Remembering my Primary School teachers… :-)

I just felt a burning desire to list all the class teachers I had in primary school. These women and one man played an important part in shaping me. If I have time when I’m back in Ghana, I would like to track them and visit. Especially my class 6 teacher. How about you? Do you remember yours?

Class 1 – Mz Asare, I think her first name is Christina. I remember how thrilled she was about my progress in class. You see, I had been jumped from KG 2 to class one because I already knew all the lessons for KG2. My mother, when she was on maternity leave after having my little brother was so bored that she spent her days teaching me things she had no business teaching me. One thing that really stands out in my memory was the afternoon i got into trouble because I said sorkorpimpim. It was a very naughty word and I don’t really remember who taught me or what it meant exactly (had to do with sex), but I said it out loud in class and horrified Mrs. Asare. It’s probably why she wanted to jump me to class 2 after a term, but my mother wouldn’t let her – she thought the other kids would pick on me.

Class 2 – Mz Darko. Elizabeth (I think) was a force of nature. Even now I remember her as an extremely confident woman. She also had the most beautiful shiny dark skin and curly hair – I learned later on that they were called jerry curls. Two moments stand out from my encounters with her; first, she cured me of my “cry-babyism” when she sharply reprimanded me about always crying to get my way. I was so worried about disappointing her as I was equal parts awed and terrified of her that I stopped! Second, she didn’t come to school one day because she was ill, so a substitute teacher took over the class that day and set us to writing get well soon letters. In mine, I wrote that I would bring her Lucozade. Lucozade was a sort of energy drink that my father swore by and I really did think it was the thing to drink when you were ill. I still do! Anyway, the next day I actually did bring her the Lucozade, making her so happy. She actually had tears in her eyes.

Class 3 – Mz Cecilia Boateng. I have one very sad memory from class with Miss Boateng. She didn’t do anything wrong – she was a kind, gentle soul. I think even then she had rather sad eyes. My sad memory was walking into class early after break time one afternoon and finding her sitting with tears in her eyes. She didn’t even notice me, and I didn’t understand why till I overhead some gossip from other teachers about four years later. Gossip that is not my place to share. It is sad that that moment has overshadowed any other memories I have of her.

Class 4 – Mz Millicent Obeng. She was a member of the Deeper Life Church. I remember this because she told me after I asked her why she wore no earrings and wore her hair the way she did. It was in her class that I decided to be a scientist. It was in her class too that I discovered my competitive spirit.

Class 5 – Mz Adanse. Another powerful personality – from her commanding voice to her “presence”. She had a way of walking into class and “filling” the room. It had nothing to do with her size, it was just the sort of aura she had. I liked her and used to visit her at her house which wasn’t far from mine. She also used to make meatpies and rock buns to sell in school and I used to help her carry the little bucket she put the pies in. She was also very good at caning. She used to strike fear in my little heart when she picked up her cane and thrashed some poor soul. I don’t remember getting caned by her, possibly because I was extra good so as to avoid a beating!

Class 6 – Mr Samuel Otoo. He really was my favourite. He used to chat with me at break time when I was going through my antisocial stage, and he took me seriously. In his class I decided to be an astronaut, an crime lab technician, a credit analyst and a professor in no particular order. He was always very interested and I lived for the days when my mother said it was okay to let him walk me home – he also lived near the school. After secondary school, I went by his house and found out that he moved. I don’t know where he lives now, but I would love to meet him again.

On Jamestown, Filth & Why Cholera Happened Again

When news about the Cholera outbreak in Accra broke, many people on twitter asked how this could happen in 2014 in Ghana. Some people thought it was a huge embarrassment and that government and local authorities should be ashamed. I agree, but how about us?

And then I went to Jamestown for the Chalewote street art festival. Just two days in Jamestown and I understood how this cholera outbreak could be happening in 2014 in Accra.

My friends and I had a stand at the festival- we sold drinks at the food court with a number of other food and drink vendors and I saw things…

I don’t know just how poor or hungry kids in Jamestown are, but I wasn’t expecting that much begging, and I certainly was not expecting to see kids eating from trash bins! I started giving out free drinks to kids, and then about 50 of them came around, crowded around our stand and wouldn’t even form a queue to get the drinks in an orderly fashion. They were violent, and it was so sad. I know JayNii Streetwise is doing as much as they can with kids in the area, but more should be done.

