Tag Archives: friends

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

 

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Founders Day 2016

Dear Nii Kpakpo,

just recently another Founder’s Day passed and as usual it was declared a holiday in Ghana. this is the day that has been put aside also as a National Volunteers Day by the GhanaThink Foundation where people are encouraged to get out of their comfort zones and do an activity voluntarily to help their communities. these activities could be any activity that persons recognized as could benefit the society either communally or in general.

several activities were lined up countrywide and these activities included cleaning up designated areas such as lorry parks, town centre or beaches, health awareness walks, health screening and blood donations, donations to orphanages and spending time with the orphans, spending time with basic school children teaching basic ICT skills, rehabilitating school buildings and painting and even community outreaches among several others.

Kpakpo in the savanna for example various activities were lined up to cover several days since the day itself was on a Wednesday and activities were lined up both for the day itself and for the Saturday at the weekend.

For the Wednesday there was a clean up and health awareness walk in the center of Tamale where the main taxi rank area was cleaned to the market area. the health walk was to create awareness on some female diseases where health personnel gave seminars on personal hygiene and how to prevent some female diseases.

the main activity however was the painting of a six classroom block of a basic school in a community in Tamale. anyemi, the people that came out to paint was a motley crew of various professionals and down to earth people who on a regular day will not don overalls or even carry paint brushes but for the sake of volunteerism came out to spend time painting the community school.

Kpakpo, i would lie if i said it wasn’t fun. whilst we painted, various discussions went on with regards to various issues and it was also a time for networking.

after the introductions fellow volunteers just walked up to each other and amidst the banter and lively camaraderie the painting went on. the clothes designer interacted with the lovely women who could be models for his clothing, whilst also keeping a conversation with the award winning photographer to be featured on his blog and the celebrity feature blogger was busy soliciting for a supply of eggs and gizzard from the poultry farmer volunteer whose little two year old boy was being attended to by the high school graduate waiting for her results to go into the university.

the aid worker was being teased that she had missed her calling as a painter or an artist whilst the author showed obvious signs of his childhood forays and his bald head bobbed up and down holding a very long scroll brush painting the upper parts of the wall whilst the tallest painting volunteer was concentrating on putting the Bluetooth music speakers at a point where they would have the most effect so there was music to dance, sing or hum to whilst painting. Kpakpo, i am not forgetting the Hub incubator entrepreneur who’s first act on reaching the painting site was to spread out his waakye and eat first, claiming that without energy no work could be done.

now you understand when i say it was a motley crew of volunteers out to have fun whilst doing something worthwhile for the community. the headmaster of the school was very grateful for the gesture.

Nii Kpakpo Thompson, the activities planned for the weekend included a graduation of the Reading Clinic children and i hear it went pretty well. these children had undergone four months of being taken through reading and writing skills to not only equip them for academia but also be peer mentors in their various communities.

the Founders Day initiative of volunteering on that day has come to stay and for some of us it is not only a one day activity but a daily one for us as we go through our lives getting out of our comfort zones and giving back to the community in any way we can whilst also supporting various initiatives we believe in. let us invite more people to find a cause they can support one way or the other both materially and financially. there are so many causes out there.

well i am done here. till i write to you again let us keep spreading the word of volunteerism and instill the spirit in other people.

i still remain

your cousin in law

Savannah Boy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blazing Wa

Dear Nii Kpakpo,

So one day I was sitting behind my laptop in the library and I got notified by a friend of a training program organized by the British Council for entrepreneurs and graduates and advised me to apply. Well I did and when they asked for options where I wanted to take the training I said Kumasi because it would be easier for me to travel there and have it. There was an Accra option but it was too far away.

Then I forgot about it.

Leaving Tamale for Accra I didn’t really  plan on it so when I got a call one morning that I was supposed to be at Blazing Trails I quickly did the necessary and took a straight “dropping” to the venue only to be told that the call had come from the Kumasi not Accra office. However how much I pleaded to get onto the training since it was running concurrently but organizers were adamant. Best they could do was put me on the next one, in Wa.

This time I had the date in mind but only had to convince myself if I really wanted to spend all that money for this program.

Kpakpo you know lately I’ve been traveling around pretty much and in three weeks I’ve traveled between Accra and Tamale 4 times already and now I had to go to Wa from Accra and then head to Tamale when I was done.

