This was a trip three years in the making.
From the moment we stepped off the plane, the thick, balmy air hit me like a wall of tropical bricks, inducing the hazy, dreamlike feeling that dominated the week. Walking through the airport, we were surrounded by an endless buzzing throng of people. I would soon discover that this vibrant, enlivened energy and sheer number of people was unanimous throughout Accra. When we stepped outside it was dark, but it didn’t feel like night. The city was still lit, but not with bright, flashing lights like the metropolises of America. An effervescent glow filled the city with a gentle light to accompany the soft, warm air.
It was hard to believe that we were finally here, in Ghana, doing this.
The first night there was a mist of mosquito nets, fried plantains, and possibly a walk down the beach. I remember sitting in our heavily air conditioned hotel room, sorting through the donations we were bringing to the orphanage. Me, my mom, my dad. What had been my whole family and would be only until the next day.
My parents had begun the adoption process years prior, initially looking to adopt from Ethiopia. After an excruciating year of waiting, our family hadn’t been matched with a child and the Ethiopian government had begun to restrict foreign adoptions. So my parents, still yearning for a second child, looked into adoption from Uganda. That’s when the heartbreaking rollercoaster of matches between our family and children falling through began. My mom had just about reached her emotional end and was ready to stop looking when we received a new match with a four-year-old Ghanaian girl. My parents decided to see how this one would go, and a few months later we were in Ghana, ready to meet her.
The next morning, we set out into Accra underneath the bright sun. We stopped for an early lunch along the beach. The restaurant was shaded with a dried palm frond roof, and plastic tables and chairs rested in the send. I recall sipping orange Fanta from a glass bottle, the drink I most associate with visiting developing countries, and eating chicken and rice.
We drove through streets lined with colorful markets, people walked along the cars selling grapes, watermelon, and plastic bags filled with purified water. As we got further into the city, a vibrant marketplace turned to cement compounds shaded by big, leafy trees. Beside the road a man kneeled on his prayer mat, his head bowed to the ground.
The orphanage was surrounded by big cement walls and a metal gate. A small concrete building where everyone lived, the food was prepared, and the youngest children went to school stood in the middle of the compound. The older boys played soccer in the patchy grass covered area to the side. When we got out of the car, children ran up to greet us, barefoot and smiling. One of the aunties who cared for the children led Adwoa, the little girl who had brought us here, over to us. Unlike the other kids, who were eager to play, she was feeling more shy and timid. But soon she was part of a tickle pile of little girls in my lap. She carefully edged the other girls away, announcing to them,
“She’s my big sister.”
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