Monday, July 9, 2012

July 9th, 2012

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

Where would you like to go on holiday? After all, this is the aviation page, so let’s talk about ‘Where in the world would you like to go on holiday?’

I get asked regularly that very question. We have many visitors to Kpong Airfield, where I live, and the vast majority find it a pleasant place. When they ask ‘where are you going on holiday?’ I reply, ‘Well, I would like to go to my favourite place on the planet.’ Such a response prompts ‘Where is that?’ To which the answer is ‘Kpong Airfield.’ It really is home, and the place I want to be. I find it peaceful, interesting, stimulating, relaxing, challenging, and I have many of my favourite people in the world there most weeks.

Most people seem surprised, even shocked, that a person would rather stay at home than go away. To me, it is surprising that so many people fail to live where they are most at home, and seek to travel for two or three weeks of the year to be ‘where they most want to be in the world’. It appears that something is out of phase. Why would anybody live anywhere that they would not want to be ‘in the world’?

OK, so it took me many years to find my ‘haven’, and before that point I was a lost soul wandering the accessible universe looking for my nirvana. Of course, one man’s pleasure is another’s poison, so it must be clear that my idea of ‘heaven on earth’ may not match anybody else’s!

All the same, I do not understand why people will work hard all year in a place that they do not enjoy, just to earn enough money to jet off to a place that they would rather be for a ‘vacation’. It is an anomaly of human development. It makes no sense. In most cases, I am informed by these ‘seekers of a better place’, the ‘vacationer’ is unable to ‘LIVE’ in their preferred habitat because they ‘can’t afford to’. What does that mean? Well, the logic is that they have to live in a place that they don’t like in order to earn enough money to be where they want to be for a couple of hundred hours out of the 8760 in each calendar year. So, for 95% of the year they are sweating and suffering to enjoy just 5% of their existence. I can hear you nodding now. It makes no sense.

For me, I spend 95% of the year where I really want to be, and HAVE to travel for 5% of my year on business trips. My usual destinations are Europe and the USA. I find both places interesting, and they are pleasant enough – but they are not where I would ever want to live. No way! Europe is interesting, but it lacks colour. Believe it or not, despite the wealth and opportunities that they have, Europe lacks smiles.

The USA is impressive. A land of amazing variety. A place where you can get anything the next day, or the same day if you can drive for two hours. America is full of everything and anything. Anybody can do anything in America, or so we are told! America is very different to anywhere else on the planet – but yet, it still lacks the charm of home.

I need the smiles of the people who have nothing. I need the challenge of solving the problems that appear insurmountable. I need my home – and I want to be there. Yes, I enjoy travelling to Europe and the USA, I especially enjoy meeting friends and family, like anybody else. But I yearn for home within hours of leaving the shores of Mother Ghana.

I am an ‘adopted Ghanaian’, adopted into a place that I call home. A place that I want to be. A place that completes me. But it has a price.

Living in rural Ghana, and doing the things I do, has required many sacrifices. Some have been more dramatic than others. However, on the balance of all things, the sacrifices, no matter how tough, have been more than rewarded by the peace I feel, by the smiles I get, by the challenges I am privileged to have the opportunity to overcome.

At one point in time it was common place to see a placard in people’s houses that said ‘There is no place like home’ or ‘Home sweet Home’. It was also once a mantra amongst the masses to say ‘home is where the heart is’. Such sentiments seem to have been driven away by the search for something else. Perhaps aviation, coupled with the infamous idiot box called Television, has opened our eyes and created a yearning for other places?

Some people are lucky enough to be born into their ‘happiest place’ and realise it! Some have no choice but to make their current location their home for life. This is changing rapidly in the world where transport is accessible to the masses.

Nonetheless, I sincerely believe that every single human being on this planet has a place that is ‘their special home’, and there is no other place like it. I also believe that there should be more freedom of movement for individuals, for we are all Citizens of Planet Earth – and should enjoy the freedom to find our place on the surface of this rock – regardless of creed or colour, race or gender.

Once in our ‘home’ we become productive members of society and add to the colour and fabric of the society we call ‘home’ in a positive way. We defend ‘home’. We love ‘home’. After all, we all have different skills and, if allowed to ebb and flow on the tides of travel, we will surely find our rock pool into which to settle and make our home. But we must choose carefully, for there truly is no place like home, and home really is where the heart is. Mine is Kpong Airfield – and it is beautiful. Come and visit it sometime (Saturday and Sunday mornings it is open to the public), and discover why I love it, its inhabitants and visitors, so very much.

Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS, and lead Pilot with Medicine on the Move, Humanitarian Aviation Logistics ( e-mail

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