So I booked OA Travel and Tours tickets and as if by design I got a bus with plenty Walla women. Oh! I’ve told you about that already but what I noticed is that the company is making good money with the night travels because people can actually go to work and travel at the close of day since buses leave Accra at 8 pm. On this particularly night, there were four buses and we were the last to arrive in Wa. Another lesson learnt is not to travel at the last minute when program starts that very morning when I arrive.

Blazing Trails was fun any3mi. I was a few minutes late but fortunately the facilitator had to take a call so was outside when I went in and some of my colleagues helped me out to sign in and get the materials required and do the first assignment given. Just when I was about to settle in a tall dude walks up to me and calls me Kola Nut and after introducing himself says we had met at GhanaThink Barcamp in Wa, where I had attended as a mentor earlier on in the year.

Boy oh Boy! The way this world is going we cannot overemphasize the importance of networking which such programs like the Barcamp keeps stressing. There were 3 others there who recognized me. Wow!

Kpakpo, it would interest you to note that even my hosts in Wa were hookups from Barcamp. I posted in one of the offshoot groups from the Wa edition that I was coming to town and needed a host and one young woman said she’d take care of me and hooked me up to her brother with whom I spent my 3 days in town. Furthermore I also went to the basketball court and they were guys worried about where I was staying and when I wanted to play somebody provided me with training shoes that fit perfectly. 

Networking is key I tell you.

With the facilitator outside I quickly introduced myself and kinda coordinated an introduction session so we the participants get to know each other and also choose a training course representative. One dude was quickly chosen and seconded and truth be told he acquitted himself pretty well all through the period of the training.

Kpakpo for people who came from different parts of the country, oh there was a cutie from Tarkwa who stole the show with enough body, we really did get on pretty well even in healthy competition to get the attention of the gals on the program. Guys teased each other to get the ladies attention and overall the camaraderie was high.

The quips were plenty and with a very jovial facilitator who chips in plenty food  for thought especially when it comes to current affairs and the Ghanaian situation with governance and policy and relating entrepreneural life to relations with women, the training program was bound to be full of high energy and heavily interactive. It is not quite surprising that the facilitator confessed that albeit training people for years this particular group was impressive with the way everybody was contributing and sharing experiences with each other.

Nii Kpakpo Thompson, the Blazing Trails entrepreneur training in Wa was a success and interestingly it is one program where participants spent their Saturday at training and still wanted more. If even without the facilitation the participants wanted to see each other again because every day had an unexpected twist to it.

However I must say that there was a pervading sense of danger overhanging the town of Wa due to the incidence of several robberies especially of the university students by  some unruly residents. There has been incidents of especially female students getting robbed not even at night but early evening of their possessions and motorbikes, the main means of transport for students in town. Apparently it has reached a stage where there were also some domestic thefts such as armed robbers attacking the students in their hostels. For such a vibrant town it is such a shame that there is a stifling of youth freedom and entertainment and when it gets dark a self imposed curfew surrounds parts of the town.

Any3mi what that means is that unlike other campuses where events can be organized at night for fun and experience it doesn’t happen on the university campus in Wa and that’s pretty sad if you ask me. How can a student live in fear half the time on campus especially the women,  with almost no social life especially at night. Every evening was spent indoors except my last night when I took a walk in the zongo which apparently is the only place there are not robberies. I was too tired to go out anyway being tired from the training.

Well, I can say that my second trip to Wa was well spent and it was both a learning experience and time to increase my social network. Thank you all who made my trip a fun one both old and new friends. Inasmuch as it wasn’t as much fun with boys boys sitting in pubs or having nights out with friends, which would’ve been fun, Wa had its own perks and every moment spent was memorable.

Kpakpo I’m now back to your sister in Tamale and back home a better person. Let’s keep getting better and influencing our society in whatever ways we can.

I still remain
Your Cousin in Law,
Savannah Boy.

Accra Retro

Dear Nii Kpakpo,

There is so much to say that I don’t even know where to start. I’m pretty sure I am going to write this particular letter in like five different parts based on topics and with different titles.

Nii Kpakpo I was in the capital a few weeks ago and this time I was there for the longest time I’ve ever been since I relocated. I was in the capital for just over 3 weeks and some of my thoughts and observations are captured in http://kofilarbi.wordpress.com City Life in Retrospect.

