Thursday, July 21, 2016

Mid morning, July 21st, the glass is half full.

After dipping into a low hum all of yesterday; with such things as comfort food, inspiring music and a long walk not quite shaking my inexplicable melancholy, I woke up this morning all pumped and ready for a full work day. 

There's an interesting phenomenon I experience when I fall asleep, stewing in my own sweat after the power is cut. Perhaps the silence; perhaps the heat -- Or both. 

My subconscious seems to prioritize in vivid detail my greatest fears and most potent aspirations; spinning them together into yarns so visceral, the memory of those dreams linger well into the next morning. 

So I was motivated by a thought I couldn't even remember; but feelings I could almost taste. 
'Got up and started work bright and early, mug of tea in hand (It should have been coffee but I need to restock my supplies. Because this other brew just wouldn't do).

I started rendering out one thing, begun putting finishing touches to another, my desktop was festooned with virtual post-Its.

All was well with the world until about 7:15am, when the power suddenly cut.  

...Plot twist. 

And there wasn't even a drop of Lipton left in my mug for a forced sense of irony. 

Just the lingering pulse of energy suddenly made impotent, with nothing to do but blink stupidly at my empty screen as the CPU hum slowed and went silent.

After mentally pulling a handful of my hair out, and silently throwing a few choice expletives into the ethos, I sighed, sat back in my swivel chair and consciously avoided my knee jerk reaction to see my situation as indicative of all the nation's problems. 

Instead, I rolled a more Romantic idea over in my head. This was all an adventure.

After being audience to a staccato of political faffing about, endemic issues from service providers, after experiencing professional false starts and disappointment that would make stronger hearts despair and flee for apparent greener pastures, if one decides instead to stay; slug it out here, without compromise of ones character (A  thing that seldom survives the mill of the business world). If one somehow manages to succeed in this endeavor, that would be one for the books. 

It's not like this is the worst place ever. Far from it. But it is sort of like wanting to go to the moon right after having this one rickety jalopy you've driven for the past 10years croak one last time and give up on you. Your perspective makes the notion of inter-planetary travel appear entirely ludicrous. 

But if you don't resign yourself to the cards dealt but instead somehow manage, against all odds, to succeed in building that rocket, I believe there's an education for countless would-be astronauts currently with little more than a driver's license or a Kuffuor bus ticket, 

There's not just a pot of gold at the end of the heavy rain-drawn rainbow; there's posterity in a story well-wrought, and a story well told. 

For today, this thought is good enough for me. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Mid morning, Monday 29th, Looking past the gay rights conversation

If you've ever been in a tense situation where a rabble wa working themselves up to mob you or lynch for whatever reason (I have. There was a combination Safe involved and we were at Labadi), the subtle ebb and flow of tempers can be informative of where things are going.



I try not to particularly care too intensely about what happens in another country that has little to do with my reality, but I couldn't help note the evolving conversation that occurred after America's landmark decision on the ‪#‎GayRights‬,‪#‎Gaypride‬ and ‪#‎LoveWins‬ debate, especially since my own Social network in Ghana was all over that this weekend.
If you've ever been in a tense situation where a rabble was working themselves up to mob you or lynch you for whatever reason (I have. There was a combination Safe involved and we were at Labadi), the subtle ebb and flow of tempers can be informative of where things are going.

First, there was the announcement, and people begun reacting as one would expect, depending on which side of the conversation they stood.

Rainbow Profile pictures begun to go up, eliciting the respective cheers and jeers from their friend network,

The opposition's response was at first muted, then came the personal posts, usually reflecting the shock and defensiveness expected, more than a calculated response. The bottom seemed to have fallen out, and this initial reaction could be comparable to further, albeit intimated jeers.

In response, the For-camp begun jeering right back, with long posts that weren't going to change any minds, but were reflective of that camp's own frustration with the Against-camp for simply not playing dead or holding hands with them and singing 'We are the world'



The next phase of this came once everyone had had a moment of pause, and were able to respond more rationally.

See this like the wave breaking, the 'Whoosh' sound and the gentle ripples that come in afterwards.

There were witty posters from both sides, links to measured-blog posts by the less fanatic of either camp,

And finally the rabble began doing something anyone in the eye of the storm might not have believed possible just moments earlier; People begun talking across to each other, rather than at each other.



It makes me realize,
Living in harmony isn't about agreeing to any single thing or even being open-minded to the other side of the argument at all. And thank God for that. The worst of human oppression happens when people stop seeing different sides and start agreeing to just one thing. It doesn't matter how right it seems then, it will become shackles later. It's about being able to move past the rhetoric and back to dealing with one another, no matter how we differently we see the world.


