Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Day I Should Never Have Forgotten...

There's days we tell ourselves we'll never forget, cos those days might have had some sort of impact on us. Well, I forgot one such day (I really don't know how I did). It wasn't until last week, when I watched a video of retired British athlete, Derek Redmond in the 1992 olympics that I remembered (you know, the 400m semi-final where he tore his hamstring, could have lay down on the ground in pain, but decided to finish the race anyways, and his dad came down to help him). Honestly, watching that video got me teary eyed (I have watched it before, but I still get that way whenever I see it).

So what am I talking about? No, I never tore a hamstring. Matter of fact, I doubt if I could do a 400m walk (just kidding :D )

In the 2nd year of my undergraduate programme at UG, I took a course in humanities (sociology). I was a science student (small class sizes) so it was a shock for me joining the arts students (huge class sizes). I made it through the first semester and then it was time for me to justify my inclusion (I've always wanted to use that phrase. I meant, it was time for exams). At the time, I was a non-resident student living in Dansoman. It is quite a distance from Dansoman to Legon (we dint have the George Walker Bush Motorway a.k.a. N1 at the time) so I made sure I left home 2 hours before the start of each paper. It had worked well for me since the exams started, and then it was time for the sociology paper. I left home and stood at my junction like I always did. I waited and waited and waited and waited, but all the buses (tro-tro) that came by were full (I guess no one was getting off between the station and my junction). After 40mins of waiting at my junction, I decided to pick a bus from my junction to the station where the buses loaded. I get there and there's a queue which I joined. Fortunately for me (or so I thought) a bus came right away and started loading. Just when it got to my turn, the bus was full and the mate (bus conductor) wouldn't let me take his seat. I wasn't too bothered (I probably should have been) cos at least I was first in line.

It was an hour to the start of the paper and I was still standing at the front of the queue, no bus in sight. I waited 5 more minutes and then I knew I had to do something. I could pick a taxi but then I dint have enough money to pay for it. Aha! Yep, I had a light bulb moment. My grandma also lived in Dansoman and I could go to her house and ask her for money to pay for the taxi.

I picked a taxi and gave the driver directions to my grandma's house. It was at this point that I started to panic. What if she wasn't home? It was 50mins to the start of the paper and it wouldn't take less than an hour to get to Legon (that would even be on an extremely good day).

Finally! Something actually went my way that day. My grandma was home and when I explained what was going on, she seemed even more panicky than I was (if that was even possible). She gave me the money for the taxi and I jumped right back into the cab and asked the driver to step on it. Told him to use all the short cuts he knew and get me as fast as possible to Legon. Unfortunately, it seemed all the short cuts the driver knew were the most traffic laden routes that day. I once saw this quote (I guess it was a joke) somewhere that said "a short cut is the longest route between two points", well, on that day, that quote made so much sense.

Eventually, I make it to the examination hall and it was 29mins after the start of the paper. The university rule says no student will be let into the exam hall 30mins after the paper has started. So yes, I did sprint from the taxi to the exam hall, but no, I dint tear a hamstring.

From that point, things seemed to go pretty good for me. Just when I entered the exam hall from the back entrance, one of the invigilators quickly ushered me to a seat close to the back. The norm was to look for your index number and sit at the table where your index number was written, but that would have wasted more time plus if the head invigilator had seen me, I'm sure I would have been kicked out of the exam hall cos though my watch said it was exactly 30mins after the start of the paper, the clock in the exam hall actually showed the paper had been going on for about 35mins.

This kind invigilator quickly got me a question paper and an answer booklet and I got right into it. But oh my. It was as though I hadn't studied at all. All the questions looked foreign and I knew I had not seen most of the stuff on the question paper before. At first I just thought it was nerves but I concluded the examiner was just a wicked person cos I knew I had studied hard for that paper. I tried to answer as many questions as I could but I knew most of the stuff I wrote dint even make any sense at all. For a second, I thought it would have even been better if I hadn't bothered to show up. At least then, I wouldn't be graded for a paper I was obviously going to fail.

After what seemed like forever, (time just seems to come to a stand still when you have a question paper in front of you that you can't even answer. Made me wonder where that "stand still time" was when I was running late for the paper) yh, so after what seemed like forever, the head invigilator announced "Group A you have 1 hour left and Group B you have 30mins left". OMG! I could have kicked myself at that point. Of course the questions looked foreign. That's cos I was answering Group A's question paper though I was in Group B. The sociology class was so large that we had been divided into two groups. Those whose index number ended with an odd number were in Group A while those of us whose index number ended with an even number were in Group B.

