Archive for July, 2013

Late Night Thoughts: A Poem?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on July 29, 2013 by kola

Late at night

It’s even early morning

Because the night crawls to meet the dawn

I sit pondering why I’m awake

What is the point of being wakeful

Whilst life slips me by

When my friends and colleagues lie in slumber

I sit pondering  upon the empty silence.

 

What is life all about

We strive hard yet we cannot boast

work hard yet we cannot say we gain

Where is evidence to show our struggles

Where is the evidence to show our pain

Where is the evidence to show that we stay awake

 

Day in day out

There is nothing to show.

 

But life persists

It is not ours to call

For the Maker above assures us

That all life is transient

All is vanity anyways

So why strive so hard

Only to leave it all behind

 

So let’s have fun

Let’s make the best of this life

Life they say is what you make it

Cliché

But appropriate

What is this life

I’m still pondering…

 

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Naked Thoughts!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2013 by kola

So inspired by my friend and confidant Akua Asare I also want to write reflections. There is so much going on in my mind that I wonder if I can put it all down this early Saturday morning as I sit naked in my bed.

I have made some interesting friends on my relocation to Tamale and it is interesting how I could not have done the potential of making such friends. These are people who have always been around and I have always known were around but never really took it upon myself to befriend. Oh! I just knew them.

Some of my friends have been in the picture since I started coming to Tamale over a decade ago. Maybe my psyche had relegated them to the kind of people I would only happen to be around so that they cheered me up, were company to make my stay in Tamale bearable and then when I went back to Accra I forgot about them. But contrary to whatever I was thinking (don’t really know what I was thinking) some of these friends have remained loyal.

Let us take for example my sports friends especially my basketball mates. Some of us have been playing basketball for years and I have not even bothered to know their real names, their backgrounds or what family backgrounds they have. Recently, it just hit me that apart from the boys who came down south to Accra that I knew before coming here, I just could not be bothered about the rest of them.

But alas since I took an interest in their lives, profession, relationships, family and even studies, the playing is not just running, jumping and throwing balls into a hoop on a cracked cement court but also a meeting of the minds of friends and professionals. Truth be told, some of these boys are dedicated professionals and very good at what they do and I realized that even together we could not only come to the court and play but share ideas in the different fields of our professions and tap into each other’s wide experiences.

The essence of team work and cooperation in sports as in life now makes more sense and it’s in effect in our playing with each other on the court. It is not just about getting to the court, pounding each other hard for a few minutes (basketball is more physical up here), getting wet and going home. Now the game is also about the camaraderie, the light banter, the stiff competition on and off the court and the talk about women whilst we sit and sip on water.

On some days, when the tiredness has set in beyond measure, boys serve lunch and drinks after a game and the banter goes on. I can hear the laughter still ringing in my ears after the last ‘sitting’.

It is true there is a lot on my mind but this is the first thing that comes to mind this morning because as I sit naked in my bed, I know I am missing out on the boys being together on the basketball court. I am missing on the early morning jokes and teases, missing on the hangover stories of events of yesterday’s Friday night parties and outings, missing on the kenkey and fish with beer that will be going on after the game.

But even though I miss all that I can still revel in the feeling that I am part of this crew and when they are done, they will check on me to see if I’m okay and ask why I was not there.

That is friendship. Go Figure!

 

#BallingIsLife

#Tamale Chronicles

 

 

TECHNOLOGY AND YOU: The Gadget Wars

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2013 by kola

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Technology has proven a handy tool for communication in recent times and new methods of communication keep springing up every day. It is like people are just churning ideas and inventions to make human life easier and more convenient but really are our lives getting better with all this technology around us.

I have realized now that even in cars, very soon the element of human control is gradually being taken away after seeing the proposed future models of some of the luxury cars. All you have to do is sit in the car and tell it where to go and all the technological systems kick in and send you to your destination. Where is the human element and pleasure of sitting behind the wheel and changing gears yourself? Nowadays everybody wants to drive an automatic automobile and even some cars are already using biometric systems to access and operate such as in the car’s security features and operation or handling.

