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.

Komla Dumor – An Epic Novel

I found it hard to sleep last night. There was a lot of sadness, anger and frustration in my heart as thoughts of Komla Dumor’s untimely demise filled my head.

Sadness, because a great Ghanaian man with a great life story with even greater potential died. 

Anger, because, God, Why did you let him die?! 

Frustration, because his death gave me an intense feeling of impotent irritation and disappointment. They way I feel when I read book 3 or book 5 of a great fantasy novel series and realise that it’s actually meant to be part of a 7-part series and the author hasn’t finished the next installment…

Komla Dumor’s life was an epic novel. It had the perfect initial setting and preliminary struggle. It had the major triumph at chapter 6 or 7. Our hero, as I’ve mentioned before, dropped out of medical school to become a traffic watch journalist. Who does that? Only a man with a big dream. He went on to become the best morning show host I have ever listened to.

Now in an average novel, this would be the end of the story, but average is not a word one would think of using to describe Komla Dumor. In the epic novel he had many other triumphs; BBC radio, BBC TV, TEDx, On the 100 most influential Africans list… etc. And in the spirit of epic novels, I just knew there had to be more. It was just like reading Book 5 of a Song of Ice and Fire, getting into the middle pages and saying to myself “This is not the last one”. Or reading Book 2 of the Kingkiller Chronicles, realising I had more pages on the left of the open book and groaning because I somehow knew Patrick Rothfuss hadn’t written Book 3 yet. 

These feeling were multiplied by a 1000 last night, and around 1:00am, I finally found myself blinking back the sudden rush of tears. After feeling miserable for a while and thinking more on the epic novel analogy, a ray of sunlight pierced through the gloom.

You see, in the world of fantasy literature, writers have been known to die before they complete a series, and other writers step in, and finish the story. That’s the thought that took me to bed. 

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And then I woke up, and got to photoshopping 

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Komla Dumor was working on a book. I hope he finished it.

 

Rest in Peace Komla Dumor. Damrifa Due

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I write this with a heavy heart.

Komla Dumor is dead.

I’m remembering his big April Fools’ Day wedding prank, and there’s a little part of me still hoping this story too is some sort of prank.

I have many memories of listening to Komla Dumor in the morning… before school in JSS. His voice was absolutely delightful and my friend Suzzy and I had huge crushes on him. We had never seen him before, but that didn’t stop us from constructing elaborate teenage fantasies about the guy. Suzzy talked to him first; she was home with a flu (or something) and she called in to the morning show. I was so jealous. And then he left Joy fm, moved to BBC and the rest is history.

One of my favourite Komla stories is about his dropping out of medical school… about how he was a disgrace to his parents in 1992, and that “It was a long and hellish road back to respectability”

I didn’t see any of the struggles on that road, all I saw was Komla Dumor being amazing at the BBC and making me so proud to be Ghanaian.

I remember his smile- he had a big, slightly goofy, sincere-looking smile with a deep, rich laugh to match.

And his diction, Oh it was impeccable. The man could speak English!

Komla Dumor was a great man who achieved a lot in his life. I’m convinced that he would have achieved even more.

Professor Ewurama Addy died this week as well, and I tweeted about how great it is that she left an autobiography behind. You know, so we can read and imagine and get inspired by her life in those pages…

I know Komla Dumor was writing a book too. I hope he finished it.

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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On Nerdy Girls, Girl Power,Turbo Divas and the World Robotics Olympiad

I like girl nerds and I cannot lie!

Two days ago, I was super excited because I heard two teenage Ghanaian girls talking about the robot they built and programmed (themselves oh) on Citi fm. I wasn’t as excited by the fact that they had built their own robot as I was by the absolutely casual attitude they had about the whole thing. They spoke about programming Baby Diva the robot to pick up Komodo dragon eggs like it was easy and I thought my heart would burst from excitement!

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Leslie and Maia on the Citi fm Breakfast Show

The host of the show, Bernard Avle, seemed to be reading my mind as he asked them the questions I really wanted to know the answers to. “So, why are you doing science in school at all?”

Paraphrasing

Leslie: Mainly because of my future career aspirations.

Bernard: And what is that? What do you want to be in future?

At this point, I braced myself. I said to myself, I will still love them no matter what they want to be.

Again, paraphrasing

Leslie: Genetic Engineer

Bernard: Ei! Really?!

Me at home: Ooooo whoa! Wow! Hahaha! Yes!

Bernard: And you Maia?

Maia: Aerospace Engineer

Bernard:

Me at home:

And that’s not all, when Bernard asked them what Genetic & Aerospace Engineers do, they answered perfectly, beautifully, awesomely and intelligently.

It was a great day.

Serious Business

Maia Effah Kaufman, Ingrid Ohene-Nyantakyi, Miriam Eyram Gakpey Nigella Lawson, Leslie Goloh and their coach Ms Levina Ansong from Aburi Girls SHS are in Jakarta right now to participate in the World Robotics Olympiad. The name of their team is “Turbo Divas”. (cute huh?)
There are teams from Bishop Herman SHS and St. Augustine’s SHS representing Ghana as well, but an impartial inside source told me this when I asked him if the Ghanaians can win. “The other countries have been participating for years, and they take it very seriously. Our kids are brilliant and have a good chance of winning something, but if I had to pick one team, it would be the girls from Aburi”

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Team Ghana!

The Turbo Divas had this to say when they were asked what they expected from their teammates.

