Thursday, November 25, 2010

Little lives, Small world.

'" I'll see you again." Its a phrase I use almost daily. I almost never say good bye, not because I am fearful of saying it but more because chances are, I really will see them again, no matter if I am in Uganda, Zurich, Lagos or Prague. The world is a huge place but people make it feel small. We are always moving, bumping into each other and making connections. The more people you meet, the more connections you create, the tighter, and thus smaller feeling your web gets. 

I have had so many small world moments. From a business meeting at a bank in Accra that led to discovering this guy was my Facebook friend, introduced by a mutual friend who knew I was moving to Ghana.  To the new friend from Botswana occupying the office is next door who was in the same a Harvard class as my former roommate in San Fran (yeah Nicole!). Not only that, they were super good friends. We called Nicole together and she about had a heart attack. In Nigeria, the minister at the church a few months prior went on the same tour as my parents in Israel and knew them well. And in Israel, I spent two days touring with Kurt Hoyer, who once lived in Kenya. He climbed Kilimanjaro with a friend of mine in Dubai and at his home, he served me Kenya tea given to him by my favorite people in Nairobi.  My favorite is when my driver in Senegal was transfered to private security in Ghana. After months of not being in contact, I was about to miss my flight to Liberia and literally bumped into him in the Accra airport. He was able to hold the plane, walked me to my gate, and gave me a hug - 'See you soon.'

All these experiences (and many many more), have made me believe that we see the world not by topography or geography but through people, through interactions, through relationships. We, or at least I, get meaning out of my environment from those who are in it, those who I share it with.  

Many people have asked me if my current lifestyle is lonely. Understandable question. I am on 1-2 flights a week. But my answer is always 'no.' And I mean it. Yes, I miss my family, road trips with my best friends, long chats with my siblings and of course a traditional Thanksgiving! But in all my travels, I have created connections and built small lives all over the globe. I have a local number for every country, core friends who get texts when I land, a favorite local beer, a familiar run and Googlers who are always happy to see me.  

Last night I hosted Thanksgiving dinner for around 30 people, only 3 of them Americans. There were people from over 8 countries many of whom I met for the first time as they walked into my house, others met through random encounters. But needless to say, we were all connected, at least for the a love for food. It was an amazing night due of  the relationships created, making the web a little tighter.  Its these relationships formed that make Ghana and my $60 turkey feel not far from home.

Mom, I'll see you soon! 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The journey with company.

Talk about behind, I am 9 countries and a million small adventures away from my last post  - from 4x4'ing around the bush of Mozambique on trails they call roads, taking in the serenity of Cape Town, taking the plunge of the world's highest bungee, relaxing on a beach watching whales, and exploring the vibrancy of the mega-city Lagos, Nigeria and hitting the streets of Prague. Much of the above all, experiencing it much of it with lifetime friends. 

Over the past few weeks, I have learned more intimately what I have sacrificed and gained by leaving the US for a nomadic life. Having people around who have known you for longer than a few months or a few days is kinda nice. 

The memories I made with the "american crew" (as the ZA'rs named us) them will be shared in decades to come over a nice glass South African wine, reminding us of our travels. Insted, my norm is a random Nigerian immigration officer who takes my phone number off my entry card and call saying 'I miss you." Miss me how? (True story!) Its not really all that bad. There is a warmth in the hospitality and kindness of Africa and to Googlers. I have met some incredible people consider my colleagues more like family than workmates but you still miss the mean and constructive comments only a best friend can deliver with love. 

South Africa and Mozambique was a reminder of the value of relationships and the growth that only comes with iron sharpening iron. Even better, it was all the the back drop of the beauty of Africa's coast line - bonfire perfection!

After leaving the rainbow nation, I headed for the first time to Nigeria or as they say 'Naija.'  Arriving in Lagos by night fall, gives you an eery feeling.  The city of 22 million (same as entire population of Ghana), is sitting in near darkness with only the flicker with small lights until arriving the high-class district of Victoria Island. With no electric grid, generators hum.

Despite the lack of infrastructure, people are busy about their lives with no excuses.  They are hardworking and persistent people who rise around 4 AM and hit the streets working to make a buck and survive in this dog-eat-dog economy.  They are optimistic about the future and believe strongly in the power of education to change their lives. They are savvy businessmen, quick to pick things up and are proudly Nigerians. Unlike much of the rest of Africa, in Nigeria, you don't feel the influence of the past colonialists rule. Rather, Nigerians are unapologetically their own. From music to fashion, mastery of hacking, to the drop dead spicy food - they do it their way. 

While in Nigeria, I met with some interesting start ups, met with a bunch of techies and then headed off the island for the weekend to spend the weekend with a family from church - the famous Akinbo's. There are no words adequate to describe their  unmatched warmth and dedication.  Their chatty and bouncing children entertained. Dare and I explored new technologies and ideas for his business and his wife, sisters and I share great convo and attempted to reeducate me on cooking.  I have happily been back to Nigeria and their place since. The Akinbo's will always be another home for me in Africa, friends for a life time.

From Nigeria, I returned to Ghana after almost 4 months of being absent. It was more than nice to come land in this familiar place. Still missing my American Crew, my Nigerian family, but excited to return to what will always be my first home in Africa - Ghana.