In several other fields of life, technology is taken over the human systems and this is gradually become a normal thing everywhere one turns. My little gadget which is barely 3inches and weighs less than 30kg is an android phone that I can download applications on, depending on what I want, keeps me online at any time of day even when I’m asleep. True the world revolves round technology these days but then are we not really losing the human phase?

Social media has taken over the human landscape and now there are very few people who are not touched by the effects of social media. I don’t want to make a list of the media platforms because every day I seem to be getting requests from friends on applications I have never heard of but still exist. Social media has developed into a technological communication tool that one necessarily needs to get into to be a ‘normal’ person. It is true you can wean yourself off it for some days but you will definitely come back. It is where all the ‘action’ is.

How else would you hear about an event unless via Facebook or Twitter or the other social media sites? These sites have provided some enterprising people with marketing tools to display what they do and have also in a perverse way provided some unscrupulous people of both sexes an easier way to indulge in their perversion and moral decadence.

We spend all the time online on these social media sites and then there are some people who I refer to as ‘Keyboard Hercules’ very strong and vocal behind the keyboard but nothing like that compared to their real selves. It is like they develop and personality in their fingers that can do anything but it is actually in their minds. Such people abound on these social media sites and it is rather frustrating to think you are talking to a woman in a chat room and you realize it has been a man all along. But yes! That’s social media for you. Once a person sits behind the keyboard you can by anybody and anything you want to be and different people are taking advantage of this especially scammers.

It is very important that even though technology has come to stay, we remain circumspect in its use especially as Africans. We have values that no matter what the world around us comes to, we should try very hard to keep. The Chinese have done it with their culture and see where they are now. We can also do the same as Africans in keeping our culture and using the communication tools and social media to spread it.

Let us not lose ourselves in the fray of cosmopolitanism. We should not follow blindly but be Afropolitans blending our African values with the good aspects of cosmopolitanism. Then we can say we also have an African identity.

Like I always say, it begins with YOU!!

 

#Random Thoughts

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six Pack Coming Soon!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2013 by kola

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Look closely this picture and tell me what you see? This picture inspires me to write what’s on my mind. Seriously we in Ghana take exercising less seriously than we are supposed to. Every time we wait till it gets very bad then we now try to find solutions to the already worsened situation.

Six packs coming up is a parody on how we as Ghanaians do not pay attention to anything until it is rather too late. From politics through to religion, from education through to our social system and to our very existence and everyday life, we keep procrastinating and shifting things on to a later date. Take for example the most familiar political jargon , the words you will hear from any politician when you should ask them a question as to how long a project is to be undertaken for the benefit of the people and they will, one and all say’’ it’s in the pipeline’. Every action or project decision is in the pipeline. When will the proverbial pipeline ever be flooded and the project will see the light of day.it is as if all the politicians when the swear the oath of secrecy have it’s in the pipeline burnt on their tongues like God burnt words on the tongues of the prophets of old.

Talk about the prophets and the religious ministers and if you are lucky and they preach about salvation, the congregation will listen and be thinking, wait for me to gain my worldly possessions then i can be saved. But do you blame them. Same thing happened when a wannabe disciple asked Jesus what he had to do to be saved. When told he should leave his wealth and come follow Christ, he said he had to go put his house in order. We always have an excuse to postpone the most immediate action.

On social media it is obvious that every Ghanaian knows exactly what is wrong with the Ghanaian system and will rave and rant when they are not in the driving seat and call the political leaders inept, corrupt and inefficient. But alas! When these youth, by their political affiliation, get into positions that they can effect change they kowtow to the very systems they criticised. These leaders always have an excuse as to why they have joined the rank and file of the very people they criticises in that same pipeline. i have been in the same post graduate seminars with some of these leaders who have vocally pledged that they will not circumvent the wheel and as such for me it is not surprising that finding them in high places and they do nothing but selfishly amass public wealth for themselves.