I got to Mantse Agbona on Saturday morning and found a pile of human excreta right in front one of the entrances. I couldn’t believe that someone walked up there and took a crap! The public toilets are not far from the spot – they’re right there, opposite Mantse Agbona! Then there’s the beach, which is littered with poop as well.

Now, I got one of the kids to cover it with sand, before someone could come & collect it for disposal, but I don’t know how many flies had gotten to it before I got there, and I don’t know where those flies went, but there was a lot of food around.

The cholera bacteria are transmitted between humans through the fecal-oral route. Simply put, from shit to food/ drink. Do you see where I’m going with this?

All the accredited food vendors I saw at #chalewote2014 did a good job of keeping away flies. There was disinfectant, some had mosquito coils and smoke …etc. but how about the unaccredited ones? We had one local walk up to us, and ask us how much our drinks were going for. She snorted at our 4 Cedis a cup, brought out her own palmwine with calabashes, set up opposite us and start selling at 2 Cedis or something with flies buzzing around her stuff. There were kenkey sellers too around, and festival goers were buying this ‘authentic’, ‘local’ food because … Chalewote of course!

Perhaps they were unaware of the cholera problem… Perhaps they had forgotten… Perhaps they didn’t care.

Whatever it was, after two days in Jamestown, I understood how there could be a cholera outbreak in 2014 in Accra.

The Accra Furqan: An Ottoman masterpiece in Accra

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Though it’s still under construction, one cannot help but be impressed by the mosque on the Kanda highway. It is a beautiful example of Ottoman architecture, and the arches and perfectly formed domes, in spite of the forest of wooden formwork, give hints of the elegance that is associated with Islamic architecture.

The Accra Furqan, also the Ghana National Mosque, is a gift from the people of Turkey to the people of Ghana, and with its impressive series of domes and semi domes, it has the potential to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.

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See the flag of Turkey up there?, and those are some of the skillful workers. So many domes!

 

Constructed with 4000 cubic metres of concrete and 700 tonnes of steel, the Accra Furkan is far from solid or compact. True to the Ottoman architectural style, the domes seem almost weightless, and combined with a clever mix of courtyard spaces and arched walkways, the building manages to appear huge and yet “light”.

Erdiogan Getinkaya’s design is influenced by the Blue Mosque (or the Sultan Ahmet Mosque) in Istanbul as well as the Selimiye Mosque. The 8000 capacity mosque is scheduled for completion in late November, just in time for Ramadan Prayers.

 

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I made some friends 🙂 They’re the 2 of 3 Ghanaian workers there. The project has an unbelievably small workforce!

 

There are 50 domes in the Accra Furqan building, the largest and main dome sits at a height of 36 metres from the ground and is supported by 4 2.1metre diameter columns at 20 metre intervals. At each of the four corners of the mosque building is one 62 metre high minaret where the “muezzins” will perform “adhans”. The exterior of the building will be finished in polished marble, with the domes cladded in lead.

The facility as a whole will contain a school, health facility and a home for the National Chief Imam.

 

 

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Architect’s Rendering , not even half as beautiful as the mosque under construction

On the Accra Mall Panty “Thieves” and The Rule of Law

1. This is not a gender issue for me

2. This is not even really a human rights issue for me

It’s about the rule of law. “The Rule of Law is the foundation of a civilised society. It establishes a transparent process accessible and equal to all.”

I’ve read reactions to this Accra Mall punishment-by-crawling case, even from young lawyers and law students, and I’m thinking.. should I be worried? A few declarations, in case you’re going to allow yourself to be overcome by emotion or whatever it is that fuels your departure from civilised reasoning.

1. I do not condone stealing.

2. I have been robbed before. Twice actually. Read about  my most recent experience here.

People, we have laws for a reason. That constitution thing – it’s not for decoration. CEO of Mr. Price has already come out to condemn the actions of the security staff because in the world of big boys and girls, when you take the law into your own hands, even if you’re right, chances are, you get punished. Sometimes, the person who “wronged” you even goes scot-free.

