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  • Writer's pictureKaren Okonkwo

How To 'Return' In One Piece From the Year of Return

This year over 500,000 people from the diaspora are visiting Ghana for the 'Year of Return'. Ghana has designated 2019 as the Year of Return to commemorate 400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in the United States. The government has been running a massive marketing campaign targeting African Americans and the diaspora, and various events in Accra have been arranged.

Photo by TONL

As a 1st generation Nigerian-American woman who has visited Nigeria many times throughout my life, I am both excited and skeptical about how this adventure to Ghana is going to pan out for my brothers and sisters who have never been on the continent. With that in mind, I decided to put together a quick guide on how you can make the most out of your trip to Accra, Ghana. Find my tips below and be sure to leave a comment!

Surviving Your Trip To Ghana (Or Any African Country For That Matter!)

Tip #1: Expedite Your Visa

If you haven't already experienced it, foreign country consulates are a NIGHTMARE to say the least. Especially African ones, sorry to say. If you were thinking you can get by believing that your visa will arrive in time doing it the slower way, think again. EXPEDITE your visa and then call the consulate EVERY DAY until they confirm they've received it AND that they are mailing it back to you. Bear in mind that the psychotic part to this is that it is unlikely that you will ever get someone live on the phone (haha!). Nevertheless, be diligent in calling until you can get someone. Your best bet honestly is to fly to the consulate and pick it up in person. Devote your entire day (and maybe the next) to this. These consulates like to play games and have you sitting in waiting rooms for HOURS. Come prepared with your laptop, breakfast, lunch (perhaps even dinner because YES, THEY PLAY THIS MUCH), a book, downloaded games on your phone, headphones....the whole 9 yards. Don't say I didn't warn you!

Tip #2: Only Pack a Carry On and Handbag

I get it. You want to bring back a bunch of stuff from the motherland and YOU CAN. But, wait until you get there and buy a large piece of luggage so you can shop till your heart desires. I mention only packing a carry on and handbag because there is a huge chance that your luggage will go missing (or "missing"). With so many people traveling and so many people wanting to swindle foreigners, it's better for you to do everything you can to fly under the radar and not have to wait around in lines troubling yourself.

Tip #3: If You Do Decide To Check In a Bag, LOCK IT!

Buy a TSA approved lock - enough said there.

Tip #4: $100 Dolla Bills, Y'all

You will suffer a bad exchange rate or run the risk of people not wanting to exchange your money for the local currency if you come up in there with ones and twenties. Come with one-hundred dollar bills to get a better rate.

Tip #5: Todo, We're Not In Kansas Anymore....

That's right! Recognize that you are in a new land, a new territory, with its own set of rules. Some of the luxuries of hospitality and tact are not the same there as they are in the states so check your attitude at the door and brace yourself for the change. People will be trying to swindle you (check: harassment) for example, but it's unfortunately just a part of the culture. My advice: "show your teeth" so they know you're not the one to mess with.

Tip #6: Never Walk Alone By Yourself

I actually detest when I travel and people tell me to "be careful", but in countries like Nigeria and Ghana, trust no one. While there are many great and wonderful people in these countries, this time of year especially is a time to "come up." So stay alert and aware and don't do anything that puts you in a risky predicament.

Tip #7: Secure An International Phone Plan

Call your telephone provider ahead of time and let them know that you are traveling to Ghana and ask them what coverage they have. It's better to secure an international plan because if you don't, don't be surprised if your bill is $500+ (I am clearly speaking from experience). An alternative is to turn off your data and stick to wifi OR buy a rinky dink phone while in the states or there and just put a SIM card on it and share that number with your friends and family.

Tip #8: Patience, Young Grasshopper

Even though I am advising to "show your teeth", I would still advise you to go with the flow and just focus on how grateful you are to be in the motherland. Laugh at any bs you witness and just bask in the beautiful melanin, delicious food, breathtaking nature, moisturizing humidity soothing your brown skin and just being with your kin.

What tips do you have for surviving the 'Year of Return'? Share them below!

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