Unfortunately even though it is a crime to divert funds for one’s own personal use in Ghana, provided that you can give back the principal of the money stolen the punishment is deferred. . The justice system in Ghana is just like everywhere else, only for the rich and privileged?

Now let us go back to health issues. a friend of mine who was a healthy sportsman got a job at a leading bank and was so busy he neglected his health. Bad eating habits combined with no exercise and a sleeping disorder combined to ravish his body and he was diagnosed with high cholesterol at a young age of thirty four. On the day that he was diagnosed, being an avid sportsman and knowing the implications, he took the day off and went to find a gym to register to so he could get back into shape. Why did he wait to get a terminal disease before he got back to seriously thinking of his health?

 

Like the story above, we can all relate to waiting to the very last minute before we take action. The cliché a stitch in time saves nine is very apt. an act in time averts further misfortune and we have to learn to take out lives and health more seriously. Life is not all about ourselves but what we can do for others. Other people need us more than we need ourselves so open your eyes and your mind to your surroundings and help out if you can. No matter who you are, you have something you can help with and give out. It could be your time or just a word of advice.

Six pack coming soon. Let’s not wait for the soon but yes let’s start working on that six pack now, not later, so that it comes sooner.

 Like I always say it begins with YOU!!

Fostering: Caregiving The African Way

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2013 by kola

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Back in graduate school I wrote a paper on caregiving in the African context that got me an A. Walking back from church I saw these Chadean child beggars that have plagued Ghanaian streets (yes they are in Tamale too). One such Chadean family lives in my neighborhood in Tamale and I noticed that for once the children were without their parents. I think I have noticed it before on a Sunday too but didn’t pay it much attention. It seems that on Sundays the adults stay at home whilst the children go out to town alone to do the begging and then get to keep the money they make.

These children are always under strict supervision by their mothers or sometimes the fathers who are very vigilant and will sit in a shade nearby chatting away or smoking a cigarette. An observant person will notice that even when the child gets a coin, (s)he walks straight to whoever the supervising adult is, male or female and hands it over and goes back to begging. But on this Sunday, the children were alone. The only supervisor was an older one among them who happened to be a girl. She modulated their movements and monitored their pacing on the streets. Afterwards she organized a taxi for them to take home paid for from their ‘earnings’.

This reminded me so much of fostering in the African system and caregiving in the extended family system. This is especially true where older children are trained to babysit younger siblings whilst parents go about their duties of the day. They practically act as babysitters and it is an informal training ground not only on interpersonal relationships but also gives these usually young girls the experience of taking care of children even before they become adults.

Examining this in a broader context of the extended family system we realize that these children are not necessarily biological children of the parents but rather extended family relatives such as nephews and nieces who are brought up under one roof and taken care of by a single relative on the surface, but are in reality the responsibility of the whole family. What this points out is that bringing children up in Africa is a collective responsibility of the whole family.

To understand this concept best I always use my family as an example. My mother is the first of a family of five; four women and a man and they half a half-sister who was older (God rest her soul). Each person in the family went their different ways with their different careers and professions. However when my grandpa died they had to come to an agreement to cater for their aged mother. It was agreed that since grandma will not leave the village, gradually developed into a town, it was imperative that somebody stay home to take care of her.

It was agreed among the sisters then that one of them should stay with grandma and provide her every need. This meant that she had to quit her profession and be at the old lady’s beck and call. It was also agreed that her children will be a shared responsibility among the other sisters and brother. They will all pitch in and take care of their upbringing until a time when these children were adults and could take care of themselves. Thus it was a win-win situation for everybody. We children got our grandma to pamper us and we also got to mingle with our cousins any time they stayed over. It was one big happy family.

Even before this system was established, our grandpa made sure that at every year’s end, the whole family gathered together (like in a family cookout type) where any grievances against other family members and even outsiders were aired out and settled. For a formal illiterate gentleman my grandpa called it ‘mente-ness’ (maintenance). At such gatherings there were closed door meetings that we children didn’t understand but now as adults we do.

