My last stay at Kpong was 4 years ago when I came as a welding instructor and general volunteer. My first impression when I got here 2 days ago? Wow! It's absolutely amazing how much has changed in these few short years. On my last visit, the airfield was but a small place with only the briefing room, restroom, and the large skeleton of the green hanger. Today, I'm sitting under the same overhang with a completely different view. The briefing room has more than doubled in size, the green hanger is long since completed and is now joined by a whole row of hangers and workshops flanked by the new fuel depot and car park. Right in front of me proudly stands the tower for managing the air operations. And off in the distance across the field I can see the 4 buildings that make up the living quarters which my father affectionately dubbed "Hotel Kpong", a true staple of luxury! Last time, I shared the room with Matthew and his gargantuan Rock Python, with me sleeping on a mattress on the floor. This year I have the pleasure of a whole room to myself complete with freshly painted walls, a real bed, and a newly surfaced floor. The food is lovingly prepared by Mavis who, having heard stories of my previous visit, is serving me enormous meals! We'll normalize that soon enough so I don't totally stuff myself 3 times a day trying to finish the food!
The other big change for me is being here during the harmattan, the dusty season. It's definitely a change to not have miles of visibility everyday and also to have the constant bushfires in the area. Even when I flew into Kotoka Airport on my arrival flight to Ghana, I could see the glow of countless brush fires in northern Ghana and Togo on our approach. Just in the last 2 days, Krobo mountain, south if the airfield, has been consumed in flames that crawled slowly up the sides in large billowing smoke. Jonathan took me up for a quick flight in Kilo-Tango to see everything from above. It sure puts some perspective to the constant bush fires when I can see for myself the perimeter to the airfield, the controlled burns that have been performed, and the safety margins that we maintain at the site to ensure the safety of ourselves, the planes, and the rest of the facility.