Factory Girls

4am. I am beyond late.

The idealistic part of me hated the job but the realistic part urged me and told me to go gather life experience and sauce for my writings. I’d read Emile Zola and how the repetitive imagery of darkness fills Germinal. A white horse trapped in the bowels of the mine remained untainted and my classmates and I took turns pontificating about why a horse could remain a solid pure white in a dark and dirty mine…Happens the horse symbolized hope. Hope of the common man’s resurgence after the ruling classes’ exploitation of them and blah blah

This morning though, darkness didn’t dominate my surroundings. The area was fairly lit and I stood in a sea of people, mostly women who were here to make croissants, brownies, cinnamon rolls and whatever else for the president. The task was simple. Perform the work of a human-robot picking and stacking containers with as much of what was rolling out on the carousel. And in an orderly fashion. These human robots had been at this task for years and their dexterity and pace was unmatched. How long? Twenty, thirty years? They were very protective of their work and reflected a collective sense of pride and confidence at being this excellent at their task. The task of stacking plastic boxes with cinnamon rolls for thirty years?! I shat on their ‘achievement’. I was not in awe of excellence at a career in stacking. The simplicity of the task rather exhausted me and I zoned off deep into my thoughts for life.

It was the era of the Octopus. He lay on the White House and puppeteered everything with his great long tentacles. I suppose he ate croissants too. Or did the Octopus eat croissants? Cos if he did like other normal people, he wouldn’t stir such trouble…then again, the idea of trouble is subjective so…. He probably ate croissants, that or at least some of the baked goods that this Bread company got its profits from. I wondered if the women would all pass E-verify checks. It was that or no work. You’d return home if you went hungry. Then again it was strikingly clear that this place was full of the Wall people. The people who were supposed to stay behind the Wall once it was built. They made no attempt at speaking some English and were very unapologetic about talking trash about other people just because they thought they had some kind of code language. I looked sideways at them. Another group of people here was the Dark people. The Wall people dominated though. Some of the Dark people had very dark lips, a slur and frankly needed the paycheck for the next pair of trendy sports shoes. What a life.

My guess was that the factory made more than five thousand pieces of baked goods each day. The ones that didn’t get sent off were frozen to be sent off later. A lot of the Wall people had a gold tooth or two. Was it a trademark like the Indians and Senegalese and their elaborate rings? Outside of this, I also noticed that some of the Wall people had backs that were tense and curved with years of repetitive work that no one wanted. I decided on day two that whatever this was wasn’t for me and with renewed thinking, I learned not to look down on the Factory Girls’ hustle.

They were right after all to be this protective of their work because no one else except they could do it this well.

The Octopus could have their work if he wanted to. After all, he had eight tentacles and near perfect business acumen.

Make America great again.

Twenty Something and Learning

On Life

Life is a learning curve. I don’t have a favorite perfume, favorite food or favorite vacation destination. My reason is very simple, I haven’t experienced much to conclude on favorites. I constantly seek different perspectives, different views, different stories just because I realize there is one more thing out there that I can learn.

On Relationships

Every relationship is a waste of time. Whether platonic or romantic. Relationships take time, energy and a demand for your attention and resources. I’ve learned to examine the benefits I stand to gain from any type of relationship I get into. Now the word ‘benefit’ can be reduced to mean material. Unfortunately no. Have a conversation with yourself and ask and answer certain questions. Does the person make you feel good in terms of uplifting and supporting your dreams or essence as a person? Do they make you feel needed? Are you learning anything from them? Do they constantly put you down? Do they believe in your potential or capability? Do they always come through for you when you need them? Are you happy to hear from them or do you feel the need to make an excuse not to talk to them? These questions and answers are endless. Basically, just make sure you are not in a relationship that drains you of happiness (however you define it) because there is no point in being in a place you don’t want to especially when it takes away from you. I try to not to be afraid to let go because I’ve also learned that so many good people out there want other good people like you so do not be paralyzed by the thought that you won’t find anyone better. You will.

I believe in reciprocation. I think that if a person values you, there are certain things you wouldn’t even have to ask or beg for. If they are generous to you be generous in return. If they seem to be busy, be busy too. Relationship dynamics can be funny, but know that the other person needs you as much as you need them. That in addition to the fact that life’s demands can make all of us lose out on touching base with good people, however in all of this, train yourself to forgive, give without always expecting and be accepting of people’s flaws. Pick up on signs that inform you of red flags and do not ignore them. Ultimately, people treat us the way we allow them to.