Along the line my brothers and I grew up with 2 older female cousins who practically raised us and I am eternally grateful to Sister Comfort who now lives in Canada with her own family for the discipline and moral guidance she gave us. She was strict to a fault and there were times we even preferred our mother’s punishment to hers. She was our friend and confidant but I wished she had taught us more in the ways of girls so we would have been prepared for our interactions with the opposite sex. It was quite uncomfortable and embarrassing getting those lessons on female anatomy from your mother who is a senior nursing officer, sometimes too graphic for our shy selves.

In today’s cosmopolitan world, Africans are losing touch of our African values and systems. We are becoming more nuclear family oriented and fostering is long disappeared. Instead of going to take a niece to help raise children of corporate women, they would rather go to agencies specialized in provision of ‘househelps’. When did this one too start? Our aged are neglected and left in rooms all day with no one particularly paying any attention to them. Some people are sending our aged to expensive old people’s homes (an European concept that is fast growing in Africa). It is more like we are just waiting for them to die so we can have an elaborate funeral to show our opulence and sense of individual achievement.

Other countries are trying to blend the African system of caregiving into their systems and we are fast getting rid of them. In Obama’s proposed Health Bill that was passed amidst lots of protest, he proposes that funding to Old folks Homes be reduced so that families be encouraged to take care of their aged at home where they can stay with the people they love around them and enjoy their last days on earth being around family. The money should instead be given to the caregivers who take care of this aged so they don’t lose out on any income. How different is this from the caregiving system my family is practicing now?

Africans need to stop copying blindly from western concepts but rather since we are in a fast growing and changing world, we should be able to blend the good and progressive to what we already have. Instead of just trying to be blindly cosmopolitan, let us strive to be Afropolitan: blend the African systems with the cosmopolitan.

Like I always say, it begins with YOU!!

 

photo credit: www.carenetghana.org

 

 

Living with Gemini

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2013 by kola

 

Being born in June makes me a Gemini and yes it comes with all the traits of the star sign. This post is not about writing an essay on me but to espouse how growing up in a family of Gemini men and women has shaped me into who I am today. Today I am a man of many faces and with so much talent shaped over the years that I am still having problems trying to focus and channel these talents. It is not like the talents are bouncing all over the place but if I may say so myself, all of them have been honed into above average skill and that I hear and have been made aware is very rare.

Both parents are still alive and they pushed us children into things that they could not achieve. Being born to very Christian parents has its advantages and disadvantages both in this world and out of it. Truth be told, we were blessed right from birth because it was obvious that our parents had ‘opened a prayer bank’ for us (as one of my Christian friends remarked). We were and still are blessed beyond measure.

Dad was a telecom engineer with the then Ghana Telecoms and when he resigned to set up his own business his colleagues thought he was mad especially since everything was looking like it was going to get better with the divestiture and possible promotion for the indispensable technicians like him. He had been trained in the United States and even won an award graduating top of his class.

Mom has always been a caregiver and as such it was no surprise that with a big heart like hers she had gone into nursing and risen through the ranks to the very top before she retired. She is a strict nurse whose name Matron Larbi trends with all the senior nursing officers in all the major hospitals in Ghana. Even one time when a television station with international coverage started a series on unsung heroes who have stayed in the country to contribute to its development, she was the one chosen in the field of nursing. She had stayed when most of her colleagues were going abroad to seek greener pastures in the health sector especially in the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia.

Both parents combined their passion and zest for life with fervent Christianity and this is the environment in which we grew up in. For the longest time ever, Dad was a deacon in the Baptist church and until finally he decided to go to the seminary so he could go into full time ministry as a Baptist pastor. Obviously Sundays were the most important days in the Larbi residence and it was the only time nobody was allowed to go anywhere and the family got to spend time together. This was however even pre-dependent on how much time was spent in church on Sunday especially being church leaders who had to attend series of meetings when church was done. We were usually the first in church and the last to leave. So we children developed the habit of being church workers early. Sweeping the church hall and cleaning the chairs for the rest of the congregation.