As I mentioned earlier, I have been robbed before and when Evans Mensah of Joy fm asked me if I would have supported the police if they shot my attackers instead of arresting them, taking them to court.. etc.. I said NO.

I’m not Mother Theresa or Gandhi, but laws are laws. Catch a thief, take her/him to the police. Simple.

Are you still holding on to your dreams of instant justice? Here’s a scenario for you.

You are at work when you get a phone call – your child has just been knocked down by a vehicle and is being rushed to the hospital. It’s that hospital where they won’t treat you if you haven’t paid yet, so you get into your car and head in that direction, tears streaming down your face and prayers on your lips. You are breaking the speed limit and since you forgot to put on your seat-belt  AND you’re on the phone with your spouse/parent, you’re breaking other laws as well. You are approaching a traffic light at Nima. It’s going to turn amber, and then red soon, so you make a dash for it. At the same time, a little child making his way home from school dashes across the street, because, well… he’s a kid. Your 2008 Toyota highlander smashes his little body, the force of impact lifting him up 1.5 metres from the ground. You hit your brakes.. too late. He’s dead before he falls, his brains spilling out of a gaping hole where half of his face used to be. His mother rushes to her son’s body, her guttural screams piercing the air.

It’s Nima. There are young men around, you see them coming for you and yet you can’t move. You’re paralysed by shock.

Rule of Law or Instant Mob Justice?

Now, here’s a quick IQ test.

If you catch someone stealing from you. What do you do?

a. Bash the person’s face in with a fufu pestle like the neanderthal you are

b. Make the person crawl out of your house.. (for the vine) and so the person comes back to steal another day. Ahiaa for crawling?

c. Make a citizens arrest without abusing the “thief”, and take her/him to the nearest police station, because you are civilised, and because you are wise.

d. Tweet about it.

Text your answer to shortcode 4007 for your IQ test result, and you could be the winner of a slightly used space shuttle.

How I got my iPhone back and Other Stories. (Part 3)

February 1st, 2014.

Madina, Accra.

After a night spent tossing, turning, crying silent tears and making promises to my guardian angels and ancestors on duty I woke up with almost no hope of finding my phone. Then I heard that Vanessa’s iPhone was stolen at the beach on Saturday AND THE THIEF RETURNED IT. With my vim renewed, I made some other phone calls, and eventually ended up speaking to the Don of stolen phones at Kwame Nkrumah Circle. Let’s call him Pappy Show. Pappy Show said my gold iPhone hadn’t shown up at Kwame Nkrumah Circle yet, and that I should not worry, because no fence in her/his right mind would take an iPhone 5S. “You will get your phone back if it enters Circle”, he ended.

Angel Vanessa to the rescue.

I called Vanessa earlier to comfort her when I heard her phone got stolen. She didn’t answer, I guess she was too miserable to, but she called back after she got it back and I told her about my own missing iPhone and what I planned to do. That’s when she introduced me to two of her friends; the very well connected Kofi and the Buffalo/Panther Unit Policeman Daniel. I called them and we agreed to meet the next day to go and look for phone in Sowutuom. Charley, it’s never just twitter oh. Vanessa and I met through Twitter interractions! 🙂

On Monday morning, as I sat in front of Living Room, East Legon, waiting for Kofi and watching happy young couples pass by, I wondered how much I would spend on taxi fares. I certainly wasn’t going to make Kofi and Daniel take troski to Sowutuom. A phone call interrupted my money matters calculations. It was Kofi, “I’m in the blue car across the street.” Ladies and gentlemen, What a car it was! I couldn’t believe my luck as I clambered on board Kofi’s fully “nyanya’d” (air conditioned, to the uniformed) SUV. We picked Vanessa up from work (Yes, she actually left work early to join us!), then we picked Daniel the policeman up.

On our way to Sowutuom, I got a strange call from a person who was trying to reach a “Frank”. After initially dismissing it as a wrong number call, I thought again, considering the circumstances, I called back to find out who this person was and where he got the number from. He gave his name as Sellas and he said he was calling from Koforidua. I stored his number as “Suspicious Suspicious” and put that on the back burner.

