Journey To The North

Dear Nii Kpakpo,

So I got into a bus heading north and though initially I didn’t know the people but I was cordially welcomed and before long we were chatting like we’ve known each other for years. After all what other choice did they have but that they were stuck with me for at least the next ten hours on the long drive to Tamale.

Kpakpo it is said that a man is not measured particularly by what he has but more by the friends he keeps. Here I was the day earlier doing errands for your sister especially to do with some documents she needed from that monolith institution up on the hill with its cumbersome bureaucratic processes. You know how it is in the capital when you want documents instantly then you have to fill some forms which bear The Big Six on the front pages and as letterheads. So there was no way I could get the documents without it taking a hit on my pockets. Meanwhile here I was having to rush back to Tamale for a mentoring program at the local university so I had to rush to the Intercity STC to book a ticket for the next day to travel. But the big sign post in the cashier’s window NO BOOKING WITHOUT CASH really had me prepped for an angina attack. What was going on and where was I to mobilize funds especially since I was told there were only two seats left on the second bus for the next day.

Kpakpo here I was feeling stranded and then after saying a prayer decided to tell a couple of friends and see how it goes. Now lemme tell you why I chose the InterCity STC. The company just recently purchased new Scania buses and these buses are fitted with usb ports and power sockets for electronic gadgets. I know when that our cousin who likes beans a lot hears this he might even try to take his rice cooker into the bus and cook some beans whilst he travels. But yeah! The buses are fitted with usb ports, a freezer and has on-board toilet facilities (which I have never seen in use considering how some passengers will even go to the bush and you can smell them a mile away) and best of all they have wireless services on board. This is what will make social media and internet users wanna ride in these buses and I am going to spearhead a campaign that it becomes our mode of transport of choice at social media events or gatherings.

So yeah that is it.

Kpakpo after an hour of making calls and convincing the ticket lady to hold the ticket for me I walked out of the station with a ticket in my pocket. Every day when I wake up I say a prayer to thank God for life and for his many blessings to me and that includes my friends and then I say a prayer for my friends too for God to bless them as they go through their daily lives. I have some friends and even though are crazy will go to the ends of the earth just to have my back. Look at yourself. Lol

So from the station I stopped over at the Body Temple of ICGC  to see my basketball friends I haven’t seen in a while and I’m sure the receptionist was shocked at how the boys just run out to carry me into the premises telling her I was VIP when everyone else is supposed to pay before entering the premises. It was really good to see them and regrettably I couldn’t stay any more days so we could hang out.

Anyemi, it was just as I got home that I got a call that there was a company bus leaving the Accra Mall in the wee hours of the morning and most of the people on the bus were going to be in the north for the first time and they would love for me to be on board that bus. Wow! What was happening I asked myself? I already had the ticket for the Intercity STC and I had to go return it but still I wasn’t convinced I wanted to leave the comfort of the public bus for some folk I didn’t even know and whether they will even treat me cordially. ‘Human beings are someway’ as a friend of ours will say. But then again, every journey had to be an adventure so why not. Luckily when I called the number for the Intercity company the same lady that served me picked up and she was so courteous I almost said I was sorry for bothering her but I will still take the bus. The lady explained my options to me and even wanted me to hold on till the morning so I make a decision when I came to board the bus but I told her the other bus was leaving around 3am and then she agreed on a refund or I change the ticket to Kumasi for another friend who was traveling there in the morning. Refund won the debate.

Kpakpo, by the time I was done doing all these calls and getting home and packing , it was long past midnight and which meant I had barely three hours to get ready. I called to confirm that I will be on the bus, took a shower, ironed my clothes, switched to news channels to watch what was going on in the rest of the world and lay down to wait for the time so I could leave home and go meet the bus  at the Accra Mall. Oh yes! And for the first time ever I set an alarm so at least I had some noise reminding me it was close to time. I didn’t know this people and I did not for any reason want to create a bad first impression. It was gonna be a long drive.