The city of Accra has become a place for survival of the fittest amidst a dog bite dog system that is pretty ruthless to the unsuspecting and vulnerable. It has become like any cosmopolitan city in the world comparable to New York, Paris or Shanghai, Tokyo or even London. It has become actively hyper and over vibrant like any of these cities with its attending problems and pressures.
Mortgage rates and accommodation in Accra has shot through the roof and to get decent accommodation within the city centre is out of the question. It’s just so amazing that people still manage to survive in the city with higher cost of living.

Food prices and transport costs just take the cake. They did make my head spin because a decent meal both at home and worse out will set you back a few.

What a wow!

Found myself comparing same food and transport costs as against living in the savanna and I realized one thing from my few weeks stay in the capital. The most profound revelation was that there was no way I could come back and stay in the capital. No way!

With the kinda city the capital has become it was therefore not surprising that in a bid to survive the crime rate will also increase steeply. New ways of stealing have been invented in the capital so much and surprisingly the worst criminals are in suits and ties and sit in air conditioned government offices.

Meanwhile the average joe on the street also has to survive so he also has to find any means possible to survive hence the capital has become a city of deals and shortcuts.

Nii Kpakpo, as for the mayor of the town, the less said about him the better. With the rains having set in, it has become apparent that he is not prepared enough for the rain floods that still hit the capital. He is either in the news telling people it will be well and giving the same hope he’s been preaching from the day he took office.

Meanwhile the city is not only inundated with rain floods but also the plastic waste and filth that the flood water drags along with it. The filth in the city is overwhelming and everywhere you turn there is a heap of rubbish or thrash even in areas that are not busy city centre areas so I’m wondering what went wrong.

The other times the mayor’s in the news is with people calling for his beard to be shaved out of office but why am I not surprised, this is Ghana and whoever comes could even be more clueless than he is.

A friend and me took a drive through the central business district after office hours whilst I was visiting and passed by the bearded mayor’s offices and just when we got to the office gates we slowed down on the streets and started screaming ‘abodwes3 oh abodwes3!!’ for like two minutes on top of our voices whilst we sat in the car.

My God! It felt so good and you should have seen the faces of the other drivers in their cars on the street with us and the looks on the face of some pedestrians walking by. Even the policeman on duty to guard the premises came out to see what the commotion was about and seeing just the two of us was wondering why we would do a thing like that. It was crazy Kpakpo.

But that is exactly what living in Accra does to you. It makes you crazy to even survive in Accra and without that touch of madness one won’t make it.

Kpakpo it was fun massaging the networks I still got in the capital and making sure that my friends know that I’m still around and relocation doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about them and that I’m still around. I even had time to meet some new friends that I met on social media whilst I was up here and even some sweet girls whilst having time to hang out and take some fun trips and hangout with some of the social media group members.

The landscape of the capital is changing so fast nowadays with all the high rise and real estate coming up in different parts of the city as advertised on the surrounding walls of the designated lots. The airport area has seen some rapid changes in high rise infrastructure and it is not so surprising that a friend of mine who has been in the USA for eighteen years couldn’t recognize a thing in the airport area. I’m sure she probably thought when she got out of Kotoka International airport that she has been brought to a different country and not to her homeland Ghana. Such people can easily get lost in the capital.

The airport city is gonna be fantastic if they can mould the whole airport including the terminals into it so it becomes one single entity. That would be nice.

No wonder the levels in Accra are so high and the rural folk also want to come and see some of what they are told about hence the migration to Accra with its attendant problems.

Fast forward to the #OccupyGhana demonstration and I can tell you that was one demonstration I would have loved to be part of. We have protested and shown displeasure by the way our country is run on various media and it was high time we took it to the streets and put it out that we just weren’t pleased but we would do something about it.

The organizers took less than a week to plan it and the beauty of the demonstration is that it was spontaneous and being a social media demonstration it was obvious that it went viral as soon as the idea was birthed. Whilst demonstrators were on the streets, those of us who couldn’t be there were at home on our computers and phones tweeting and blogging the event making sure it was trending especially on twitter.