Whether you are for showing marriage diversity, or about taking it back for the Christian God, I find it apt that the symbol for the last few days ...is a Rainbow,

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Life in a time of ECG, 2am - April 3rd, 2015


I was awakened early this morning by voices in the next apartment. Two women, a mother and daughter murmuring in some distress that hadn't quite risen to screams. I had no sense of time. My phone had finally run out of battery some hours earlier.
The women were slapping their chale wotes against the wall (Or floor - I couldn't tell which).
I thought they were fighting some cockroach infestation or something, but the beating of their chale wote was all wrong -- less Brownian, more rhythmic.
At first the mumurs made no sense -- Or Perhaps I wasn't quite awake yet. But something about it woke me up -- kept me up.
So I lay there, my skin clammy from perspiration, staring at the ceiling, one arm over my forehead, listening in,
Then the woman said to the girl, "Ka hu" (Hurry up).
It was strained but said without panic.
Bth women are quite large, so regrettably I wasn't going to get an accurate sense of urgency as she lumbered, more than run through her darkened apartment. I could hear everything, courtesy of the thin celement-block walls dividing our apartments. I could tell which room she was in, the thump and thud of her moving awkwardly in pitch blackness from room to room and the sound of mosquito doors opening and closing.
Finally she emerged outside her front door, and shouted, to no one in particular, "Ogya!". First almost in conversation voice, then louder. She was still waking up, still getting into character.
It took me about 10 full seconds to make sense of what was really going on. The slapping of chale wote against walls and floors on a blackened night without power, two women in frenzied activity at what I later gathered was 2:30am. "OGYA!"...
Fire! ... FIRE!
I leapt from my bed, threw on some clothes and run to my bathroom and grabbed the bucket of water I had in the corner. My senses now fully alert.
I could still hear the talking, the girl had returned to the scene, and was saying in Twi, of her neighbors in our horseshoe of apartment buildings, courtesy of the lack of response to her calls, 'It seems they have all gone out'.
She says this in a matter of fact kind of tone, also without panic.
I got outside, and see several of my of neighbors emerging from their rooms. There was smoke everywhere, and the acrid smell of something artificial recently burnt.
The women emerged eventually, saw the crowd and announced the fire had been put out.
It must have been a candle, left on through out the night, or a smoldering edge of a mosquito coil.
From snatches of the conversation between the mother and my land lady, The Bible had caught fire first, and either spread to other things, or burned violently enough to give them real concern.
Having confirmed they would not need it, I carried my bucket of water back to my bathroom, and returned to bed, too awake to simply fall back to sleep, and wondering if the fire was truly out, or if some burning embers might reignite; the remainder of the Book of Revelation perhaps. Could I indeed close my eyes and sleep or could that cause a raging inferno that might trap me behind a wall of flames?

I must have been more tired than I felt, because I never got an answer to my own question.
Instead I woke up to my alarm clock, noted that the power was back, and begun wondering if I had really experienced what had happened or had been delirious from the heat and simply had a really vivid dream...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Early morning, Nov 20th, 2014

I woke up this morning, and was immediately struck by the perfect silence of everything. 

In a sub-urban area like Ashale Botwe, you don't get the low drones of 'I pass my neighbor' generators clueing you in that ECG is at it again. Instead, you are met with the perfect silence. 

This is day 3. And I decided I'm not going to sit in, stewing in my own sweat, blinking at my To-do list, trying to pipeline what can and cannot be done with electricity until 6pm or whenever ECG decides to be magnanimous.

Instead, I decided to head out to one of several spots I haunt under the circumstances, each with their own set of pros and cons. 

The calm that overcomes one when one stops wriggling and writhing; and accepts the nature of things gave me a clear head to really look at the situation.

We like to rant and rave about ECG this, ECG that, and I always muse about how, at the rate at which we rant about it, the topic would sooner become rather boring. I mean, what else is on? 

Then, I tried to put things into perspective.
Fortunately, just walking up the long, dusty stretch that is Ashale-Botwe, or looking out the window of a trotro on my way to wherever always provides more than it's share of appropriate metaphors.

Today, it was the middle aged woman pulling out of the washing bay and cutting in front of three cars on the main road. She turns in slowly, permitted to do so by the taxi that comes to a complete stop; a rarity for taxi drivers. Naturally, he causes those behind him to also come to a complete stop. 

What does our middle aged lady do? She immediately pulls out a mobile phone and starts a phone call. Does she speed up now that she's on the road and at the head of convoy of 4 cars? No. She maintains the 12km/h speed for another kilometer, until the taxi driver begins honking angrily and cuts in front of her. Her response? To swing her one free hand at the annoyed driver, in a 'You too, get away there' sort of gesture.

While I'm considering this, I take my mind to the example of the countless mates and colleagues I've called on phone as part of a continued discussion about work, opportunity or some project we're both engaged in, and how often those calls go unpicked and no reply is ever forthcoming. Do these people consider MY annoyance, or the urgency of my call? Do they bother to explain themselves later, or just hope the situation goes away, and I simply accept the 'facts of life'? 

Do they even bother to change their Social pattern? Stay off Whatsapp or fail to post 'Inspirational quotes' on Facebook that day? No. Because they couldn't be bothered. After all, 'Is he bringing me Money?'