At Sowutuom Agenda, we went straight to the area macho man, who I had befriended on my previous visit, to ask if he had heard anything new or seen our number one suspect Kwasi Takyi the taxi driver doing anything suspicios. During this conversation, “Suspicious Suspicious” called me.

Me: “Hello”

S.S: “Hello, I called you earlier”

Me [pretending not to remember and signalling Kofi, Vanessa, and Daniel over]: “When? I don’t know this number, sorry”

S.S: “I called earlier and said it was a wrong number”

Me: “Oh okay, I remember now”

S.S: It’s about your phone. My sister found it in a trotro and she’s scared. Can we meet tomorrow so I give it to you?”

Me: “Where are you now? I’ll come and get it today?”

S.S: “Koforidua, you won’t get a bus at this time, let’s meet tomorrow”

Me: “Don’t worry, I have a car, I’ll drive to Koforidua right now. God Bless you so much for calling!”

S.S: “Okay, I don’t want you to worry so lets’ meet halfway”

Me: “Okay, Aburi, in an hour and a half? Take a taxi, don’t worry, I’ll pay”

S.S: “Okay”

Of course we had no intention of going to Aburi, so we went to Madina Zongo junction and I called, told him my car had DV plates and the police were giving me a hard time so he should come to Madina instead.

I won’t write about those tense moments when he wouldn’t answer my calls for thirty minutes, or how when he told me he was at Madina, it took another thirty minutes to find him. I’ll fast forward to giving him fifty cedis because he said the taxi fare came up to thirty cedis and he really didn’t want my money.

The phone was a little scratched, because someone had tried to remove the back. I don’t know, perhaps the person was trying to find the SIM card slot. The person had also attempted a Hard reset, but it was stuck on the screen where it asks for you to log in with your apple ID and password. I ignored all this. My new found police buffalo squad friends were furious. They wanted to go and get the taxi driver and question him, but I had no concrete proof that he was involved, and I knew of police interrogation techniques. I don’t have the necessary hardness to sanction that sort of thing. I also felt Sellas was just a messager, he was a little scrap of a thing, a teenager, by the looks of it. So even though the squad commander thought otherwise, I elected to let it go.

I still talk to Sellas. I even sent him money. Eventually, we’ll talk about the phone. We’ve tried to reform “criminals” with beatings and torture. I don’t know of a case where that method hasn’t resulted in a more hardened criminal. So I’m trying kindness. If Sellas is a thief, or linked to thieves, perhaps I can get him out of it. He might turn out great.

And that, friends, is how I got my iPhone back. And I spent 83.5 Ghana Cedis in total. 55 for Sellas,15 on credit for various gossip girls and boys I selected in Sowutuom Agenda, and the rest on troski fares. Not a bad deal at all. I would have spent that on a phone cover and a screen protector, so I got 5 cedi ones from Madina market to make up for that cost instead. Not bad. Not bad at all.

To God Be The Glory. We are pencils in the hands of the creator. Of course there’s a part four. I’m not a learner. 

Watch out!!!

How I got my iPhone back and Other Stories. (Part 2)

February 1st, 2014.

Madina, Accra.

 

At exactly 3:17 am, I gave up on trying to fall asleep and decided to map out my iPhone retrieval strategy. I had calmed down somewhat during the night, and remembered that I would have to pay Madina Police if I took them to Sowutuom to find my phone. This wasn’t a desirable situation as I had left my job and I would be travelling to Cameroon (I’ll post about this later) in 2 weeks. Of course I had a budget for this trip, but my budget was a cedi budget and you guys know what happened/is happening with the economy. If you don’t know, read Efo Dela’s blog for an interesting non-expert analysis. In short, na money be problem waa and I could not afford to pay any policeman.

My mind started doing that thing that my architecture professors loved so much; connecting pieces of information I had come across from conversations with all sorts of people.

This is where I chip in a piece of advice – No matter how smart/wealthy you are, please don’t assume 1. nobody can teach you anything, 2. nobody can help you. Your salvation may come from the most unlikely place!

