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    In 2006
    Ivory Coast

    In 2007

    In 2009

    In 2010
    Saudi again!,

Location: Saudi Arabia

Network Infrastructure and Rollout. Fancy climbing this ladder!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Back in Accra

Well I made it back, a warm 9.30pm, 25 degrees evening greeted me in Accra. Met the MD at Heathrow Terminal 4 yesterday and was given an instant upgrade to business class. Wow, haven't flown business in over 8 years now. The seat is a bed, and over 100 movies to choose from! BA treat you with a lot more respect in this class, I didn't get the food tray thrown at me and there were choices of menu.

Well can tell I'm back in Accra, woke up this morning and put my foot out of bed to hear the aircon unit turn off, checked the lights - no power, checked the water - no water, so got to the office early in order to clean up. Haven't been out of the office yet, I'm sure it will be just as eventful.

Monday, August 28, 2006

My amazing Sister

Nae travels and flies today to Vancouver for a new life and a new adventure. So as a family we're on 3 continents America - Africa - Europe.

As she travels she's going to blog her way through, so follow her travels and the link to follow is click here.

Have a great time Sis...X

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Blustery English Weather!

Blustery weather at the English Channel. Just to the left beyond the jetty are the Seven Sister cliffs and to the right in the distance is Newhaven. A needed blast of strong channel winds to invigorate and exercise the body.

What a contrast to the weeks before!

Monday, August 14, 2006

A 2 week break!

Well the passport came, the flight was confirmed and Immigration stamped what needed stamping. For 2 weeks I'm taking a much needed UK break. When I'm back in Accra I'll pick up things again.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

New friends - dieing HIV/Aids Orphans

The pictures don't reveal what hides behind the smiles and fun on these orphans faces. HIV/Aids. I started at 7:00am by meeting Vivian and Alex the Directors of LIHOP Organisation a very small work started 2 years ago working to relieve the pain of living with HIV/Aids with Orphans in Accra.

For the children there is no medication I am told, it is too strong for their small lives. So I asked what can be done? The answer "Nothing" they will eventually die. The little girl here, her father died of Aids and she has it now...she looked thin and not as strong as the others, but she had the same inner child like inquisition of my phone camera. 90% of the children in these photos have the HIV/Aids virus and all are orphans.

Within minutes of us enjoying a photo shoot, they were sitting with me and we were best of friends. The stark reality was they have a high chance of dieing before adulthood, the selflessness of Alex and Vivian was so evident when they explained there was not hope for these children.

LIHOP are working with some NGO's who fund the food supply. The children live with gaurdians or Aunt's and Uncle. Once a month they come to the LIHOP distribution hut (see the flickr photos - left) which is near their homes, they are weighed to see how they growth is doing and theu collect a months supply of grain and Soy Wheat Blend and go home again. On Sundays there's a special clinic and counselling meeting for the adults living with HIV/Aids.
Alex and Vivian (Co-founders) are not paid for their dedication - it's all voluntary. Alex works in medical research in the mornings and works in the local school in Madina, where we were in the afternoons. (North Accra) Alex is also the local Baptist Pastor. Vivian is a part time social worker and works more closely with the community children and the Accra social authorities.

They have no premises just a simple lock up hut for their food support. What they need is a premises and they are looking. I want to be involved in helping them get a premises of their own, if you are interested in being aware of their needs so you can give then let me know with your details and I can connect you directly with them.

I was challenged recently to write more of the progress Ghana is making on this blog and I will. They are an amazing people, resilient, warm and welcoming. But here today I met a need that reaches the very core of my heart - suffering children! Those of us who "have" need to share with those who "have not" and if there is a need that has no agenda, it is this kind of need....

Vivian Gasu and Alex Danso-Coffie

Friday, August 11, 2006

Passport not ready!!!

Passport failed! So now I wait till Monday to see if the Embassy process will churn it out for me. Ghana immigration are waiting to stamp it for exit purposes and have been very helpful.

We have this bio check quality thing in the passport process which wasn't explained very well to me. It has to scan and authorise the quality via London for issue of the passport, well this process took too long and the Embassy closes at 1:00pm on a Friday - I dashed accross town to be at the Embassy in the last ditched hope that in the last opening minutes this approval would be issued.

I am very dissappointed about it. But it's just a day at present. Flight is changed. The photo here is the TULIP Hotel in Accra, where I sat for a while one evening this week with the MD and his family who are over for a visit.

Ghana does have it's own contrasts and is not all on the poverty or broken scale. Over the peaceful years, more so in this millenium the Ghanaians have built up their own middle class from hard word and good industry. And though a white face is common in these paradise style hotels they are not alone.

