Tag Archives: friendship

With love from East Africa

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Insert love eyed emoji

Crossing the Atlantic changes lives. I was less than two days in Rennes and partly stunned at my renewed sense of understanding of the word ‘overseas’. I was literally over the seas, I had traveled over the Mediterranean to this new place where 9pm still looked like 3pm and where everyone smoked and spat on the street corners. The dogs were more than the people and everyone automatically made a gurgly distinct sound in their throats when they had to pronounce the letter R.

I was in a completely different world and surrounded by very different people, ideas, food, and experiences. Everyone spoke so fast and public transport was unbelievably reliable. I stared at people on the metro and looked away when they looked back at me. Some people preferred to sit in a hunched bird-like position, huddled over their bags in a desperate bid to catch the last bits of sleep before they arrived at their destinations. Others stayed wide awake reading a paper or staring out the window. I’d come to know the tram line so well. Three more stops before we get to the University. I’d jump off energetically lest the door ram shut! On this vast college campus, I’d sometimes meet people that I felt not all that mentally in tune with. Small talk would develop into conversations, and these conversations would slowly plateau into dismal pleasantries. Later, I’d start avoiding people entirely in a frantic attempt to dissociate. Other times, I found myself in the company of people I thought were perfect! We had the same thoughts and impressions on a myriad of topics, we loved the same music, we agreed on what outfits looked good and which looked tacky. We would sit for hours on end enjoying the silence of our shared experiences.

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My class was full of Asians. I think I may have mastered the art of small talk at that point in my life. I ‘d ask the dumbest questions, like how did they make the chopstick not fall out of their grip and why they ate that many eggs. The White Americans in my class preferred to walk together in cliques. They drank wine with whatever little breaks we had in between class and maintained a close-knit group. They were here on a group travel sponsored by one of these organizations, AISEC or CIEE. My breaks were times where I had conversations with myself or someone from back home. I was lonely and mostly too cold to care for conversation or feel like I was missing out on the Asians out-of-the-world Tofu experience or the Americans’ wine drinking spree. I sat with my phone in hand on most days, close by the heater.

I had gloomy days for a while until I met Mandy. Mandy was American and she was in Université Rennes 2 through CIEE. She is originally from Kenya and full of life and laughter. She quickly became a representation of East Africa and opened my eyes to the possibilities of real life, real people, and experiences beyond the confines of Ghana. She had long black braids that came down to her waist. They were dyed scarlet at the edges and she was really tall;  about six feet and two inches and unapologetic about towering over our heads. She wore heels all the time! Heels and really short mini jupes. She wanted to get married thrice because she was unsure of the possibility of being stuck with one man for life! She was an outlier, funny and the perfect friend. Mandy reinforced the importance of travel and the acceptance and acknowledgment of different perspectives. I was Ghanaian after all and had known everything Ghanaian up until that point so meeting her was truly refreshing and very different. We went out at night in zero-degree weather and came back near morning, half asleep and holding our shoes in our hands. She lived with a host family and loved the family’s daughter Carla but hated their dog with all her might. She said the dog got hair on all her fine clothes.

Eight years after Rennes, I am still in touch with Mandy.Image-1 (4)

 

Withering Heights II

I’m up at 5am.  I sleep off until 6 and then finally jump up at 7am. I’ve been checking my notifications by the hour. 5am notification about some random reply to a comment I made on a post on Facebook, 6am notification about someone getting married on my high school group chat and 7am notification about my dwindling credit score on credit karma. This country is cursed no doubt. You want to know what’s more painful than whatever pain you think you’ve gone through? Real pain is when you think you’re about to get richer. The money hits your account but then there’s a negative balance in there so the freshly dropped bucks go to cover the old debt. How nice.

All along, I’ve been navigating this life with a clustered mind full of to-dos. My heart is in one place and my mind is in another. Society teaches us not to give a fuck. Needless to say, books are being published on the Subtle art of not giving a fuck. I’ve watched this book’s Ted Talk and decided that it was a good one. I was probably going to get the book to learn more about assertiveness and being unapologetic, protecting one’s interests and emphasizing the need to be independent minded. There’s so much busi-ness around me. People are barely finding time to wipe their bums to the extent that it gets equally easy to dispose of people who stress the hell out of us. Sometimes we feel justified in letting go. Other times we feel bad and try to reach out but then we let life kick in, we allow real responsibilities or made up responsibilities pile up, and then we forget the mental note we made to reach out and rather remind ourselves to not bother. We’re independent, loveless, strong and maybe proud. Money over mushiness.