I remembered a friend I made in a troski once, a jack of all trades, let’s call him Onipa. Among Onipa’s several pick-up-line attempts was a line about being connected to people who “acquired” phones at Kwame Nkrumah Circle.

Piece of Advice number 2, for ladies, even if a guy trying to chat you up is repulsive, if he’s not being rude, there’s no need to be rude or mean to him. You can say no politely and part as friends.

Anyway, I called Onipa and told him about my phone, about the area from the email being Anyaa or Sowutuom. “Ah!”, he exclaimed, “If it’s Anyaa then you have no problem, I know a guy there who can help you. He knows a lot of “guys” in Anyaa. His name is Pince, call him. I’m not in Accra, I would have helped you myself, but with Pinch you’re in good hands”

That is how I found myself waiting for Pince at Awoshie Market bus stop at 6:30 on Saturday morning. Pince turned up, saw the map and said that area was called Sowutuom Agenda, out of his “jurisdiction”, but offered to take me there in his pick up truck! This was great because then I would save on taxi costs. On our way to Sowutuom, we picked up Pince’s friend Fire, an aspiring actor. Did I mention that Pince has directed a movie? The movie hasn’t been released yet because of financial constraints.

At around 9 o’clock Pince, Fire and I arrived at Sowutuom Agenda, and the map led us straight to an uncompleted building. There were 3 taxis parked in a 15 metre radius of the uncompleted building. I didn’t have the car number, I didn’t know the make or model of the taxi, and only vaguely remembered what the driver looked like (dark, tall, perhaps heavy). Remember, I was dizzy and in pain during the taxi ride…

We asked around for the taxi drivers, found number one and eliminated him because he was fair-complexioned. The 2nd driver had just washed his car, gone down the road with his friend and should be back soon, and driver number three was still asleep. At this point, I didn’t feel I was dealing with a hardcore thief, just someone who had found an expensive phone and was reluctant to return it to its rightful owner.

While waiting for driver number 2 to return and number 3 to wake up, I got a 2nd email at 10:30 with a 2nd location in the direction where driver number 2 was said to have gone off. I thought it was good news and expected to get my phone back, but in the meantime I walked round the area making sure to tell people about my missing phone. One of the points I stressed was that it was locked and nobody could unlock it but me (This is true, there’s no jailbreak for the 5S). I also told them that anytime it was turned on, It would send me an email with it’s exact location (This is not entirely true. Location email will only be sent if there’s a working internet connection). I got the opportunity to explain Google maps to 4 or 5 very amazed and impressed inhabitants of Sowutuom Agenda, taking delight even in my misery in showing them their houses and even the heaps of sand infront of some buildings. “Ah then this phone can buy a land”, one hairdresser said. Well, actually, yes, it can.

At about 12:45, driver number 2 showed up. I saw him coming from afar and asked the hairdresser if that was the driver because he looked kind of familiar. He walked straight up to us and said he heard some people were looking for him.

I asked “Do you remember me?” He responded in the negative.

“Did you pick someone up around Madina yesterday?”

” No, I worked in Kaneshie”

[NB. Kaneshie was flooded the previous day]

“Well, I took a taxi and dropped my phone in it. This phone has a tracking device in it and it has led me to your house. Do you live with another taxi driver or did someone else use your car yesterday?”

All this while, I was being very pleasant. I was smiling and using my friendly you-can-trust-me voice. Unfortunately, this didn’t work. Taxi driver number two, Kwasi Takyi exploded in anger! He yelled at me and said I was calling him a thief and said i could take his keys and go and search his room, among other things.

Sigh.

After trying to talk to him calmly and eventually realising he was drunk, Pince, Fire and Kofi’s dad (who showed up to help find the phone) suggested that I should go home and wait for the phone to show up online again. When it did, the plan was to go with the Sowutuom Police to retrieve it. I didn’t think it was a good idea, but after driving to location two with Kofi’s dad and finding no leads, I accepted defeat for the day. Day 2 without my iPhone- I was disappointed and very sad, but what could I do? I got in a troski and went home to Madina. One the way back, the phone was turned on twice in location number 2.