So at half past 3 I was at the roadside with my bags debating whether to take normal trotro which is cheaper to the mall or to take dropping which was comfy. I was wondering if there were any Uber drivers up by then. Well, since I still wanted to make an impression the dropping won and thankfully the taxi driver was very chatty and we have an interesting conversation on the drive. Within minutes we were at the mall since it was the wee hours of the morning and there was virtually no traffic on the roads. Moreover using the N1 we could almost wish we had another car to race with. There was no sign of the bus when I got to the mall but when I called the contact I was supposed to call I was asked to come into the station behind the mall and there I realized the company had a small office there and that was the pick-up point. The bus hadn’t arrived yet and after greeting those that were around I settled to wait.

Nii Kpakpo it wasn’t too long when the driver arrived and he was driving a new Ford Transit 14seater van and that put a smile on my face because I knew I had made a good choice. Before long we were chatting like we had met before and we were telling each other stories of travels to parts of Ghana to the delight of the rest of the passengers waiting. We assured them that inasmuch as it was going to be a long drive they will have fun along the way and should just enjoy the journey. The driver told me that he had suggested we leave that early because of the Buipe Bridge that was usually closed for repairs daily at 2pm and we needed to cross the bridge before its closure, else the alternate was to drive to the Bole-Bamboi-Sawla-Fufuiso road that will add at least four hours more to the journey. As for the alternative we didn’t even want to consider it at all so we set timelines and told the passengers that there will be minimal stoppages on the way until we got to the bridge. One passenger that was delaying was left behind because he could not be specific as to where he was as at the time we were ready to leave. At exactly 5am we set off from the Accra Mall.

The women went to the back seat and amidst giggling, gossiping and teasing each other we drove off. This soon petered out since it was obvious because of the time we were leaving peoples’ sleep patterns had been affected and before long most people were asleep. The timelines that I had set were pretty effective by my estimation and I understood why when I told the driver that I was estimating we get to Kumasi in four hours he just laughed. We hit the Ejisu roundabout at a quarter to eight but then the traffic in Kumasi driving through the center of town was crazy and we spent another hour manoeuvring through to get on to the Tamale road via Offinso. We picked up another passenger in Kumasi and by now the women in the car were awake and complaining that they were hungry.

Kpakpo inasmuch as we jokingly say that you can buy anything in traffic in Ghana it is very true for Accra and Kumasi cities. Driving through the traffic there was food that could serve a full British breakfast: oats, toasted bread and eggs, milo, milk, burfloaf, sandwiches and somebody even carried porridge. But alas our women didn’t want any of this but they preferred a local breakfast of some waakye or banku or probably some early morning fufu with some herbs and bushmeat. The discussion of what to eat on the bus also generated its own laughter and truly Ghanaians we laugh at our pain. Having gotten to the outskirts of Kumasi and out of the traffic the driver then stopped at a place where there was waakye for the women to buy breakfast whilst him and another passenger found a fufu joint and went off to have their own meal. They were the last to get on the bus and then we set off again with a further warning of minimum stoppages.

Time for people to start chattering again with food in their bellies but very soon, sleep took over again. The next stop was in Techiman to refuel and have passengers stretch a bit and use the washroom. Whilst they did that I quickly rushed over to see my cousin who was at a shop just a street away. The Linda that we used to know as a little gal is not so little anymore and she has grown into a lovely young woman helping her mother at the store and managing some of the business. She’s become the Techiman La Gata after the telenovela character. I know I should soon introduce her to my other sweetheart in the town, the svelte community nurse Vee but soon. Every time I show up there people are curious as to who I am because I relate to her by the love I have for her and we laugh easily. It was a quick pop in and I just hugged my aunt since I haven’t seen her in a while and told her I was passing by on a journey to the north and wanted to come get a blessed hug from her. She followed me to the bus and when the other passengers saw her and after the introduction one particular man started already calling me in-law mischievously. We set off again heading to Kintampo but passing through Tuabodom which also led the women to sing the old song that had once been a national hit and we laughed over it.