Dan and Mary, as they have been affectionately called by their contemporaries, have been married so long that they look like a man and his sister. They have worked everything out to a tee including even the birth and spacing of their children which usually is amazing. I am the first of three children and I was born on June 4. The second son after me was born on June 7 exactly three years after me and the last son was born again on June 4 exactly three years after the second born. This makes me and my little brother twins but exactly six years apart. There is a twist in the tale too. Our mom’s birthday is on the 19th of June, so for years on end on that day in June there was always a party in the house. Furthermore in the political climate of Ghana, our birthday was a holiday for 22 years. It couldn’t get any better. How our parents managed to do that is still a mystery to us all but they attribute it to the Hand of God in their lives.

Amazingly, it is not only in our house that there have Gemini children. My mother’s sister also had 5 children who were all born in different days in June years apart with the third and fourth children also born on same day June 3 two years apart. Our first cousins are also all Gemini and there are more Gemini in the whole extended family of my mother’s five other sisters. Our two other cousins who came to stay with us when we were younger have birthdates of June 5 and June 12 too.  Our house usually got chaotic almost every day especially when we became teenagers and went off to boarding school.

As teenagers, it was time to strive to liberate ourselves from the tentacles of parental control and carve a niche for ourselves. It was the most hectic time for them as parents  I must confess myself because it got to a time I’m sure they didn’t know what to do with me. Right from the moment the doctor smacked my butt that fateful Friday afternoon in June, I was named trouble because I peed into the doctor’s face in retaliation for smacking me on the ass that hard. In high school, I was one of the most notorious youngsters around and always got into trouble with not only my seniors but also my teachers.  The only thing that kept me on borderline sanity was that I was reading a lot.

Our grandparents had never had formal education but stressed the importance of education to our parent and with the little they had they pushed us to be better than they would ever be. By the age of ten, my dad had already made me read all 12 series of Makers of Civilization and it amazes people that I love and am trained as a historian and researcher. Even in high school most of my personal projects were to read books and one time I had a personal project to read all the books under the African Writers Series and The Pacesetters series of short stories. I had become the kind of person that in my adult life when I wanted to pamper myself with my first salary I went into a bookstore and spent half of my first national service salary on books. Yes! That’s me alright. Pampering myself by buying books.

It is very surprising sometimes to me that I have always been a nerd but then a fun nerd. Being a Gemini I have managed to switch into a lot of personalities and fill many roles that nobody realizes exactly who I really am, the shy introvert who will always remain in the background and never come forward for anything.

Chaos defines the Gemini trait because that is when the person exhibits their prowess most. Commonwealth Hall, University of Ghana was a turning point in my life. University life I threw myself into sports and played four different school teams and it was quite gratifying to see and hear coaches fight over which team to play for when matches were going on concurrently at sports events. My parents were very supportive throughout all this because dad had been a hockey player in his youth and mom had been a sprinter (you should see her size now). She is always teasing herself that her children have gone for big boned African women since we model our relationships on her but that she used to be very petite woman. I remember the one time I had Afro hair so thick i couldn’t comb it and my mom refused to ever come see me again until I have cut my hair and I told her then so be it. She was raging mad that I defied her.

I have had my fights with my parents. Oh yes! We all have but it has been the best of times and the worst of times with them but through that entire time one thing has remained evident. That they love their children unconditionally and they did the best that they could do to use the Christian biblical principles to shape us the best they could into who we have become as adults. But evidently motherhood is never transient and mom is as protective as ever like a hawk with young chicks.