A guy tried to chat me up in the troski on the way back. I didn’t take my own advice. I eviscerated the poor guy. Sigh

The phone showed up at 6:45pm for the last time. I slept for about two hours, woke up around midnight and cried on my mother, who just wanted her laughing concert girl back.

On Sunday morning, she asked, Now will you go to church? I didn’t go.

 

 

All hope seems lost, but remember that the stone that the builders rejected became the chief cornerstone. 

What happens next? Find out in Part 3

How I got my iPhone back and Other Stories. (Part 1)

January 31st, 2014.

Madina, Accra.

I lay in bed with a cold compress on my head to battle my old friends the migraine demons, and a hot water bottle on my abdomen to ease the cramps. It wasn’t a good day. I was reading a novel on my new iPhone 5S, a gift/prize from Nana Aba Anamoah for being her Twitter person of the year 2013, but from time to time, I would refresh my twitter feed on my trusty Sony Xperia S.

I was still coming to terms with the fact that I had an iPhone, so all I did with it at that point was to read on iBooks. Both phones were below 40% on battery power, and I was too comfortable in my dealing-with-the-pain position to go through the laborious process of looking for my chargers and plugging them in. Occasionally, I would drift off to sleep, but then a sharp pain would remind me that sleep is for the weak.

Now, the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) has as part of it’s mandate, a task to “remind” people in Ghana to always keep all gadgets fully charged. My friendly reminder came that afternoon, and after lying down for close to 45 minutes with no power, my room getting warmer, and my phone batteries quickly running out of juice, I decided to go over to my friends’ place to charge my phones and hang out till my power got restored. In 20 minutes I was standing at the roadside trying to get a shared taxi to Agbogba, but after about 15 minutes of fruitlessly flagging passing taxis, I decide to spend 7 Ghana cedis on “dropping”. At this point, my legs were really weak and I sank into the front seat of the taxi with relief. Usually I would make conversation with the taxi driver, but today I wasn’t in the mood at all. I got to Jude’s house, dragged myself inside, collapsed on the sofa and lay there for a while, forgetting the reason I went there in the first place.

As I have previously mentioned, ECG knocks sense into silly Ghanaians from time to time, and promptly in 45 minutes or so, the power went out at Jude’s place to remind Kuukuwa to always charge her phone(s). I couldn’t believe my bad luck and I belatedly fished for my phones from my bag. Now of course, bad luck comes in sets of three, so while I successfully retrieved my Sony Xperia S from my bag, the iPhone was nowhere to be found.

Adrenaline is the best drug for any ailment, and my cramps and headache disappeared as I frantically searched for my phone, both at Jude’s and back at home, realizing with a sinking heart that I had dropped it in the taxi. I dialed the number (I had a Glo SIM card in it), and nobody answered. Finally at about 6pm, the phone went out of coverage area. To put it mildly, I was devastated. What was I going to do? I just lost 1700 Ghana Cedis, a gift from Nana Aba! What was going to become of the blog post I had drafted talking about Nana Aba and the iPhone?!

I don’t have an extensive vocabulary of swear words, so after exhausting the 3 words I know well, I began to cry. I called my friend Kwabena, who was one of the only people I knew would understand the degree of devastation and be able to comfort me accordingly. As usual, Kwabena proved why he’s really extremely so awesome and to cut a long story short, he set up the Find My Iphone feature for me. Now, as soon as the phone got turned on, I would get an email alert with the time and location where it was turned on. I only felt a bit relieved however, because though I love maps (Google and Apple), I know the country I live in. More importantly, as an architecture student in the country, I learned that Satellite maps don’t work very well here. Still, it was a start, and a ray of hope pierced through the doom and gloom.

At 8:06pm, I received the first alert. “Kuukuwa’s iPhone was found near Accra” The attached map showed a spot around Sowutuom/Anyaa, an area I wasn’t familiar with. My first impulse was to rush to the Madina Police Station, write a statement or whatever and get some police personnel to go with me to get my iPhone. My mother and friends thought I should wait till morning, and so I did.

I did not sleep. I could not sleep.

End of Part One. Watch out for Part Two.