Saturday, July 17, 2010

In and out of Africa

A lot of my penguin ornaments are from my travels. This way, I add to the collection and get a unique souvenir of the trip, a win-win situation. When I had the opportunity to visit Ghana a few years ago as the guest of my friend and colleague Lee Frempong, I didn’t expect to find any penguins. So when I saw the top ornament at a gift shop at JFK airport on my to Africa, I took it as a sign that I wouldn’t have to worry the rest of the trip about trying to find one. Not that I needed anything extra to remember the amazing journey. Walking high in the rain forest canopy on rope bridges, visiting the somber dungeons where captives were shipped off to the slave markets of America, witnessing the coronation of a local king, the lively music, the spicy food, the fascinating people — every part of the trip is a vivid memory. I even met the 105-year-old mother of my host, the daughter of a king, who said she would be my mother when she found out mine had passed away. At the airport in Accra on my way home I found the bottom penguin, not really a tree ornament, but a fitting bookend to complete an unforgettable adventure.

Ty beanie penguin with red and green striped hat and furry green scarf
Acquired: July 29, 2005, Hudson News, JFK International Airport, New York
Number: 0268
Size: 5 inches tall
Price: $5.36

“Penkie” Russ Co. stuffed terry penguin with plaid scarf
Acquired: August 2005, duty free store, Accra International Airport, Ghana
Number: 0269
Size: 6 inches tall
Price: $9.75 (U.S.)

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