On Dreams

I’ve seen people drop out of Ph.D. programs, people rebrand ordinary plantain chips that were previously in clear plastic bags, people sell straw hats and people sit on their couches and make money. Whatever your definition of ‘success’ is, work at it and keep in mind that consistency can make all the difference. These days a lot of people seem to be doing the same thing. MUA, PHOTOGRAPHY, LIFESTYLE/FASHION BLOGGING, YOU NAME IT. Only difference is consistency.

On Money

We live to eat; We do not eat to live  – Unknown 

I think money comes and goes. I won’t be a hoarder because there’s no way my hefty bank account can literally save me if something were to happen to me.You know what that something is. I’m not about to overstate it. Relatively, money can buy medical aid but not life itself. And this point is debatable. Yet, there’s an extent to which money can go. I do not place value on money and brands and ‘success’ defined by money. I try not to let money ruin my relationships also. I recognize that money is a vehicle that can help build relationships, but at the same time, it should not be the defining element of a relationship. Use money to show people you care about them, but do not let them see you as a money dispensing machine. Allow people to show kindness to you, but be sure not to become a taker.

On Failure

I think failure can give us a renewed sense of determination and zeal. It is not always negative.

On Friendship

Everyone who has your interest at heart is friend. I think a lot of us have to revisit the word ‘acquaintance’ for some people in our lives because not everyone deserves the word ‘friend’.

On Giving (not just money)

I went out to the movies with my cousin and gave my last to tickets for us. I knew I had nothing left on my cards but I knew my good deed was going to bring something good my way and if it didn’t, well yolo so it’s ok to see that movie and be broke. Days after that, I got money I did not expect in any way back!

Give your time, energy, and other aspects of you if you can, want to and if it works for you. Sometimes it may be uncomfortable but I learned that we do not get blessed for ourselves only.

On Independence of mind

Ultimately, every man is the master of his fate. I wish people could start to realize that modesty or bending for others is dependent on the willpower we all have. I grew up being apologetic. In a society in which assertiveness equaled arrogance, one always had to be sorry for everything. Sorry for being too beautiful or smart or lucky.  Sorry for having a good job or having a nice car. Sorry for demanding your rights or calling someone out on their nonsense. A typical response from a Ghanaian you complimented would be ‘hmmm oh thank you ooo, I’m learning from you’ or ‘hmmm, really? I didn’t even know’. Sometimes this sorry attitude was conveniently shifted onto religion where everything had to be by God’s grace. Of course, God is the core of our excellence however, there’s no denying he is sometimes put into the equation to prevent the onlooker from having the eternal impression that the other is living a little too large or a little too happy. Putting God in there shifts the blame of happiness and since God can’t be judged or attacked or questioned, we go free of scrutiny.

I also realized that this modesty or nature of being apologetic prevented me and many Ghanaians from saying or doing what we really wanted for fear of being judged. We care about every single little thing society has to say. If I wear this they’ll say that, if I say this it may sound like that and make me look like this. The fear even trickled into my writing because I was afraid people would think a certain way of me if I was too open in my writings but thank God for the independence of mind and thought. Be you, let them say.

Finally, I fell in love all over again with my friend from high school when I saw her snap and messaged her and said ‘Akosua you look beautiful!’ Her response was ‘I know!’

 

 

 

Songs of Sorrow, Kofi Awoonor

I
Dzogbese Lisa has treated me thus
It has led me among the sharps of the forest
Returning is not possible
And going forward is a great difficulty
The affairs of this world are like the chameleon feces
Into which I have stepped
When I clean it cannot go.1
I am on the world’s extreme corner,
I am not sitting in the row with the eminent
But those who are lucky
Sit in the middle and forget
I am on the world’s extreme corner
I can only go beyond and forget.
My people, I have been somewhere
If I turn here, the rain beats me
If I turn there the sun burns me
The firewood of this world
Is for only those who can take heart
That is why not all can gather it.
The world is not good for anybody
But you are so happy with your fate;
Alas! The travelers are back
All covered with debt.
II.
Something has happened to me
The things so great that I cannot weep;
I have no sons to fire the gun when I die
And no daughters to wail when I close my mouth
I have wandered in the wilderness
The great wilderness men call life
The rain has beaten me,
And the sharp stumps cut as keen as knives
I shall go beyond and rest.
I have no kin and no brother,
Death has made war upon our house;
And Kpeti’s great household is no more,
Only the broken fence stands;
And those who dared not look in his face
Have come out as men.
How well their pride is with them.
Let those gone before take note
They have treated their offspring badly.
What is the wailing for?
Somebody is dead. Agosu himself
Alas! A snake has bitten me
My right arm is broken,
And the tree on which I lean is fallen.
Agosi if you go tell them,
Tell Nyidevu, Kpeti, and Kove
That they have done us evil;
Tell them their house is falling
And the trees in the fence
Have been eaten by termites;
That the martels curse them.
Ask them why they idle there
While we suffer, and eat sand.
And the crow and the vulture
Hover always above our broken fences
And strangers walk over our portion.

