Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Have you ever been in a waakye line before? Then this is for you.

Well one day during vacation I decided to visit one my favourite waakye spots. I have a lot of spots when it came to food, the yoo ke gari (beans and gari although the ever present plantain and zomi (palm oil) isn’t mentioned) fufu, banku and the like. I however decided to head for the waakye spot this afternoon. A few meters to the place and I was shocked at the sight before me. The queue was long, well what was I to expect, Maa Grace’s waakye is one of the best in the La Palm-wine junction – Kojo Sardine area. Others like me have made their way to enjoy this delicacy of Maa Grace. Upon reaching there I surveyed the long line to see if there was any familiar face ahead in the queue to whom I could start an innocent chat with to avoid queuing from the back. Most of the people in the queue wore stern faces and from the look of things there was no way I could ‘’cross’’, so I sadly made my way to the back of the queue and like the numerous others before me patiently waited my turn.

Maa Grace knew she had the market at her finger tips. Her shito (a sauce for the waakye) was expertly prepared and the aroma of it called customers from far off places. Although she knew workers started queing at lunch time she was never on time. She always waited till a sizeable queue had formed before she made her way to small wooden road side stall. Added to this she was extremely rude and would easily rain abuses on you if you crossed her. The worst part of it was she always raised her voice to the hearing of even someone across the street. In the queue its always normal to hear stuff like ‘’ahooo 500’’ (tr. your order is too small to be served) or ‘’ohee loo’’ ( are you not buying meat?). Despite all the impoliteness, people still kept coming for her waakye and every afternoon the queue got longer.

I waited patiently in the queue as the others ahead of me got theirs. Some especially the office messengers took longer to order with their long office request. Others like me just shorter , quietly order your waakye and shito and quickly made away to enjoy in the nice relaxation of your home. As it got to my turn I made a quick calculation of exactly how much I was going to buy. This usually depended on how much money I had on me, but as it got closer to you, based on what you have seen others receive you reappraise your orders, a little gari here, some macaroni and if possible some plantain. But on this day I was in no mood for any excesses, I wanted my waakye, I will add the gari at home and that will be it.

‘’Owula enyie ohio’’ and I knew it was my turn. ‘’Ofaine ma he 1500’’ . I was being a little polite in case this fetched me more waakye. With the keke sound of her laddle, Maa Grace served my order. ‘’1500? I exclaimed, but the boy in front of me bought 1,000 and even he had more than me . Of course I said this in my head, who was I to challenge Maa Grace. But this was not fair, this waakye for 1500? after all the distance I walked to get here to get this. I wanted to say something to her, to plead with her if possible that she was not being fair to me. I was buying 1500! Not 1000 like the other person before. More so I am a frequenter to her spot and I deserver better. The seconds were ticking fast and I had to think of something persuasive to say before she wrapped my waakye and sealed my doom.After all as they say ‘’kanewu is better than fashewu hu’’ ( to say it is better than to keep it) So in a most polite manner I could gesture, not shouting but audible enough, I repeated what I had said earlier said but this time only an ‘’Ofaine 1500’’. !!...**()...

I would like to stop my story here. I didn’t mean her any harm nor was it my intention to cause any commotion, my only objective was to get a few spoonful of her waakye on this hot afternoon. Needless to say, as I walked away with abuses behind my back and an unfulfilled objective I decided never to go back to Maa Grace again. Well I did go back after a couple of days staying away, but I never repeated myself again to her and always accepted what I got from her even if the one before me got more than I did, I accepted mine gladly, who said life was fair. Thanks to Maa Grace I understood this better.
What is the connection between Mentals -Morning assembly.

Do we still have mentals in school? Growing up, this was one definite way that school started for me. My first real alma mater was located somewhere in La not far from Alonte Bar (if you don’t know this is opposite the La Palm Beach Hotel) - Kojo Sardine and the Trade Fair.(first real alma mater because until then the schools I attended were to keep me busy till my mama came for me.or is it that I have forgotten - got to ask my mum!) I remember these morning rituals, they are ever so ingrained in my mind (and you will understand why by the end of this text) as well as the connection between mentals and morning assembly.

Okay so back to this great school, (its alive and kicking by the way). Mentals always started at 7:20 am after a bell is rung for a period called silence. Silence period was not really a period of silence ( still to find out why we used this name). Silence period was after we had swept our sections of the compound (I was in red (house one) which also came after having my long walk to school which was also after I had taken my morning tea ( by this I mean it could be coffee, cocoa or real tea) at home. You see my school was in our area so I did not have to take a trotro or any sort of transport.( which is the way it should be for most kids).

Now about the walk, on the way to school you usually met friends and caught up on the latest kokonsa or who had the ‘’new wili’’ (new release) or what Jagger Pee did on TV theatre the night before. Even if you didn’t watch it you had to think some story line up and give your tale with ‘’hmmm’’ ‘’eheh’’ ‘’paa’’ and the likes.