Bloggers and social media people took the forefront but the demonstration took a different turn when it actually happened. Middle class citizens, some pretty affluent, also joined in the protests as it affected them in various ways either in business or personally.

As for the events that preceded and happened during the demonstration are all online so I’m not going to write a long harangue about it. But the Ghana Police as usual were there in their numbers to make sure the demonstration didn’t go ‘violent’. Tried to hold back some demonstrators and prevent them from getting into certain areas. Some were even seizing cameras.

Oh! Friend of mine ended up educating a police officer on his rights, of course in a confident accent in pure Queens English that the officer quickly backed off. Way to go Eddy! I really had a good laugh with that one.

Nii Kpakpo Thompson, you know how much I love protests and somehow I’m glad I wasn’t there because I would have been overzealous and taunted the already over hyped police force so much they would have done anything to get me off the scene and turned my protest into #OccupyNsawam for public disturbance.
Imagine your sister’s reaction Kpakpo. Or the reaction of the police when they realize that after all I even work for government and they haven’t paid me for almost a year and half..

What a wow!

Nii Kpakpo it is really fantastic how people complain about the government here and then when you remind that Mahama is the head of government they just shut up because in their eyes he does no wrong. He’s their president and that is it. Well we live to see.

This country is founded on hope and nothing else so let’s hope there is still light at the end of the tunnel and nobody turns the lights off or ECG has enough power to keep that light on. Or else we are all doomed.

Kpakpo, lemme end here and start another letter on another topic.
Keep the faith and hope my friend.

Your Cousin in Law,
Savannah Boy

Early Savannah Morning

Dear Nii Kpakpo,

So it rained yesterday and many are we mighty glad that it did. The dust was becoming too much and the roads, especially the one to my work place, had become like powder. And with the big trucks – construction trucks and zoomlion garbage trucks plying that route, the rain is a welcome relief at least for a few days.

This is not to mention the folk with the four wheel drives who drive as if they were in the Dakar rally caring less who they peppered with the dust. Show offs!

Anyways, we were at church when the rains started and here in the savannah the rains are always accompanied by thunder and serious lightning flashes like the heavenly host were having a fashion shoot for the Second Coming. If you didn’t know, this is not a good thing for your sister and she wished she was home so she could snuggle into me and in essence hide from the weather – ostrich syndrome.

Well, she survived. As she has done since she was a child. Just a but scared that brought about a chill which definitely took care of when we got home. It sure was a good night. *wink wink

Nii Kpakpo, this sister of yours has been living up here in the savannah and she still hasn’t picked up the savannah work ethic. She will wake up at the crack of dawn, like she used to in Accra, and be off to work by a quarter past six. She makes sure she is at her desk by 7am sharp.

I can vouch on my whatever that even the regional minister, if he’s not awake will be in bed at this time, turning for the fifth time onto his right side so he can sleep well.

Since she started her new job at the hospital I guess she has wrought change because the few times I have been to work with her, her colleagues had come in a few minutes later. I know this because I checked the sign in book for some months and realized arrival times have shifted.

What this has done in my household is that we have to wake up early and sometimes it is my responsibility to see her off to get a car to work. Honestly I’m dreading when we get a car and now I have to drive her all the way to work. This is because by the tine she is waking up, I am now going to sleep so by the time she gets ready to be ‘seen off’ I get only two hours of sleep and I’m all grumpy. Imagine if I was to drive her to the office in that state.

I usually come back to bed and sleep for another couple of hours before I set off to work.

Nii Kpakpo, on the day she sends me on errands in town or I have to do transactions in town, like today, then I am dead. Savannah shops, businesses and offices don’t open till after 8.30am so it means that I have to occupy myself with doing something to while away the time. Well, thankfully, now I can write to you like I’m doing now but hitherto I just roamed the streets observing people.

The streets of the savannah are so unlike Hustle City. Here activity builds up slowly as the day progresses and as for traffic it’s minimal. Even the police takes their own sweet time to report to duty but they are at post by 8am, nice.

The only thing that shows no mercy and is rapid, is the sun. It sometimes hits around 32 by 9am. Yes! 9am Kpakpo.

I have this special spot that I love to perch at to observe. I’m using the words perch and observe because it’s on the third floor of a building and it overlooks the main traffic light at the savannah town centre. With a camera it proves a vantage point like the Golan Heights when it comes to savannah social observation.