Kintampo is the center of Ghana and the town thrives on traveller trade because most of the buses that ply the north and south stop over there thus there are several rest stops. There was one time I remember we stopped over very late almost midnight and GN Bank van was still working giving announcements for people to come deposit their monies from daily sales for safe keeping. The town never sleeps because buses pass through almost every minute of the day. However we didn’t stop at Kintampo since we had already stopped at Techiman and we drove past heading to the bridge which was now our target because we intended to cross it before the close down time of 2pm. We were on track. We got to the bridge with still an hour and half to spare before closing time and just after we crossed it we were all clapping for our driver. He had made good time. It was then that I suggested whilst we were getting some snacks including tiger nuts, aka atadwe, that we get the driver some guinea fowl (akomfem) eggs to celebrate his feat. Moreover he needed to take a break of at least ten minutes which we insisted on so he had to find a place convenient to park the van.

Nii Kpakpo, just as the driver parked the van and got out I opened the door for those who wanted to stretch a bit to come out of the van and the very first lady who was eager to get out tried to come out of the van. Just as she put her leg down and her full body came into contact with the heat outside she jumped back into the cooler confines of the van. The action was very short-lived but very funny because just as she put her other foot on the ground out of the van the heat wave caught her straight in the face and she jumped back into the cooler confines of the van. At this time just before the rains is the hottest season in the north. The average temperature daily is 38 degrees and the passengers didn’t understand how I was feeling so cool in the heat and I told them that sometimes I felt I was solar because I have always been energized by the sun’s rays and it felt good to be back in the northern sun. One of the ladies commented ‘then we can’t live here oh’ and to which I replied that they will get used to it if they lived here and my experience the first time I visited Tamale.

When we set off again we knew that the next stop will be in Tamale and we even passed the Intercity bus that had left Kumasi at 6am that morning on the way. To impress the other passengers I put my wireless device on and caught the Wi-Fi from the bus to prove that indeed there was Wi-Fi on that bus and why I believed it was the bus of choice. Approaching Tamale and people were taken aback by the development and their impression that the place was a backwater changed instantly to be confirmed the next day when I met them that they will give consideration to a chance to relocate up north to stay.

The long journey gradually was coming to an end and all I could think about was the food that the boys were going to have at lunch. Every Friday are special days at The Observatory, a particular table set in Club Enesta, a restaurant in the very heart of Tamale. I was in contact with the chef and I had already told the boys to take a photo of the food I’d be missing but they didn’t know that I had made arrangements that just when the food was placed in front of them I will appear to eat some. I could just imagine the look on their faces. And Oh! I achieved that perfectly. Got to lunch just in time to just wash my hands and join in the meal after dumping my bags on the floor.

Nii Kpakpo Thompson, you see how this letter is long, so also was the journey long but in the end we made it. Considering the aftermath of accidents all over the news and casualties I give God the glory and thank Him for traveling mercies all over the nation. It is not by intelligence or might but just by His favour, grace and mercy that we travel as much as we do safely. Keep praying for me that I will enjoy safe travels in these parts as I bring you more stories from up here. And paddy, hurry and get your show on the road. I’m still waiting for the day you call me and tell me you’re heading up here or are here already. Like we will paint the savannah with its own sunset.

Till I write to you again I still remain,

Your Cousin in Law,

Savannah Boy

 

The Lost Journey

Dear Reader,

This story doesn’t wanna be posted. I’ve lost the story four times already and rewritten it.

Let’s see if this update appears

Frustrated,

Savannah Boy

ps

i have decided to keep this post here as a reminder of how frustrating writing can become and how determination can overcome it.

thank you for your patience my readers.

the post will be up soon

 

 

crazy weekends

Dear Nii Kpakpo,

This is the month of love and interestingly the love going around is just like a rose growing in a thistle field. well, that is the way i feel and this love is very hard love where people are showing love but then there are so much conditionalities to the love portions. but how for do. we will take it like that.

Kpakpo as for me you know my love for the children and your cousin is unconditional and that is why when i was dared to write love poems a week prior to the day of the chocolate love feast, i did not participate but on the day of the feast i had to write ten love epistles with accompanying music from YouTube to celebrate her and what she means to me.

Chale the gal says she will marry me again on our anniversary oh.. Eish! isn’t she tired of being with this rubble rouser for this long?