The sort of friends you met on the way depended on the time you made your way to school. There were the early morning birds who even on a rainy day were never late. And if you happen to meet Rahman ( not his real name) then you were really late in which case you double your steps or start thinking of a good excuse to give the teacher on duty, failure of which your back/buttocks are subjected to some early morning ‘’hot coffee’’. (I mean lashes/caning in case the dadaba’s don’t get what I’m saying). (One of our teachers was so good at this, that he developed 2 ways of caning and depending on how lucky/unlucky you were he could give you options- do you want normal caning or german strokes. Imagine! Sorry my poor back)).. anyway more about canning/ lashes later in another episode.

So now that you know how I got to school, let’s get back to the mentals. Mentals (and its agonies) started when you got class 2.(most of us were around the ages of 7and 8, except for the few methuselahs who had managed to sneak in among us kids unnoticed). In class 2 a one Mr Roberts, gave us our first intro to many unwelcomed mentals. His was pure orals. (written mentals started in the senior classes). Immediately the bell goes for silence Mr Robert would pick up his cane and pick a poor soul to begin with. In truth mentals was over within a space of 20 minutes. But being there, one minute was an eternity of torture. During this period we would all become white as our little powdered faces and few us would become reflective, praying to God that something would happen to the teacher to stop all this madness ( oh yes I did pray) . Even the noisy and too known girls and boys were mute and became ‘’bedee’’ ( i.e.soft).

The thing was, you had to learn the times table and not only that but to be able to remember it by heart. Added to this is the pressure of a tall cane loving teacher before you about to swing his cane at you ( as if he was weeding his overgrown cassava farm) if nothing sensible came out of your mouth within the 2 nano seconds of him asking you with a shout ‘’sevvvennn taimes eighhht..’’ I tell you that even if you had learnt it all the previous night before at that moment and unspeakable point in time you will forget it, you become mute, the whole class is silently watching you, and even though it was a funny sight nobody laughed. Because the woe you are witnessing would soon become yours. You could only laugh after you sat down on your lashed bottoms. He usually asked for the times table counting after seven or eight because you couldn’t say the tables fast enough before he gets you with his cane. Even if you start saying it in your head (hence the word mental) by the time you got to eight or seven the cane swinging like cassava farmer would already be at you doing what he loves best. We were bonded in this ceremony because of the unfortunate situation we found ourselves in, so as you stood in your seat you go through every question asked as if it was your own, and wonder how you would fare if that ‘’sevvvennn taimes eighhht..’’ shout had been thrown at you. You also silently prayed that someway somehow you will get yours correct and be spared the mornings caning. In this environment the notion that learning is meant to be fun had not been born yet.

But there was a saviour, which also came in the form of a bell. This bell signalled the end of a session (which we gladly welcomed) and the beginning of another dreadful session- morning assembly- i.e if you didn’t bring your handkerchief to school or your socks was not white enough or something of that sort. It meant another caning session. No wonder most of us hated school that much. So now you know the connection between mentals and morning assembly- german strokes nkoaaa!!!

There were some funny aspects (a lot of them ), but that would have to be told another day.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Chaskele 101 (fan-da-MENTALs)

Chaskele is an ingenious game invented by some kobolo-(truant) (not referring to Wanlav da Kobolor).And mind you kobolo is not a derogatory term. It is usually played by young adults when their peers are busy in the classroom. Or for the serious students, during long vacations (i.e. before long vacs were destroyed by extra classes and computer games).

To the uninitiated let me explain, chaskele is a potpourri of baseball and golf. So to be very good at it you have to be a Bonds and Woods at the same time. Just as the object of golf is to hit (or is it kick) a ball into a hole (hope am right! Please correct me if I’m not) so is chaskele. The aim is however not just to get the ball/can into a hole but that there is a further obstacle in terms of a player with a bat/ heavy big stick who will try to prevent the ball from entering the basket/ hole and whom you have to outwit. As in baseball also, this player will try and hit the can as far away from basket as his strength will allow. (now something for Tiger Woods to try).
Instruments of the game include an empty milk can ( any tin can will do, but for optimum enjoyment , you need an old empty Ideal (R) milk can)

Xtreme sports

This is extreme sports by all standards and kids in Ghana are warned never to play this game (possibly for an impending doom it is supposed to bring). This heightened the adrenalin and ecstasy for playing this game. Surely this must be extreme by Ghana standards, comparable to mountain climbing and bungee jumping. Since we don’t have snow boarding and the like of games, this is our own origination that we should be proud of. The dangers of playing chaskele are numerous but I can only mention a few here. Remember the dangers are not just from playing chaskele but also associated with it. You are likely to get some lashes if your parents find out (possibly through a loud-mouth-long nose neighbour), you would be classified as a bad boy (this boy is a chaskele player and hence a kobolo --- possibly by relatives of the loud-mouth-long nose neighbour) and other things- you see the dangers do not come directly from the game but the social imports associated with the game.