Months ago, my childhood best friend and I had a misunderstanding over something trivial. She got upset and I decided to give her some space. I missed her along the line, took my phone on many occasions to text her but very much aware of how the act might make me look weak, I chose my busy world instead.

Today she texted me, and defenseless, I texted her back. I missed you.

Brunch and all types of Crazy

 

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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.

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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

Papa Doc and the New BMW

We hadn’t seen papa doc in a long  while. Calls to his cell phone relayed the same old rehearsed voice message. He had accused us  of being users who called on him only when we needed rides. On those days, papa doc would listen quietly and depending on his mood, would give a brief harangue about our abrupt calls and the fact that he isn’t a taxi driver that we could have as and when we decided. We would swallow our pride and listen as he ranted with the hope that after the brief nkwasiasem, he would finally show up, and then after we hung up, we would wait hours and hours on end for his arrival.

‘Yes I will be there at 4pm’….

Papa doc would show up at 5 or even 6 amidst a flow of ‘je suis desolés’. On other days, he would appear defensive because after all, the car was his and he was the one giving us a ride. On other days also, he would arrive on time, drive us to our destination amidst love and conversation and general banter only for us to get there and for him to snap at us and create a scene about how slow we were being. ‘Hurry up!’ He would spit, ‘Hurry, I don’t have all the time in the world, dépêchéz-vous,les filles!’. Ei, so was this how life was?! A common ride could warrant this much disrespect?!. We thought we were women, who needed to be addressed as such, but really, where did ‘les filles’ come from?! Had we missed anything? Had he morphed into our dad ?! And did the change suddenly grant him the chance to call us girls?! We had had it and so we decided to buy a car too. It was that simple.We loved papa doc, but, love just wasn’t enough especially when you mostly got nonsense in response to help you wanted. We could no longer swallow the spittle and the words he threw in our faces. Papa doc himself had taught us a Senegalese word, ‘deng’ and this word was supposed to be used in reference to a punk. We concluded quickly that the teacher of the word deserved the word the most. He was indeed deng and no one could wrestle that title from him.

So on one bright day, well it wasn’t exactly bright, but then our good fortune made it bright enough  we decided on a car. We bought the Silver Ford and paid cash for it. It was such a delightful day and the birds seemed to chirp even louder. Progress! Ah such sweet relief! We could go anywhere, any day, anytime and all it took was consistent dexterity of American roads and a slight press of the accelerator. Victory, independence and dignity smiled at us and we in turn, hugged them back. No one could tell us anything! We were women of our own and we could do whatever we wanted…yeah thanks Queen B!  we had that hop to our steps and our Friday trips uptown increased. The only intimidating part was THE POLICE..they were bad news from hell and in the era of #blacklivesmatter -ing, we weren’t trying to get stopped, arrested or worse,- killed! So we had fun, but we were cautious, vigilant and responsible about it.

Had we told papa doc about our new baby? No. Had he noticed we had dogged him? Yes!

(..Dog, – a Ghanaian slang that means ignoring someone especially when you no longer have a need for them).

He sure had noticed that we’d dogged him and everyone knew about it thanks to his leaky mouth.  Since information had legs, this piece of juicy information about papa doc calling us users and slave drivers came knocking at our door days after he had said it. We went ballistic because guess what, we had called him endlessly to break the good news to him only for him to leave our calls unanswered and unreturned as always. This guy! We called him once again, and guess what? No answer. Days later on a calm Friday afternoon, we caught him in our parking lot! We literally had a huge free space for parking which meant that our friend had come all the way from his hinterland apartment to park right in front of our house without so much as passing by to say hello. And you say papa doc isn’t deng?! We pounced on him and nearly tore him to pieces. He had on a navy blue kaftan that looked starched and well pressed with complimentary slippers and that Taqiyah cap that he hardly washed. He looked dignified enough so we couldn’t rough him up but then for some reason, the stream of ‘je suis desoles’ came out and we forgave him and showed him our latest toy.

A week later, we saw a photo uploaded on Facebook by a worn out papa doc who was perched on a bicycle. The caption beneath the photo read;  ‘me and my new bmw’. The caption was both humorous and overly comprehensible;  Papa doc’s smooth Volkswagen had developed a fault and he was going to be carless for weeks to come. (Evil grin)…

Who were the bosses now?! 🙂

PS.Do not gloat on the misfortunes of your enemy friend

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“The part of the towel you clean your bum with today could be the part you wipe your face with tomorrow; be nice” – anonymous

 

The Grasshopper and the Ant – La Fontaine

The Grasshopper having sung all summer found herself ill provided for when winter came. Not even a scrap of fly or worm. She went and told her neighbor the ant, begging her for a loan of a few grains to survive until the new season.