Feminism is not a ‘One size fits all’

Before falling into the temptation of providing a definition of feminism and its attendant compulsion to be bound by the definition, I would like to use this post to help our new generation of feisty lady feminists understand that feminism is not only limited to the literal fight against the male species.  The ideology is not a mere reduction to whether we are better than men or an unnecessary desire to be at par with them constantly.

Feminism is intellectual and subjective and like all other discourses and opinion, you must examine it for yourself (esprit critique) before you get lost in the all attractive tendency to base your whole life and line of thought and argument on only a distorted aspect of the idea. We are so quick these days to get so defensive over our nature as women and what men do or do not do and then run to the umbrella of feminism for justification.

Just because Descartes preached the need for critical thinking, independent thought as well as skepticism does not mean I jump on the bandwagon and live a life of complete skepticism of everything I am presented with. Also, just because I read a few lines of J.P Sartre does not make me suddenly go off and denounce my Catholic faith in favor of existentialist thought. To start off, the term feminist isn’t even African. In that sense, we can argue that the concept is lacking in addressing the African woman’s unique struggle. What I am driving at is the fact that before we get too quick to prescribe solutions or adhere to schools of thought, consider your own unique situation and apply your subjectivity. I love Ghana Feminist blog because the curators identify that the concept is a huge foreign umbrella that needs to be tailored to the Ghanaian woman’s unique situation. Ideas are appealing, they are the foundations for thought. If you accept an idea for what it is and remain only at foundation level, without building on it or questioning it and more importantly adding your own subjectivity to it, you go no further than a building stuck at foundation level.

Chimamanda in her Feminist Manifesto argues that girls need not spend too much time on their hair because while we do that, our male contemporaries may be using that time to self-develop. Though I adore Chimamanda, I am not obliged to prescribe to every thought she presents, though she is a force to reckon with in academic conversation.  In that sense, I as an individual with reasoning capacity will, examine the information presented and see if that opinion works for me. After all, though Chimamanda and I share a common sex, we cannot lump our experiences as women from two entirely different cultural heritages, ethnicity and nationalities, experience, etc together and claim to have a common world view. Surely based off of all these variables, we are different. The thing with our generation these days is that we’re quick to jump on bandwagons and adhere to opinions without thinking in-depth. One of the reasons for my disinterest in online debates is the fear of saying something stupid and distorted that would come back and haunt me. I intend to lean on one recent online conversation to push the argument that

  1. Many schools of thought including Feminism is not a one size fits all; just because it’s an attractive or popular ‘train’ does not mean you must jump on board
  2. Subjectivity is an art our generation needs to develop; accept an idea or perspective and turn it around mentally; a cow’s four stomachs can be perfect imagery for this claim. Let ideas simmer in your head and develop your own theory. Also, realize that it is unintelligent to lean on parts rather than the whole context of an issue
  3. Knowledge is life long. life is a learning curve. You may rubbish one thing today and actually accept it tomorrow, do not be dismissive of ideas and perspectives. Also, the fact that something works for someone or someone swears by an idea does not mean you disrespect or reduce it. Their reality is not your reality.

I will make reference to one online conversation to build my claims; more specifically a recent reaction to a Nigerian talk show on Youtube called ‘King Women’ on Twitter.  A friend sent it my way and I hated the title immediately but then I loved the show and the idea of celebrating women’s success stories. I questioned the idea of female success being tagged with the crux of male success or dominance. Why couldn’t the show be called ‘Queen Women?’ or something feminine at least? We went on and on over this and I doubt I accepted his views though I made comments that demonstrated I had. I’m still thinking about his comments.

