signed up for the canopy tour, which basically allowed us to walk across the rope bridges over the rain forest. They are wicked high and those people afraid of heights didn't take time to stop and look over the sides. I did though. I was trying to see wildlife but unfortunately I only saw a few lizards.

Here is a short video I shot while crossing.

When we were getting ready to leave, I saw this sign in front of our car. I did see several people peeing on the side of the road, but this was a tourist spot AND the restrooms were nearby. I wonder how many people had to urinate here to warrant a sign?

Our next stop was a crocodile park-type place. There was a restaurant and a small hotel on the grounds, and you could get as close as you dared to the crocs. I stayed a safe distance from this big fella:

I was a little brave with the smaller one. After this picture was taken he turned toward us with his jaws still open. Then one of his buddies joined him. So we moved on...

After the crocodiles, we went to Elmina Castle, where slaves were traded for two centuries. Elmina was the trade post for the Portugese from 1482 to 1637 and the Dutch from 1637 to 1872. The Dutch handed the castle over to the British in 1872 and they controlled Elmina until 1957 when Ghana became independent.

It's hard to see in this picture, but the sign says "Female Slave Yard".

The sign by the gate reads: "Slave Exit to Waiting Boats"

This is the view from the top of the castle. They use those long boats to drag the fish nets out in the water and then pull the nets in from the shore. The grassy area in the foreground is on the castle grounds and is a archaeological site.

After we got back to the hotel, I showered and went to the market near the hotel. I wanted to get some pictures of the locals. It wasn't easy because a few of them told me I could not do that. I'm not sure why, but they seemed almost superstitious about it. I asked a couple of employees at the hotel, but they had no explanation for me. Anyway, here they are.

Babies and small children were carried on their mothers backs and seemed quite content.

Again, everything was carried on top of their heads. Strong necks, good posture and less lower back problems perhaps?

This is the view of our hotel from the market area. Oh the dusty skies!

Overall, I enjoyed my visit to Ghana, but I was ready to head back home. When we went to the airport to leave, the visibility was very low so the crew flying our plane in from NY could not land. They diverted to an airport in Benin (2 countries to the right) and had a difficult time procuring fuel. They finally got to Accra 7 hours late so our crew was unable to fly all the way to NY (an 11 hour flight) due to crew duty day limitations. The solution was for us to fly to San Juan, Puerto Rico, which was only a 9 hour flight. A fresh crew met us there and flew our airplane and passengers to JFK with us snoozing in the back. We go in at 4:00 am, which was 12 hours late. However, several passengers thanked us for flying them out of Africa.

I wouldn't mind going back, but I'm hoping it will be when the skies are clearer!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Happy Birthday Cranky!

Cranky's birthday was on December 30th. These 2 pictures are from that day. Mmmm....german chocolate cake!

These pictures were taken today, after he finally received his birthday/Christmas present:

Do you like the action photo? Please note the (blurry) skateboard ramp in the background. That's where he broke his arm in the summer of 2005.

In other news: Mary decided to have short hair, so we went and got it cut off today.

I've been gone all week but I will get caught up with the blogging this weekend. Have a good one!