Chaos and Order

One of the trips I look forward to during my school holiday is the visit to Makola market, the biggest market in the Accra.

I sometimes wonder why I am enthused by the chaos and serious titillations of that crowded space. I guess in all this there is a great sense of order which drives the desire to search and shop.

The variety of goods and foods tease your eyes. The sights and sounds somewhat confusing, drives the need to be present and be part of the show. The calling of wares which has always been a characteristic of this place, energizes your quick walk along the pavement turned stalls, where one squeezes through throngs of people, mostly traders and hawkers. Sometimes they seem more than the people actually buying.

Ploughing with a list in hand and a focus on what exactly one visited for, is important as the diversions and attractions can easily disorientate you. Most things seem appealing, especially walking through the jagged spaces, and seeing rows of stalls displaying the same items. Where do you stop? Whose stall do you buy from? To draw your attention, the traders speak directly to you. You hear about six voices at the same time, six voices shouting their wares in different languages.

“Maame buy one for me!” coaxing in English.

“Baa hee eko,” demanding in Ga.

“To baako ma me wai,” pleading in Twi.

I walk briskly, not turning, looking straight ahead of me, sometimes I am not sure whether to look down to make sure the next step lands on a safe levelled spot or straight ahead in order to push through the crowd, fast. One hesitation and the callers think you are coming to them. Sometimes it feels like a slight harassment so on such occasions, I smile and beckon to show, ‘I don’t need any.’

Some of my friends think I am daring to venture to this quarter, but I am delighted as I am engulfed by the mishmash of smells. The aroma of oats and spicy dishes, stagnant water in some clogged gutters, fresh fish being scaled and other smells that stray by as you move. Each step gives a different feel, mushy especially after the rains and firm concrete pavements alternately. The colors and movement enchant you. Where do you look? The roads are packed with old buses transporting more people to fill the area. As for the colors, they are indescribable, hanging, piled, held and moving colors of goods and foods. Cars hoot to move the pedestrians off the road, music blasts from nearby music shops and the lone preachers share the word and blessing of the day.

The experience can be overwhelming but worth it. I count myself lucky to have made a friend on my previous visit. As I head to my destination, to purchase African fabric. I phone Abigail to meet me at a quiet spot. From there we head to her treasure trove to explore and shop.

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Working at an International school has many pros and cons. Every summer the farewells can be draining. The feelings begin early as students and teachers share their plans to move on. Move to greener pastures, to experience something or somewhere different. Students’ families may move because they are at the end of their contracts or for many other reasons.

This year was no exception, although last summer was solemn, this year many more colleagues packed their bags and moved on. For the stayers, we have many sacks full of goodbyes.

The traditional formal ceremony to acknowledge departing peers reignites the pain of parting. Always a member of the congregation, I weep. Weep because of the departing. Friendships made, sometimes the bond and collaboration make us more like family. Especially in this profession when time flies and the workload and timelines are sometimes unmanageable, we depend on each other. We encourage each other through the many stories we collect. Yes, the stories that come to us, making us counsellors, medical people, lawyers and all the other experiences and professions that are anything but the teachers remit.

A colleague reminded me about the fact that those leaving have also to deal with their new home, school, country, the unknown, again. It made me reflect on how selfish we can be when it comes to our emotions. That was a reminder to put myself in my departing colleagues’ shoes. They have to deal with many uncertainties, especially those venturing to the unknown.

I then thought about our new colleagues and families joining in August. Who are the new family members we will gain? It is amazing what this community brings. It reminds me of our local hawkers, they carry their wares on their heads, we carry our emotions but as it is our trade we make sure our goods do not fall. We need to balance our wares so we all come through the experience triumphant.

We experience this, year in, year out. I believe we gain new families, who eventually move around the world and for that, there is a soothing feeling that our family and friends are everywhere, especially when we seek and find each other!

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This Time is Mine

Weeks before the end of school, I wrote lists: my to-dos, to read, to write, to call. I had a pile of novels ready to read and professional books to digest.

Then I remembered my planned holiday. I have been looking forward to this break just like the previous year, I got to study, rest, shop and visit many places of interest. I am expecting a short but full break.

There are many highs in this profession, but one I truly savour is the holidays which arrive just when you need a rest. I am glad to shout….

‘This time is mine!”