In one of the episodes, a successful Nigerian lady architect mentions that there is a difference between being submissive and obeying in marriage.Capture d_écran 2017-06-14 à 11.39.52 AM

She further explains that submission is about the possession of power but the decision to relinquish it. Obeying is powerlessness and unquestioned compliance. I agreed with this paradox of power and submission. She gave the example that if a woman has the same economic power as her husband and decided to travel and the husband asked her not to go, and she granted his wish, that was submission. The fact that she has the power to make her trip happen but deciding not to because he asked. The contrast with sheepish obedience though is being powerless (in this case economic) and obeying simply because you have been told not to travel.  (And actually not having the means to go anyway ) If you listen to this part well enough, you would realize there is an underlying message of the need for feminine economic independence.

Capture d_écran 2017-06-14 à 11.40.08 AMThough the message of submission has been distorted in our African society with the sad backing of religion and made to appear as a term that only applies to females, I think it is also very much applicable to males contrary to popular belief. Moving away from the gender conversation, if a human loves you, they will ‘submit’ to you. All we hear is wives submit to your husbands’. I do not blame some women for clinging onto what society feeds them. However, the fact that society feeds our thoughts and perspectives does not mean subscribe to everything it tells you. Matter of fact, submission does not mean lay down and be a doormat ladies! Both humans can submit to each other if it works for them. For women such as Jumoke , her subjectivity and personal interpretation of a word ( that sadly connotes being a doormat in society) allows her to navigate her relationship with her husband. Why then will other women come online and rubbish or disagree with a concept that they may not have fully explored or personally analyzed for their own unique situation(s)? Jumoke’s definition of feminism is different and works for her. She is successful and confident enough to share an opinion that she is entitled to. One of the online commentators wrote  ”Women like these mislead other less informed women out there who look up to them. I feel sad for them.” What I think is that no one needs to allow themselves get misled. First of all, you do not have to subscribe to everything you are fed. #LessonOne. Rather cultivate the habit of independent and subjective thought and then you won’t be misled. Also, there is no need to lose emotions. Be sad for causes that need sadness.

img_1796 In conclusion, I will copy and paste my three motivations for writing this post.

  • * Many schools of thought including Feminism is not a one size fits all; just because it’s an attractive or popular ‘train’ does not mean you must jump on board without taking into consideration your unique situation
  • * Subjectivity is an art our generation needs to develop; accept an idea or perspective and turn it around mentally; a cow’s four stomachs can be perfect imagery for this claim. Let ideas simmer in your head and develop your own theory. Also, realize that it is unintelligent to lean on parts rather than the whole context of an issue
  • Knowledge is life long. life is a learning curve. You may rubbish one thing today and actually accept it tomorrow, do not be dismissive of ideas and perspectives. Also, the fact that something works for someone or someone swears by an idea does not mean you disrespect or reduce it. Their reality is not your reality.

Here is the entire conversation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vG7yo5m_T9s&t=3879s

Letters to a YOUNG NOVELIST I Mario Vargas LLosa

Capture d_écran 2017-08-23 à 1.49.49 PMNote from the blurb ;- “he (the writer) lays bare the inner workings of fiction, all the while urging young novelists not to lose touch with the elemental urge to create.”

One of the truest reasons for my huge attraction to fiction is my recognition of the existence of inspiration all around us. There are stories all around! The story of your neighbor, your own life, the events that unfolded between you and the random man or woman you met! Or the dramatic break up of your friend who never listened to your words of wisdom on that waste relationship. Seriously, there are countless reasons to create! Having this in mind, I was happy to read about not losing the urge to create in the blurb of this book and discover a narration of how to grow the spark for writing.

The book is a collection of short stories, each crafted with a specific message to be delivered. I smiled as I read the parts of the book that addressed my fears/secret wishes and maybe uncertainties. How revealing it all felt! Without even going over my head with excitement and a stark fascination at how piercing its truths were, I had to remind myself that of course, this was more or less a manual of some sort created with aspiring writers in mind. One of these truths that pummeled through me addressed the aim of being a best-selling writer. Was my aim selfish or legitimate?