Well, the third edition of the AYWO Read Write clinic started at the weekend and i was there as usual to make the thirty participating children know what they were gonna be expecting in the sixteen weeks of the clinic and what we expect from them at the end. This year it is bigger and expanded because you know my boss Portia is now a Mandela Washington Fellow and as such has secured some online classroom video interactions with schools in the USA and even the venue is now the ultra modern Hop In Academy, the only entrepreneurial hub incubator in the northern region. This is to let the children have access to the latest trends in computer technology and also benefit from interacting with young entrepreneurs in addition to the volunteers that come over to help in the clinic.

This is a bigger and better package and we hope to replicate it in other areas. We really hope the clinic model will be the standard for other clinics set up anywhere else up north and in the whole country.

The local athletics association in Ghana also held athletics meet at the Tamale sports stadium and it was interesting to go watch. you know i used to run the marathon and long distance meters on the tracks and watching these young ones and a few veterans who are now coaches, gave me nostalgic memories.

Nii, I however have a problem with how these circuit sports events are organized. We have placed all our eggs in the football basket and even though in other sports we have some very talented sportsmen and women we wont give them attention and when they are fed up and struggle to go abroad and naturalize for other countries then we go claiming that they are home grown.

Anyemi! they are lucky i’m using me fingers to type this letter to you otherwise i would have given a very heartfelt Chorkor Thumps Up to these officials at the sports ministry.

Imagine the story of Margaret Simson or whatever her name is who qualified to go for the Olympics but living in Kumasi had to go to Accra to catch a flight to the event but due to lack of funds had to take a bus from home to Accra. however though the official that was to accompany her also living in Kumasi rather flew to Accra to catch a flight out of the country  for that same event. The cheek of it!

Whenever i  hear such stories of officials getting fat off sports people i go livid and reminds me of my days of bilateral games in the university when we traveled usually to Nigeria.Then i’m also reminded of the disgrace with the Golden Goose Black Stars as we were held to ransom to fly their bonuses to them against some aluta.

But that slap though. well deserved and handed down properly by a left footed winger. i am sure the slap was an in swinger with a deep curvature on it and would have probably knocked the official off his feet. That kinda slap takes you two minutes to realign your jaw and get your voice back – even more vehemently to avoid disgrace.

Kpakpo, the Scrabble club got bigger  and with more people getting interested we have acquired more boards. Now there is chess and even cards although the latter isn’t played often – just a one time when some people requested for it. We have now relocated from the VRA Club house to the new headquarters of the Northern Command officers mess known as the Eagles Mess. Cooler and much more serene atmosphere for the elitist club that we are.

Last weekend i was in Wa for a departmental Barcamp and i had to mentor 83 students and only 12 were male. Honestly, the students made me feel like i wanted to go back to school and belong to a class like that. Intelligent and beautiful women, a mixture of beauty and brains packed in one room for over six hours. This was bliss i tell you just giving a lecture and interacting on the topic of Using Social Media for Effective Communication.

Kpakpo, i think i have cut down too much on my traveling up north and i intend to pick it up after March. There are more places i have only heard about but not been yet and i feel bad every time i hear the place names. My new office and new role should enable me to see these places but this new office too and its own wahala. That is a story for another day.

Anyemi! i have been typing on the office pc and i have taken over two hours because as the new member in the office everybody comes to bully me off it and uses it and i can only use it when i’m done. Let me wrap up this story here and i will get back to you when my gadgets get into better conditions.

Nii Kpakpo Thompson, independence i coming again oh and we are rehearsing in the 38 degree heat practicing for marching past on the D day. As for me, i am headed your way to come and eat kenkey at Kenkey Festival 2017 at the same venue at Mantse Agbona on March 4, under the shadow of the lighthouse. Hope to see you there this time too against a plate of fried shrimps.

Ba ni wor ye komi!

Until i write to you again, i still remain

Your Cousin in Law

Savannah Boy .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proverbial Lessons 

Dear Nii Kpakpo,

So I was riding pillion on a motorbike and my driver went past another and spoke some taunting words in Dagbani to the other, an older man who just looked aloof and kept riding straight on. 

Further on my driver stopped and waited for the other man we had passed down the road to ride up and he flagged him down and greeted him explaining to me that that this was his uncle. 