And yet, of all these people; The middle aged driver on her cell phone, my 'Inspired' mates and colleagues playing ostrich; indeed myself and everyone who has ever had something to say about ECG, our greatest annoyance is less the fact that they cut power, but the fact they lack the 'common decency' to inform the public about their incompetence and failure to deliver, in a manner that may at best, help us plan our day, and at worst serve as a catharsis for what we're made to endure.

We can't change a Corporation or a Government any more than we are willing to change ourselves - At least, not by whining. But we can reflect on our contribution to the problem, and perhaps its solution. 

Complaining is easy. Everyone does it. Even those who I believe, have no earthly business doing so.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Mid morning, Oct 1st, 2014 - East Legon

The taxi driver is trying to explain to me that the way to American house through Ajiringanor has traffic congestion at the curiously named '69'. We would be going through Ashalebotwe instead. 

It seems like we're driving in the exact opposite direction from where I need to go, but I blame that more on road planning than on driver navigation. 
I catch sight of a quite-prominent discoloration on the lower end of the driver's fore-arm as he explains the route to me. What looks like an extreme case of stretch-marks or the result of some strange accident - not fire. But I'm no expert, and I decide I should probably stop staring. 

He has this peculiar tone of voice; thin, not quite nasal, that comes with a slight lisp, and he speaks in this fashion that gives the impression everything you tell him is an education, and he mulls everything I say over with an enthusiastic nod of his head as though I were dispensing deep wisdom. It all makes him seem, for some strange reason, innocent and welcoming, but today's trip requires a stop at Bawuleshi for about 15 minutes and then, across a 3rd of the cross-section of Accra; to Dzorwulu, to a place I've never been before, and at a time that may put us there at about lunch hour. welcoming or not, I cannot let my guard down when it's time to negotiate my fare. So I keep my earphones in my ear and stare at my iPad screen with a deliberate air of indifference. 

He stops for breakfast. Coco, and there's some food in a black rubber bag, but I can't tell what. He offers me some of it, and I politely decline with the slightest shake of my head, so he puts the car back in gear. He holds the steering-wheel at 5 o'clock with his right hand so he can methodically shake his bag of coco in his left, as per the one eternal Instruction of all local beverages, 'always shake it first'. 


It's a beautiful day; not too much sun, not a hint of rain, an amicable driver, and light traffic. We've had dark clouds and rain all this year in Ghana, but there are these few days in between where clouds part ever slightly to offer the world a gentle filter of sunlight, and for those few hours, if you take the time to savor it, things are pleasant for a little while. 





Sunday, September 28, 2014

Evening Aug 13, 2014 - Ashale Botwe

I'm sitting under an empty stall, waiting for the Indomie woman to finish my order. After a day criss-crossing town, catching power naps in trotros and avoiding death at the hand of Accra Metro bus drivers, I am finally able to pause to take in the details. My feet ache from walking and I feel badly in need of a good bath.
The Indomie woman has 3, maybe 4 kids from the look of things. I'd put her age at 32 at the very oldest. She's smallish, maybe 5"6, no taller, but with an almost child-like form, she looks shorter. The youngest child, a toddler is tied to her back as she cooks in a large Wok over a tabletop stove 10feet from a busy road, where even at this time, cars and trotros speed past, on their way to Madina.
Her 6 or 7 yr old son comes round to me and raises himself on his toes, supported by the plastic chair on which I sit. He peers wide eyed over my shoulder as I type these words. He calls to his sister. She must be about 13. 
"herh! Look" He cries, half running off, half-darting back behind me, too transfixed to the screen to actually tear his eyes away, let alone himself.
Then he calls to his mother,
"mommy, mommy, look at the big phone!"
She does a half turn, 
"it's not a phone. It's an iPad". She looks from him to me and smiles politely before returning to her cooking, her movement as delicate and disposition as accommodating as a Geisha. The baby, its mouth open at an angle, remains completely undisturbed, enjoying the sleep of the innocent.

Noon Aug 13,2014 - Legon

The Northern girl selling biscuits at the mouth of Legon campus half rises as I approach her table. She must be in her early 20s if that. Slim, almost thin, with a small round head on a neck that is almost too long. Her hair, entirely concealed in a pinkish head wrap,
I point at a bottle on the table and ask, "How much is that?" 
"3y3 three cedis oo", she says more as a warning than a response.
"why, how much are the others?"
"the same thing oo". She says. Then adds, "Right now everything has gone up". The apology is more in her eyes and how her shoulders slump ever so slightly as she says it. Like she is personally embarrassed or sorry for the price hike itself.
I throw her a side-long smile and dig into my wallet. I jerk my chin at a pack of biscuits. "Add that"
She nods enthusiastically, and begins tying the biscuit and drink in a black rubber bag to go, and rummaging for change from a tin.
As I reach for the bag, she suddenly adds, 
"Please, take this one" and reaches for two lemon sweets from a pile.
I flash her a friendly grin and thank her, feeling a bit awkward about not paying for them.
It still amazes me, these little gestures of kindness, even with things getting increasingly harder, especially for traders like her.