Papa Nii, today I did something interesting. A colleague of mine is the manager of one of the businesses in the building – a supermarket and whilst talking to him on social media I sent him live updates of what his workers do when they arrive at the premises. He’s always told me the the knew they gossiped too much and trust me, they had some very insightful conversations. All this I sent to him live. He said he was going to show it to them to keep the mom their toes, so they know they can be on candid camera any day.

What I wouldn’t give to see the looks on their faces.

But whilst I was doing this it occurred to me that nowadays with the technology we have at out disposal it is very important that we be circumspect in all our speech and actions.

Kpakpo, especially for you guys who talk for a living on your radio programs, you should be careful what you say and how you carry yourself in the public eye. As for you, you are lucky because the GAVET ads set you up as a funny guy. When I tell people that I’m writing to you all they say is ‘charley! The guy fool oh’ but I know it’s all in jest because they admire your work.

Any3mi, my time is up and I have to go run your sister’s errands and be on my way to work. I’m to send letters via DHL to Accra but first I have to pass by the bank to get the money for these and other transactions.

Till I write again you take care and take what I said about being circumspect serious.

Be good!

Your Cousin in Law
Savannah Boy

Of Sharp Cutlasses and Blazing Fires

Dear Nii Kpakpo,

I have had to write this whole article again because I made a mistake and discarded the original article which was 3’whole days of research and writing and I cannot recover it. These gadgets nowadays need to have systems of recovery once the work goes into it but maybe there is that I don’t know about.

You know I’m tech savvy and when it comes to gadget use, it’s what I can use it for that matters. It has to suit my needs and what I intend to do with it. Apart from that I don’t really care what kind of gadget it is or what brand name it has. Chale! I have been known to stream live events fro my little Techno smartphone whilst people with tabs just use it for social media text messages and calls. One silly girl even got lost when she had the google map application on her phone. But hmm, that’s not the topic for the day.

The last time I told you about the activities in the savannah but I keft one important one that deserves a letter I’m it’s own. This is the Fire Festival of the people of Dagbon. The history of the fire festival is outlined by WikipediaWikipedia so I will not delve into it. It is good that the people have adapted the story to one of looking for a lost prince but from the way the celebrations go, even for a thousand years, that prince will never be found.

As at 2am on the day of the festival as I was going to bed, I could swear that I heard loud singing and drumming with ‘jama’ songs which are usually songs composed about social issues, hero worship, history of the people or just plain rhythmic noise making. But I didn’t bother to think about it because the body needed to sleep.

Another thing that led to my not being interested is that here in the savannah I don’t listen to radio maybe because of the culture of political debates that have become the culture of the major cities. Early morning radio shows are all characterised by political debate and harangues that are rather pointless to the development of the nation. Politicians now have a culture of self service and seemingly don’t have the interests of the people who put them there at heart. This is rather unfortunate and thus making it obvious that the people will have to fend for themselves.

It was only after a friend of mine of mine was driving us home that I heard the announcer at a local station plead with people to comport themselves at the festival that same evening.

Then it made sense the preparation I had seen during the day of people carrying haystacks shaped in the form of a scarecrow, wooden effigies and others carrying fire crackers en masse all over town. It was all I’m preparation for the evenings fire festival.

Usually the expectations are high because the procession through the major streets is massive and throngs of people participate especially local youth. There are several youth bands in the savannah and these groups all come together in their own way to celebrate the festival. They all organise bands with drummers and some even use brass bands in e procession. It is a colourful procession of fire, sharp cutlasses and lots of crackers and gunshots – musket fire.

Symbolically the sharpened cutlasses are supposed to be to cut through the scrubs, whilst the fire is to light the way.

Kpakpo, the procession looks dangerous but it is really amazing how they are able to maintain a minimum of casualties with all the organised chaos going on. For a people who are perceived to be violent it is rather amazing that the youth bands don’t end up fighting each other but rather collaborate to have as much fun as possible at the event.

There was one youth group who had music but no girls to dance to it and coming face to face with another group which hag girls just singing on their own mixing together for a colourful presentation of gyrating dance skills and I tell you, these savannah people can twerk. Their whole dance is concentrated in their waist movements.