When the other man reached us he was wondering why we had stopped him even after saying something to him on the road. 
Kpakpo, then my driver mentioned his uncle’s traditional name and recognition set in. Then pleasantries started followed by a conversation. This was a conversation like any other between two relatives anywhere in Ghana checking up on everybody in the family. I hear in their greetings our brothers from across the bridge will even ask about the cup that was used to serve them water the last time they visited the family house. Lol 

However the uncle said a proverb that has stayed with me that precipitated this letter to you.  He said that he didn’t respond to our first taunt on the road because “when you wake up in the morning and a chicken chases you without provocation, then you just have to run because it might have developed teeth overnight”.

Anyemi, indeed I was really blown away by this proverb and how it ties into the perception that northerners do not run away from a confrontation. Such proverbial sayings indicate that there are times when you just have to walk away from a conflict just so you can save your life.. 

Indeed lots of lessons to be learnt from our oral traditions.. 

Kpakpo, as for me life in itself is a whole university and I’m in class everyday no truancy. 

Until I write another missive, let’s just keep upgrading ourselves in this school of life. 

I still remain 

Your Cousin in Law, 

Savannah Boy 

Heritage Tourism

Dear Nii Kpakpo,

I have been in Tamale for almost five years and i have still not been to the famous Mole Game Reserve where the elephants are and most tourists to the north constantly visit. Anyemi, i have gone as far as the gates and lost interest and come back for one reason or the other. Other times i have just missed the bus to the game reserve since they usually leave at dawn when i am now going to sleep. Insomnia tinz!

Now you will wonder why i am writing this letter at this time. chale it is because now i am taking my travels to a new level by helping set up a tour agancy to specialize in travel sites and draw tour packages all over Ghana. Nii Kpakpo you know back in the Bearded Man City whilst i was at the Historical Society, i used to draw tour programs for the oyibo students from California and others from all over the world. This experience, in partnership with others, with experience in other fields, will be put together to start this tour company.

Nii Kpakpo, The Heritage Concept International is a management and consultancy organization that is established to preserve and promote the rich cultural heritage of Ghana and Africa. This company is committed to organize and host a cutting edge, organized and well mapped out professional events and programs inspired by the customs and traditions of the various parts of Ghana. This will be for both the young and the old.

We want to set it up in such a way that adults can bring in their families on vacations and to let the children see the sites all over Ghana, they read about in their textbooks.

Kpakpo the vision of the company is geared towards serving our community, country and continent by preserving and showcasing our cultural heritage whilst rekindling our passion for tourism. This also feeds into the mission of creating a lifetime expericence for people through our programs, projects and events uniquely blending tradition and modernity.

Nii Kpakpo Thompson, this is my pet project for the new year and i believe in the vision so much that i am ready to get others to see Ghana the way i see it from traveling all over the place. Furthermore i believe that Africa as a continent has a lot to offer in our traditions and it is important that we preserve these traditions in our own small ways and this is one of the ways in which we can.

The savanna has been good to me and i believe that with this project i am sure i have your support to be an advocate with others in this regard.

As our new commander in chief has emphasized, we need to be the change we want to see and like i always say, it begins with YOU!

Nii Kpakpo, till i write to you again i still remain

Your Cousin in Law,

Savannah Boy

The Impressionist

Dear Nii Kpakpo,

so i had to attend a meeting in town with regards to my previous letter when i said we were setting up a travel company to help inculcate cultural heritage and tourism back into the country. i left the office with a colleague who dropped me off in town and since i was quire early for the meeting i decided to trek to the venue. the walk to the venue from the Tigo office in Tamale to the Yamusa building at Waterworks, Choggu, in Accra mileage will be like walking from Joy Fm to GBC

so Kpakpo here i was walking by the roadside having an interesting conversation with myself. you know walking usually enhances my thinking capabilities and is good for me to clear my head with issues here and there that are on my mind and bothering me. being hungry i bought fried yam to eat and i just trudged on to my destination.

anyemi, all of a sudden one dude walks past me dressed in all white and i could not make out whether he was a trainee nurse of from the School of Hygiene or just a hairdressing apprentice (these days you cant even tell) and he just kept looking behind him and strutting in front of me like he was better than me talking on his sophisticated cell phone. i found it pretty amusing  that i thought this guy was trying to impress me or anybody along the street. then he had to make a detour and in his haste to turn he tripped and nearly fell.

oh my! i had a good laugh at his demise.