“I’ll pay you back”, she said, ‘before August, animal’s honour, principal and interest.’ Sadly the ant was not a lender.

“What were you doing in the hot weather?”, she asked the grasshopper.

“Night and day I sang to all comers” replied the grasshopper.

“You sang? Great! Well you can dance now” said the ant.

At a cursory glance one realises that this little anecdote is didactic and tells of the need to save. Jean de la Fontaine, the French fablist is author of about two hundred and thirty more fables that are equally entertaining.

Papa doc II

Papa doc was Congolese, ebony skinned, bespectacled and immensely dramatic. We just loved him for his occasional constant awkwardness and pure heart. The thing about papa doc is that he has ultimately good intentions. Good intentions that make him want to genuinely extend a hand to friends in need but somehow, lack of planning, a lack of an awareness and respect for time, his overwhelmed life among a host of other unknown factors prevents him from being the truly helpful and optimal version of himself. There seemed to be a constant battle between his ideal and real self.

So on one pleasant Saturday, I entrust my precious plans into the loving plans of papa doc and what happens? He disappoints as expected. I once heard someone say that  expectations breed disappointment. I gave the saying a thought and decided I was no longer upset being that I was also to blame to an extent for not measuring my expectations.

Later that day, he offered to make up by taking me and my friend out to the Chinese restaurant that reminded us of home. Since an invitation to eat together did not directly translate into eating freely, we clutched our purses tightly and sped off in the direction of food with empty bellies and salivating mouths. We imagined the particularly fresh, seasoned and crisp taste of the chicken the restaurant was known for. Contrary to the usually grumpy and burdened waiter who often served us and acted like he was rather paying us for eating at the restaurant, we were met by a rather pleasant waitress who was clad in a neatly pressed uniform. She came up to us and after several negotiations of meaning, including modified Franco-Anglo and Sinophone accents twisted and beaten up in a melodramatic scene, our order was finally taken and our meal on its way. We ate and had a good conversation and expected to go the Dutch way after lunch.

‘Bill together or separate?’

‘Separate!’ My friend and I chanted!

In a bit, the crisp sheet that would spell the monetary value of our eating came in. We walked up to the cashier and swiped away. Papa doc remained motionless. Monsieur, its time to pay, let’s go man, aren’t you ready?!

Moments later, we arrive home amidst laughter and tears. Papa doc knew he had no money in his pocket, yet, he invited us to wine and dine. We ended up paying for him; in addition to good company and conversation and free gossip. In effect, he did nothing at all in the sense of making up for the earlier inconvenience. All this was too funny…but once again, he was our very own papa doc, so AGAIN, we will let it slide.

Our Near Death Experience with Papa Doc

What makes one stick with a person though keeping their company can potentially bring distasteful consequences? This had been the third time that such an event had happened in the company of our bubbly papa doc. Papa doc had a car that was in the winter of its life. The car made a loud wheezing sound as it sped along the road. Of course, the car turned heads and I need not tell you about how many more heads it turned!  Growing up, I had learnt what an onomatopoeia was and had been taught also to associate the sound ‘vvroooom’ with cars. I only came to fully appreciate the meaning of this ‘vvroooom’ when I met papa doc, and his car..

‘Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down’ – Oprah Winfrey

I guess this quote explained the relationship we had with papa doc and his car; not to mention the fact that on one occasion we nearly got into an accident because unfortunately the prank papa doc tried to play on us turned into a bad joke. That afternoon, we took the Road not taken (Robert Frost) and decided to journey downtown with papa doc. Before we begun the journey, papa doc asked one of us to pray, this was quite unusual very unusual to say the least, yet as religious and unquestioning as we were, one of us prayed. After the prayer, Papa doc literally stepped on the accelerator and made a crazy zig zagging and criss crossing pattern with the frail car! Young, Ghanaian and frantic, all we did was shout ‘Jesus’, Jesus’ amidst pleading with papa doc to stop whatever prank he was playing.

Disgruntled and shocked, we questioned what the  intention of the stunt was. We had only a few more minutes to chastise him for playing with our lives when we realized that the car had begun to move rather slower and with less fluidity. We rolled to a stop in front of a small house only to realize that our suspicions were indeed right! We had a flat tyre! Sometimes, a ride on the bus is worth more than a million papa doc rides! Never again! We shall keep our loyalty for another occasion when it is under less fatal conditions.