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.

Morning Nov 17th, 2013 – Pokuase.

A butt-naked toddler tears across the dirt road covered in nothing but soap lather; his teenage sister hot on his heels, in a half-Crouch and wielding a chale-wote and yelling at him in Twi; his flight shall be to no avail, her retribution shall be swift and immediate...
But of course, it's bath time