Nii Kpakpo but that singular act set me thinking about myself. here i was just eating my yam, minding my own business, walking streetside in this 38 degree savanna heat, and some random dude is trying to show off to me or impress me. what did i do?  one great thing i love about my stay in Tamale is my anonymity, albeit fast eroding, which is bliss. i could not have done this long walk in Accra without somebody shouting my name from a passing vehicle. here i was a grown balding man eating fried yam in a polythene bag and backpack hiking to a meeting in twenty minutes and who should i bother to impress but myself.

Nii Kpakpo suffice it to say i got to the meeting feeling all bubbly and drank three sachets of pure water before i could even say hello to anybody  and ironically that was even an ice breaker to a successful meeting. the transport company is on board our project and oh i even managed to write  you a letter afterwards in my excitement.

so you see, sometimes we do not have anybody to impress but ourselves and life goes on.

till i write to you again,

i still remain

your cousin in law

savannah boy..

I Can’t Think Far

Dear Nii Kpakpo, 

I know this article has been long overdue but like our elders say it is better late than never. So here I am after several weeks after the fact  I get to write the story. Stage drama has taken a different turn in this country  and surely we the patrons are very happy with recent developments. 

 Back in the day when we were students of the premier university we used to troop to the Efua Sutherland Drama studio at the least provocation to watch live drama and this choice we made  over going to the movies or to the more popular food joints. I mean this was the place when we told the gals on campus  we’re taking them out we frequently went to have some  fun.  This place was unparalleled to any video center or eatery for that matter.  

Nii Kpakpo these were days of lore.  But right after school it all and died down in the end more movies are coming out and stage drama became lost in the fray either becoming the exclusive preserve of church auditoriums and a few playwrights emerging there too.. 

Recently Uncle Ebo Whyte has a become like the paragon of traditional stage craft having the flair file molding amateurs into players on the stage to very good results and I will say it has been successful in creating his brand . Furthermore since the audience is diverse in a metropolitan world these plays can be staged anywhere to a particular audience. 

Nii Kpakpo quire recently Uncle Ebo brought one of his plays to us in Tamale for those who can not always travel down for them and admitted how expensive it was for such a thing to be possible . It was in this vein that I was wondering when my tall and lanky friend Latif will bring one of his scintillating plays to us in the far flung regions too.  You should hear my joy when after finally getting in touch with him he told me not to think far because he was bringing a political satire I Can’t Think Far on a road tour and Tamale was on the list.  

Anyemi being an election year I believed the title was apt since it was really about political tolerance and how politicians go about running their campaigns.  The play bears several themes all treated effectively in humor and satire and the audience was thrilled right from the beginning to the end . A typical Latif play had quibs that the audience could identify with and who could miss the obvious flamboyant promises of the braggart politicians on what they can do for their electorate when voted for. 

Nii Kpakpo Thompson unlike Uncle Ebo whose cast are purely amateurs that he grooms himself Latif takes his cast from both the professional pool and he augments it with the amateur pool.  How he manages this blend is one of his traits that have won the admiration of many of his patrons . In this particular pay he casts Adjetey Annan, the award winning actor and Ecow Smith Asante who is a professional drama expert and consultant . These two he blends with a potpourri of cast from various backgrounds to stage this thrilling action that kept the audience in their seats for over an hour. 

It is true that we love movies anyemi but plays are on their own level of reality where we don’t really need special effects (or maybe we havent gotten there yet)  to thrill audiences and all the issues ate resolved at the end.  There are movies on which issues not resolved and hence the kumawoods kyeiwaas 1-14 parts. 

So Kpakpo I Can’t Think Far passed through the savanna capital with the promise of more to come.  So tell Latif we are waiting . Furthermore the other budding playwrights like Kwabena should know that we are part of Ghana too so they shouldn’t leave us out. 

Brossss!  Till I come your way with another missive keep up putting people on the spot on your show. 

Your Cousin in Law,  

Savanna Boy