Each group had been taught by a different lecturer during the semester and we had constantly debated on whether or not we would answer different questions. That made a whole lot of sense since what one lecturer taught was totally different from what the other taught (I always wondered about that since it was supposed to be the same course. "What's the point then", I always asked myself). Cos I was late and in a hurry to just get into it, I dint take time to read the top of the question paper, which clearly said Group A. I just read the instructions on how many questions to answer. The lecturers also thought it wise not to officially announce to us that each group would be answering different questions prior to the start of the exams (I guess they figured we were literate enough to read Group A and Group B on the question papers. Besides I'm sure the invigilators asked each student what group they were in before handing them a question paper).

With 30mins left, I motioned for the kind invigilator (who was still for some reason but fortunately hovering) and told him I was in Group B. He was so apologetic and couldn't stop saying sorry (I actually almost felt bad for him. I tried not to be too mad at him. After all, he did me a favour by allowing me in).

So I spent 30mins on a one and a half hour paper and I honestly dint know I could write that fast. I wrote so fast and my handwriting was so bad that I couldn't even read what I'd written, and though I always made it a point to read through whenever I wrote a paper, I barely had enough time to answer the questions, forget the reading through bit. I submitted my answer booklet knowing it would take a miracle to get me anywhere near the pass mark.

This post has got real long already so let me wrap up. I won't go into the moral of this piece. I'll just let whoever reads it pick something from it on their own. All I can say is, I forgot just how much of a fighter I was (yeah, was).

The results came out the next semester and I was one of the few that had an A. Miracles do happen :)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Kwaku Doe - Napping

I don't really write much (at all) about Kwaku Doe these days cos I use a different route to work. I pass by him on my way home though but I can't interact with him cos of the direction I approach him from.

So of course I was thrilled on Saturday when I had to go out and I went by his spot. Imagine my disappointment when I dint spot him. I actually had my motivator ready, together with a bunch of questions I wanted to ask him, but seems I went by at the wrong time. I did see him eventually but he was lying comfortably (he looked like he was) on the sidewalk with a cement block as his pillow. I almost motioned for him to come, but then again I doubt if he'd have been thrilled to have had his afternoon nap disrupted because of a GH¢0.50 coin.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Keeping My Cool!

More like fighting myself to keep my cool.

I haven't had electricity for the past five (5) days. Thought I was living in the capital city of Gh. Dansoman isn't really a bougie neigbourhood but at least it's cool. I so feel like I'm living in the dark ages (literally). People in my hood just seem to be giving up cos I realised yesterday that two more houses had gone and got themselves generators. Maybe I should just shut up and get myself one.

According to ECG, (of course I called their customer service line) there's a blast transformer in my area and they've been working at replacing it (for the past 5 days) *rollingmyeyes*

Whenever I feel like losing it, (I so have a reason to right about now. My wash and wear clothes are finished. How do I go to work tomorrow?) I remember this picture I saw on someone's profile on foursquare (another social network, I think) and then I keep calm.

How true...
I was so upset yesterday, I dint care if I was gon boil yam or rice, and then I saw this sticker at the back of a taxi. Oh my goodness! I haven't laughed that hard since "Trials of the Ghanaian" ;)


Thursday, June 07, 2012

Is The Ghanaian A Chameleon?

How else would you explain how the same Ghanaian who is able to function so well in the Ghanaian system, moves to a foreign country, functions just as well (maybe even better) over there, moves back to Ghana and seeminly forgets how he/she was functioning outside, and just falls back into the Ghanaian way of doing things?

Yep, the Ghanaian has to be a chameleon, changing its colour to suit whichever environment. Where and how did I arrive at this analogy (sounds brilliant huh)? Well... it's not mine. I picked it up last weekend from "Trials of the Ghanaian". A play written and directed by Uncle Ebo Whyte. Seriously, if you missed it last weekend, all I can say is, "HOW COULD YOU???" *angrylook*

I honestly do not remember the last time I laughed so hard. Who would have thought it possible to have so much fun and walk away knowing there was a message in there. But seriously, it makes sense that ECG workers take their kids to work and it is them that play with the switches. Why then do the lights go on and off in Gh without a care to the fact that people own electrical appliances that can get damaged?

I had quite a number of "aha!" moments watching the play (I would never in a million years have likened the Ghanaian to a chameleon). I honestly can relate to that analogy (even just within Ghana). You know how things work different in the private sector as opposed to the public sector in Gh? So, I found myself in the private sector (obviously working efficiently) and then I moved to the public sector (I dint say things don't work efficiently there ooo). In such a situation, a string of things could happen, possibly in succession. You will get on people's nerves cos you like work too much. People will overburden you with all the work cos they know you will do it. You will adjust (change your colour) and be just like everybody else. I am not proud to say that I am at the last phase now :(

If you are in Ghana and missed the play last weekend, don't berate yourself too much cos guess what? It's showing again this weekend. Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th June, 2012 at 4pm and 8pm. Tickets go for GH¢40 and can be bought at Roverman Productions, Joy FM, Airport Shell, Koala, Frankies (I think) and there's other places too that I can't remember *embarrasedlook* but yeah, ask around. And if you already watched it, we can all watch it again cos I'm sure watching it this weekend :D

Come and see and experience customer service Gh style, kids of ECG workers playing with the electricity switches, University graduates who learnt by rote, passed their exams with flying colours and can't function on the outside (the government of the republic of Ghana is a monarchy... hahahahahaha...) etc. Trust me, you will laugh saaaa...