This photo though a bit blurred portrays a very relaxing and luxurious spot..think I'll take a break again here between now and Monday night...

Tomorrow: I've been invited to help do a food visit at 7:00am at an orphage for HIV children in Madina a suburb north of Accra. Can't wait, I need a hug as much as they do I think.....

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Update - Slow boat to Heathrow! (Delayed)

I was wondering why getting back to England is such a difficult journey these days.

  • Benin Police Report: Check
  • New Passport Applied for: Check
  • Ghana Police Report: Check(This morning)
Outstanding Things to do

  • New Passport Collection: Due in 60 mins to get it CHANGED TILL TOMORROW!

Very fast outstanding things to do!!! - in order to fly Sunday

  • Immigration Endorsement on New Passport: Due to submit today - receive it Today/Tomorrow
  • Ticket Confirmed Flight booking: To be confirmed - flight reserved - Sunday overnight arrive Monday.
  • Airport to land in: NO IDEA.

Read this on the Heathrow Airport Website this morning:

Important Message
10th August 2006 11:15

Due to the heightened security at UK airports, the Heathrow Airport website is currently experiencing a high level of people visiting the site.

The airport is experiencing severe disruption to its operation. All short-hall inbound flights have been cancelled. In-bound long-haul flights continue to operate but with severe delays. Check-in and hand search processes across all four terminals is severely affected, and this will continue throughout the day. We would ask passengers not to come to the airport today unless absolutely necessary. We would also advise those passengers who must travel today to consider using public transport and be prepared for long delays as a result of these measures.

In brief: Hand baggage restrictions are in place; Passengers will be handsearched; Footwear and all items (including pushchairs and walking aids) must be x-ray screened; Liquids will be removed from the passenger.

We apologise for any inconvenience and hope to resume access to the website as soon as possible

Monday, August 07, 2006

Machinery that never dies!

What I like about the buses in this country is the will to go on. Despite the van falling apart at the seems and sills and no lights and a back door that is probably hung with cord, the driver still runs the roads seeking business.

But: the risk is enormous, this local Takoradi van still runs in the town of one of our engineers!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Keep the good - leave the bad...

In all my travels I think one overriding trend is that the lasting memories are the good ones.

Here's two of them from my last week.

Fresh pineapple juice in a pineapple - It happened when I walked into the Marina Beach Hotel in Cotonou after 7 hours driving into Benin. At check in, I forgot that I was in the best hotel in the capital, still familiar with bumpy pot holes roads and bottles water for refreshments...as I paid the cash room deposit a porter brought to the check in desk this, freshly squezzed pineapple juice with ice in a half pineapple, I nearly jumped at the surprise, I was still a bit tense, since I had driven the lead 4WD through Togo and Benin for the second half of our jouney.

A Gold Coast Panorama 800m above sea level - About 45 minutes north of Accra is a town called "Aburi" pronounced "ebree" (- e for egg and bree like the french cheese) It sits as a barrier to northern Ghana and as the entrance to a lush green terrain resembling jungle. This afternoon I went was exploring and I pulled over and bought some boiled corn to eat, then tried something called "sweet apple" in the left of the picture. I sat with the stall owner and chatted for an hour, they introduced me to the sweet apple, and the view was spectacular...

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Kenya - Ghana - England

  • At this present moment Karen and Sarah are 50,000ft cruising over 500mph to Nairobi. I should have been with them but for the stolen passport. I spoke with them though, first thing this morning as they passed through to duty free and prepared to board...bon voyage my special and dear family
  • Charis, Esther, Alexander, Jacob and Matthew firmly on Cotswold soil in England.
  • Me, waiting for a passport replacement here in Accra , Ghana.

A family spread accross such a wide expanse and soon Naomi (sister - see link right side of blog) will be jetting to Vancouver to live.

Reflections on the robbery:
It took me the whole of Tuesday this week to get over the emotional experience Monday had been. When I spoke about it, I found myself reliving the emotional highs and lows and scary parts. I must confess, until I get my new passport and exit papers for a 2 week break and until I get on the plane I'm living in a small amount of uncertainty still. Overall though whatever happens, every moment is an experience, an opportunity to live and what a privilege to travel. Despite set backs and the increased levels of effort, travelling opens our minds and challenges our status quo, it introduces the variety of other cultures and remoulds our value system - for the better if we can.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

"14 hours" - Monday 31st July 2006

It was Monday morning about 10.00am; we had finished signing a contract for a new project building tower sites in the north of Benin. We had arrived in our Ghana Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger cabsters. Things had gone well, all we had left to do was negotiate the lease on the office/apartment and then I would set off with my driver back to Ghana…

We parked at a roundabout near the landlords offices and left the drivers with the vehicles. For 10 minutes the vehicles were unattended and in that time the front drivers door lock was forced on the Hilux and the small bags taken. For the first time in 2 months I had left my passport in a bag that I didn’t have with me. Now it was gone!