“I venture to suggest that you not expect quite so much and that you not count too much on success. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be successful, of course, but if you persevere in writing and publishing, you’ll soon discover that prizes, public acclaim, book sales, the social standing of a writer all have a sui generis appeal;  they are extraordinarily arbitrary, sometimes stubbornly evading those who most deserve them while besieging and overwhelming those who merit them least. Which means that those who see success as their main goal will probably never realize their dreams; they are confusing literary ambition with a hunger for glory and for the financial gains that literature affords certain writers (very few of them ). There is a difference.” 

This right here is an answer to the thought that has long gnawed at me. I wondered constantly how best selling authors ‘did it’. Was there a special formula to becoming a best seller? Did it have anything to do with how the material was sold or marketed? Did it have anything to do with the title of the book in question? Who decided if a story was worth the hype or not? Did the story have to be overly intellectual and loaded with lofty allusions or was I going to be fine writing about mundane things? How about the countless writers already on the scene? How do I ’emerge’ from the lot? I actually told a boy manfriend about my dreams of being a writer and he replied asking me if I knew the number of books that had already been published and if I really thought I could stand out? Did this remark ruffle my feathers? I kept my composure on the outside but on the inside, I crumbled and hated him immediately.  However, this quotation just allayed the ‘fears’ I had created for myself. Reading this quotation though, I found the answer! Consistency and a focus on the desire to create versus a fixation on the thought of success whether in the shape of fame or monetary were not the more important question. What mattered was wanting to write and keeping at it regardless of all the odds.

And how do you know you are cut out for writing? Here you go; “deep inside, a writer feels that writing is the best thing that ever happened to him, or could ever happen to him because as far as he is concerned, writing is the best possible way of life,..” 

But of course, I more than agree that writing is “a mysterious business, of course, veiled in doubt and subjectivity” DOUBT! Doubt and subjectivity! How many times have I done and undone lines because I felt I didn’t sound smart enough?

How does it all start? “a man or a woman develops precociously in childhood or early in his or her teenage years a penchant for dreaming up people, situations, anecdotes, worlds different from the world in which he or she lives, and that inclination is the first sign of what may later be termed literary vocation”. These lines explained the constant pang in me to write. I do have a penchant for dreaming up people and situations. Whenever I meet a person, I try to get to know them as much as possible and listen to all of their stories. I also allow different perspectives to air and will only cut in if I feel what I am hearing is absolute nonsense I can not deal! Yet even with all of that, there really is a drop of truth in some kinds of trash talk. So I still listen just to be able to bring all these together in a rich melange for stories.

But why do I like literature though? Answer – Because my age old mantra has reminded me that literature mirrors life and that it is a way through which life’s events can be reflected.  Yet for some reason, an interesting truth about fiction that I know I knew subconsciously but never happened to consider forthrightly was the fact that we write to alter reality! We do! Well I do! ; ‘The secret raison d’etre of literature / what they (writers) were (are) obliged to fabricate because they weren’t (aren’t) able to live it in reality and, as a result, resigned themselves to live it only in the indirect and subjective way it could be lived: in dreams and in fiction. Fiction is a lie covering up a deep truth: it is life as it wasn’t, life as the men and women of a certain age wanted to live it and didn’t and thus had to invent.

Bam!

Brunch and all types of Crazy

 

Image-2
Adoma swooning over all the endless possibilities of life

 

Outside sitting in open spaces observing people and trying to figure out what their lives look like, I love discovering new food, tricks, and hacks that are supposed to bring some magic into my food love life. How else was I supposed to know that Basmati rice is way less starchy than Jasmine rice?! For this reason, Jasmine is the only kind of rice that assures the best Omo tuo  . Well that’s what my aunt said at least.

 

The mention of brunch translated into a subtle reason to party all day long, and why would we turn that down?! In addition, being the person I am, I had to taste every single thing that had been laid out on the table. There was French toast and a bowl full of some brown gooey substance. It had bananas lying indifferently in it though ( it had to be something edible and maybe nice because unlike Ghana bananas that have a sharp flavorful natural taste, bananas out here taste pleasant enough and I like them ) so I dug in and put some on my toast.

Image-1 (1)
Banana Foster on Toast

The only thing that stopped me from going back for more of the brown stuff on my toast was the fact that I’m trying to get off eating so much bread. I finally asked for the recipe of this brown addiction and I was told that the name to start off is Banana Foster and the recipe is on this link.

 

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Cinnamon rolls with sugar icing