Saturday, March 12, 2011

Locked Away

Another interesting day in Ghana! In my infinite wisdom, I decided to go work in the Balme Library and be free of electronic distractions, particularly the internet. Through a lively campus, for today is graduation day, I made the unassuming twenty minute trek. After checking my bag at the entrance, I wandered the outside hallways, looking for a quiet place to get some work done. Upon finding a tottering desk with loose boards, I sat down to study economics for I have a test on Thursday. After looking over Arabic as I have a test on that same Thursday, I moved on to writing a note to Ruth to commemorate our six month anniversary. I was lost deep in thought as well as the rhythm of Rawlins Cross, my favorite Newfie band. Upon completion of what I hope is a stellar love note, I got up to leave. Walking out, there was a distinct lack of other people, in fact one might characterize the place as deserted. Then, the door I tried refused to let me out. Across the courtyard, the main garage door was down. The library was closed.

Immediately, I began trying other doors. Locked, locked and locked was how I was greeted. And not just any lock, rather padlock, new installed lock, or wielded to the aluminum door lock, all of which were reinforced by a robust door made of 50 year old Ghanaian hardwood, among the strongest in the world. I was locked in the Balme Library at the University of Ghana. Just like James Franco Aron Ralston, I had told no one where I had gone. I gave a halfhearted thought to jumping down one story to freedom with my laptop in my arms. That was if I could make it out onto the roof. Another irrational thought required a double victory against two Ghanaian hardwood doors, likely involving a chair. One must remember that Ghanaian standards of fire safety are different and more relaxed than those in the US. Had this happened in UAlbany’s Science Library, I could have easily exited via one of the exit only doors, likely lit by an exit sign and with an armed alarm. But in Ghana, all of the doors were locked. Worse still, I could not even get to an outer exit so I had no hope of flagging someone walking by. Many would be celebrating graduation anyways and would not be near the library.

However, I remembered my cell phone. But whom to call, my roommate, my program director whom would be engaged at the graduation ceremony? I scrolled to a certain contact, “Head of Security.” During our orientation, the Head of Security gave out his phone number to everyone. While I had lost my original phone, I copied down every contact from a kindly group mate and almost did not bother with “Head of Security” as I doubted I would ever put myself in a situation where I would need to contact him. I dialed, waiting to hear Ghana’s monotone. My phone complained “Could not connect.” I walked near the glass back door. Two bars and a few antagonizing seconds later, I heard a hello and began to explain the situation. However, thanks to Vodaphone, the call quality was not there and he could not understand me. SMS to the rescue! As quickly as one can type on a 1-9 keypad, I informed him in perfect grammar that I was stuck in the Balme Library, the main building near the courtyard and could not get out as all of the doors were locked.

With a few minutes, he responded, saying that he would get someone to open it up and to be cool. When I told him of my exact location, he said that he was around trying to open it up. Finally, I saw the library, a security guy and Head of Security, Amadu Salifu, unlocked the main door. Of course, the door lock was being stubborn and we almost fed the guy to the inside in order to open it. But the security guy used a little more force and opened the door. Mr. Salifu said that I looked hot and sweaty. I had not noticed. He also offered me a ride back. I am very appreciative as he was kind enough to come himself on one of the busiest days of the year graduation, even as he was driving home to dinner. He asked me on the ride back whom I would have called if I did not have his number. Had I not gotten a hold of him, my program director was the next on the list followed by my roommate whom I could ask to go down to the main desk in ISH to ask what to do. If I did not have my phone, it would have been much harder to get anyone's attention as there is only one camera, no alarms that I could see although I may have been able to find a forlorn fire alarm. Another alternative could have involved finding a way up to the clock tower where there is a deck from which I could have attempted to get someone's attention. Thankfully, my phone was fully charged, had plenty of money on it and I had actually remembered to bring it along for the experience.

Anyhow, there is never a dull moment here. What can I say, I crossed an ocean to get locked in a library!

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