Monday, June 04, 2012

Adventures in a Foreign Land - The Slurpee

My new friend told me I couldn't leave without trying a slurpee. This was somewhere at the end of Summer. Sounded like a good idea especially since I was all for trying anything I hadn't had before (I guess it's normal when you find yourself in a different place for the first time). Summer rolled to an end and then Fall and then it was Winter. I still hadn't had a slurpee (matter of fact, I dint even know what it was. it could have been an exotic dish for all I knew though the name dint exactly sound exotic). For everyone else that's as clueless as I was when I first heard it, a slurpee is a flavoured frozen drink kinda slushy (ice that's melting). There's another (it really is the same) called a slushie. There's this shop on the oxford street in Gh that sells it but it's quite recent (at least it wasn't there a couple of years ago) and I haven't tried it.

Winter's almost over, I'm about to leave, I'm packing my stuff, I still haven't tried a slurpee and my stuff won't fit into my suitcase (last thing I wanted to do was show up at the airport with excess luggage). One thing I learnt, which I obviously dint learn in Gh was to keep receipts of all purchases I made. Why? Cos depending on the item, I could return it to the shop and take my money back, within a certain period of time (now, how cool is that? :D ). So, my stuff wouldn't fit and fortunately, I'd bought quite a number of things the previous week that I dint mind returning (at least I'd get my money back).

I picked a number of stuff I bought from the same shop so I wouldn't be moving round from shop to shop (it was almost Spring but it was freezing out there) and headed on out. I get to the shop, return the stuff, take my money and head on out to catch a bus back home. I was a couple of minutes early (had like 15mins). Wasn't sure if I should head back into the shop cos it was pretty cold and it wasn't a heated bus stop. And then I had a light bulb moment (brilliant idea). I had spotted a 7-eleven shop not too far from the bus stop (about 4mins away) and since I'd still not had my slurpee, I decided to go try it out (I had the time besides, what did I have to lose?).

I get to the 7-eleven shop, pick a large slurpee cup and fill it up with a mixture of different flavours. I'm sure I spent too much time trying to decide on which flavours to go with cos when I got out, I spotted the bus I was supposed to be going home with driving off. Oh my goodness! It was a weekend and the next bus would come by in like an hour and a half. I couldn't wait that long. Besides, I had to repack and I dint have that many days left. I knew there was another bus stop about 10mins away so, I walked that way hoping a bus would come by that would be headed my way.

Slurpee in hand, I begun my 10 minute walk. Now, it was about 25 degrees below zero, it wasn't snowing but there was thick snow on the ground (for some reason they don't plough the snow from the sidewalks on weekends). So yeah, I kinda understood the stares I was getting from other paedestrians and occupants of vehicles that passed by me. The stares did get worse when I got on the bus. Yep, I caught a bus just when I got to the other bus stop. It wasn't exactly going in my direction, but it was headed to the bus terminal at the mall. There, I knew I'd definitely get another bus that would take me closer to home (at least the shelters at the terminal were heated).

I waited like 15mins at the bus terminal and I finally got a bus that was going towards my neighbourhood. That was good news in itself but there was a catch. The bus did drop me close to my house alright. But I had to do a twenty minute walk to get home. I lived in this neighbourhood where everybody (the grown ups) had a car. Buses did operate in my neighbourhood, but that would be early mornings and late afternoons where students were either going to or coming back from school. The buses dint operate on weekends (no school). To go out on a weekend, I'm either hitching a ride with someone or I'm doing a twenty minute walk to catch a bus.

By the time I got home, my slurpee was frozen solid (wasn't slushy anymore). I did have a bit of it on my way (walking, in the bus and at the bus stop), but I had to stop cos it'd got too solid for the straw to be of any use, plus I started concentrating on keeping my fingers warm. They were near frozen even through my mitts. I placed my slurpee in front of the heater in my room until it melted a bit, and then, in the warmth of my room, I was able to really enjoy my slurpee.

The moral of this long winding story: Never give up on what you believe in regardless of how crazy it may seem even to yourself (would have really helped if I'd had a car though. I still can't believe I put my fingers through that torture).

P.S. my estimation of the number of minutes it takes to walk from one point to another really is about how fast my legs can carry me.
May the souls of all the lives lost in the plane crashes in Gh & Nigeria over the weekend rest in peace.

Kwaku Doe - The Comeback

It's been a little over 7 years since I started writing about Kwaku Doe. From first talking about him in my  Plight of a Hungry Man  ser...