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.

We Built A Playground!

Today, December 5th, is International Volunteer Day, “designated by the United Nations in 1985. It offers an opportunity for volunteer organizations and individual volunteers to make visible their contributions – at local, national and international levels – to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).”(Wikipedia, 2013) International Volunteer Day 2013 (IVD 2013) is a global celebration of young people acting as the agents of change in their communities.

This post is about some young (and not so young) people who gave time, resources and money to create some small change in Madina, Ghana.

BUILDING A PLAYGROUND IN THE NKWANTANANG SCHOOL, MADINA

It started with an idea from the GhanaThink foundation, based on some simple questions – “With everything we know about Kwame Nkrumah, what sort of commemoration would he prefer for his birthday? Parades, long boring speeches and a big party?… Or activities to improve Ghana?” The answer was a no-brainer… And that is how we made September 21st National Volunteer Day. People were encouraged to organise or join volunteer activities around the country. Social media was the main tool we used, and we got results!

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My volunteer activity was about doing something WITH and FOR the people in a community. I thought of building a toilet at first, but that was too complicated for the short period of time I had to put it together (about 2 weeks), so after some thinking, I came up with the idea for a playground using low cost renewable and recycled material.

Disclaimer: It was also for my personal research in social architecture. I’ll share my exciting preliminary findings in another blog post… Later.

So I went to the site [which is in the school where my mother works] with the awesome Kwabena Akuamoah Boateng to get some pictures, take measurements, and make a short video. Then I put up this blog post with a call for volunteers and an appeal for funds.  GhC 1130 was raised, with donations from Nana Aba Anamoah, Augustine Owusu-Ansah, Charles Lawson, Jude Nyoagbe, Andy Aryeetey, Kwabena Akuamoah Boateng, Daniel Asante, Abban Budu, and Kwabena Opoku Agyeman.. Thank you so much guys!

I also got paint donations from Michael Oti Adjei , from Azar Paint (through Ariel of GhanaThink), used car tyres from dealers in the community and food items from the teachers of Nkwantanang school, Abena Benewaa Boampong, Abban Budu, Annabella Boadi Misa, Ekow Atta Aidoo, and Jeanne Clark.

In the design and construction team were myself, Jude Nyyoagbe, Emmanuel Ofori-Sarpong and Edem Tamakloe.

With GhC 1280, and the help of students from Nkwantanang, the Assemblyman of the area, Emmanuel Ofori Sarpong, and my mother I bought bamboo, plants, soil, mats, cement, sandcrete blocks, wooden pallets, sand, stones, water, tools, paint, and food..etc. I also transported used car tyres and other materials to the site and even got extra as tips for some of the especially hardworking students.

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And finally…

HONOUR ROLL [List of Volunteers]

Theophilus Mensah

Osei Daniel Sarfo

Akua Akyaa Nkrumah

Benewaa Boampong

Emmanuel Sarpong

Naa Sarku

Domenyo Galley and his crew

Lois Andah

Jude Nyoagbe

Vanessa Sarpong

Laquaye Nartey

Carl Glover Tay

Annabella Boadi Misa

Courage Tetteh

Adjoa Bonney

Michael Akuamoah Boateng

Augustine Owusu Ansah

Kwabena Akuamoah Boateng

Ekow Atta-Aidoo

Bash Futa

Laurie Frempong

Jeanne Clark and family

Charles Lawson

Kinna Likimani and Kobby

Rahim Muniru

Abban Budu

GALLERY

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Site for Playground

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Initial Design Sketch

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Beginnings!

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Finished!

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Accra is killing me!

I moved back to Accra some months after spending almost all of my life as an adult in Kumasi.

It is good to be finally able to go to all these events that never get organized in Kumasi. It is good to meet and ‘re-meet a lot of people. It is nice to be able to go to Ci Gusta anytime I have a craving for frozen yoghurt. It is nice to be able to buy a jam doughnut or a muffin every morning before work. It is nice in Accra, and there are many great things happening here, but Accra is killing me!

I don’t know why, but it seems to me that most of the people who have given up on Ghana live here, and I keep meeting them or overhearing their conversations. It’s everywhere on radio (except with Bernard on Citi fm), and I’m getting exhausted with my efforts to stay positive. I am sick of hearing things like “Ghana dier”, “This country is so messed up” etc. Now I’m not saying it’s not messed up, I’m saying I’m tired of hearing it everywhere. Perhaps it’s because there are more borgas here. I understand that it’s difficult to move from Aburokyire (where everything works well) to Ghana (where nothing works well), but the negativity hurts me. Accra is killing me.

I also think it’s because I live in Ashalley Botwe and I go to and through Madina Market a lot. That place is pretty depressing – the smell, the filth, the heat… I used to live in a green patch around KNUST in Kumasi and the switch… from walking to work through an alley with a profusion of flowering plants and fruit trees and berries to jumping over rubbish heaps, dodging sellers that grab your hand (as if that will make you buy their wares)… is horrible! Accra is killing me.

Again about radio, I used to listen to Ultimate Radio and Luv Fm in Kumasi. Ultimate Radio has (had?) a fantastic morning show that focussed on things happening in Kumasi especially positive stories. Luv would transmit Joy Fm’s super morning show for a while and then switch to other things, so I guess I wasn’t hearing as much bad government corruption news as I am now. And with many of the twi language radio stations, they did give bad news, but they made it so funny that it was difficult to actually get angry about it. Here, there’s so much anger, which I understand, but Accra is killing me.

I hear Christmas in Accra is great. People are so drunk and happy from all the weddings and parties that they forget to complain. Unfortunately, I probably won’t experience this wonderful change, because I’ve made holiday plans to be AWAY from Accra, because you know, Accra is killing me!

I miss Kumasi, and as Sarkodie said in his Versace cover, someone please give me money so I can go back to my Kumasi. Last week I had a Barcamp meeting and I didn’t want to leave because I had missed “drinking” positive energy. When’s the next TEDx?