Nii Kpakpo, as for the observers, there are plenty. There are the youth who are in the savannah to attend school, both secondary (thanks to computer placement) and tertiary (polytechnic and university) from various parts if the country and their curiosity for the event drawn them to the festival. Usually such people are afraid and as such stay a safe distance from the street procession. They end up standing on the stairs and balconies of storey buildings so they can be safe from the screaming shouting cutlass wielding throngs of revellers.

Another group of participants are the tourists and white volunteers or even foreigners from all over the world. With what they hear about Africa they want to be close to the festival but also stay a safe distance from the activity so they rather stay guardedly on the pavements and very carefully take pictures as events unfold. Such people are afraid of being mugged and therefore are afraid at first to whip out cameras to capture the events.

Kpakpo, it is only after they see local folk like me walk through the crowds with our Nikkons and iPads chronicling the events that they have the confidence to bring out their own gadgets to take pictures.

It is very difficult not to be drawn by the crowd since there are youth groups sitting on the back of motorcycles brandishing cutlasses and women carrying pots of fire, drummers drumming with lots of singing, and all this time the firework display goes on with crackers and musket fire. This is what I describe as the organised chaos Chale.

Papa Nii, like I said earlier it is amazing that there are hardly any people ‘disturbing the peace’ because mob justice is at work. This is the only time and only place that I have seen mob justice used for positive reinforcement in a society. In other places and festivals I have witnessed, there is always a clarion call for comportment of the people during the duration of the festival. In this instance however, the people themselves make an individual commitment not to do anything to disrupt the festivities and whenever there is a misunderstanding, if even there are any, the mob intervenes and it is settled quickly and instantly.

Kpakpo, I tell you I was pretty much shocked by one guy’s apology when he stepped on my foot after he had been startled by the huge boom of a canon. Guy was so effusive in his apology that I had to tell him it was okay. Really!

Heck! At a festival in one of your hometowns around the city, a guy stepped on my toes without any provocation and he rather wanted to beat me up for not getting out of his way quickly enough. Apparently he had taken me for an outsider because of my quiet demeanour but when we had exchanged a few choice words in ‘our language’ he just stalked off, without an apology of course. And this was at home somewhere in Bearded Mayor’s jurisdiction Nii Kpakpo.

The display of various skills have always been massive. The skills are so varied they leave onlookers in awe. These include mock knife fights, rollerblade displays and motorcycle stunts. Some of these stunts are death defying stunts and they have been honed to perfection for a whole year. There is stiff competition in these stunts and the ultimate prize is bragging rights for the whole year.

This year however most of the death defying stunts were conspicuously missing. The rollerblade boys were scarcely seen and they were individuals as opposed to the various groups that have participated every year. Same as the motorcycle stunts. I don’t know if they were missing because of the ‘first gear’ state of the economy when living conditions and fuel prices are escalating at fourth gear conditions.

It was basically an individual display of skills and what it meant is that usually things were likely to go wrong. As it did when one biker lost control of his bike and let it run into an onlooking crowd. There were no series injuries though. The mob stepped in to whisk the culprit cyclist off.

Another interesting feature was the street jam version of the festival. When the processing thronged were tired and usually at a time when the festival was to fizzle out, some dude drove in a contraption that was playing loud music and people converged around it and it began to serve as music for the street belting local popular dagbani mad hip life hit songs. It was mad fun.

And Kpakpo, these northern girls can twerk! Damn! I think it’s because most of the native dances are centred around the waist.

Kpakpo, truly I learnt a lot of lessons from this fire festival. The most important lesson was that when we put our minds to something as individuals, we can achieve positive results as a collective. Everybody at the festival didn’t want to be the one to be blamed for disturbing the peace and this individual resolve led to a fun filled festival.

Another important lesson from this festival is the that working together can achieve marvellous results. The collaboration between youth groups led to them having more fun at the festival. With everybody pitching in, it was generally not only a success but loads of fun.

Nii Kpakpo Thompson, these festivals are the last vestiges of our tradition and culture and we have to do everything in our power to keep these traditions. Our culture is our identity and when we lose our identity we are nothing and nobody.

I believe we can all contribute in keeping our identity by understanding the cultural systems and not condemn by looking through the lenses do our western style education and influences. If nations like China and other Asian folk have been able to do it, we should be ale to do it too.