When I returned to the vehicles and was told what had just happened I went cold, here I was in Cotonou, Benin, 7 hours away from Accra, with no passport, or visas to get through 3 countries…..aaaarh! I can relive the feeling just by thinking back! The feeling of despair and utter loss for what to do is vivid. What compounded the situation was that in 36 hours I had plans to leave for the UK and be back with my family and then onward to Kenya in a few days time.

In my passport were multiple entry visas for Benin, Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast. There is also no embassy in Benin or Togo. They are managed from the embassy in Nigeria! Could I get through to the number? Not a chance.

So as the sinking feelings continue to get stronger we weave our way through the bustling motor bike taxis and busy Cotonou to the police to get a police report, which would theoretically get me through the borders back to Ghana. The central police station was mayhem since the whole country would close down tomorrow for Independence Day (26 years of independence from France), so we diverted to the Commissariat de Police Cadjehoun a district, and went through the report process. (A 2 hours event which is another story for another post!)

With the letter stamped, typed and signed, the advice from my Accra office was to move away. The British Embassy in Nigeria’s number was continually engaged! Great thanks for the help. So on we went. It was already 2:00pm so we had to negotiate the border crossings to get to Ghana before dark. Once in Ghana we could relax and slow down.

Benin/Togo Border.
The Police report was in French and gave the details, as a document it explained really well the theft and the things stolen and had a lot of weight. The Benin immigration were a bit embarrassed that it had happened and after a little encouragement to help me (in my not so fluent French) the one guard persuaded the interviewing guard to let me out….Next Togo entry! So I walk into the garden shed to the border police, and hand my police report over and he looks at me and says you have no visa, explanations later he passes it to another guard…10 minutes later and 10 people pushing in front, this guard says follow me…so then we meet the top border guard in traditional outfit and he looks at me and then at the paper and then at me and with a slight head nod, I’m through….man was I relieved. On the way over to the vehicle one of the border guards needed a ride to Lome the capital which was on our route, and in return we had free passage through the vehicle checks which saved us about 20 mins…..(at this point I’m thinking that things are going well)

Togo/Ghana Border
The Togo guards seeing the stamps I already had on the police report let me out and wished me well, so after all this French I breathed a sigh of relief, it was 5:00pm and I walked in to the Ghana Immigration office.

Ghana Shock!
What a surprise was waiting for me. When I entered, I was quickly passed to the top immigration officer who was standing 6ft and more in his green uniform with hands behind his back, ridged in his pose. Before I could get through half of my explanation he interrupted and refused to listen, ordered me out of his office back into Togo saying apologies were not enough, that I didn’t have the correct papers and should return to Cotonou, Benin, sort it out and then return with the right paperwork! I was dumbstruck, yet immediately I knew he wasn’t going to move, so rather than antagonize him, I passed the car stopped told my driver and walked by foot, with a pocket full of papers in my pocket across the border back into the “in-between” zone where the trucks are parked to await customs inspection. I just stood there, what ran through my mind as I visualized how I could get that all done and be back in time for a UK flight the next night was a total feeling of loss. I had come so far and now this huge BLOCK, like a stronghold blocking the way.

My driver arrived and expressed how he was embarrassed that one of his countrymen could be this inflexible….well over the next hour, several phone conversations happened in Accra Immigration and with the border officials. The outcome was that the immigration authorities instructed the immigration border to let me in, but the border officer refused and eventually the message came “you cannot enter!” At the same time my driver a local started to work on a plan. There was a border crossing a little north of us which would let us in…….

……..3 hours later I made it to Ghana. What I can’t write here is how.

Border crossings in Africa are unique, each one is different and my passage to Ghana resembled in my mind something from a Bruce Willis movie, without the guns and cameras. It was like a Brother Andrew border crossing. In person I can explain it all….14 hours of total uncertainty which turned into a series of very certain steps.

Sometimes we get blocked but it doesn’t mean the road has ended, sometimes we get delayed but it doesn’t mean we are not moving…the lows and very lows of the Monday 31 July 2006 will be eternally imprinted on my mind….and I’ve only been here 7 weeks..

Here’s to more African adventure but a little more toned down please….

Robbed in Benin - Stranded in Togo - Blocked from Ghana!

The 14 hour miracle journey that opened my eyes to how difficult life can be in Africa when things go wrong. I'm back in Accra writing it up, waiting for a new passport - will post it all I hope later today.....