Chaskele 4 olympics

Now since Ghana has and continues to be thrashed--beaten to dust—and all but thrown out of the Olympics. (can’t believe we haven’t won gold since the inception of the games? Are we that bad?) , this is a game we can excel at –surely by all means. Secondly since we have a lot of kobolor (or tough boys) as compared to swimmers and athletes, we can ehmm… mobilise our ugh..%$ human resources capital… so that we can start winning medals for our homeland Ghana (can I hear the next sports minister quoting this at the next ministerial vetting?).

Moving forward (I’m not NPP by the way)

Please do let me know how we can take this game forward. Setting up a CBA (Chaskele Board Association) to run chaskele in Ghana and beyond the shores of Ghana. We will have to model this on the Barclays Premiership with sponsorship and all that, which will help us get the best kobolor players from the nook and cranny of Ghana. We will then have our own Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho’s (have some old kobolo friends who are willing to share their experience with the youth of today). This as we say in Ghana has huge potential and could be a major foreign exchange earner for Ghana overtaking cocoa and gold (how many times have we heard this!) and could make Ghana an African tiger. Who knows Atta-Mills might make this his first presidential initiative.
Koreans have their judo and Ghanaians should have their chaskele. We need to push this through , yes we can! chaskele.

A slow dawn

The Slow dawn

Like a old photo it brings back memories
Of thoughts which make me glad and sad,
It makes me shudder and make me want to be there
It rises till the morning takes over

Catch the dawn when it rides the morning waves
Hold it for a moment
Savour the timelessness it brings
Let it be only for a moment lest it lasts too long

Catch a glimpse of it if you can
It passes and waits for none
Let its sight, spark your day
To last you a lifetime

Before the sun shines
And hope arrives
Slowly it keeps warmth
Celebrate is all it says

When is it coming again?
I can only hope and dream
Is it going to be the same?
I hope so!

Monday, 12 January 2009

Xtreme sports in Ghana

Has anyone thought of setting up a Ghanaian version of X-Games.
IF any one has please let me know. I have a good suggestion.Chaskele! This when we were young was one of the forbidden. ( mind you this group of forbidden includes the taboo topic sex). We were under no circumstance to indulge ourselves in this dangerous game. if you did your parents were bound to hear this (either through some konkonsa over zealous adult who should be minding hsi own business) and you were sure to receive a severe beating.

Friday, 9 January 2009

How to read well

I do not want to dwell why this is so and bluh blah dat. But it is a fact that reading is not an established culture in Ghana. You can get on the London tube every morning and find readers of all income classes and ages reading. (mind you the tube is not more comfortable than our trotro's believe me on this!!)

The fact is everybody reads and you will often find a man strectching his neck on to a book raised above the heads of everybody else standing, just to get on with his reading. Its a common occurence on the tube to see people holding on to the rail with one hand and with the other holding onto a book or a newspaper.

Dont ask me how the pages are turned. It comes with practice as I have learnt: with careful timing and deliberations, you wait till it seems the train has attained a balance and then quickly release your grip on the rail and turn the page quickly before the trains hits the next curve, please dont loose your balance or else you will find yourself saying a thousand sorries and apologies to polite London train travellers.

A significant difference between the developed and the 3rd world countries is the level of literacy. Ghana has an adult literacy program which has been running for years. But this is not what I am talking about. Nor is this about the technical and vocational training programs at our basic levels or the read-a book-cumpulsory-for final-exam-book thing. But it is fact that we (Ghanaians and Africans ) do not read. If we do it is our text books and no encouragement is given to go beyond these and satisfy our indulgences. This is even the case in our universities. Neither do we have enough writers.

These 2 are the missing ingredients in our quest for development and the earlier we start looking at them the better. Lets have more libraries and encourage reading earlier on in our eduction system and not wait till secondary school to start reading Macbeth.( the fact that you are reading this shows we are getting there somewhere.

Friday, 2 January 2009

In case you have missed it, most Ghanaians and I mean most-now believe that the NDC as a party is a better democrat than the NPP (if you don’t believe it please check the electoral results!) This change of belief happened very recently over just a few days ago.

In a few days the NPP has undone decades of its hard earned reputation.

It is hard to believe that the NPP and some of its supporters are in denial of this fact. They just cannot/would not believe that they have lost the elections. I can tell you now that if the elections are run again, the NDC would win by a comfortable margin.!! I know this for a fact that most of the people who voted NPP even in just the past re-run would vote NDC the next time around.

It has come as a shock to most people (me included)that the NPP is going to this extent just to cling to power . In case you are not aware, Ghanaians are sporting (characteristically and culturally speaking) . This is why when the Prof accepted defeat 8 years ago, people praised him (even though some of his party members were not pleased with him.)

The unfortunate thing is that NPP is being very short sighted in thinking of only this election (there are many more to come) because it would be interesting to know how they are going to come back next 4 years and what would be their message. They have lost their 2 main themes – that :
1. Ghanaians are now better off- the voters clearly rejected this claim. and
2. the NPP is made of idealist democrats, has good governance and all the blah blah we usually hear– ( there is a new definition on who an NPP democrat is …it entered our vocabulary a few days ago.. but this is a story for another day)