Kpakpo, our festivals are always fun and worth the education. The sharp cutlasses should cut through all the crap in our system and the blazing fires burn all hypocrisy in this our land of our birth.

Till I write again keep keeping well.

You Cousin in law
Savannah Boy

DISASTER SEMINARS

Dear Nii Kpakpo,

Remember when we used to write letters for our seniors in high school because of our fine handwriting? The letters usually went something like this: The brightness of this day has given me the opportunity to write you this missive from the bottom of my heart.

It is with great pleasure that I send these words your way, blah blah blah.

The moonlight of this night has presented me with the opportunity to write you this letter.

Today as I walked through town, all I could think of was to find stuff to tell you about. But there are so many things to tell you about the savannah that I wouldn’t know where to start. I have already told you plenty already that has to do with my experiences as I gallivant in this savannah region.

Today we started disaster management seminars in the office and the response was good. There was a presentation on the formation of Disaster Volunteer Groups in the various communities and their importance as the first line when it comes to disaster management under social mobilization. We were made to realize that disaster management is not only about giving relief items etc but also about education and mobilizing society to prevent man made or caused disasters as much as possible.

Yours truly also presented on climate change and natural disasters such as flooding and water disasters. It became imperative during the seminar that it is important that the various government organizations and all stakeholders come together to forestall any disasters. There is the need for assessment and monitoring disaster prone areas and liaising with other organizations especially law enforcement for all to be aware of what happens when disasters happen.

The seminar will go on the whole of this week and from the way it is going, it was a good idea to have this seminar and I commend my coordinator for this initiative.

Nii Kpakpo, living up here in the savannah has not been quite easy. It is a lonesome life but gradually having built a friend base, the support system is starting to form. It is always true what they say that you know who your true friends are when you get into crisis. I daresay that it is important for a person to go through hardships to realize who their true friends are.

I have made some very interesting potpourri (brofo) of friends whilst I have been here. People see me in town and they consider me a newcomer in town because when I talk, I say I relocated in May and that has just been a few months. What they don’t know is that I have been coming here intermittently since 2001 so I know the terrain quite well.

Moreover being a social researcher has helped because I have studied the society and know how to blend in and move about without being too conspicuous as an outsider. Maybe I should get a Muslim name like Farouk or Abdul and my transition will be complete.

Kpakpo, you know as for boys boys they will always sort you out one way or the other no two ways. The boys boys have been helpful in getting through some scrapes. It is rather interesting that whilst I was in Hustle City I didn’t get into such scrapes mostly because your aunty, mommy, was there to sort me out, always asking if I needed one thing or the other. That woman is an amazing woman, like most of the women in my life and I thank God for her life.

This is a place where you ask for a lift and the person will take you, a total stranger, wherever you are going before they set their course on their own way. So imagine me standing at the roadside wanting a lift and usually ii get a lift on the back of a motorcycle especially if the person is going your way. It’s a pretty nice system that you won’t get in the Hustle City mostly because of mistrust and wickedness.

You might end up giving your killers a lift and if you are lucky they just rob you of your car and valuables and spare your life or if you resist, they maim you. It is not advisable to do good in Hustle City because there are too many tricksters and con artists in the system preying on the goodness of people’s hearts to do wicked deeds.

Anyway Kpakpo, this letter is a short one and for your information, I have taken a long indefinite leave off social media. In recent days, I have let some people get to me with their narrow-mindedness and these are people who hide behind computer personalities to just cast aspersions. I noticed rather that most of these people were not the same in real life.

It is true social media is addictive (oh yes I admit I am an addict) and I will miss it but thankfully, I won’t be on social media for a while because I lost that little Chinese android gadget that puts the world in my palm to your cousin. She took it and with the goofy wit that runs through your family, just switched all the passwords on the gadget so now I have no access to any part of it.

I had intended to sneak and use it when she was sleeping at night but alas, it is not to be.

When I told folk I was going to stay off social media they didn’t take me serious but now they are realizing that I really am and my phone has started beeping constantly. I have even gone for an old Nokia phone with no internet access.

I have given my internet modem out to some high school student who needs it more than I do right now.

So Kpakpo, I can only be reached by phone and via my email. It is the only thing I can still check quite frequently.

Until next time, you take care.

Your cousin in law,

Savannah Boy.