Dad has always been a private person who will hardly take credit for anything he does but will give glory to God and take criticism like it doesn’t affect him. Even at his age he has shown the importance of education by going back to college and by a twist of fate, I end up having tutorial lessons for him and his colleagues at home when it was time for their exams. I do it with joy because this is the man who is responsible for all that I am today. He slaved to pay my fees to go to school and not only for me but sometimes when I think back that all three children including our cousins who came to stay with us went to some of the best schools on the A list in Ghana it’s pretty amazing.

Now after reading this I’m sure people can understand why he always insists that we go out together as a family as we did when we were children. The man is just proud to show his ‘tall’ children off. Oh yes! In case you didn’t know, I’m the shortest and smallest of my brothers and I’m 6 foot 1in tall and weigh 92kg. Why won’t our parents walk tall surrounded by such giants especially when we go to church and at social gatherings when colleagues ask them about ‘the boys’ and they are quick to round us up and say proudly ‘‘the boys are now men oh’.

Me, my brothers and cousins are all close knit friends who got each others back any day because of the upbringing we had from our parents. Blood is thicker than water means a lot to us as a chaotic intelligent bunch.

That’s my folk for you, love them to bits and ever grateful to God for such wonderful parents.

 #Family Ties

Our Environment and YOU!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on July 19, 2013 by kola

on my way to work i watched as the school children in the basic school near my house cleaned their compound before morning assembly. it reminded me of my basic school years when we arrived at school early carrying brooms and head pans to sweep and collect litter and rubbish from the school compound so that it was actually clean before morning assembly.

on this day it seemed the teachers weren’t satisfied with the state of the compound and therefore sent the children to go back around and pick all the litter on the compound. teachers could do that if they felt the compound was not clean enough for studies. a clean envronment is a healthy studying environment i think.

the task was quite simple i think. the children were to collect as much rubbish and litter as possible and carry it to a rubbish dump just about fifty meters away and dump it there. apart from collecting it with their hands (which i have a problem with but will discuss much later, if even at all), there was also zoomlion provided bins that they could collect into and just carry to the zoomlion rubbish dump (this company is doing pretty well in waste management in ghana)

what is interesting is that whilst i watched this children, over three hundred of them perform this task, i counted just about fifteen of them who walked across the gutter to the rubbish dump and actually dump the litter they were carrying – on the floor. None of them walked up to the waste disposal bucket which was almost empty.

but these children were the good ones but what was it worth. some children just dumped the litter they were carrying into the gutter whilst those carrying the pans just abandoned it halfway to the dump site because they got angry that everybody wanted to put their litter in their pot and threfore it was overflowing. unfortunately, even though they had abandoned it, some children still kept putting litter in it and now it had become a small pile of litter on its own. the wind would definitely blow that pile back on the compound and then what will be the use of the clean up exercise in the first place.

i found this action rather profound. these are the future leaders and what are we teaching them? even the ones that went closer to the waste bucket did not put it in but put it on the floor that means that the wind could blow the same litter back onto the school compound which was just fifty meters away whilst the teachers looked on unconcerned because they had given the instruction but failed to supervise that it is done properly.

i really don’t want to get into linking this to our society in the various ways that I’m thinking now but I’d give an idea. after all we can all relate to this.

honesty speaking is this action any different from what we see in out towns every day. we organize clean up campaigns which laudable and lofty ideas but then we take out the gutters and put them right there not collecting them whilst the rains come and wash them right back into the same gutters and then all sorts of health hazards come up and we go crying to the govt to give us resources putting pressure on the already sparse resources.

even in out personal lives, this mentality has seeped into our daily activities. when life is not going right, we try to clean it up but then what do we do. the very clean up the we do, the very things that we resolve not to go back to are the things we go back to with a hardened passion and more intent. an example is with regards to our health. you know some foods are not good for you but then we go back to such foods with renewed fervor and passion when we know we should be avoiding them. instead of completely staying away from them as we know we should.

our environment is important to our health and we have to take care of the environment so that we can be healthy too. wonder how this is difficult for some people to understand.

let us start with educating on the environment one reader at a time and it starts with YOU!!

#TamaleChronicles