“At the end of WRO I expect that my team members and I would be extra confident, be very meticulous and extra careful and strategic. We should know how to work with people from all walks of life and believe in ourselves.Team members must come to appreciate the fact that hard work really pays.” – Ingrid Ohene-Nyantakyi

“I expect that after the WRO competition i will acquire more knowledge and skills in programming as well as building .Also i expect that, after the competition working together with people in a team is going to be an easy task and learn to take their opinions and views. Finally i expect my team to emerge victorious after this competition.” – Miriam Eyram Gakpey Nigella Lawson

“As a result of my participation in WRO i expect that there will be a boost in my self-confidence and self-image. I also expect that my problem solving ability will improve. I expect to be smarter and more precise in my way of thinking and doing things. After working with my fellow team mates in the past months, i expect to be able to live with and appreciate those around me. Finally i expect an astonishing victory for my team as a reward for our hard work, dedication and sacrifice.” – Leslie Goloh

“Considering the great amount of time and energy my team has put into the preparations for WRO 2013 over the past few months, i am expecting us to excel.
I strongly believe that we are going to leave a mark and make our beloved country proud. I also hope that our team will be able to use this opportunity to motivate more Ghanaians to show interest in science and technology.” – Maia Effah Kaufman

“After coaching the ‘Turbo Divas’ from Aburi Girls S.H.S. for WRO 2013, all I expect is an excellent performance by the team. My girls have worked so hard and I know they are the best and would do anything in their capacity to remain on top .After the team’s participation in WRO 2013, I look forward to seeing my girls gain more confidence, be problem solvers, be innovators, become more aware of their potentials and learn to connect theories learnt in the classroom with the real world around them since that is what Robotics is all about.One other thing I expect is that after thier excellent performance in the WRO, the world would in no doubt accept the fact that girls are as capable and intelligent as boys and can even be better.” – Ms Levina Ansong

(Source, Ghana Robotics on Facebook)

In conclusion, Turbo Divas, Go for Gold! You have all my support!

Damn the man! Save the Rex

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Charley my people you know me…

1. I love to support the vim squad. Akosua Adoma Owusu is proper vim squad ankasa.

2. I love it when people in Ghana just up and do stuff instead of waiting for the government to fix stuff or simply complain and forget about it…

3. I love Ghanaian history so much I managed to relate my architecture thesis to Asante history. Akosua Adoma Owusu wants to restore a historic piece of the city of Accra. Yay!

4. I’m a HUGE Kweku Ananse fan. It has nothing to do with the fact that I was born on Wednesday, or that some misguided people call me mischievous.

Amanfo) … Akosua Adoma Owusu wants to save the Rex Cinema from being turned into a warehouse or something horrible.

Read more here >>>  http://blogs.indiewire.com/shadowandact/help-akosua-adoma-owusu-damn-the-man-save-the-rex-fundraising

This blog post is especially for people like me. We don’t have credit cards but we have some five and ten cedis to contribute. If this is you, let me know. We’ll perch on someone’s credit card.

Oh… and Akosua, or any other interested person… My friend Sarpong did a conceptual design for a Kweku Ananse Cinema. When you become disgustingly rich, holla!

Reflections: Am I Really Part of the Problem?

Last week Kwame and I had lunch with some friends. Kwame is my cousin, and after lunch, we passed by Kwame’s dad’s office to go over some construction drawings for a big contract.

As we were discussing the project, Kwame’s dad began one of his monologues on his favourite topic to discuss whenever I was around – “How architects in Ghana have made contractors in Ghana rich because they don’t do detailed specifications”… After asking me for about the thousandth time why I didn’t choose to do business in school., He leaned back and boasted about his latest big contract. He got the contract because of his friendship with a certain government official. The contract would be very simple to “execute” because he would be paid in full at the beginning and after giving 10% to his friend the government official, he would be free to go. No follow ups or anything. The government would simply announce that the contractor had run away and after some months and the process would start again with a different contractor.

Now, this wasn’t the first time we had heard that kind of story from Uncle Kweku. In fact, our usual reaction was to laugh and make comments like “It’s important to network in Ghana”, “Who you know”… etc..

This time, Kwame and I didn’t feel like laughing at all. We were weighed down with guilt and sadness. You see, Kwame and I pride ourselves on being part of the new vim movement of movers and shakers. The sort of people who constantly complain on Facebook and Twitter about our corrupt leaders and the absurdities of issues like the SADA fund disbursements and the GYEEDA report. And at the lunch meeting with our friends, one of our friends brought a friend that said some things that made us feel very uncomfortable. She (that annoying girl) had watched a historical documentary that traced the origins of the wealth of West Africa’s wealthiest family. Most of them were linked to political parties or governments.

The conversation at lunch wasn’t as cheerful and light as we expected, we all started thinking uncomfortable thoughts about our parents’ wealth. Even Awo (her father is a professor) who loudly and proudly proclaimed that her dad was not involved in any form of corruption, fell silent when Kwame reminded her about the grade she entered medical school with.

This is the story what my friend Kwame (not his/her real name) told me one night. He was in a sad, pensive mood and when he was done telling me, I felt the same way.

“Charley Kuukuwa, our hands are dirty.. all of us… I never thought about it that way, but we’ve benefited from corruption. What do we do? How do we live with that knowledge? There’s nothing like serious or mild corruption. We accuse our MP’s of taking bribes and kickbacks… We’ve forgotten what happens at home.”

What could I say? By this time, I was feeling very uncomfortable too. The next morning, after 5 very troubled hours of sleep, on my way to work, I tweeted the following..

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I’m still in a sad and pensive mood. I’ll throw some of Kwame’s questions back to you.

What do we do?

How do we live with the fact that our parents, relatives…etc are involved in corruption too?